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3 Ways Climate Change Affects Our Health Today

By Mina Lee

A new report released this week by the Lancet medical journal details "unequivocal and potentially irreversible" growing threats to public health from climate change. The report found that the delayed action on climate change worldwide has jeopardized human life and livelihoods over the past 25 years, with harms "far worse than previously understood."

A related briefing, produced by the American Public Health Association for U.S. policymakers, highlighted worrisome trends that are affecting Americans' health right now.


Exposure to dangerous heat is increasing.

The briefing noted that between 2000 and 2016, Americans, on average, saw temperatures rise by around 1 degree C. Today, an additional 14.5 million Americans suffer through heat waves each year. The 1995 Chicago heat wave offers a case study in the impact of severe heat on human health. When temperatures exceed 100 degrees F, deaths spike. In that heat wave, more than 500 people died in a single day.

Allergy season is becoming longer.

Rising temperatures are extending the number of days in which ragweed pollen is prevalent, especially in the northern states. Americans faced significantly longer exposure to ragweed pollen in 2016 compared to 1990. In parts of the country, allergy season is three weeks longer than it was a little more than two decades ago. Allergies and asthma are a growing challenge for health professionals.

Disease-carrying insects are covering more ground.

Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne disease in the U.S. Warmer temperatures, milder winters and changes in seasonal patterns are causing ticks to arrive sooner and linger for longer. They are also reaching larger swaths of the U.S., and it's taking a toll on Americans' health. The number of reported Lyme disease cases tripled between 1995 and 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

While many people see climate change as a distant threat, its impacts are being felt today. The Lancet report found that human-caused climate change "threatens to undermine the past 50 years of gains in public health." But it also noted that cutting pollution by shifting to clean sources of energy, like wind and solar, could be "the great health opportunity of the 21st century."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.

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Earth Day Tips From the EcoWatch Team

At EcoWatch, every day is Earth Day. We don't just report news about the environment—we aim to make the world a better place through our own actions. From conserving water to cutting waste, here are some tips and tricks from our team on living mindfully and sustainably.

Lorraine Chow, reporter

Favorite Product: Dr. Bronner's Castile soap

It's Earth-friendly, lasts for months and can be used as soap, shampoo, all-purpose cleaner and even mouthwash (but I wouldn't recommend that).

Essential Tool: Blender

It has paid for itself in homemade smoothies, soups, sauces and dips. It also means I don't have to buy those individual foods in unnecessary plastic containers. Blending scraps helps your compost, too!

Earth Day Tip: Skip the straw

If you feel weird about saying "no straw" at restaurants, just tell the waiter that you're allergic to plastic.

Olivia Rosane, reporter

Favorite Product: Seventh Generation products

Their household cleaning and personal care products are a great way to take care of yourself and your home in a way that is safe both for your health and the planet. Plus, their packaging is made from recycled materials and is designed to be recycled again.

Essential Tool: My portable thermos

I bring it with me when I order coffee or tea to go. That way I don't have to use paper cups, which are not actually recyclable, and some coffee shops even offer me a discount for bringing my own container!

Earth Day Tip: Get involved

In 2012, researcher Brad Werner ran a computer model and found our best shot at combating climate change was for people to form a mass social movement to demand it. So if you're worried about the environment, reach out to other people in your community and talk about what you can do together to make a difference!

Tara Bracco, managing editor

Favorite Product: Collapsible water bottle

Whether you're traveling or running errands, a reusable water bottle that's light and compact will help keep you hydrated and keep you from buying bottled water.

Essential Tool: Backpack

It's great for carrying your groceries home from the store, and you won't have to use plastic bags. If you have a long shopping list, try a rolling suitcase.

Earth Day Tip: Don't waste water

Turn off the water while you brush your teeth. It can save eight gallons of water a day!

Chris McDermott, news editor

Favorite Product: Clothes from Patagonia

Patagonia makes a wide range of inspired products and their environmental policies are world class. They use only organic cotton in their clothes, and they even offer trade-ins, recycling and repairs at any time.

Essential Tool: RIVER mobile power station and solar generator

This powerful piece of mind is always ready regardless of storms and travel, for as long as one can tap the sun.

Earth Day Tip: Savor something vegan

There's no nutritional substitute for fresh, unprocessed food, but food science has revolutionized the taste and texture of vegan alternatives. For the pure delight of it, celebrate with Miyoko's Kitchen vegan cheese, Tofurky Italian sausage (30 grams of protein per serving!) and SoDelicious non-dairy dark chocolate truffle frozen dessert made with cashew milk.

Irma Omerhodzic, associate editor

Favorite Product: Living Libations's Everybody Loves the Sunshine

Unlike sunscreen, this skin product works with the sun and helps absorb the nutrients from the sun's rays while giving skin protection at the same time.

"Rather than being afraid of the sun, harmonize with it," Living Libations says. Love it!

Essential Tool: My bike

Not only is this an emission-free way to get around town, but it also gives my body the activity it needs.

Earth Day Tip: Start small

Your one "small" action isn't small at all.

Jordan Simmons, social media coordinator

Favorite Product: Sustainable clothing by Amanda Sage Collection

Designer Lana Gurevich uses patterns from Amanda's transformative paintings to create an ethically and environmentally conscious clothing line. While supporting local businesses and an eco-friendly printing method, the fabrics are made from 100 percent recycled plastic bottles.

Essential Tool: My paintbrush and set of mineral paints

I found the all natural, biodegradable mineral paints at a local farmers' market in the Sacred Valley of Peru. I used to favor working with acrylic paints until I learned about their high carbon footprint and harmful substances.

Earth Day Tip: Honor Mother Earth

Gather some of Mother Nature's gifts such as stones, beautiful dried leaves and feathers. Set them in a special place in your home to create a unique "altar" to remind you to honor your Mother each and every day. Find peace and blessings in loving our home—the earth.

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