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Researchers uncover disturbing factor linked to upsurge in allergic diseases: ‘Physicians … should educate their patients’

“Clinicians are trusted members of the community.”

"Clinicians are trusted members of the community."

Photo Credit: iStock

Unplugging energy vampires and considering an electric vehicle the next time you car shop might not only be money-saving moves, but they could also indirectly become part of your doctor’s orders. 

That’s because research from the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology says that “physicians as trusted members of the community should educate their patients” about planet overheating and its impacts on respiratory health. 

At issue are severe wildfires, sand and dust storms, and smog, which the journal linked to our warming world. Those events churn out particle pollution that experts in the report said is terrible for our lung health. 

Part of the solution, they wrote, is decreasing our use of dirty energy sources, among other changes. 

What’s happening? 

The Annals reported that “the prevalence of allergic diseases, including asthma, allergic rhinitis, atopic dermatitis, and food allergy” has been on the rise for five decades. The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology notes that about 8.3% of Americans have asthma. About 4.6 million of them are children

A leading lung troubler is particle pollution (aka particulate matter), which consists of tiny pieces of solids or liquids from smoke, dust, and smog that hang in the air, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Warming temperatures in North America, for example, have contributed to lengthening pollen season by 50%, as the new research stated. 

Why is it important?

The pollutants we inhale can impact our immune systems and respiratory tract, per the Annals. 

Climate change and global warming have been implicated in the recent increase in the prevalence and severity of allergic disease and further increases are expected,” the authors of the study, Kari Nadeau and Hana Seastedt, from Harvard and Stanford, wrote

The report detailed the various kinds of pollution that are impacting our breathing health, including ozone, pollen, wildfires, high heat, and others. It’s a dirty laundry list of increases in dust levels, heat spikes, and migration patterns. About 70% of the world’s population will live in urban centers by 2050, per the paper. About 55% of us now live in cities. The Annals experts wrote that urbanization increases exposure to air pollution. 

And while experts can’t link every dust storm and wildfire to planet overheating, NASA reports that human-caused air pollution is increasing the “frequency and intensity” of the extreme weather events noted in the report

What can be done to help? 

Green spaces in cities are a huge benefit, both cleaning and preventing air pollution. In fact,  planting trees has a direct, positive impact. One mature tree removes 48 pounds of air pollution each year, according to the Arbor Day Foundation. 

Considering smarter ways to reuse our old stuff, as well as money-saving energy hacks, can cut back our smoggy habits while being friendly to our bank accounts. 

Nadeau and Seastedt feel that doctors can be a key part of the solution, as well. 

“Clinicians are trusted members of the community, and they need to take a strong leadership role in educating patients on climate change and its adverse effects on human health,” they wrote in the Annals report.

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