The Microcosm and Macrocosm of climate change and Health

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What we are doing to the planet: Anthropogenic global warming is due to the production of greenhouse gases, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels. The consequences of global warming include but are not limited to variable weather, heat waves, heavy precipitation events, flooding, droughts, more intense storms, rise in sea level and air pollution. The resulting climate change has led to an increase in the transmission of vector borne and water-borne diseases and risk for heat stroke.

The microcosm – what we are doing to ourselves: The by-products of burning fossil fuels are also a major cause of air pollution. The damage on a cellular level has contributed to obesity and increases in the incidence, exacerbations and severity of many common chronic diseases, such as neurodegenerative, neurodevelopmental, cardiovascular and respiratory conditions. It is also negatively impacting maternal health and pregnancy outcomes. Furthermore, oil and natural gas are used as feedstocks to produce a myriad of synthetic chemical products. Many of these chemicals, such as plastics and fragrances, contribute to our ubiquitous chronic environmental exposures, body burden of contaminants, and increased risk for chronic disease. Additionally, all these exposures are associated with changes in cell function leading to new emerging medical conditions, such as sick building syndrome and environmental sensitivities.

Presently, there are no clinical biomarkers to aid in diagnosis, but epidemiological studies demonstrate that sensitization to ubiquitous pollutants is increasing in prevalence. The common cellular changes and abnormal mechanisms from these exposures, which lead to chronic disease, poor quality of life and increased mortality, will be reviewed. Recommendations to reduce risk from exposures will be discussed.

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