New U.S. medical consortium forms to bring the message mainstream: climate change is harming our health

Eleven medical societies in the United States, representing over 400,000 medical practitioners, have joined together to form The Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health .  Their launch document  on March 15  was  Medical Alert! Climate Change is harming our health , directed at the general public to sound the alarm that climate change health impacts are here and now.

The report gives only a nod to the threats in the workplace, given its goal to reach a general audience. It warns that “anyone can be harmed by extreme heat, but some people face greater risk. For example, outdoor workers, student athletes, city dwellers, and people who lack air conditioning (or who lose it during an extended power outage) face greater risk because they are more exposed to extreme heat. People with chronic conditions such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and those who work or play outside, are especially vulnerable to extreme heat.. ..”  The report also touches on the other major health-related impacts, such as spread of infectious diseases borne by ticks and mosquitos, air pollution,  effects of forest fires, polluted air and food, mental health burden, etc.

The Consortium  states that “most physicians are aware of the adverse health effects of climate change and feel a responsibility to inform the public, patients and policymakers about them. A majority of survey respondents report they are already seeing health harms from climate change among their own patients – most commonly in the form of increased cardiorespiratory disease (related to air quality and heat), more severe and longer lasting allergy symptoms, and injuries attributed to extreme weather.”

The goal of the consortium is to educate,  and to advocate for reduced fossil fuel consumption and increased clean energy.  Their website offers a library of publications    related to the growing literature on climate change and health. The website  also compiles resources from their member societies, such as the American College of Physicians and the American Academy of Pediatrics,  about how to green medical workplaces.   In this, they join a number of existing associations such as Practice Greenhealth   and Healthcare without Harm, an international organization with Canadian membership.

In Canada, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment , which was established in 1994,   shares a similar mission for policy advocacy, and maintains an active blog  and Facebook presence.  The Canadian Medical Association has a number of policy and position documents on environmental impacts on health; their most recent policy statement on Climate change and Health  was issued in 2010, yet still seems remarkably relevant.

 

Canadian Study finds no Significant Health Impacts from Wind Energy

Understanding the Evidence: Wind Turbine Noise, was published on April 9 by the Council of Canadian Academies, and concludes that the only adverse health effect of wind turbines is annoyance. From the report: “We identified 32 health issues and then analyzed the published peer reviewed studies on each problem to determine if there was evidence for a causal relationship with wind turbine noise…We can say conclusively that hearing loss is not related to wind turbine noise”. The experts also concluded that there is limited evidence for sleep disturbance, but inadequate evidence to link any of the other studied health issues.

Canadian Physicians Urged to Fight Climate Change

An Editorial in the February 13, 2013 issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal urges the Canadian medical establishment and individual physicians to advocate against climate change by signing the December 2012 Doha Declaration on Climate, Health and Wellbeing. It also points out that physicians can act on a professional level to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their own health care workplaces. See “Physician’s Roles on the Front Line of Climate Change” in the CMAJ volume 185 #3 at: http://www.cmaj.ca/content/185/3/195.full.pdf+html?sid=ffff264c-ea63-4daa-9c5d-ae8cdf448787