United States
Environmental Protection
Climate  Change,   Health,  and
Environmental  Justice
Understanding the threats that climate change
poses to human health can help us work
together to lower risks and be prepared.
Climate change threatens human health, including
mental health, and access to clean air, safe drinking
water, nutritious food, and shelter. Everyone is affected
by climate change at some point in their lives. Some
people are more affected by climate change than
others because of factors like where they live; their age,
health, income, and occupation; and how they go
about their day-to-day life.

Climate change is an environmental justice issue
because certain groups of people in the United States
are disproportionately affected by climate change and
are less able than others to adapt to or recover from
climate change impacts. These groups include people
of color, low-income communities, immigrants, and
people who are not fluent in English. There are many
factors that can affect someone's ability to prepare for,
respond to, and cope with the impacts of climate
change on health. These include:

  living in areas particularly vulnerable to climate
  change (like communities along the coast)

  coping with higher levels of existing health risks
  when compared to other groups

  living in low income communities with limited
  access to healthcare services

  having high rates of uninsured individuals who
  have difficulty accessing quality healthcare

  having limited availability of information and
  resources in a person's native language

  less ability to relocate or rebuild after a disaster
                                  the way that
                                  these factors are
                                  related to different impacts of
                                  climate change can help people
                                  and communities plan for risks,
                                  adapt to changes, and protect health.
                                   What is climate change and why does it
                                   matter for health?

                                   We've all heard of it, but what exactly is climate change?
                                   Greenhouse gases act like a blanket around Earth,
                                   trapping energy in the atmosphere. Human activities,
                                   especially burning fossil fuels for energy, increase the
                                   amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere and
                                   cause the climate to warm. Climate is the typical or
                                   average weather for an area. Climate change is any
                                   change in average weather that lasts for a long period of
                                   time, like warming temperatures. Climate change affects
                                   the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we
                                   drink. It also leads to extreme weather events, like
                                   flooding, droughts, and wildfires. All of these impacts
                                   affect human health.

                                   There are steps that people and communities affected
                                   by climate change can take to protect themselves and
                                   their health. For example, community members can take
                                   part in planning and decision-making for local
                                   environmental protection, community development,
                                   and emergency services. These types of actions
                                   encourage local areas to prepare for where and how
                                   climate change impacts are expected to occur. Also,
                                   efforts to get the word out about how climate change
                                   affects some more than others help to spread
                                   environmental justice awareness.

 Key Climate Change Impacts on Health
                 EXTREME HEAT

                  Climate change leads to more
                 extreme heat events and warmer
                than average temperatures.
Example health impacts

   Heat cramps
   Heat exhaustion
   Hyperthermia (above normal body temperature)

You may be at increased risk if you:

   Live in a home with poor insulation
   Do not have air conditioning
   Do not have access to cooling centers
   Work outdoors
   Do not have access to emergency healthcare
   Do not have access to emergency public health
   warnings in your native language

Climate change affects harmful air
pollutants, like ozone and
particulate matter, both outdoors and
indoors, and can increase allergens in
the air like ragweed pollen or dust.

Example health impacts
   Premature death
   Cardiovascular (heart) and respiratory (lung) illnesses
   Worsened allergy and asthma conditions

You may be at increased risk if you:

   Live in an urban area, especially one that already has
   a lot of air pollution
   Work outdoors
   Have medical problems like hypertension (high
   blood pressure), diabetes, chronic obstructive
   pulmonary disorder (COPD), or asthma
   Do not have access to public health information in
   your native language

Climate change affects the frequency or intensity of some extreme events, such as flooding (related to heavy rains,
hurricanes, and coastal storms), droughts, wildfires, and winter storms. Health impacts can happen long after or far away
from the extreme event.

Example health impacts

   Injury, illness, and possibly death
   Mental health problems
   Damage to  power, water, transportation, and communication systems
   important for health care and emergency response services

You may be at increased risk if you:

   Have limited transportation options
   Have limited access to health care services or medications needed for existing medical problems
   Have no or limited health insurance or property insurance
   Need electric medical equipment like oxygen machines that cannot be used during power
   Do not have access to emergency public health warnings in your native language

Key Climate Change Impacts on Health
                Rising water temperatures and
               changes in precipitation can shift
             when and where waterborne bacteria,
            viruses, parasites, and harmful algae
grow. Heavy rains and flooding made more intense by
climate change can damage drinking water, wastewater,
and stormwater infrastructure. All of these changes
increase the risk of water contamination and illness.

Example health impacts

   Gastrointestinal illnesses like diarrhea from
   waterborne bacteria, viruses, and parasites
   Liver and kidney damage, nerve and breathing
   problems, and diarrhea from harmful algae

You may be at increased risk if you:

   Live in an area with treated drinking water systems
   that are old or below standards
   Live in an area with untreated water such as well
   Live in a crowded shelter after evacuations for an
   extreme event
   Do not have access to public health information in
   your native language
                        ACCESS TO SAFE AND
                        NUTRITIOUS FOOD

                        Increasing temperatures and
                        changes in precipitation can affect
                        illness caused by harmful bacteria,
                        viruses, or chemicals found in food.
                        Rising carbon dioxide also affects the nutritional
                        quality of food crops like wheat and rice. Extreme
                        weather events can affect food shipments, leading to
                        damaged, spoiled, or contaminated food.

                        Example health impacts

                           Gastrointestinal illnesses like diarrhea from harmful
                           bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli
                           Food-related illnesses, like food poisoning
                           Limited access to high quality food

                        You may be at increased risk if you:

                           Do not have access to information on safe handling
                           of food
                           Live in an area with limited access to high quality
                           food choices
                           Have existing or chronic medical problems
                           Do not have access to public health information in
                           your native language

Impacts on people's physical health and changes in their surrounding environment can affect their mental health.
Extreme weather events are known to affect mental health, especially in cases of loss of life or home, images of
extreme weather events in the media, or disruption of communication lines and social support networks that people
with mental illnesses need to stay healthy.
Example health impacts

   Post-traumatic stress
   Alcohol abuse
You may be at increased risk if you:

   Do not have access to mental health care, especially
   counseling, in your native language
   Have an existing mental illness, especially if taking
   medication that increases sensitivity to heat stress
   Live in an area vulnerable to extreme weather events
   Have limited social support networks

  Effects of Climate Change on Existing
  Health Conditions

  People of color, people from low-income
  communities, and immigrants tend to have
  relatively high rates of some existing health
  conditions like heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and
  chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The
  following are examples of how climate change
  affects these common health problems. Knowing
  the risks can help people prepare for increasing
  threats from climate change.

     Heart disease - Heart disease increases
     sensitivity to heat stress.

     Diabetes - Diabetes increases sensitivity to
     heat stress. Extreme weather events can also be
     problematic for diabetics because these events
     may limit access to the medicine and food that
     diabetics need to stay healthy.

     Asthma - Asthma can be exacerbated by
     changes in  pollen season and exposure to air
     pollution caused by or made worse by changes
     in temperature, humidity, wind, or wildfires.

     COPD - Patients with COPD are more sensitive
     than the general population to changes in
     outdoor air quality made worse by climate
This fact sheet is based on "The Impacts of Climate
Change on Human Health in the United States: A
Scientific Assessment." To explore the full report, go to:

Learn More

Climate Change: Human Health
Climate Change: What You Can Do
https://www3 .epa.gov/climatechange/wycd/
Environmental Justice

Recursos en Espahol

Climate Health Assessment: Resumen Ejecutivo en
EPA en espanol
                                                       EPA en espanol: El cambio climatico y usted
                                                       Photo credit on bottom of page 2: Federal Emergency
                                                       Management Agency, Marilee Caliendo.
EPA 430-F-16-054
May 2016