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Your Environment. Your Health.

Potential changes in disease patterns and pharmaceutical use in response to climate change

Climate Change and Human Health Literature Portal

Author(s):   Redshaw CH, Stahl-Timmins WM, Fleming LE, Davidson I, Depledge MH
Year:   2013
Journal:   Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health. Part B, Critical Reviews. 16 (5): 285-320



As climate change alters environmental conditions, the incidence and global patterns of human diseases are changing. These modifications to disease profiles and the effects upon human pharmaceutical usage are discussed. Climate-related environmental changes are associated with a rise in the incidence of chronic diseases already prevalent in the Northern Hemisphere, for example, cardiovascular disease and mental illness, leading to greater use of associated heavily used Western medications. Sufferers of respiratory diseases may exhibit exacerbated symptoms due to altered environmental conditions (e.g., pollen). Respiratory, water-borne, and food-borne toxicants and infections, including those that are vector borne, may become more common in Western countries, central and eastern Asia, and across North America. As new disease threats emerge, substantially higher pharmaceutical use appears inevitable, especially of pharmaceuticals not commonly employed at present (e.g., antiprotozoals). The use of medications for the treatment of general symptoms (e.g., analgesics) will also rise. These developments need to be viewed in the context of other major environmental changes (e.g., industrial chemical pollution, biodiversity loss, reduced water and food security) as well as marked shifts in human demographics, including aging of the population. To identify, prevent, mitigate, and adapt to potential threats, one needs to be aware of the major factors underlying changes in the use of pharmaceuticals and their subsequent release, deliberately or unintentionally, into the environment. This review explores the likely consequences of climate change upon the use of medical pharmaceuticals in the Northern Hemisphere.

Resource Description

  • Cross-cutting Themes: Vulnerable Population
  • Exposure : What is this?

    weather or climate related pathway by which climate change affects health

    Ecosystem Change, Extreme Weather-Related Event/ Weather-Related Disaster, Food Quality, Food Security, Temperature, Water Quality
  • Extreme Weather-Related Event/ Weather-Related Disaster: Flood
  • Food Quality: Crop Pathogen, Crop Chemical, Livestock pathogen
  • Food Security: Food access/ distribution, Livestock Productivity
  • Temperature: Cold, Heat
  • Water Quality: Marine or Freshwater pathogen
  • Geographic Feature: What is this?

    resource focuses on specific type of geography

  • Geographic Location: What is this?

    resource focuses on specific location

    Global or Unspecified Location
  • Health Impact: What is this?

    specification of health effect or disease related to climate change exposure

    Infectious Disease, Other Health Impact, Specify
  • Infectious Disease: Foodborne Disease, Vectorborne Disease, Waterborne Disease
  • Foodborne Disease: General Foodborne Disease, Other Foodborne Disease, Specify, Diarrheal Disease, Unspecified
  • Foodborne Disease (other): viral Hepatitis A
  • Vectorborne Disease: Flea-borne Disease, Fly-borne Disease, Mosquito-borne Disease, Tick-borne Disease
  • Flea-borne Disease: Plague
  • Fly-borne Disease: Leishmaniasis, Trypanosomiasis
  • Mosquito-borne Disease: Chikungunya, Dengue, Malaria, Ross River Virus, Viral Encephalitis, West Nile Virus, Yellow Fever, Other Mosquito-borne Disease, Specify
  • Mosquito-borne Disease (other): Usutu virus
  • Tick-borne Disease: Lyme Disease, Tick-borne Encephalitis
  • Waterborne Disease: General Waterborne Disease, Schistosomiasis, Other Waterborne Disease, Specify, Diarrheal Disease, Unspecified
  • Waterborne Disease (other): viral Hepatitis A
  • Other Health Impact: Soil-borne diseases
  • Resource Type: What is this?

    format or standard characteristic of resource

    Review Article
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