EarthTalk: Global warming and your health

March 14, 2014 by  
Filed under Global Warming

Dear EarthTalk: How is it that global warming could cause an increase in health problems and disease epidemics? Do we have any evidence that it is already happening? — Jim Merrill, Provo, Utah

Global warming isn’t just bad for the environment. There are several ways that it is expected to take a toll on human health. For starters, the extreme summer heat that is becoming more normal in a warming world can directly impact the health of billions of people.

“Extreme high air temperatures contribute directly to deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory disease, particularly among elderly people,” reported the World Health Organization. “In the heat wave of summer 2003 in Europe, for example, more than 70,000 excess deaths were recorded.”

WHO added that high temperatures also play a role in elevated levels of ozone and other air pollutants known to exacerbate respiratory and cardiovascular problems. And according to the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists, warmer temperatures and higher levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide can stimulate plants to grow faster, mature earlier and produce more potent allergens.

“Common allergens such as ragweed seem to respond particularly well to higher concentrations of carbon dioxide, as do pesky plants such as poison ivy,” the group reported. “Allergy-related diseases rank among the most common and chronic illnesses.”

Another way global warming is bad for our health is that it increases extreme weather events that can injure or kills large numbers of people. According to WHO, the number of weather-related natural disasters has more than tripled since the 1960s. Likewise, increasingly variable rainfall patterns combined with higher overall temperatures are leading to extended droughts around the world.

“By the 2090s, climate change is likely to widen the area affected by drought, double the frequency of extreme droughts and increase their average duration six-fold,” reported WHO. One result is likely to be a downturn in agricultural productivity along with a spike in malnutrition. Another is less access to safe drinking water, a trigger for poor sanitation and the spread of diarrheal diseases — not to mention resource wars.

Perhaps most worrying to public health experts, though, is the potential for global warming to cause a spike in so-called “vector-borne diseases” like schistosomiasis, West Nile virus, malaria and dengue fever.

“Insects previously stopped by cold winters are already moving to higher latitudes” toward the poles, UCS reported. Researchers predict that thanks to global warming an extra two billion people, mostly in developing countries, will be exposed to the dengue virus over the next half century.

A related fear is that thawing permafrost in polar regions could allow otherwise dormant age-old viruses to re-emerge. This year, French and Russian researchers discovered a 30,000 year old giant virus, previously unknown to science, in frozen soil in Russia’s most northerly region. While the virus, which researchers dubbed Pithovirus sibericum, is harmless to humans and animals, its discovery has served as a wake-up call to epidemiologists about the potential re-emergence of other viruses that could make many people sick. While some of these re-emergent viruses might also be new to science, others could be revitalized versions of ones we thought we had eradicated, such as smallpox.

Contacts: WHO,; UCS,

EarthTalk is by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss of E — The Environmental Magazine ( Send questions to

The Healing Power of the Sea

October 25, 2010 by  
Filed under Ocean Beauty

Author: Andrew Pacholyk

Every summer I take my long awaited trip to the sea. This powerful source of nature yields some of the most essential healing tools and additional benefits that are hard to compare with anything else. We already know the necessary and soothing abilities water offers.

The mysterious and amazing healing power of water has been utilized for centuries. Water cleanses, refreshes and restores all life. We are always drawn to water. Be it a soothing fountain, majestic waterfall or the churning sea. Water is a carrier. It flows. It moves along the line of least resistance to find its way to the ocean where comes and goes in the ebb and flow of tides and waves. The appeal is inexplicable! We crave water, maybe because our bodies are made up of a large percent of it. Maybe beacuse we instinctively know how it can heal us.

Here are some of the best tools and tips the sea can offer:

1. Sun – is the best source of Vitamin D. More than 15-20 minutes can be harmful when you are not protected. The sun is the source of all life and it sure feels good on our face, especially after a long, cold winter. Prevention and precautions are the most important methods when you go out in the sun. Applying sunscreen (SPF 15, at least), wear UV-protective sunglasses, and limiting your time in the sun will help avoid this problem. Stay out of the sun when it’s high in the sky; this is when the UV rays are more intense (from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Choose clothing that covers your skin – hats, lightweight, long-sleeved shirts. Pure aloe vera rubbed into the skin can help to heal. Take antioxidants to help block the chemical reactions that can trigger cancer’s uncontrolled cell growth.

2. Sand – is a natural exfoliator. These finely ground seashells become an amazing tool for cleansing your skin. Wet your skin in the sea and rub it gently all over your skin. Use some in a bowl to create a Zen garden or sea display.

3. Salt Water – the healing abilities of salt water are profound and well documented. Salt water is an astringent and speeds wound healing. A cup or handful of water in your hand or neti pot is a wonderful cleansing therapy. Slowly inhale the salt water into your nose to cleanse your sinus and open up the air passages. Floating in sea water is an extreme release of tension and stress of the day. Allow yourself to float weightlessly in the water. You deserve it.

4. Sponge – a natural cleanser and exfoliator, sponge can be dried in the sun and placed in your decorative bowl or on the bathtub. Rewet your sponge and use it in the bath or shower.

5. Coral – comes in many forms. When this beautiful “art of the sea” washes up on the beach and bleached by the sun, it’s beauty can be awe inspiring. Coral is rich in calcium. This “stone” can be used as pumice to exfoliate dead skin cells, bring blood and circulation back to the feet when used as a massage stone and can make a wonderful decorative piece.

6. Sea Air – deep breathing of ocean air helps us to relax and let go. The faint smell of salt in the air can take us to a place of pure joy. Sea air has a certain aliveness found no where else. This deep breathing can help release tension and the problems associated with it.

7. Exercise – yoga, body toning, running on the beach, breath exercises are all great ways to stay fit and take advantage of all the outdoor activities offered us in the summer. Make them enjoyable to you. In the summer months it is a good idea to exercise early in the morning or late afternoon. Make sure you drink plenty of water before, during and after activities to ensure hydration.

8. Seaweed – rich in iodine, and other minerals, seaweed and other sea vegetables are fat-free, low calorie and one of the richest sources of minerals in the vegetable kingdom since they have access to the abundance of minerals in the sea. One of seaweed’s most beneficial health properties is its ability to remove radioactive strontium as well as heavy metals from the body. Seaweed is generally categorized into brown and red algae. Seaweed can also be ground into a wonderful exfoliant and used in mineral and mud treatments.

9. Seashells – these magnificent works of Universal creation are wonders to behold. Finding and searching them out is a great past time that can last for hours, take us away from ourselves and gives us a care free adventure that is rewarding on many levels.

Your favorites can be taken home and cleansed. They can make beautiful decorative pieces. Display them in a bowl. Place them in any room in the house, especially rooms with water. Seashells are natural vessels that can be used for cleansing and make a great carrier for sage or incense. They can be placed on your personal alter as a reminder of good times or as a tribute to nature and all her powers.

10. Stress relief – the best combination for stress is combining the above element of light, air and surf to create the best prescription for good health and relaxation. Take advantage of any of the above suggestions. They will melt away stress and bring you back to nature. Leave your laptop and cell phone behind (for once, please!)

Andrew Pacholyk, MS. L.Ac. – – Therapies for healing mind, body, spirit
1. Sundance Natural Foods, Inc. “Neptune’s Garden – Vegetables of the Sea”.
2. Shirley’s Wellness Cafe’s “Water the Great Healer”.