Action on climate change means action on asthma: ERS


13 May 2021

The European Respiratory Society has issued a new position statement warning about the impact of climate change on people with asthma.

“Environmental risk factors that go hand-in-hand with climate change, such as air pollution and fluctuating global temperatures, directly impact the health of people living with asthma,” said Prof Arzu Yorgancioğlu, chair of the ERS Advocacy Council and a professor at Celal Bayar University in Turkey. “This statement takes a holistic approach and offers recommendations on how to act now to tackle climate change, protect the environment, and improve patients’ and public health.”

The burning of fossil fuels produces particulate matter pollution that can increase the risk of asthma, especially in children, and can cause asthma attacks as well. Increasing temperatures will also have impacts on asthma patients, the statement notes, and higher temperatures promote more ground-level ozone pollution. Ozone as well is a powerful lung irritant and can trigger asthma attacks.

The ERS statement emphasises the potential benefit of the European Union Green Deal, with goals of phasing out fossil fuels and improving air quality by aligning with World Health Organization recommendations. A number of ERS members are involved in the development and implementation of WHO air quality guidelines.

The statement also notes that some asthma inhalers contain hydrofluorocarbon propellants. Hydrofluorocarbons are far more powerful warming agents than carbon dioxide, and a global phase-out is in progress. Innovation in inhaler design is encouraged, and the statement also focuses on the idea of the “green asthma patient.”

“This ambitious European Respiratory Society position statement highlights the many co-benefits of making legislative changes aimed at tackling the climate crisis, as they have the potential to impact the health of Europe’s citizens directly and positively,” Prof Yorgancioğlu said. “Now is the time for policymakers and healthcare regulators to strive for more to ensure a more healthy and resilient population, environment and planet.”

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