Increasing health risks due to climate change and air pollution in Europe
Increasing temperatures and heat waves due to climate change, combined with air pollution, constitute major health risks, and could cause an increase in cardiovascular and respiratory diseases across Europe. This is the key topic in a new EU-funded research project called EXHAUSTION.
Extreme heat is responsible for health impairments and disease exacerbations, and it increases hospitalization rates for a range of maladies, particularly for cardiopulmonary diseases (CPD). Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone (O3) are the two major air pollutants currently threatening human health in Europe.
During periods of extreme heat and decreasing precipitation, the risk of wildland fires increases, which can cause intense air pollution, markedly in the form of PM2.5. Especially in Southern Europe, climate projections indicate an increased risk of wildfires. High levels of O3 have been observed during recent heat wave events, and it is projected that climate change may increase summer ozone levels.
– Air pollution is today the environmental challenge associated with the highest mortality in Europe. A warmer climate may increase air pollution levels, and thus counteract current policies to reduce emissions of air pollutants. Studies suggest that especially surface ozone (O3) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) increase in many populated regions when the temperature increases, even when emissions of air pollutants are not increasing. This could worsen health damage due to these environmental factors, says Dr. Kristin Aunan, leader of the EXHAUSTION project.
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