Our team of environmental pediatricians has put together some information to help healthcare providers and the public understand why climate change is another form of environmental racism that unfairly affects the health of low income and black and brown communities more than others.
Climate change is accelerating health disparities across communities.
These disparities are costly.
There are impactful solutions for individuals and communities.
Climate change includes changing weather patterns and rising sea levels mainly due to activities like burning coal, oil, and other fossil fuels for energy. A key problem of these changes is that the people using the most energy are mostly those with power and money, and those that are most affected by climate change are low- income communities and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities. Health professionals agree that climate change will be bad for the health of children, and worst for children in low-income communities and BIPOC communities.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how our communities want action. Some of these most affected communities are also leading the way toward solutions. NYSCHECK partners, like WE ACT for Environmental Justice, not only supported front line communities in New York City to develop their own climate resilience plan but also serves critical roles advising NY state officials on climate action. Many other community groups from across New York State are also leading resiliency efforts.
Climate change will lead to more extreme heat events across the United States. Over the coming decades, New York State is expected to have a significant increase in heat wave intensity, frequency and length. Average temperatures across the state have already risen by a few degrees in one generation.
Extreme heat has many detrimental effects on child health including heatstroke, dehydration, and heat exhaustion. Excessive heat is also connected with mental health problems and impaired academic performance at school. These heat risks are the worst for children living in urban areas with less access to air-conditioning.
To find out more about how to protect your children from the health risks posed by extreme heat, please see the following resources:
Climate change can make local air pollution worse. In hot conditions, concentrations of pollutants like ozone, particulate matter and sulphur dioxide increase, especially in roadside and urban areas. While pollution reduction efforts have had a great effect in New York State, climate change threatens this progress and could worsen air quality across the state.
Higher pollution can cause health problems for children, particularly those with allergies and asthma. Outdoor air pollution can also increase the risk of other breathing and heart and blood vessel complications later in life. The unjust distribution of air pollutants can contribute to health disparities in communities of color.
To find out more about how to protect your children from the health risks posed by outdoor air pollution, please see the following resources:
Climate change is increasing both coastal and inland flooding incidents across the United States. Extreme rain events of 1-3 inches are happening more frequently, and New York State is particularly vulnerable to coastal flooding due to highly dense populations in areas exposed to rising sea levels and more extreme storm and hurricane events.
Flooding can have many effects on children’s health. In addition to injury and drowning, other risks arise in the aftermath of flooding due to contamination of local water supplies, the spread of infectious disease, mold growth in the home and carbon monoxide poisoning from the use of emergency generators. Low-income families may have a greater exposure to hazards in the aftermath if they can’t access remediation in a timely manner. Flooding is traumatic for children and can have mental health implications, especially when there has been significant changes to the child’s home or schooling routine.
To find out more about how to protect your children from the health risks posed by flooding, please see the following resources:
Changing local weather patterns make some regions of the United States more vulnerable to diseases spread by ticks and mosquitoes. In New York State, diseases such as Lyme disease (tick-borne) and West Nile virus (mosquito-borne) are expected to increase in prevalence as the climate of the state changes.
To find out more about how you can protect your child from these infectious diseases, please see the links below:
Climate change is expected to increase gastrointestinal illness from water and food contamination.
Waterborne diseases often arise following storms. Many cities in New York State have combined sewage and storm-water systems. Frequent storms lead to overflow of sewage systems into waterways to allow the spread of waterborne disease.
Power outages after big storms or extreme heat can lead to spoiled foods and illness. Also, water temperatures can cause excessive algae growth in the seas and lakes around the Northeast. This algae can make shellfish contaminated and New York has already seen higher numbers of shellfish poisoning episodes.
To find out more about how you can protect your child from diarrheal disease, please see the following resources: