Climate change in Russia – possible consequences for the health
These years Russia has been witnessing anomalous weather phenomena more often than before. The summer heat in Moscow and other cities, floods, storms are actual prove of it. It maybe connected to the global climate change to a certain degree. The aperiodicities effect people’s health, and today climate change is regarded as one of the risk factors, like smoking, alcohol, excessive eating, lack of physical exercise and others.
Consequences of the climate change effect people’s health in direct and indirect ways. Direct effects are caused by floods, storms, typhoons, hurricanes. In Russia 1 thousand people per year die because of these reasons. Yakutia, Stavropol and Krasnodar regions, Primorie are the areas whose population suffered most natural disasters these years. Within the first half of 2002, 200 people died in the floods. These extreme situations cause traumas, post traumatic stresses and other health problems and people’s deaths. There also indirect consequences like the increase of the insects in the flooded areas, spreading of the naturofocal disease areas, damages of the water and sewage systems which increases the risk of the intestinal infectious diseases.
The heat influence on people’s health can vary from North to South, as southern people are adopted to heat. It can be illustrated by the comparison of the death-rates in two cities, in the USA and Canada – in the southern Dallas which lies in the same latitude as USSR Asian republics, and in Montreal – geographically equal to Makhachkala. In Montreal the death rates increased at the temperature of 29 C, while in Dallas - at the temperature of 39C. The temperature above 29 C is taken as liminal for the northern territories. Even short term heat ion the North of Russia can lead to the increase in the hospitalization cases due to the cardio-vascular diseases. The reason is a bad adaptability of the northern people to the high temperature effects (that’s why doctors do not recommend a short term holiday in the southern resorts.
The heat is especially dangerous in the cities. There is a description of a “heat islands” which are located in the centers of the cities with high administrative buildings, asphalt, with little open earth, water, and green plants. So the heat becomes a risk factor not only for the vulnerable groups of people (middle aged, young children, families with moderate means), but also for the officials working at state establishments, banks and other offices, located in the center of the cities.
Climate change>pollution of the city atmospheric air>health. High atmospheric temperature, increased precipitation and other phenomena contribute to the storage of the pollution in the atmospheric bottom layer. High temperatures increase the speed of its photochemical reactions, which produce new polluting chemicals that have evident toxic effects. For instance, in the atmosphere of different USA cities, temperature rise led to the ozon increase. The bad quality of the atmosphere air leads to the bad quality air in our premises where a person spends most of his time.
Climate change intestinal infectious diseases. The level of the intestinal infectious diseases among population directly depends on the quality of the water (both in the water supply systems and natural ponds) and on the food staff quality. In Russia almost 1 million people per year suffer intestinal infectious diseases. In the North of the country large areas will be in the regions of the permafrost degradation, which means that engineer communication there can be damaged and that will resulting the larger number of accidents. That can cause the risk of the infectious diseases. Climate change causes floods as well. Early spring in Yakutia in 2002 caused floods and enteric fever outbreak.
Climate change ”insect infections”. As a result of the climate change, there is a chance of precipitation and marsh areas increase. Even today some of the northern inhabited territories turn into marshes. The situation is endangered by the fact marshes are full of mosquitoes and their maggots. Their number is constantly increasing and 70% of the natural ponds and infected by the malaria maggots which increases the risk of such “marsh” diseases as malaria. In Russia, malaria cases increased by 6 times within the past 10 years. Some of the cases are “three day malaria of the local origin”. There is a chance that such mosquito diseases as Western Nile fever, Denge fever, Crimea, Omsk hemorrhagic fever. In 1999 Western Nile fever broke out in Astrakhan, Volgograd and Krasnodar region. According to experts’ opinion, up to 250 thousand people in Russia suffer hidden forms of the disease and increase in the temperature can transmit the mosquito natural habitat to the north, which can be proved by the cases when Western Nile fever is found in other Russian regions, including Moscow. Denge fever spreads fast as well. According to the Chinese scientist Din Ihoi, global climate change can lead to the fast spread of the malaria and Denge fever, which can effect half of the population.
Climate change>”tick infections”. Hot seasons is the active time for the ticks which causes lots of diseases that they transmit. In Russia the annual number of people suffering from tick encephalitis vary from 6 to 10 thousand. Lately North-Western and Povolzhsky regions contribute a lot to the spread of the encephalitis tick natural habitat. It was not registered in the European part of Russia before. The most “effected” areas are those that suffer from the anomalous heat. During summer heat 2002 only in Khabarovsk 1300 people were bitten by the ticks. Ticks can cause other diseases as well, like tick riketsiosis, boreliosis (Lime disease), KU fever. In 2001 the number of the KU fever cases increased by 3 times in comparison to year 2000.
Climate change>malignant anthrax. Many territories that underwent climate change have a stationary unfavorable malignant anthrax stations. There is a real risk of people and agricultural animals being infected because of the large number of the pathogen soil hearths and lack of the preventive vaccinations. Malignant anthrax pathogen spore can stay alive in the earth for the decades. In case of the permafrost territories warming there is a risk of favorable conditions for the bacteria vegetation which can result in infection of animals and people.
Conclusion. The data given above illustrate the climate warming negative influence on the people’s health. The consequences are various. Typhoons, floods, hurricanes, anomalous high temperatures in the cities lead to the fatal outcomes. In case of perm frost territories deformation there is a break in the work of the water supply and sewage systems which leads to the increase of the infectious intestine diseases. The increase in the number of marshes, changes in the mosquito and tick biology can lead to the increase of malaria, Denge fever, tick encephalitis, tick ricketsiosis other diseases. There is a need in developing scientifically based prognosis of the possible consequences of the climate warming and its effects on the people’s health in different Russian areas.
B. Revich, Professor of Medicine,
Human Demography and Ecology Center.