Health Professionals Worldwide Demand Urgent Climate Action Following IPCC Report
Health and medical organizations from around the world are calling on governments to respond to the major health risks described in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s recent Second Working Group reporting, ‘Impacts, Vulnerability and Adaptation,’ which was released on Monday.
In a briefing document summarizing the IPCC report’s implications for health, now and in the future, the Global Climate & Health Alliance (GCHA) argues that there is still time to turn what has been called “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century” into one of our biggest opportunities to improve health.
"We are already seeing serious threats to health from heatwaves and bushfires in Australia, which are increasing due to climate change; but we know the worst impacts on health are being borne by those in developing nations," said Dr. Liz Hanna, President of Climate and Health Alliance (Australia) "We can respond to this threat, and action now will prevent further harm. We call on our health and medical colleagues around the world to join us in demanding strong action to reduce emissions to limit these risks to health.”
GCHA’s briefing report is being launched today, together with a short film (below) and set of useful online resources. It summarizes the state of the science, using evidence synthesized in the IPCC report as its primary basis, and calls for urgent action to protect health from climate change and to promote health through low-carbon, sustainable development.
Below are some examples of the ways in which climate change is projected to impact on human health:
- In Australia, the number of “dangerously hot” days, when core body temperatures may increase by two degrees Celsius or more, threatening health, is projected to rise from the current four-six days per year, to as high as 33-45 days per year by 2070.
- Climate change shows a strong association with the spread of many infectious diseases, including dengue fever, chikungunya and visceral leishmaniasis.
- It is forecast to drive up food prices and to increase the number of undernourished children under five by 20-25 million globally, by 2050. This, in turn, is associated with a significant increase in stunting, anemia and child mortality.
- Water-related diseases (eg. diarrhoea, cholera, schistosomiasis) will likely increase, due to flooding, increased run-off (reducing water quality) and water scarcity.
- It is expected that climate change will act as a driver of migration and potentially also conflict, further increasing vulnerability to extreme weather and food insecurity.
"Climate change and health are inextricably linked," said Josko Mise, President of International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations “As future physicians, medical students have a moral responsibility to put patients’ health first. By taking action now we can improve the health of our communities, and prevent millions of needless deaths."
Never before have we known so much and done so little. Failing to act decisively and quickly will inevitably cause great suffering and potentially catastrophic consequences.
These statements come shortly after the World Health Organization revised its estimate of air pollution’s health impact upwards, to 7 million premature deaths annually: one in every eight deaths globally. Much of this air pollution is caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Physical inactivity—which correlates with car ownership—results in a further 3.2 million premature deaths each year. This means that policies to improve air quality and increase physical activity (for example, low-carbon energy and active travel policies) represent an unprecedented opportunity to improve global public health and tackle climate change simultaneously.
Many other such health "co-benefits" exist, such as preventing thousands of avoidable deaths through investment in home insulation, or major reductions in diseases like heart disease and stroke achievable by increasing active travel and reducing consumption of red and processed meat.
“Human health is incredibly fragile in light of the threat that climate change poses," said Julia Huscher of Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL). “Mitigation efforts can have large health benefits—reducing the burning of fossil fuels and moving to cleaner energy sources can bring down the rates of important chronic diseases, especially cardiopulmonary diseases and diabetes. For the EU as a whole, the anticipated benefits of an ambitious set of EU climate and energy targets could be as high as €34.5 billion (equivalent to 0.21% of EU GDP)’’
The GCHA calls on all governments to commit to a binding and ambitious treaty at the UN climate negotiations in Paris 2015, including specific provision for the effective protection of public health. There is an urgent need to ensure that climate policy is designed so as to maximize its accompanying health benefits, as well as to ensure that the world achieves the sustained and rapid emissions reductions needed to avert dangerous climate change.
“The health sector needs to play a central role in addressing climate change by anchoring the community response to extreme weather events, leading by examples in mitigating its own climate footprint and becoming powerful messengers for climate policies that will improve the health of our communities and the planet,” said Gary Cohen, President of Health Care Without Harm.
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By Gwen Ranniger
In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.
1. Fragrance – Avoid It<p>One of the fastest ways to narrow down your product options is immediately eliminating any product that promotes a fragrance, or parfum. That scent of "fresh breeze" or lemon might initially smell good, but the fragrance does not last. What does last? The concoction of various undisclosed and unregulated chemicals that created that fragrance.</p><p>Many fragrances contain phthalates, which are linked to many health risks including reproductive problems and cancer.</p>
2. With Bleach? Do Without<p>Going scent-free should have narrowed down your options substantially – now, check the front of the remaining packaging. Any that include ammonia or chlorine bleach ought to go, as these substances are irritating and corrosive to your body. While bleach is commonly known as a powerful disinfectant, there are safer alternatives that you can use in your home, such as sodium borate or hydrogen peroxide.</p><p>While you're at it, check if there are any warnings on the label – "flammable," "use in ventilated area," etc. – if the product is hazardous, that's a red flag and should be avoided.</p>
3. Check the Back Label<p>Flip to the back of the remaining contenders and check out that ingredient list. Less is more, here. Opt for a shorter ingredient list with words you recognize and/or can pronounce.</p><p>You may notice many products do not have ingredient lists – while this doesn't necessarily mean they contain toxic ingredients, transparency is key. Feel free to look up a list online, or stick to products that are open about their ingredients.</p>
4. Ingredients to Avoid<p>We already mentioned that cleaners containing fragrance or parfum, and bleach or ammonia should be avoided, but there are other ingredients to look out for as well.</p><ul><li>Quaternary ammonium "quats" – lung irritants that contribute to asthma and other breathing problems. Also linger on surfaces long after they've been cleaned.</li><li>Parabens – Known hormone disruptor; can contribute to ailments such as cancer</li><li>Triclosan – triclosan and other antibacterial chemicals are registered with the EPA as pesticides. Triclosan is a known hormone disruptor and can also impact your immune system.</li><li>Formaldehyde – Causes irritation of eyes, nose, and throat; studies suggest formaldehyde exposure is linked with certain varieties of cancer. Can be found in products or become a byproduct of chemical reactions in the air.</li></ul>
Cleaning Products and Toxics: The Bottom Line<p>Do your research. There are many cleaning products available, but taking these steps will drastically reduce your options and help keep your home toxic-free. Protecting your home from bacteria and viruses is important, but make sure you do so in a way that doesn't introduce other health risks into the home.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank">Environmental Health News</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649054624#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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Twenty-five years ago, a food called Tofurky made its debut on grocery store shelves. Since then, the tofu-based roast has become a beloved part of many vegetarians' holiday feasts.
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Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
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Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
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