Climate Change and Human Health
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Climate change poses many threats to the health and well-being of all Americans. Climate change affects the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the places that provide us with shelter. Climate change can also impact people’s health and well-being by altering the frequency or intensity of extreme weather events and spread of certain pests and diseases.
How Climate Change Affects Human Health
Climate change affects people’s health in two main ways:
- By changing the seriousness or frequency of health problems that people already face.
- By creating new or unanticipated health problems in people or places where they have not been before.
The health effects of climate change include respiratory and heart diseases, pest-related diseases like Lyme disease and West Nile Virus, water- and food-related illnesses, and injuries and deaths. Climate change has also been linked to increases in violent crime and overall poor mental health.
People can face multiple climate change effects at the same time, at different stages of their life, or over the course of their lifetime. A person’s vulnerability to climate change impacts depends on three key factors:
- Exposure. People will encounter climate hazards differently. Exposure will depend on where and how long people spend time and what they do. For example, people who spend a lot of time outdoors may be more exposed to extreme heat.
- Sensitivity. Some people are more sensitive than others to climate hazards due to factors like age and health condition. For example, children and adults with asthma are particularly sensitive to air pollutants and wildfire smoke.
- Adaptive capacity. People can adjust to, take advantage of, or respond to climate change hazards. A person’s ability to adapt may depend upon their income, age, living situation, access to health care, and many other factors.
Learn more about the connections between climate change and health.
Certain groups are at more risk than others due to both climate and non-climate factors.
There are many things we can do to protect people’s health from the impacts of climate change.
EPA is supporting communities by helping them deliver critical resources even as the climate changes.
- Understanding the Connections Between Climate Change and Human Health
- Climate Change Indicators: Health and Society
- National Climate Assessment
- National Climate Assessment, Chapter 14: Human Health
- The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Climate Effects on Health