Climate Change and Your Health

Climate Change Health Threats in Pennsylvania

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Ozone Smog and Allergenic Ragweed Occurrence   >= 1 unhealthy ozone days/yr (2002-2006)   Both ragweed and ozone present and >= 1 unhealthy ozone days/yr (2002-2006)   Ragweed present only   Neither or missing data
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Average Number, Summer Days Per Year of Extreme Heat, 2000-2009   <= 9.0   9.1 - 13.8 (More than expected)   > 13.8 (More than expected)   Insufficient data in county
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Dengue Fever Vulnerability, 1995-2005 data   Areas vulnerable to dengue fever infection   Counties reporting positive for one or both dengue mosquito vector species, as of 2005   No mosquito vectors reported as of 2005
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2000-2009 Averages, Number of Days Per Year of Extreme Low Flow by Watershed   < 15   15 - 33   > 33   Insufficient flow data
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2000-2009 Averages, Number of Days Per Year of Extreme High Flow by Watershed   < 15   15 - 23   > 23   Insufficient flow data
Floodwatch Stations Number of Days Above Flood Stage Per Year < 1 1 - 10 > 10
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Extreme Weather Events
Record Rainfall
Record temperature
Extreme drought
Record Snowfall
Wildfire
Extreme flooding
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Air Pollution

Many people are facing a double whammy of air quality threats that will worsen with climate change:

  • By 2050, Philadelphia could see 6 extra days per summer that exceed EPA's air quality standards.3
  • All 67 counties have ragweed pollution, and at least 31 counties also suffer from unhealthy smog levels.4
  • Asthma sickens an estimated 260,000 kids and 891,600 adults.5

Protect your family from air pollution:

  • Check news reports on the radio, TV, or online for pollen reports or daily air quality conditions. Or visit EPA's Air Now for air quality info and avoid outdoor activity on bad air days particularly for people with asthma or other respiratory diseases.
  • After spending time outdoors, wash off pollen that may have collected on your face, skin, or hair.

Find out more about the effects of air pollution

See more about Pennsylvania's state action plan for air pollution

Extreme Heat

  • An estimated 981,000 people live in the 3 counties where average summertime temperatures set records in 2010.6
  • 3 counties saw record-breaking daytime and 3 counties also saw record-breaking nighttime temperatures in the summer of 2010.7
  • Cities like Philadelphia and Harrisburg experience now about 20 days per year over 90°F; by mid-century that number could more than double.8

Protect your family from extreme heat:

  • Limit exertion during heat waves and high temperature days, drink plenty of water and take cool showers or baths, and stay inside or in the shade.
  • Check on elderly or at-risk friends or neighbors regularly -- or ask someone to look in on you if you feel vulnerable to heat.

Find out more about the effects of extreme heat

See more about Pennsylvania's state action plan for extreme heat

Infectious Diseases

  • 23 cases of Dengue Fever were reported between 1995-2005, and 21 counties have a type of mosquito that can transmit the virus (as of 2005).9
  • 405 cases of West Nile virus were reported to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between 1999-2010.10
  • 51,266 cases of Lyme disease were reported to CDC between 1990-2008.11

Protect your family from infectious diseases:

  • When planning international travel, check with the CDC's website for information on recent disease outbreaks and take appropriate precautions.
  • During mosquito season at home, apply insect repellent with 20-30 percent DEET in the mornings and early evenings.

Find out more about the effects of infectious diseases

See more about Pennsylvania's state action plan for infectious disease

Drought

  • Projected temperature increases in the summer will increase the likelihood of water shortages and drought.12
  • About 42% of the state's counties now face higher risks of water shortages by mid-century as the result of climate change.13

Protect your family from droughts:

  • Visit EPA's WaterSense for tips on conserving water, such as replacing leaky pipes.
  • Agricultural water users can find conservation options with a local Cooperative Extension Service agent, or the US Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Find out more about the effects of drought

See more about Pennsylvania's state action plan for drought

Flooding

  • Precipitation could increase 5-12 percent over the next few decades14 and major heavy rainfalls could cost counties hundreds of millions of dollars per event.15
  • Combined sewer overflows are a health risk for nearly 150 communities, including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.16
  • The state has been declared a disaster area 9 times since 2000, due to severe storms and flooding.17

Protect your family from floods and related illnesses:

  • Familiarize yourself with your region's vulnerability to flooding and its local emergency evacuation plans.
  • Prepare your own plan -- including where your family will stay in case of flooding and what you'll do if a relative is sickened by contaminated water.

Find out more about the effects of flooding

See more about Pennsylvania's state action plan for flooding

Extreme Weather

Pennsylvania experienced in 2011:

  • Record-breaking heat in 19 counties and a total of 45 broken heat records
  • Record-breaking rainfall in 28 counties and a total of 57 broken rainfall records
  • Record-breaking snow in 29 counties and a total of 49 broken snowfall records
  • Flooding and damage from the wettest September on record

Protect your family from extreme weather:

Find out more about the effects of extreme weather

See more about Pennsylvania's state action plan for extreme weather

Pennsylvania's Climate Adaptation Strategy

Air Pollution:

Pennsylvania's strategy to prepare for climate change identifies air quality as a health threat that will worsen with climate change but does not include specific measures to address this threat.

Extreme Heat:

Pennsylvania's strategy to prepare for climate change includes a measure to develop a statewide early warning system for heat waves modeled on the lifesaving Philadelphia program.

Infectious Disease:

Pennsylvania's strategy to prepare for climate change identifies the spread of infectious diseases as a threat due to climate change but does not include specific measures to address this threat.

Drought:

Pennsylvania's strategy to prepare for climate change includes a general recommendation to implement measures to prevent and control adverse health-effects caused by drought.

Flooding:

Pennsylvania's strategy to prepare for climate change includes a general recommendation to implement measures to prevent and control adverse health-effects caused by flooding.

Extreme Weather:

Pennsylvania's climate preparedness strategy includes measures to protect public health from the increasing threat of extreme heat, flooding, and drought events due to climate change.

Find out more

  1. U.S. Global Change Research Program. Global Climate Change Impacts in the U.S. Region: Northeast, 2009.
  2. Union of Concerned Scientists. Climate Change in Pennsylvania: Impacts and Solutions for the Keystone State, 2008.
  3. Natural Resources Defense Council. Heat Advisory: How Global Warming Causes More Bad Air Days, 2007.
  4. Natural Resources Defense Council. Sneezing and Wheezing, 2007.
  5. American Lung Association. Estimated Prevalence and Incidence of Lung Disease, 2010.
  6. Natural Resources Defense Council. The Worst Summer Ever? 2010.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Union of Concerned Scientists. Climate Change in Pennsylvania: Impacts and Solutions for the Keystone State, 2008.
  9. Natural Resources Defense Council. Fever Pitch, 2009.
  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. West Nile virus Statistics, Surveillance, and Control Archive.
  11. Lyme Disease Association. Total Lyme Cases Reported by CDC 1990-2008. Data compiled from CDC pub data (MMWR), 2009.
  12. Union of Concerned Scientists. Climate Change in Pennsylvania: Impacts and Solutions for the Keystone State, 2008.
  13. Natural Resources Defense Council. Climate Change, Water, and Risk, 2010.
  14. Union of Concerned Scientists. Climate Change in Pennsylvania: Impacts and Solutions for the Keystone State, 2008.
  15. National Conference of State Legislatures. State Economic and Environmental Costs of Climate Change: Pennsylvania, 2008.
  16. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Report to Congress: Impacts and Control of CSOs and SSOs. Appendix D: List of Active CSO Permits, 2004.
  17. Federal Emergency Management Agency. DHS Declared Disasters by Year or State, 2011.

Pennsylvania's Changing Climate

  • Average temperatures are increasing, along with extreme heat, storms, summer droughts, and unhealthy air days.1
  • In the future, with climate change, average temperatures are expected to rise 4-6°F (2-3°C) by mid-century.2
  • Residents will experience greater risk for health impacts from to declining air quality, dangerous heat-levels, severe floods, water-borne illnesses, drought, and infectious diseases.
  • Pennsylvania has a strategy to prepare for the health impacts of climate change.

Climate Change Health Threats in Pennsylvania

last revised 5/29/2011

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