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How climate change affects our health

  • Published at 11:54 pm July 5th, 2019
Climate Change
Representational photo Bigstock

What is the true cost of industrialization? 

Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Europe are experiencing the hottest summer. The world has experienced about 0.8C rise since 1880. 

Roughly, about 0.15-0.20C warming has occurred per decade since 1975, according to an ongoing temperature analysis conducted by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS).

Temperatures are likely to rise by 1.5C between 2030 and 2052 if global warming continues at its current pace, and if the world fails to take rapid and unprecedented measures to curtail the increase.

Rapid industrialization has led to the release of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, which is warming the air and depleting the ozone layer. 

We are falling victim to climate change, as deforestation intensifies to set up households and industries. Environmentalists suggest that a country should have at least 25% forest coverage to meet the ecological balance, but most countries around the world have less than 17%.

It’s spring in the Arctic, but ice is melting and the sea level is rising due to an early summer heat wave. Germany has also recorded the hottest day in their history with the temperature rising to 40C last month. 

In Asia, extreme heat is also melting the Himalayan snow and causing natural disasters like cyclones and floods, causing climate-sensitive health hazards such as malnutrition, diarrheoa, cholera, and puts women at miscarriage risk with the rise of salinity in the water.

World Bank in their report in 2013 cited Bangladesh as one of more “potential impact hotspots” threatened by extreme flood, more intense tropical cyclone, sea level rising etc. 

World Health Organization (WHO) in their study cited the health consequences of climate change in Bangladesh. The extreme heat wave increases the chances of asthma, heatstroke, and skin cancer. 

River water level rise causes unexpected nutrient deficiencies more in women and children as they have limited access during natural disasters. They can’t access nutritious foods. 

Hence, children suffer from stunted growth and weakness. They grow malnourished and live an unhealthy lifestyle. 

They are affected with worms and other diseases.

Besides children, women also suffer from malnutrition related diseases. As the custom of the country encourages women to give the nutritious food to the male members and take only the leftovers for themselves, they lack valuable nutrients.

During floods and other natural calamities, streams and rivers tend to get contaminated. 

Water from unsafe sources cause the mortality rates of children under five and elderly people to rise, according to a study by WHO and Unicef.

Water-logging is a common problem in coastal areas during heavy rain. Water-logging and rising temperatures may increase the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases. 

Malaria, dengue, and other such diseases break into an epidemic. WHO in their study cited that pregnant women are twice as likely to be bit by mosquitoes than their non-pregnant counterparts. 

There could be two possible physiological factors: First, women tend to produce more exhaled breath, and there are several hundred different components in human breath, which help mosquitoes detect a host.

Second, during pregnancy, blood flow to the skin increases, which releases heat. The substances in the skin may also be the reason to attract mosquitoes. 

Studies found that pregnancy-induced hypertension and eclampsia risks are very high when the temperature is high and the humidity is low. 

Rural women are more prone to develop lung cancer, as they are exposed to burning coals and fossils for cooking.   

Climate change has caused global sea levels to rise, a phenomenon that brings sea-water closer to freshwater sources, contaminating freshwater and soil with higher levels of salt.

Elevated blood pressure was found more prevalent in some Bangladeshi coastal communities and an icddr,b study argues that higher water salinity levels, possibly triggered by climate change, may have a role in this.

The government and private sectors collectively must implement afforestation programs to curb climate change related hazards. 

The growth of industrialization has to be limited, especially in coastal areas, as the industrial wastes pollute the water and the emission of gases warm the air. 

Raihana Sayeeda Kamal is a journalist and an independent researcher.