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  • Writer's pictureJocelyn Palm


Updated: Oct 24, 2020

Letter from the President:

Last fall, during our climate change symposium, many thought leaders discussed how climate change was impacting our lives. Courtney Howard, a physician and the president of CAPE, presented on the climate’s impact on human health. In her presentation, we heard about the climate-related impacts, including vector-borne and zoonotic diseases. As the climate change symposium wrapped up, we identified environmental health as the topic for our next symposium. Never had we thought that a few months later we would find ourselves in a global pandemic. It did, however, affirm the importance of this topic.

Now more than ever, physicians trained in environmental health are anxious to have the public more knowledgeable about the topic. The best advice for managing environmental health issues is to teach people how to protect themselves from them. Some people become sensitized to common pollutants.

Just as a person with a known allergy can control their exposure to the allergen, a person with a known environmental sensitivity can control their exposure. First, we must identify to what in the environment we are sensitive.

This is important as we are constantly exposed to many different things in our environment. Whether a person is walking outside, playing with their kids at the park, or on a hike through the woods, the environment is incredibly varied. Thus, we must understand the things to which we have an annoying response. These responses could be difficulty breathing, a headache, or chest pain, for example.

People with environmental sensitivities refer to themselves as the proverbial canaries in the coalmine. They are warning the rest of us that pollution in our air, food, and water is a major contributor to the development and exacerbation of most chronic, non-infectious diseases. Unfortunately, those without sensitivities don’t feel anything until it is too late.

We need to heed the message of the canaries. Not only does improving air quality accommodate those with environmental sensitivities, the entire medical system will benefit from people developing an awareness of environmental health.

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