On Wednesday September 15, the Axios health journalist Caitlin owens and climate and energy journalist Andrew Freedman hosted a virtual roundtable with political leaders, health professionals and environmental experts on the impact of climate change on people living with respiratory diseases.
Andrew Lindsley, Chief Medical Officer and Head of Assets at Amgen, kicked off the conversation by addressing the severity of climate change as it relates to lung health and respiratory disease.
- “Climate change can directly cause or worsen pre-existing respiratory illnesses, and they can lead to increased exposure to risk factors associated with respiratory illnesses, including asthma.”
Assistant National Vice President of Healthy Air at the American Lung Association, Laura Kate Bender, explained how recent research has confirmed that devastating forest fires have negatively impacted air quality levels.
- âWhat we have found is that we continue to see the impact of climate change on air quality nationally. Where it really appeared in this year’s report was with particulate matter pollution. We have seen that more people are exposed to harmful short-term levels of particle pollution that we can link to forest fires. ”
Executive Director of the Institute of Environmental Resilience at Indiana University, Dr Gabriel Filippelli, referred to a study he conducted in several US cities to highlight the link between the use of public transportation by small vehicles and lower levels of NO2, a harmful lung irritant.
- “This shows a roadmap which, with different transport systems of different models or even electrifying vehicles, can have a significant local improvement in air quality and also cope with climate change at the same time.”
Abby Young, director of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s climate protection program, described how climate change is particularly exacerbating health problems among vulnerable populations.
- âWhen a community is already suffering from a high degree of air pollution and respiratory illnesses, and you overlap all of these climate change impacts that we are talking about, you make it even worse. “
Acting Director of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard TH Chan School for Public Health, Aaron Bernstein, stressed the importance of broader social change to ensure equitable access to health care.
- âMy biggest hope this year is that we realize that we can no longer work on climate issues or pandemics by trying to build more technological branches on a tree of life. Thanks to our technologies, our ventilation systems, our vaccines, our medicines. Obviously we need them, they are essential and we need to get people vaccinated, but as we have already shown, these things benefit the people who are least at risk first. ”
Research scientist at the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research at Stanford University, Dr Juan Aguilera, noted the importance of understanding the complex makeup of particles that enter our lungs as air quality levels continue to fluctuate.
- âWe are currently researching what the effects are on the immune system, because when we breathe in these pollutants, it is also important to notice what they contain. We can no longer just focus on the size of the particle, we need to know what is in the particle and what the effects are on the respiratory system, circulatory system and immune system. We are getting to this point.
Dr Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, explained the importance of focusing on vulnerable communities to mitigate the effects of climate change at the political level.
- âWe need to recognize that it is no secret that we have these vulnerable communities and where they are. These are the same communities that have food insecurity, housing insecurity, income insecurity. Although they may have been exposed to some extent due to forest fires of a broader nature, in terms of air pollution and flooding that now captures the communities in which they live, we just need to remember. remember that these communities, while everyone will experience them pretty much the same, these other communities are much less resilient and they don’t get over it.
Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) recognized the crucial role that policymakers play in shaping the future of environmental policy, noting the opportunity and responsibility of legislators to act quickly on the issue.
- âFor my part, I will work to ensure the passage of the Build Back Better Act, it has this huge footprint that will implement provisions across the country and state to be able to ensure that global warming will be treaty.”
Thank you Amgen for sponsoring this event.