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Arch Hellen Med, 28(4), July-August 2011, 502-515


The effects of climate change on the respiratory system

E.C. Filippidou,1 A. Koukouliata2
1First Pulmonary Department, General Hospital of Kavala, Kavala,
2Labour Inspectorate of Kavala, Kavala, Greece

Overwhelming evidence is documented showing that human activities affect the global climate. Climate change poses a significant, emerging threat to public health and is one of the greatest environmental, social and economic hazards faced by the planet. Various effects are already being felt, ranging from global warming to rising sea levels as a result of melting polar ice, and increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as storms, floods, droughts and heat waves. The temperature changes contribute to increases in morbidity and mortality associated with lung diseases. Global warming, combined with increased humidity, favors the development of pathogenic micro- organisms in geographic areas where this would not normally occur. The prevalence of allergic diseases and the duration of seasonal allergic disorders (allergic rhinitis, asthma) have increased in recent decades in the industrialized world. The rising average temperature of the lower atmosphere increases the concentration of "bad" ozone in photochemical smog, exacerbating respiratory problems. Air pollution, mainly particulate matter and ozone, give rise to particular risk, especially for vulnerable groups such as the elderly, people with cardio-respiratory problems, neonates and infants. Patients at higher risk are those who already suffer from chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma, severe allergies or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Key words: Air pollution, Allergic disease, Climate change and respiratory disease.

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