All Posts Environmental Health

Climate Change Affects Communities and the Labs That Serve Them. How Prepared Is Yours?

Graphic that says, "Earth Day is Every Day"

By Donna Campisano, specialist, Communications, APHL

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Climate change is directly contributing to humanitarian emergencies from heatwaves, wildfires, floods, tropical storms and hurricanes, and they are increasing in scale, frequency and intensity.”

WHO reports that 3.6 billion people live in areas susceptible to the impacts of climate change and between 2030-2050, climate change is predicted to cause an additional 250,000 deaths per year due to impacts like heat stress and undernutrition.

Climate change is the result of many interconnected factors that require a wide array of data to understand so that potential solutions can be found. Fortunately, environmental and public health laboratories have established testing infrastructure and data collection that will help meet existing and future climate-change related needs.

Climate Change and Your Laboratory

Climate change not only affects our lives, it also affects our labs—especially when it comes to the type and volume of testing you do. Consider these statistics:

  • The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes that Lyme disease has nearly doubled since 1991, in part because the ticks that carry it thrive in our increasingly warmer temperatures.
  • Heavy downpours and flooding can cause sewage overflows as well as polluted storm water runoff and agricultural runoff. In 2021, WHO reported that 1.7 billion people used a water source contaminated with feces. These polluted water sources can lead to diseases such as cholera, dysentery and hepatitis A, among others.
  • Puerto Rico recently declared a public health emergency over rising cases of dengue, a disease carried by warm-weather, moisture-loving mosquitos.

Top 8 APHL Climate Change Resources

The climate crisis is a public health emergency. In recognition of Earth Day, we’ve compiled this list of APHL resources to help guide your lab to respond to the impacts and challenges of climate change.

  1. Leveraging Public Health Laboratory Science to Understand and Address Climate Change Health Impacts: This document provides information on areas of public health laboratory work that will likely be impacted by climate change.
  2. So, You Want to Make Your Laboratory More Sustainable…: This webinar outlines practical approaches laboratories can take to minimize unintended impacts to public health and the environment.
  3. Environmental Justice in Our Communities: Strategies for Laboratory Involvement: This webinar describes how public health labs can integrate environmental justice into their work.
  4. Cyanotoxins: A Guidance Document for Public Health Laboratories: Factors that lead to harmful algal blooms are exacerbated by climate change. This document provides laboratories guidance and resources on implementing cyanotoxin testing.  
  5. Naegleria fowleri: Public Health Response to Municipal Water-Associated Cases in Texas and Louisiana: Increasing temperatures and water system damage may increase contamination of treated drinking water with pathogens. This webinar discusses how two different health departments responded to water-associated Naegleria fowleri cases.
  6. SARS-CoV-2 Wastewater Surveillance Testing Guide for Public Health Laboratories: As climate change brings an increase in diseases, wastewater surveillance can be a useful tool to detect community disease burden.
  7. Citizen Science Toolkit: Citizen science—also known as community science, volunteer monitoring and public participation in scientific research, among other terms—uses the collective strength and knowledge of the public to gather and analyze data to answer environmental and public health questions. This toolkit can be used for potential testing for climate change effects.
  8. EH Lab Communications Toolkit: This toolkit can help laboratory directors advocate for and promote the role of environmental health testing.

What Happens After April 22?

Creating a healthier environment is a 24/7, 365-days-a-year endeavor. APHL will continue to work with laboratories around the country and the world to address issues related to climate change and advocate for ways to make the world a healthier place.

Leave a Comment

Subscribe to get updates delivered to your inbox.