Climate Change and Our Environment: The Effect on Respiratory and Allergic Disease.
Section of Allergy/Asthma/Immunology, Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, Kansas City.
Climate change is a constant and ongoing process. It is postulated that human activities have reached a point at which we are producing global climate change. This article provides suggestions to help the allergist/environmental physician integrate recommendations about improvements in outdoor and indoor air quality and the likely response to predicted alterations in the earth’s environment into their patient’s treatment plan. Many changes that affect respiratory disease are anticipated. Examples of responses to climate change include energy reduction retrofits in homes that could potentially affect exposure to allergens and irritants, more hot sunny days that increase ozone-related difficulties, and rises in sea level or altered rainfall patterns that increase exposure to damp indoor environments. Climate changes can also affect ecosystems, manifested as the appearance of stinging and biting arthropods in new areas. Higher ambient carbon dioxide concentrations, warmer temperatures, and changes in floristic zones could potentially increase exposure to ragweed and other outdoor allergens, whereas green practices such as composting can increase allergen and irritant exposure. Finally, increased energy costs may result in urban crowding and human source pollution, leading to changes in patterns of infectious respiratory illnesses. Improved governmental controls on airborne pollutants could lead to cleaner air and reduced respiratory diseases but will meet strong opposition because of their effect on business productivity. The allergy community must therefore adapt, as physician and research scientists always have, by anticipating the needs of patients and by adopting practices and research methods to meet changing environmental conditions.