Experts Warn Us about the Health Consequences of Global Warming

On February 24, Perry Sheffield, MD, MPH joined a panel of health experts to discuss climate change and human health.

New York, NY
 – February 24, 2011 /Press Release/  –– 

Perry Sheffield, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor in the Departments of Preventive Medicine and Pediatrics and deputy director of Mount Sinai’s Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHS) participated in an expert panel on human health and climate change.

In this panel, organized by the American Public Health Association (APHA) and the American Medical Association (AMA), experts explained that global warming has had significant affects on our health. They warned us that unless policy changes are enacted, climate change will continue to cause food-borne illnesses, respiratory problems, and deaths from extreme weather.

Rising temperatures can lead to more smog, said Dr. Sheffield, which makes children with asthma grow sicker. Climate change has also caused pollen season to grow longer, which may lead to an increase in the number of people with asthma.

Next, Dr. Sheffield discussed the effects of increased air pollution on human health. Reducing air pollution can have immediate health benefits, she stated, pointing to a case study from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics when air pollution was reduced and asthma attacks among children dropped by 44 percent.

In addition to air-related illnesses, Dr. Sheffield stated that extreme weather can have other devastating effects on health. "As a result of global warming, extreme storms including hurricanes, heavy rainfall, and even snowstorms are expected to increase," she told the panel. "And these events pose risk of injury and disruption of special medical services, which are particularly important to children with special medical needs."

The panel concluded by emphasizing the importance of federal regulation, specifically by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Recently, the House of Representatives has passed a budget that would cut the EPA’s budget by a third. A funding resolution has also been passed that would block the EPA from enacting a new greenhouse emissions rule.

If the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases is restricted, health problems will continue rise, agreed the panel. "Climate change will not only have different effects in different areas of the country, but will have, as I mentioned, different effects on different vulnerable groups; children and elderly being some of the most important," concluded Dr. Sheffield.

The APHA provides a full transcript of this panel discussion. The proceedings of this discussion have been covered in like MSN Health and MedPage Today. The MSN Health story has also been picked up by major news outlets like USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Women’s Health, and Bloomberg Businessweek.

About the Children’s Environmental Health Center

The Children’s Environmental Health Center at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City conducts research to protect children against environmental threats to health. Our investigations seek to discover the environmental causes of such diseases as asthma, learning disabilities, autism, obesity, and childhood cancer. We transmit our research to pediatricians, policy makers, parents, and all who care for children.