Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans

at the announcement of the Iowa Climate Statement 2014 at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines on Friday, October 10, 2014.
Dr. Peter Thorne of the University of Iowa College of Public Health talks about the health-related effects of climate change on Iowans at the announcement of the Iowa Climate Statement 2014 at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines on Friday, October 10, 2014, along with David Courard-Hauri, Gene Takle, Mary Mincer Hansen, David Osterberg. (KC McGinnis/CGRER)

Nick Fetty | October 10, 2014

The 4th annual Iowa Climate Statement was released Friday during a press conference at the state capitol.

Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans examines public health risks associated with climate change. This year’s statement was signed by 180 researchers and scientists from 38 colleges and universities across the state. This is an increase from last year’s statement which was signed by 155 researchers and scientists from 36 colleges and universities.

The report finds that the effects of climate change has contributed to increases in cardiovascular and respiratory health problems for Iowans. Hotter temperatures and higher levels of carbon dioxide enable plants to produce greater levels of pollen with a higher allergen content. The longer growing season not only increases exposure allergens but new allergenic plants are also making their way into Iowa.

Asthma rates for children are on the rise – and have been since the 1980s – and this can be attributed to more exposure to flood molds as well as indoor moisture levels. Fine particulate matter in the air, which is made worse by heat in urban areas, has also contributed to this rise in asthma rates while nighttime heat stress and air pollutants increases the risk of heart attack and stroke, especially for aging adults.

Water quality issues were also outlined in the 2014 statement. Excessive heavy rains have increased exposure to toxic chemicals and raw sewage spread by flood waters. Heavy rains also lead to soil runoff in agricultural areas which then pollutes waterways with nitrates and phosphorus. These substances coupled with high temperatures on still bodies on water have spurred the growth of harmful algal blooms which can make water unsafe for consumption or recreation for both humans and animals. Similar algal blooms contaminated the water supply for nearly half a million people in Toledo, Ohio during the summer.

Other infectious diseases have been on the rise in Iowa and throughout the Midwest as disease-carrying organisms – such as ticks and mosquitoes – migrate north. Cases of Dengue Fever and Ehrlichiosis have been reported in Iowa this year as hotter temperatures, greater rainfall levels, and longer summers enable these organisms to live longer.

Climate change has also impacted mental health, albeit in a more subtle way. Research since the 1980s suggests that there is a correlation between higher temperatures and aggression or violence.

Friday’s event lasted approximately half an hour and included a presentation of the statement as well as a question and answer session. Presenters included David Courard-Hauri (Drake University), Mary Mincer Hansen (Des Moines University), David Osterberg (University of Iowa), Gene Takle (Iowa State University), Peter Thorne (University of Iowa).

Check back to the Iowa Environmental Focus for video and photos from Friday’s event.

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