Breathing protection league warns: climate change increases lung diseases

Lung sufferers are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change

Numerous scientific studies have shown that climate change threatens human health. Patients with lung diseases are particularly susceptible to direct and indirect effects of climate change. This is now reported by the German Respiratory League.

The World Health Organization (WHO) released a list of the top ten global health threats earlier this year. Global warming is also listed. The German Respiratory League e. V. now reports that lung patients are particularly susceptible to direct and indirect effects of climate change.

Relationship between rising temperatures and higher mortality

As the German Respiratory League writes in a communication published by the idw science information service, climate change can be felt with the current measurement of national and international heat records. These developments are an alarm signal for patients with lung disease because many studies have shown that they are particularly susceptible to direct and indirect effects of climate change.

Numerous epidemiological studies have shown a connection between rising temperatures and higher mortality. This applies in particular to vulnerable groups such as the elderly (1 degree warming leads to a 3.6 percent increase in mortality from pulmonary diseases in Europe, and up to 6.4 percent for seniors).

According to the experts, many damaging effects of climate change have an effect on the lungs and primarily increase the clinical and functional deterioration of pre-existing cardiorespiratory diseases. Therefore, the lungs can be seen as a portal organ for the effects of climate change.

80,000 premature deaths attributed to particulate matter

Developments with direct health effects include, for example, more extreme heat waves, longer drought episodes (drought), in urban areas (urban heat island) combined with air pollution from exhaust gases (industry, agriculture, traffic). According to the Air Report 2016, around 80,000 premature deaths are attributed to particulate matter pollution.

Chronically ill people in particular feel the effects of an increase in temperature. A temperature increase of around ten degrees increases hospital admissions by around five percent. The effect is stronger in colder areas than in regions that are already warm, such as Texas. This speaks for different adaptations to changing environments.

According to the Respiratory League, increasing urbanization and demographic change in the context of climate change are to be viewed critically, since urban areas are more exposed to both, warming (urban heat island) and local air pollution on the main roads (approx. 370,000 people affected in Germany) is. In Berlin, the temperatures in the city center are up to eight degrees higher than in the surrounding area.

More research needed

Like Prof. Dr. Christan Witt from the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin explains that the research at the Charité examines the effect of ultra-modern, air-conditioned hospital rooms on the recovery of hospitalized patients in warm phases. According to the information, the first results suggest a faster mobilization of patients in the air-conditioned hospital rooms. More research will be needed in the future to identify vulnerable groups and develop options for adaptation strategies. This also applies to a possible climate-adapted drug therapy. (ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

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