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Over 30K European doctors demand action to tackle climate change for lung health

In a report published in the European Respiratory Journal, the researchers, on behalf of the European Respiratory Society (ERS), representing over 30,000 pulmonary specialists from 160 countries, urged the European Parliament and government to take action to minimise greenhouse gas emissions (such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, etc.) and reduce the impact of climate change on patients with lung diseases.

In the report, researchers revealed that climate change, including heat waves, wildfires, and flooding, increases air pollution and can cause airborne allergies and other lung conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in millions of people worldwide, especially babies, young adults, and senior citizens.

Researchers noted that the European Union’s (EU) air quality standards for fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) are higher than the World Health Organisation's (WHO) prescribed standards on air quality.

The report revealed that in the EU, there are 25 micrograms of PM 2.5 per cubic metre and 40 for NO2, compared to 5 micrograms of PM 2.5 and 10 in WHO guidelines. Nevertheless, the EU is in the process of revising its air quality standards.

ERS has implemented a sustainability policy to manage greenhouse gas emissions. In 2022 and started to measure its carbon emissions and align its policies with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

According to a Lancet study, pulmonary diseases are responsible for one out of every 10 deaths in Europe.

Lead author, Prof. Zorana Jovanovic Andersen, Chair of the European Respiratory Society’s Environment and Health Committee and based at the University of Copenhagen, said, "Climate change affects everyone’s health, but arguably, respiratory patients are among the most vulnerable. These are people who already experience breathing difficulties, and they are far more sensitive to our changing climate. Their symptoms will become worse, and for some, this will be fatal."

"Air pollution is already damaging our lungs. Now the effects of climate change are becoming a major threat to respiratory patients," she said.

She further emphasises the necessity for nurses and physicians to be aware of emerging hazards and help patients manage their suffering.

She states that healthcare professionals must be able to inform patients about these risks in order to protect them from the negative impact of climate change.

Prof. Andersen highlighted the present scenario by saying, "The current limits are outdated and fail to protect the health of EU citizens. Ambitious new air quality standards would ensure cleaner air and better health for all Europeans, as well as helping to mitigate climate change crises. We urge the European Parliament to adopt and enforce safer limits without delay."

"We all need to breathe clean, safe air. That means we need action from policymakers to mitigate the impacts of climate change on our planet and our health," she added.

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