From its farmlands and forests to its many lakes and miles of shoreline, Michigan has been strongly shaped by its climate. However, that climate is changing due to global warming. The possible effects of global warming on Michigan, including severe summer heat and more dangerous storms and floods, can affect people with asthma even more.
Global warming comes from more pollution in the atmosphere, including carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels and the clearing of forests. Carbon dioxide acts like a blanket that traps heat in our atmosphere and warms our climate. Oceans, forests, and land can absorb some of this carbon, but not as fast as it is made. The results of this are:
Heat: Higher temperatures will mean that plants will grow in different areas, causing a change in how much and the types of pollen and mold spores, and how long the allergy season lasts. Air pollution gets worse as temperatures rise, with increases in ozone and particulate matter (the often see-able pollutant in city air). Pollen, mold and air pollution are common asthma triggers. Effects can be especially hard on people who live in cities with already poor air quality, like Detroit, and along the western shore of Lake Michigan where pollution blown across the lake from Chicago and Milwaukee lingers.
Storms: There will be more outdoor allergens like molds, grass pollen and fungal spores in the air from thunderstorms. During thunderstorms, droplets of rain water which carry allergens are split into very tiny droplets that can be inhaled. Storms may also cause a sudden drop in temperature and spike in ozone levels. Flooding from storms leads to dampness, where mold spores and dust mites are more likely to thrive. All of these things can cause asthma and allergy symptoms.
Drought: Climate change may cause a shift in rainfall patterns, with wetter springs and falls but dry, hot summers. Dry weather can lead to more dust in the air and to wildfires which make smoke and particulate matter that can cause breathing problems for people with asthma.
How climate change affects people with asthma will depend on how much temperatures rise and rain falls, and how those changes affect asthma triggers like air pollution and mold. People may need to avoid heat and pollution, and if necessary, spend less time outside. Clinicians will need to learn how their patients' asthma changes with the changing environment and manage it in new ways. More research is needed to see how climate change affects lung and general health so that people can get ready.
In the meantime, you can help reduce the effects of global warming by using less electricity and gas-powered machines less often. Even simple things like carpooling and using the car less, insulating your home better and keeping it well aired, using air conditioning less often, and turning appliances and electronics off when not in use, can have an impact. This is especially important during ozone action days when air quality is worse, making breathing even harder.
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and learn more about climate change and asthma
. Read the EPA's Climate Change Indicators in the United States, 2014