Rising Climate Is Causing a Rise In Respiratory Problems In Massachusetts

It’s no secret that the climate in the United States has changed pretty drastically in the past few years. Much of New England has seen a steady increase in temperature, Boston, Massachusetts included, and it is predicted that temperatures will continue to climb. This extreme climate change is affecting not only the duration of the seasons, but also sea levels and even our health. More specifically, we are seeing a rise in respiratory issues such as asthma.

In seeking further insight on this topic, I spoke to Dr. Patricia Fabian, ScD, an associate professor of environmental health at Boston University who specializes in climate related health effects. She elaborated on some of the issues that are directly caused by the increasing temperatures, such as an increase in precipitation, longer pollen seasons, and flooding. All of these issues have caused an uptick in hospital visits.

Dr. Fabian explained that the increase in coastal flooding in Massachusetts can cause mold in properties that many homeowners aren’t always aware of how to treat or get rid of completely. Leaving mold untreated can then impact respiratory health and cause an exacerbation in asthma. 

Another way that respiratory health can be impacted by the extreme weather in Massachusetts is by the amount of time we spend indoors and using electric heaters which can also trigger asthma, especially in small, unventilated rooms.  

While Dr. Fabian notes that smog is not a huge issue that we are concerned with in Boston as we would in a city like Los Angeles, she does agree that air pollution is associated with asthma cases, although it is indirectly connected to climate. She points out that respiratory health is a lot about what you breathe. “The air is complex,” made out of things such as nitrogen dioxide, pollen, and particulate matter, she says.

So even though extreme weather may keep us indoors a lot more, she emphasizes that things inside our homes such as mold, gas stoves, and building materials can trigger health issues like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and emphysema, which are conditions where the respiratory system is sensitive.

This information is certainly eye opening, as they are things that we tend to dismiss in our day to day lives. But they are critical to keep in mind as we continue to experience a rising climate.