Climate Change and Your Health

Climate Change Health Threats in Virginia

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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:

  • Virginia Beach would see two and a half times as many days that exceed EPA's air quality standards.3
  • 128 counties have ragweed pollution, and Alexandria has unhealthy smog levels; at least 16 counties suffer from both.4
  • Asthma sickens an estimated 171,600 kids and 544,000 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 Virginia's state action plan for air pollution

Extreme Heat

  • More than 1.1 million people live in the 13 counties where average summertime temperatures set records in 2010.6
  • 6 counties also experienced record-breaking nighttime temperatures.7

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 Virginia's state action plan for extreme heat

Infectious Diseases

  • 7 cases of Dengue Fever were reported between 1995-2005, and 42 counties have a type of mosquito that can transmit the virus (as of 2005).8
  • 82 cases of West Nile virus were reported to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between 1999-2010.9
  • 4,501 cases of Lyme disease were reported to CDC between 1990-2008.10

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 Virginia's state action plan for infectious disease

Drought

  • Temperature increases in the summer increase the likelihood of drought.11
  • About 50% of the state's counties now face higher risks of water shortages by mid-century as the result of climate change.12

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 Virginia's state action plan for drought

Flooding

  • Rising seas and storm surge jeopardize coastal cities' infrastructure. The Chesapeake Bay region is ranked the 3rd most vulnerable to sea level rise, behind Louisiana and Southern Florida.13
  • Combined sewer overflows are a health risk for Alexandria, Richmond, and Lynchburg.14
  • The state has been declared a disaster area 12 times since 2000, due to severe storms and flooding.15

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 Virginia's state action plan for flooding

Extreme Weather

Virginia experienced in 2011:

  • Record-breaking heat in 14 counties and a total of 28 broken heat records
  • Record-breaking rainfall in 24 counties and a total of 39 broken rainfall records
  • Record-breaking snow in 5 counties and a total of 5 broken snowfall records
  • Multi-million dollar losses from hurricane damage

Protect your family from extreme weather:

Find out more about the effects of extreme weather

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

Virginia's Climate Adaptation Strategy

Air Pollution:

Virginia's strategy to prepare for climate change includes a measure to track changes in allergic or respiratory illnesses and cardiovascular disease that might be associated with air pollution.

Extreme Heat:

Virginia's strategy to prepare for climate change includes a measure to ensure that every Health District in Virginia has a heat emergency response plan. The city of Alexandria's plan does not identify heat as a climate-related health threat.

Infectious Disease:

Virginia's strategy to prepare for climate change includes measures to better track diseases that may be related to climate change. The city of Alexandria's plan includes measures to reduce mosquito vectors and to improve response plans for disease outbreaks.

Virginia's climate preparedness plan includes the following measures to prevent the spread of infectious diseases due to climate change:

  • The Virginia Department of Health should use disease surveillance programs to track vector-, water- and food-borne morbidity and mortality that might be associated with climate change and conduct or modify prevention/intervention efforts based on information gained through surveillance.
  • The Department of Health should develop one or more syndrome definitions for climate change related disease or illness for inclusion in a syndrome surveillance system.

The city of Alexandria's climate preparedness plan includes the following measures to prevent the spread of infectious disease due to climate change:

  • Maintain a strong Mosquito Control Program in the city by continuing to eliminate breeding habitats for mosquitoes due to the increased risk of mosquito-borne illnesses.
  • Continue to support the work of City and Health Department emergency planners in developing plans that take into account climate change-related emergencies such as climate change-related outbreaks of diseases.

Drought:

Virginia's strategy to prepare for climate change identifies drought as a health-related threat due to climate change but does not include specific measures to address this threat. The city of Alexandria's strategy includes a measure to increase water storage capabilities in the face of drought conditions.

Flooding:

Virginia's strategy to prepare for climate change identifies flooding as a health-related threat due to climate change but does not include specific measures to address this threat. The city of Alexandria does not identify flooding as a health threat in its climate preparedness plan.

Extreme Weather:

Virginia's climate preparedness strategy includes the following measures to address increased health threats from an increase in extreme weather events due to climate change:

  • Measures to address increased risk of extreme heat, flood, drought, wildfires, infectious diseases, and storm events.
  • Information on the threat of windstorms, food- and water-borne diseases, and food and water shortages on public health.

Find out more

  1. U.S. Global Change Research Program. Global Climate Change Impacts in the U.S. Region: Southeast, 2009.
  2. Virginia Governor's Commission on Climate Change. A Climate Change Action Plan, 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. Natural Resources Defense Council. Fever Pitch, 2009.
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. West Nile virus Statistics, Surveillance, and Control Archive.
  10. Lyme Disease Association. Total Lyme Cases Reported by CDC 1990-2008. Data compiled from CDC pub data (MMWR), 2009.
  11. Virginia Governor's Commission on Climate Change. A Climate Change Action Plan, 2008.
  12. Natural Resources Defense Council. Climate Change, Water, and Risk, 2010.
  13. Maryland Commission on Climate Change. Comprehensive Strategy for Reducing Maryland's Vulnerability to Climate Change, Phase I, 2008
  14. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Report to Congress: Impacts and Control of CSOs and SSOs. Appendix D: List of Active CSO Permits, 2004.
  15. Federal Emergency Management Agency. DHS. Declared Disasters by Year or State, 2011.

Virginia's Changing Climate

  • Average temperatures are already increasing, along with the frequency of extreme heat, storms, and dry summers.1
  • In the future, with climate change, average temperatures could rise 5.6°F (3°C) by late century.2
  • Residents will experience increasing health risks from dangerous heat, declining air quality, floods, waterborne illnesses, infectious diseases, and drought.
  • Virginia has a strategy to prepare for the health impacts of climate change. The city of Alexandria has also developed a preparedness plan.

Climate Change Health Threats in Virginia

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