People with respiratory conditions are at greater risk from climate change, warns new research.
Now scientists are calling for lower limits on air pollution to reduce the potential loss of life – particularly among the very young and the very old.
The new study, published in the European Respiratory Journal, shows that people living with lung problems, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), face even greater risks from global warming.
The report brings together evidence on how the effects of climate change – such as heatwaves, wildfires and flooding – will exacerbate breathing difficulties for millions of people around the world, particularly babies, young children and the elderly.
The research team is calling on the European Parliament and governments around the world to urgently reduce emissions of greenhouse gases on behalf of the European Respiratory Society, which represents more than 30,000 lung specialists.
Professor Zorana Jovanovic Andersen, Chair of the European Respiratory Society’s Environment and Health Committee, was one of the report’s authors.
She said: “Climate change affects everyone’s health, but arguably, respiratory patients are among the most vulnerable.
“These are people who already experience breathing difficulties and they are far more sensitive to our changing climate.
“Their symptoms will become worse, and for some, this will be fatal.
They also include more frequent extreme weather events – such as heatwaves, droughts and wildfires – leading to episodes of extreme air pollution and dust storms, as well as heavy rain and flooding, leading to higher humidity and mold in the home.
“Air pollution is already damaging our lungs. Now the effects of climate change are becoming a major threat to respiratory patients.”
The effects include higher temperatures and a subsequent increase in airborne allergens, such as pollen, according to the report.
The report particularly highlights the extra risk to babies and children, whose lungs are still developing.
However, the EU is currently revising its Ambient Air Quality Directive.
Prof. Jovanovic Andersen said: “The current limits are outdated and fail to protect the health of EU citizens.
“Ambitious new air quality standards would ensure cleaner air and better health for all Europeans, as well as helping to mitigate climate change crises.
“We urge the European Parliament to adopt and enforce safer limits without delay.”
She added: “We all need to breath clean, safe air.
“That means we need action from policy makers to mitigate impacts of climate change on our planet and our health.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker