5 Ways Climate Change Affects Public Health

Climate change presents a host of serious potential complications for the quality of public health. If left unaddressed, the public health consequences of are entirely capable of creating severe challenges for all human civilizations on the globe.

In a comprehensive 2010 report titled “A Human Perspective on Climate Change“, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) – in collaboration with the Environmental Health Perspectives organization – published a series of findings from extensive research examining the different kinds of public health threats presented by well-documented changes in the climate. The following are five of the public health effects indicated in the report.

Cardiovascular Health Effects

Alterations in heat could potentially result in distributive changes to vector-borne diseases known for causing cardiovascular illness. Those already suffering from cardiovascular diseases may potentially have their conditions worsened by an elevation of heat stress as well.

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In a state of excessive heat stress, the body’s resilience against airborne pathogens would be lessened. Those with limited access to full healthcare coverage in particularly hotter climates would be at the most pronounced risk for the higher potential for cardiovascular disease development.

Respiratory Condition Exacerbation

Similarly to how existing cardiovascular diseases could be exacerbated by climate alterations, respiratory conditions could be worsened in terms of their severity and prevalence as well. A higher number of airborne pollutants, increased mold from heavier precipitation, and more frequent pollen exposure due to seasonal plant growth irregularities could collectively compound the dangers of respiratory illnesses worldwide.

Mental Health Consequences

The physically disruptive effects of changes to the climate could present great mental duress for those in displaced communities. Stress from abrupt and irreparable loss of property, life quality and loved ones due to increasingly frequent weather disasters can be mentally devastating for even the most steadfast civilians.

Increased Water Contamination

Aquatic contamination is far easier in warmer waters with a temperature more conducive to their survival. A higher rate of evaporation-transpiration and the deterioration of coastal biosphere health would also contribute to a higher incidence of water contamination, substantially increasing the risk of human exposure to waterborne diseases.

Food Safety and Nutrition

A greater volume of easily contaminated water would adversely affect the edibility of food sources exposed to waterborne toxins. Compromised ecosystems less conducive to the survival of animals inhabiting them could lead to less availability of staple food items depending on their welfare. Infected droppings from terrestrial mammals and birds exposed to contaminated water could compromise the health of domestic livestock as well, putting millions of consumers at risk of food-borne diseases.


Many in the environmental science community have made spirited appeals for a more thorough application of ecological study results for proactive survival initiatives. While many experts have acknowledged the progression of climate change thus far has made it more of an inevitability than an avoidable crisis, heavier investment in actualizing the knowledge gained from studies of the risks to public health could potentially lessen the severity with which these issues could emerge.

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