Climate change and respiratory diseases: what are the dangers and what to do about them?

Here are some excerpts from The European Respiratory Review (ERR), an open access journal published quarterly by the European Respiratory Society (ERS):

Climate change increases the amount of pollen and allergen produced by each plant, mold proliferation and the concentrations of outdoor ozone and particulate matter at ground level. The main diseases of concern are asthma, rhinosinusitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and respiratory tract infections.

Chemical air pollutants and anthropogenic aerosols can alter the impact of allergenic pollen species via two mechanisms:

- physical, chemical and biological interactions can change the amount and/or features of the allergens in the air, for example, via chemical stress of plants, protein nitration and pollen breakup with allergen release

- susceptibility of humans to allergens can increase in the presence of chemicals and aerosols, e.g. diesel exhausts, ozone and nitrogen dioxide, as well as particulate matter

What can we do to decrease the effects of environmental factors affecting respiratory diseases?

Suggested measures are as follows:

- promote nonpolluting sources of energy
- reduce private traffic in towns and improve public transport
- decrease use of fossil fuels and control vehicle emissions
- plant nonallergenic trees in cities, proposed plantation of new trees should be evaluated by allergy specialists in order to avoid high allergenic species.

Strategies to reduce climatic changes and chemical and biological air pollution are political in nature, but citizens, in particular health professionals and societies, must raise their voices in the decision process to give strong support for clean air policies at both national and international levels.


Climate change and respiratory diseases. Eur Respir Rev June 1, 2014 vol. 23 no. 132 161-169. doi: 10.1183/09059180.00001714
(free full text)

Related reading:

Two Children, One Rich, One Poor, Gasping for Air in Delhi’s Smog - NYTimes

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