The Surprising Connection Between Climate Change and Cancer

By path2positive

When we talk about carcinogens, we often think of the most widely known chemicals such as those in formaldehyde, tobacco smoke and pesticides. Consumer products ranging from deodorant and hairspray to detergent and carpet cleaners can also contain carcinogens, and many of them do. Now, the World Health Organization, has declared air pollution a carcinogen. Oncologists, take note. Since a top contributor of climate change is air pollution, focusing on climate may serve as preventive care.

As the article below points out, the links between climate change and cancer are no longer discrete, nor are they far off in the distance. They are here and now. The World Health Organization says air pollution's "link to lung cancer is clear and that it's also associated with an increased risk for bladder cancer."

Discussing the connections between climate change and diseases, including but not limited to certain cancers, may seem tricky at first because the conversation falls outside of the traditional approach to medicine. We're learning, however, that to accomplish meaningful social change, we must successfully engage mainstream support, such as within health institutions and communities. This is the ultimate in precautionary medicine. If you are interested in learning how you can get involved, you can begin by checking out ecoAmerica's report, Recent Learnings from Other Social Movements. Also keep in mind that Climate for Health has created a set of tools for you to use to begin this process.


Climate Change is Already Causing Asthma. Cancer Too.

By Rebecca Leber, New Republic, May 2014

The National Climate Assessment, which hundreds of scientists helped put together, warns that the effects of global warming aren’t some far-off possibility. They are happening right now, here in the U.S. Those effects include all the familiar problems: drought, wildfires, extreme weather, and sea level rise. But they include something else: Threats to public health. 

As the document notes. “When asked about climate change impacts, Americans do not mention health impacts, and when asked about health impacts specifically, most believe it will affect people in a different time or place.” That’s not true. The health impacts are happening already, all over the country. Here are six ways: 

1. Allergies and asthma:  Climate change plays a few roles contributing to asthma: It lengthens allergy season and raises pollen counts. An increase in ozone and carbon pollution contributes to pollen counts, while extreme rainfall and dampness encourages the growth of indoor fungi and molds. The result? Terrible allergy seasons and more cases of asthma: The rate of people diagnosed with asthma has gone up from 7.3 percent of the population to 8.4 percent over the last decade. Between 1995 and 2011, hotter temperatures caused the ragweed pollen season to increase by anywhere from 11 to 27 days in parts of the U.S.

2. Lungs and heart: One way climate change causes lung damage is through the spread of wildfires, the report explains. A warmer, drier climate is linked to record-breaking wildfires, which have come dangerously close to threatening populated cities like San Francisco and Colorado Springs. Air pollution and smog also directly impair the lungs, and some studies liken breathing ground-level ozone and tiny particulate matter to inhaling second-hand cigarette smoke. Last year, the World Health Organization declared air pollution to be a carcinogen, saying its link to lung cancer is clear and that it's also associated with an increased risk for bladder cancer.

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