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FL Health-Care Workers Urge Action on Climate Change

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Thursday, October 29, 2020   

Dr. Ankush Bansal is an internal medicine physician. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Dr. Bansal is an anethesiologist and pain specialist. (11:55 p.m. Nov. 24, 2020)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- More than 4,300 doctors and nurses have signed an open letter to their patients, urging them to demand action on climate change.

The letter, backed by 16 national and state-level medical organizations, declares climate change is a health issue.

Dr. Ankush Bansal is one of more than 80 Florida-based medical professionals who signed the letter. He's an internal medicine physician in South Florida, who said climate change directly affects everyone's health in various ways.

"As we've seen in Florida for a number of years now, the algae blooms can directly affect both lung disease, as well as cause serious skin rashes," Bansal explained.

Bansal and others want elected leaders at all levels to prioritize urgent climate action to protect public health.

Last year, Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Florida's first statewide resilience officer to address climate change but soon after, that person left for a job in the Trump administration.

Florida's Department of Environmental Protection Secretary is supposed to be carrying out both duties until a replacement is named.

Bansal said with the greater likelihood of natural disasters like hurricanes and other severe storms, the effects of climate change end up disproportionately taking a toll on people who are the least prepared to deal with adverse health effects, and who had little to do with producing the greenhouse gases.

"It also affects them financially," Bansal noted. "And then their mental health, that's the big thing that a lot of people don't talk about, is mental health [concerns] from all of the effects of climate change."

Bansal said children and elderly people, pregnant women, people of color and those living with disabilities all are at greater risk from air pollution. And he added it makes asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, and coronary disease worse.

The nonpartisan letter calls for policies that move the nation toward a clean-energy economy.


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