Climate change is getting worse in the United States—and it’s directly impacting Americans’ health, especially children, finds two recent studies.
On April 25, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report on a range of health impacts to American children due to climate change-related factors such as air quality, changing seasons, flooding, and infectious diseases.
Alongside the EPA, the American Lung Association released its 2023 State of the Air report. The report details the quality of air from 2019 to 2021, in addition to detailing all who are at risk from air pollution.
The impact of climate change on children
The EPA report defined the major risks of climate change for children, now and in the future. Among the key findings was that climate change of just 2°C and 4°C is leading to increases in cases of asthma, pollen-induced asthma, and Lyme disease. All have an estimated significant rise in percentages, such as asthma cases which are predicted to rise from 4% to 11%, pollen-induced asthma cases from 17% to 30%, and Lyme disease from 79% to 241%.
Children’s quality of learning is also impacted by climate change as heat waves during the school year can negatively affect the learning experience for students, projected to result in a 4% to 7% decline in academic achievement.
Health affects disproportionately fall upon children from low-income households; without health insurance; and who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color.
The impact of climate change on lung health
The American Lung Association’s report on 2019 to 2021 air quality echoes the EPA’s claims. The report states that individuals most affected by climate change in the U.S. are children, pregnant women, people with existing lung disease, and anyone 65 and older.
The report includes two different forms of pollution: fine particle pollution and ozone pollution. Particle pollution comes from factories, power plants, vehicles, and burning materials like wood or biomass. It contains tiny solids and liquids that are breathed in and can be created by pollutants like nitrogen oxide (NOx). It can also come from wildfires and residential burning. The report states that particle pollution is responsible for 48,000 premature deaths in the U.S. every year.
Ozone pollution forms in the lower atmosphere when NOx and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) mix and react in sunlight. These pollutants come from burning fossil fuels like gasoline, diesel, oil, natural gas, or coal, and evaporating solvents and chemicals. VOCs come from various sources like vehicles, oil and gas operations, chemical plants, refineries, factories, gas stations, and consumer products.
How will the U.S. meet this challenge?
In 2022, the U.S. passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which invested a historically high amount of government money into reducing air pollution, as Bio.News has reported. On April 23, President Biden signed an executive order, “Revitalizing Our Nation’s Commitment to Environmental Justice for All.” The order promised that the Biden Administration would deepen its commitment to preventing the spread of climate change, and its disproportionate effects.
Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz, M.D (D-CA) stated in response to the EPA release, “This report makes clear the profound impact of climate change on our children’s health, well-being, and development and highlights the need to address the climate crisis through a public health lens […] I look forward to working together on solutions that advance environmental justice for all.”
Biotech innovation has solutions
As Bio.News has reported, climate change has led to numerous human health impacts, including the increase of infectious diseases. With the increase in climate change, there must be an increase in biotechnology solutions to stop the detrimental impacts on health and the environment.
Nick Shipley, EVP and Chief Advocacy Officer of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), stated in 2022, “You’ve got to have a more robust suite of solutions, and it’s going to involve innovation and technology in the biologic space.”
Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF)
SAF is one biotech solution. For example, Rolls-Royce and Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. created a business jet entirely powered by sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). As Bio.News has reported, aviation is known to burn fossil fuels, which release CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. But the development of SAF could help the world’s CO2 levels be restored to a normal level.
Biodiesel: renewable and biodegradable
According to the Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center, “Biodiesel is a renewable, biodegradable fuel manufactured domestically from vegetable oils, animal fats, or recycled restaurant grease. Biodiesel meets both the biomass-based diesel and overall advanced biofuel requirement of the Renewable Fuel Standard.”
According to the EPA, diesel emissions are one of the leading causes of the production of ground-level ozone, which contributes to ozone pollution. These emissions have direct effects on the environment, like the production of acid rain, which affects the human food chain. The addition of biodiesel to the U.S. market would protect the environment from direct and drastic changes. To read more about biodiesel, visit Bio.News