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Doctors' Open Letter Urges Action on Climate Change

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Smoke from the California wildfires has forced evacuations of medical facilities and caused an uptick in heart attacks and respiratory illness.(EllenD/iStockphoto)
Smoke from the California wildfires has forced evacuations of medical facilities and caused an uptick in heart attacks and respiratory illness.(EllenD/iStockphoto)
 By Suzanne Potter - Producer, Contact
October 27, 2020

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- More than 4,300 doctors and nurses have just published an open letter to patients urging them to demand action on climate change. The letter, which is backed by 16 national and state-level medical organizations, declares that climate change is a health issue.

Dr. Amanda Millstein is a pediatrician from Richmond and co-founder of the group Climate Health Now. She said extreme weather events worsened by climate change are impacting access to health care.

"Twice in August, we actually made the decision to close our clinic because, even with the use of an air filter, our indoor air quality because of wildfire smoke was so poor that it was unhealthy to bring babies and children into our clinic," Millstein said.

She said wildfires and flooding can overwhelm hospitals with an influx of patients - or force them to evacuate altogether. Higher temperatures exacerbate pollution and drive spikes in heart attacks, respiratory illness and heatstroke. Stagnant water increases the risk of waterborne infectious diseases.

Millstein also warned children are especially vulnerable to asthma and allergies because they breathe faster than adults and spend more time outside.

"With warmer temperatures, we're seeing an increase in the amount of pollen and other allergens that are in the air," she said. "So we're seeing a significant spike in children who are suffering from seasonal allergies."

The letter calls for policies that move toward a clean-energy economy and prioritize the needs of the community over profits for the fossil fuel industry.

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