A new book, co-authored by Stanford wilderness medicine expert Paul Auerbach warns that climate change is making us less immune and more prone to diseases. The book, titled Enviromedics, describes the frightening effects of climate change on health.
It started back in 2008, when Jay Lemery, MD read an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association about how climate change is affecting the global health condition. The article caught the Colorado emergency physician’s attention and he started researching the topic.
“What I immediately thought was we need to have a physician movement around this,” said Lemery, associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Colorado and section chief of wilderness and environmental medicine. Which resulted in him co-authoring the book along with Dr. Auerbach a decade later. The book covers all the health issues mentioned in the article such as increasing allergens, toxic algal blooms, heat stress, air degradation, and water and food insecurity. Their work Enviromedics: The Impact of Climate Change on Human Health, not only urges the physicians but basically everyone on the planet to take note. Its scheduled publication date is in October.
“We don’t see the world moving fast enough to protect the planet, so perhaps by moving the discussion to human health we can hasten some sort of reasonable response,” Auerbach said. “Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are already causing a considerable health impact, such as floodwaters contaminated with bacteria and toxins, drowning deaths, disruption of essential medical care and even floating fire ant colonies.”
Lemery said, “On the hottest day of the year, patients come to the ER with heart attacks, COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease] exacerbations, and diabetes complications. If you do what we do, it’s not that hard to see the link between global warming and human illness.”
The book has shed light on some overwhelming scientific evidence of its claims. Such as:
A warmer world with greater weather extremes and increased atmospheric turbulence that degrades air quality will affect more people and increase the severity and number of asthma attacks. The book uses the fictional story of Sandra, a young woman with asthma in the South Bronx, who almost dies during a heat wave as temperatures soar toward 110 degrees.
Extreme weather causes more severe storms and flooding, magnifying the ubiquitous problem of sewage overflow. The lack of access to clean water has been linked to outbreaks of such illnesses as cholera, hepatitis A, ringworm, and scabies. The book introduces us to Andrew, a fictional character who starts itching violently after wading in a polluted river near his home. The doctor diagnoses what is now a common household disorder contracted from dirty water: scabies. The minuscule human scabies mite completes its entire life cycle on the skin of humans and, untreated, might live there for years.
The book enumerates the ways in which drought can force people to abandon safe practices and use whatever resources are available. In Tanzania and Mozambique, drought conditions were associated with outbreaks of konzo, a devastating neurological disease that causes irreversible paralysis. A report from Brazil in 1996 cited more than 50 deaths from liver failure when local cyanotoxin-contaminated water was unknowingly used for kidney dialysis.
Both of the authors, being physicians themselves have treated patients with all of the diseases mentioned in the book. And according to them, global warming is not causing the diseases, but only making them worse. As the germs are getting stronger, the human immune system is getting weaker.
“This is an inventory of what happens when our environment goes haywire, and all the checks and balances of an ecosystem are gone,” Lemery said. “We should all pause. We should all worry.”