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Future Climate Change Likely to Cause More Respiratory Problems in Young Children


More children will end up hospitalized over the next decade because of respiratory problems as a result of projected climate change, according to a study issued by researchers at the Mailman School of Public Health, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The research, presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, finds a direct connection between air pollution and the health of children.

Ozone has many known negative respiratory health effects to which children are particularly vulnerable. An important projected consequence of climate change is the increase in ground-level ozone. Urban areas such as the New York City metropolitan area are at a higher risk of increasing temperature compared to rural areas. However, while more ozone is formed in higher temperatures, the downwind suburban areas are predicted in some of the models to experience higher ozone levels.

The team of researchers created a model describing future projected rates of respiratory hospitalizations for children less than two years of age using baseline New York City metropolitan area hospitalization rates from publicly available corresponding New York State Department of Health databases. These hospitalization rates were then compared to a previously developed dose-response relationship between ozone levels and pediatric respiratory hospitalizations, and the expected New York City eight-hour daily maximum ozone levels for the 2020s, as projected by a regional climate model created by the New York Climate and Health Project.

The study found that by 2020, respiratory hospitalizations are projected to rise between four and seven percent for children under two years old because of projected air pollution (ozone) increases. “This research is important because it shows that we as a country need to implement policies that both improve air quality and also prevent climate change because this could improve health in the present and prevent worsening respiratory illness in the future,” says Perry Elizabeth Sheffield, MD, in the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine and the Department of Pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and study first author.

“Once again the data substantiate the necessity for improving air pollution globally,” says report author Patrick Kinney, ScD, associate professor of Environmental Health Sciences and director of the Program in Climate and Health at the Mailman School of Public Health. “We can no longer afford to maintain the status quo, continuing to expose our children to serious respiratory health issues, which may result in the hospitalizations this study predicts.”

About the Mailman School of Public Health
The only accredited school of public health in New York City and among the first in the nation, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting millions of people locally and globally. The Mailman School is the recipient of some of the largest government and private grants in Columbia University’s history. Its more than 1000 graduate students pursue master’s and doctoral degrees, and the School’s 300 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as infectious and chronic diseases, health promotion and disease prevention, environmental health, maternal and child health, health over the life course, health policy, and public health preparedness.


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