Green Education - Health, Disease and Pollution

Published about 1 month ago • 4 min read

Personal Note From The Editor

Hi Reader, today I got something for you!

I said “OHH WHAT THE …" maannyy times as I worked through the available literature on health effects due to pollution.

I was reading all kinds of reviews on the topic. Multiple times, I had to look up the primary literature and studies to assure that what I was reading, was actually true.

In retrospect, some things seem obvious … but they tremendously surprised me when reading them for the first time. I am interested in how it will be for you!

However, now I will take you on the journey but be aware, it all sounds pretty negative. Thus, I tried to ended on a positive note:

Today's Lesson: Health Effects of Pollution

How Polllution and Climate cause & drive disease outcome

Number Of The Day

The Global Burden of Disease Study 2015 tested for 79 behavioural, environmental, occupational, and metabolic risks from 1990 to 2015. They used extensive statistical analyses to conclude that about 9 million premature deaths were due to pollution related disease.

9 Million

Health Effects Of Pollution And Climate Abnormalities

A few years ago, there was a big campaign to construct air pollution detectors in European cities. The reason was concern about the air quality in cities - luckily, it was not yet as bad as in China…

In terms of polllutants, one commonly differentiates between chemicals and particles. The former are compounds such as nitrogen dioxide or sulfur dioxide while the latter are distinguished by size. They are called PM2.5 and PM10 for less than 2.5mm and 10mm respectively.

Direct Health Effects

Pollutants are not only damaging your lung cells, they cause massive harm. There are several studies showing that deaths due to respiratory but also cardiovascular diseases increase with pollution.

In fact, the average life expectancy for Europeans seems to be 8.6 months shorter due to one type of pollutant alone (more here and here).

Bad news: apparently, the negative effect of these molecules synergizes. Interestingly, similar reactions that make F-gases deplete ozone, seem to damage our cells and cause for example aggravated outcomes for asthmatics.

Another Threat

Furthermore, these compounds act as greenhouse gases as well. You certainly have heard about Carbon Dioxide equivalents. This is the central measurement unit for green house gases. It converts the much stronger reflections of sun-rays into how many Carbon Dioxide molecules it would take to have the same effect.

Each increase of one degree in temperature can increase the number of admissions to hospitals due to respiratory illnesses by about 3-5% according to studies like this one. Luckily, such a relation was not apparent in cardiovascular events (in this study).

Nevertheless, as more and more medication is prescribed, the number of complications is likely to increase. This is because many drugs can cause temperature dysregulation and some disturb water homeostasis e.g., by exacerbating dehydration or reducing sweat. It is a vicious circle not easy to handle by physicians.

Nevertheless, there are also:

Indirect Health Effects

With stronger temperature swings and more extreme weather events, we also endanger the other living and not so much living things around us:

When plants experience higher levels of stress, they often reduce the number of micronutrients such as iron or zinc but also macronutrients such as proteins.

PS: Still, one exception might be some kinds of green salat that contain more Vitamin E when experiencing very cold periods early in springtime. Thus, don’t eat salat grown in green houses!

Getting back to talk about issues: allergen-producing plants have increased flowering periods in warmer climates, thereby worsening allergies (some more information reviewed here).

Even our capacity to treat patients will be tested.

In warmer climate, storage of medication needs more energy and thus, is more likely to fail.

Moreover, extreme weather conditions cause power failures affecting about 25 million people per year in the US alone. This is not just an issue for treatments and because emergency power generators run on fuel but also because they lead to more incidences related to carbon monoxide.

Also, let’s do not forget the human element: Even 2 years after Hurricane Katrina, approximately 85% of 372,000 displaced children could not return home.

As the number of floods increases due to heavy rainfalls, so does the number of acute gastroenteritis due to the spread of pathogens.

Here is a nice review that rises awareness that such dangers have to implemented in medical education.

Hail poses a big danger for crops - that is less noticeable in first world countries but problematic in developing countries.

However, climate change might also lead to lower temperatures right?

Yes, longer and colder winters might protect us from overheating but are closely related to respiratory diseases. Of note, deaths seems to spike 12 days after peak cold.

So now …?

Applying The Knowledge

No doubt, all the numbers should be taken with a grain of salt.

Most studies are observatory and draw correlations (we barely have causative data here!). as it comes to climate change, there is lots of assumption-dependent modelling.

However, the main take away is that we should be wary about the fact that a change in our environment will also affect our health.

Thus, if you take medication or suffer from various comorbidities, prepare yourself for the potential effect of climate changes or increasing pollution (talking about beta-blockers, diuretics, and laxatives etc...).

Also, it might mean that research related to diseases and illnesses discussed above might receive more attention, and thus, fresh founding.

To end with a positive mark, the Global Burden of Disease Study also stated that between 1990 and 2015, global exposure to unsafe sanitation, household air pollution, childhood underweight, childhood stunting, and smoking each decreased by more than 25%!

Upcoming Lesson:

The Environmental Impact Of Health Care

Asking You

The US Clean Air act reduced the concentration of certain pollutants by about 75%. How much yielded every single dollar invested in that program ever since?

10 Pennies (10% ROI)

(150% ROI)

(3000% ROI)

How We Feel Today

If you have a wish or a question, feel free to reply to this Email.
Otherwise, wish you a beatiful week!
See you again the 23rd : )

Find the previous lesson click - here -

Edited by Patrick Penndorf
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