Climate Change and Respiratory Health

Current Evidence and Knowledge Gaps

Tim K Takaro; Kim Knowlton; John R Balmes


Expert Rev Resp Med. 2013;7(4):349-361. 

In This Article

Desertification & Associated Increase in Particulate Matter

Summer drought in the USA in 2012 brought home to many people how far-reaching the effects of climate change can be. Drought conditions create multiple health challenges: in dry conditions, more pollen, dust, particulates, and when present, wildfire smoke which can irritate respiratory epithelium, exacerbate chronic respiratory illnesses, asthma, and increase risks for acute respiratory infection. Drought conditions may enhance risks of transmission of some infectious illnesses, including coccidioidomycosis (Valley Fever), with the fungal spores inhaled from disrupted soils, and Naegleria fowleri, a pathogen found in untreated surface waters that has caused lethal cerebral infections in recreational swimmers when water temperatures increase as water body levels drop.[47] As water supplies become scarce during drought, decreased hand washing practices may increase infectious illness risks further.[12]