Climate change will increase ozone-related deaths
Belgium, France, Spain and Portugal will see the biggest climate-induced increase in ozone-related deaths over the next 60 years, according to a new study, presented at the European Respiratory Society's Annual Congress in Amsterdam on 27 September.
The research is part of the Climate-TRAP project and its health impact assessment led by Professor Bertil Forsberg from Umeå University in Sweden.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), climate change that has occurred since the 1970s caused over 140,000 excess deaths annually by the year 2004. In addition to its impact on clean air, drinking water and crop production, many deadly diseases such as malaria and those which cause diarrhoea are particularly sensitive to climate change.
In this new research, the scientists used emission scenarios and models to assess the health impacts of a changing climate. They compared four periods: baseline period (1961–1990); the current situation (1990–2009); nearer future (2012–2050); and further future (2041–2060).
The findings revealed that since 1961, Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands and the UK have seen the biggest impact on ozone-related deaths due to climate change. The results predicted that the biggest increase over the next 50 years is likely to be seen in Belgium, France, Spain and Portugal, which could expect an increase of between 10 and 14 per cent. However, Nordic and Baltic countries are predicted to see a decrease over the same period.
Dr Hans Orru, air pollution expert from Umeå University and the University of Tartu in Estonia, explains: "Ozone is a highly oxidative pollutant, linked with hospitalisations and deaths due to problems with the respiratory system. Ground-level ozone formation is due to rise as temperatures increase with climate change. The results of our study have shown the potential effects that climate change can have on ozone levels and how this change will impact upon the health of Europeans."
Professor Marc Decramer, President of the ERS, said: "Outdoor air pollution is the biggest environmental threat in Europe. If we do not act to reduce levels of ozone and other pollutants, we will see increased hospital admissions, extra medication and millions of lost working days. As part of the European Respiratory Roadmap, which was launched last month, the ERS is calling for a collaborative approach between health professionals and policy makers, to protect vulnerable populations from the damaging effects air pollutants can have."
Source: ERS press release 27 September, 2011