Climate change is not simply an environmental problem – it poses a serious public health challenge ~ MOHLTC
The scienfitic community agrees that our climate is changing. In the last 130 years, the world has warmed by approximately 0.85oC and Canada’s average temperature has increased 1.6°C, or twice the global average. Over the last 50 years, human activities have resulted in large quantities of greenhouse gases that trap heat in the lower atmosphere and affect the global climate (WHO, 2017). Health Canada confirms that climate change would present new health concerns for most Canadians.
The infographic below outlines the three major climate changes expected in the Grey and Bruce region and how these changes can effect our health. Also listed are the strategies the health unit is taking to help reduce the impacts.
How will Climate Change Impact our Health in Grey and Bruce Counties?
Climate change in our region is expected to result in more frequent and intense precipitation, more frequent and severe storms and an increase in the annual temperature. This changing climate could mean a greater risk for: lyme disease and west nile virus, water-borne illnesses, heat related illnesses and the possibility of displacement and isolation. The Grey Bruce Health Unit has developed strategies to reduce the impacts of these health effects.
What Can I do to Protect My Health?
Warming temperatures in the spring and fall seasons will help encourage the growth and establishment of insect species that carry West Nile Virus (WNV) and Lyme disease. Humans can get West Nile Virus if they are bitten by an infected Culex pipiens/restuans mosquito. People infected may experience common flu-like symptoms or more serious symptoms including muscle weaknesses and paralysis.
Visit the Governemt of Canada website to discover how West Nile virus can be prevented.
Climate change has helped ticks become established in areas where they have not been previously found. Lyme disease is a bacterial disease that humans can get if they are bitten by an infected blacklegged deer tick. Left untreated, severe symptoms may develop which can last from months to years and can include muscle weakness, joint pain, and neurological disorders.
Visit the Government of Canada site to learn how you can prevent Lyme disease and how to reduce tick habitats near your home.
More frequent and intense rainfall events can contaminate our drinking water from agricultural and residential runoff. There is a direct link between heavy rainfall events and an increase in water contamination and outbreaks of gastrointestinal water-borne illnesses. Drinking, brushing your teeth, washing vegetables, and using contaminated water can make you sick with stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting or other problems which may become fatal. Heavy rainfall in May 2000, was a key factor in the Walkerton tragedy where 7 people died and thousands became ill from drinking contaminated well water.
View The Private Well Water Manual to learn how to keep your water well safe.
Severe storms such as those that cause blizzards, freezing rain, strong winds and tornadoes can bring harm or injury to people. Storms can also damage critical services and infrastructure like our roads, buildings and utilities. Extreme weather may also make it more difficult for emergency services to respond to an accident or emergency.
Visit Get Prepared to learn how to prepare for severe storms.
Public Health’s Response to Climate Change
The GBHU has already started to address, manage and respond to the effects of a changing climate. Adapting our current programs and services such as community planning, food quality and quantity, air and water quality, infectious disease and occupational hazards will help prepare for and reduce the risks and health impacts.
The GBHU has begun to identify multiple areas to adapt existing programs and services. For example:
- Education and Capacity Building: raise community and public awareness
- Engagement of community partners: support multijurisdictional, multidisciplinary collaborative approaches
- Surveillance and Monitoring: model the burden of disease caused by climate change and identify community vulnerabilities
- Communication and Outreach: encourage residents of Grey and Bruce Counties to act to minimize individual impacts on the environment
- Promote programs with health and environmental co-benefits: adopt programs that benefit both the environment and the conditions that affect health
- Advocacy: advocate for policies, plans, programs and resources that support climate change mitigation and adaptation
Click here to find out how you can help fight climate change.