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America's Children and the Environment, Third Edition (ACE3)

Climate Change

EPA is currently developing a new children's environmental health indicator for climate change. The new indicator will focus on the frequency of extreme heat events over time. EPA intends to complete development of this new indicator in 2014, and it will be made available at www.epa.gov/ace when completed.

About the Climate Change Indicator

Climate change refers to any significant change in climate variables including temperature, precipitation, or wind that lasts for decades or longer. It may include changes in variability of average weather conditions or extreme weather conditions. Both human activities and natural factors contribute to climate change. Climate change may increase children's exposure to extreme temperatures, polluted air and water, extreme weather events, wildfires, infectious disease, allergens, pesticides, and other chemicals.

These exposures may affect children's health in a number of direct and indirect ways. Direct effects of extreme temperatures are one area of concern, as climate change is expected to increase the number and intensity of hot days, hot nights, and heat waves in the United States. Heat exposure can result in heat rashes, heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and even death. High temperatures, heat waves, and associated stagnant air masses can increase levels of air pollution, specifically ground level ozone, fine particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen oxides, and sulfur oxides. These air pollutants can be harmful for children: they may contribute to the development of new cases of asthma, aggravate preexisting cases of asthma, cause decrements to lung function, increase respiratory symptoms such as coughing and wheezing, and increase hospital admissions and emergency room visits for respiratory diseases. Climate change may impact other aspects of children's health by changing the timing, frequency, and intensity of extreme weather events. Examples of these include heat waves, hurricanes, heavy rainfall, and droughts. As a result, these events may increase water- and food-borne illnesses, affect the growth and distribution of allergen-producing vegetation such as weeds and grasses, and increase levels and/or frequencies of childhood exposure to harmful contaminants.

EPA is currently developing a new children's environmental health indicator for climate change. The new indicator will focus on the frequency of extreme heat events over time. EPA intends to complete development of this new indicator in 2014, and it will be made available at www.epa.gov/ace when completed.

More information about climate change is provided in the Climate Change section of America's Children and the Environment, Third Edition (PDF) (7 pp, 434K, About PDF).

Related Links

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Climate and Health Program

National Academy of Sciences (NAS): Climate Change at the National AcademiesExit EPA Disclaimer

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS): Climate Change & Human Health

U.S. EPA: Climate Change

U.S. EPA: Climate Change and the Health of Children

Summary of Methods - Climate Change

EPA is currently developing a new children's environmental health indicator for climate change. The new indicator will focus on the frequency of extreme heat events over time. EPA intends to complete development of this new indicator in 2014, and it will be made available at www.epa.gov/ace when completed.

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