People living with lung conditions, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), face even greater risks from climate change, according to an expert report published today (Monday) in the European Respiratory Journal. The report brings together evidence on how the effects of climate change, such as heatwaves, wildfires, and flooding, will exacerbate breathing difficulties for millions of people around the world, particularly babies, young children and the elderly.

According to the report, these effects include higher temperatures and a subsequent increase in airborne allergens, such as pollen. They also include more frequent extreme weather events such as heatwaves, droughts and wildfires, leading to episodes of extreme air pollution and dust storms, as well as heavy rainfall and flooding, leading to higher humidity and mold in the home.

The report particularly highlights the extra risk to babies and children, whose lungs are still developing.

Professor Zorana Jovanovic Andersen, Chair of the European Respiratory Society’s Environment and Health Committee and based at the University of Copenhagen said: “Climate change affects everyone’s health, but arguably, respiratory patients are among the most vulnerable. These are people who already experience breathing difficulties and they are far more sensitive to our changing climate. Their symptoms will become worse, and for some, this will be fatal.”

Reference: Climate change and respiratory health: a European Respiratory Society position statement, European Respiratory Journal, DOI: 10.1183/13993003.01960-2022

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