Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK
SummaryClimate change will have consequences for the health of UK citizens according to a UK government report published on 12th February. The report, called Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK, has been published jointly by the Department of Health (DH) and the Health Protection Agency (HPA).
Flooding and Windstorms
Death from drowning, injury, mental illness and infectious diseases. can be just some of the health effects experienced after flooding and windstorms. Although periods of flooding and windstorms are increasing in the UK, actual deaths associated with flooding are still relatively low when compared to other countries in Europe, with only eight deaths reported since 2001.
There is also a “very slight” chance that malaria could return to the South of England sometime in the next 50-100 years. This is due to increased rainfall (over short periods) leading to increased numbers of bacteria in surface water; The report calls for health authorities to be alert to the possibility of any outbreaks of malaria across Europe, but outbreaks are considered to be rare and would only effect a small number of people should an outbreak occur.
One effect of climate change already visible is a greater number of heat waves taking place in the UK, which, the report says, “pose an increasing risk to health”. Back in 2003, a killer heatwave swept across Europe contributing to more than 14,000 premature deaths in France alone, and experts predict that, by 2012, there will be a 1 in 40 chance that the South East of England will be hit with a “serious” heat wave causing 3,000 instant deaths.
Although many types of air pollutants will be reduced, the concentration of ozone will increase, and this will impact on attributable deaths and hospital admissions, according to the study.
Increased exposure to Sunlight
An increase in exposure to sunlight will lead to a growing number of skin cancer cases, which currently kills around 2,300 people in the UK each year, according to Cancer Research UK. Another potential effect of continual sun exposure could be rise in the incidence of cataracts, a major cause of blindness. The report states that it is essential that the public is made aware of how to reduce the risk of harm and adapt to these continual changes in climate, and that the health and social infrastructure must also be made more resilient and make adjustments to prepare for these changes. Click here to read the official report in its entirety.