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Human health problems

Hot days can be unhealthy. And for children, pregnant women, the elderly, the sick and the poor—they can be dangerous.

Physicians say climate change is already harming human health in all regions of our country. Public health officials report increases in heat-related illnesses, and worsening chronic diseases like heart and lung disease, among other health problems.

In Georgia, the extreme heat and drought of the summer of 2016 turned our lush forests into tinderboxes. In the fall, wildfires swept across several southeastern states, including Georgia. Smoke from the wildfires permeated metro-Atlanta.

State health officials reported significant increases in the number of emergency room visits for asthma in the metro-Atlanta areas affected by the smoke. In November, Atlanta issued a rare “code red” air quality alert day. Code red means that nearly everyone can expect to experience adverse effects from breathing the air.

In fact, a May 2017 preliminary report from Environment Georgia shows that metro-Atlanta led the nation in worsening air quality from 2015 to 2016. The report is based on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) records of air pollution levels across the country. It focuses on smog and soot—dangerous pollutants that come from burning dirty fuels like coal, oil and natural gas.

Overall, there were 23 air quality alert days in 2016, up from five the previous year. Hot days and poor air quality can cause and worsen many health problems, including heart and lung disease.

And because the concrete, blacktop and buildings in cities retain heat, Atlanta and the areas surrounding it are hotter than less populated parts of Georgia.

The image on the left, above, is a satellite photograph of urban Atlanta. The image to the right is a land surface temperature map of the same area. Cooler temperatures are yellow. Hotter temperatures are red.

Urban areas can be up to eight degrees warmer than suburban or natural environments. This is called the “heat island affect.” It’s why Georgians living in Atlanta and its surrounding suburbs are more at risk from the health problems associated with hot days.

 


Our leaders in Congress are in the best position to slow climate change. Know where your candidate stands on climate change—and vote climate!