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Global Climate Change and Public Health


Pulmonary physicians and scientists currently have minimal capacity to respond to climate change and its impacts on health. The extent to which climate change influences the prevalence and incidence of respiratory morbidity remains largely undefined. However, evidence is increasing that climate change does drive respiratory disease onset and exacerbation as a result of increased ambient and indoor air pollution, desertification, heat stress, wildfires, and the geographic and temporal spread of pollens, molds and infectious agents. Preliminary research has revealed climate change to have potentially direct and indirect adverse impacts on respiratory health. Published studies have linked climate change to increases in respiratory disease, including the following: changing pollen releases impacting asthma and allergic rhinitis, heat waves causing critical care-related diseases, climate driven air pollution increases, exacerbating asthma and COPD, desertification increasing particulate matter (PM) exposures, and climate related changes in food and water security impacting infectious respiratory disease through malnutrition (pneumonia, upper respiratory infections). High level ozone and ozone exposure has been linked to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, lung cancer, and acute lower respiratory infection.

Global Climate Change and Public Health is an important new volume based on the research, findings, and discussions of US and international experts on respiratory health and climate change. This volume addresses issues of major importance to respiratory health and fills a major gap in the current literature.

The ATS Climate Change and Respiratory Health Workshop was held in New Orleans, Louisiana, on May 15, 2010. The purpose of the meeting was to address the threat to global respiratory health posed by climate change. The workshop was attended by domestic and international experts as well as representatives of international respiratory societies and key US federal agencies. Dr. Pinkerton and Dr. Rom, the editors of this title, were co-chairs of the Climate Change Workshop and Symposium.

Kent E. Pinkerton, PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine and Professor In-Residence, Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Cell Biology, School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis.  He is also Director of the Center for Health and the Environment at the John Muir Institute of the Environment.  Dr. Pinkerton's research is on health effects of environmental air pollutants on lung structure and function, the interaction of gases and airborne particles within specific sites and cell populations of the lungs in acute and chronic lung injury, and the effects of environmental tobacco smoke on lung growth and development.  He is also a member of the Assembly for Environmental and Occupational Health of the American Thoracic Society.


William N. Rom, MD, MPH, has been at NYU since 1989 as Professor of Medicine and Environmental Medicine and Director of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. The Division has 75 full-time faculty and over 25 fellows. His research is on early detection of lung cancer, environmental lung disease, TB/AIDS, and air pollution. He and his faculty have been awarded over $125M in NIH and CDC grants over the years. He is editor of 4 editions of Environmental and Occupational Medicine and 2 editions of Tuberculosis. He has published over 200 peer reviewed articles. He Chairs the American Thoracic Society's Environmental Health Policy Committee that advocates science-based air pollution standards. He has been a Fellow in the Department of Interior on National Parks and was a Senior Investigator at the NHLBI, NIH for 6 years deciphering the mechanisms of asbestosis. He was a Legislative Fellow for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and wrote the Family Asthma Bill, the Caribbean Wilderness Act, and the National Environmental Public Health Tracking Bill. He was the Founder and Director of the Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of Utah.