New report says climate change is affecting health in New Brunswick
Excessively hot days, natural disasters, allergies and asthma; climate change isn't good for us
FREDERICTON—A new report says climate change is affecting the health of New Brunswickers and calls on government, communities and the public to take action.
The report was prepared for the Conservation Council of New Brunswick by Louise Comeau, a research associate at the University of New Brunswick.
Comeau said climate events such as flooding and ice storms are having an effect on the mental and physical health of people in the province.
The recent spring flooding that followed a higher winter snow pack in the province’s north and a sharp increase in temperatures could be a harbinger of what’s to comes, she said in an interview.
You look at the projection for the next 30 years or so, and you see that’s exactly the kind of pattern they’re projecting to see more often and more intensely,“ Comeau said.
She said the record floods add to stress, property damage, mould issues, sewer back-ups and E. coli concerns.
“What we’re seeing is the financial implications, the days off work, the loss of cherished belongings, and homes being relocated,” she said. “And there’s the anxiety and post-traumatic stress that people feel about being anxious about a future events like rain or an intense storm.”
Comeau said the number of 30-plus degree temperature days are expected to increase, especially in central New Brunswick, and will particularly impact vulnerable low-income families and seniors.
“Now you have an aging population dealing with significantly hotter days. That scenario, for example, last year in Quebec saw 90 people die,” she said.
“Heat stress is a really important issue to be dealing with from a climate impact point of view because it affects people with chronic health conditions, and seniors and so on.” She said climate change considerations need to be integrated into provincial aging strategies.
She said warmer temperatures are resulting in more pollen and ragweed, affecting people with allergies and asthma. There has also been an increase in the number of ticks, adding to the concern of Lyme disease.
Kim Perrotta, executive director of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, said the New Brunswick report is indicative of issues affecting the entire country. She said people in western Canada were exposed to high levels of air pollution last year as the result of wildfires.
“We know that those high levels of air pollution are associated with high levels of premature death, increases in heart disease and lung disease and exacerbate lung conditions like asthma,” she said.
She said aside from the direct health impacts of flooding in New Brunswick, it can result in post-traumatic stress disorder.
Jeff Carr, New Brunswick’s environment minister, said he witnessed the impact of flooding on the health of people in the province.
“I did see first-hand during the flooding, not just this spring but the spring before, the anxiety and stress levels that I was seeing in those people in my riding,” he said.
Carr said the question is how to best help the people being affected. The minister said he plans to study the report and meet with Comeau in the near future.
Perrotta said governments and the public need to do more to prepare for climate change and mitigate the health impacts.
Comeau said people in lower income households typically have less energy efficient houses and are more at risk during winter power outages. She said those homes should possibly be targeted for energy efficiency programs.
She said government policies are needed for initiatives to get more electric cars on the road and develop cleaner sources of electricity, which will in turn improve air quality for the health of New Brunswickers.