HealthLine: Caught in the Eye of the Storm

How's the weather out there?

Mother Nature recently proved to us once again how powerful she really is with the horrific destruction of New York and major sections of the East Coast by Hurricane Sandy.  Unfortunately, such events are not only more common today than in yesteryears, they have become a way of life for the planet.

We are experiencing increasing instability in weather and climate, which has caused a major impact on human health both directly and indirectly. The two major categories for public health effects of climate change are increased temperatures and extreme weather events.

Heat exposure can cause a range of health effects from mild heat rashes to full blown heat stroke and death. With the elderly's limited ability to sweat in advanced age, they are the most vulnerable along with infants.  In the United States, the number of people 65 years of age and older will increase from 12.4% in 2000 to 20% in 2060.  The 2003 heat wave in Europe caused more than 35,000 excess deaths.

Heat increases ground level ozone concentrations which causes direct lung injury and increases the severity of respiratory diseases such as asthma, allergies and emphysema through greater pollen, mold spore and fine particle exposure.

As the weather becomes more extreme with greater frequency and intensity of precipitation events coupled with our changing demographics to more coastal regions, the direct effects of a 67% increase in heavier precipitation includes drowning from floods, injuries from floods and structural collapse as seen in Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.

The increase in sea surface temperature and decreases in wind shear was observed years ago by climate specialists and forewarned the potential for more intense Atlantic hurricanes, which ultimately came to pass in the form of Hurricane Sandy.

In the United States, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita of 2005 were two of the most damaging hurricanes in US history and impacted more than 90,000 square miles affecting 1.5 million people, including 800,000 citizens who were relocated from their homes.  The after effects of Hurricane Sandy are far from being known at this time and could run into the billions of dollars.  It is projected  that there will be 200 million people displaced from climate change worldwide by 2050, who will experience with it major mental and emotional stress-related disorders by losing connection to their home environment.

What can you do as an individual you may ask?  Change your five most used light fixtures in your home to energy star qualified products.  Look for the energy star label on appliances, lighting, electronics, office equipment and heating and cooling products before you buy. Change your air filter regularly and use a thermostat with your heating and cooling products.  Seal and insulate your home. Reduce, reuse and recycle.  Use water efficiently by fixing a leaky toilet or faucet, run your dishwasher on a full load and limit lawn or landscape irrigation.  Compost your food and yard waste.  Purchase green power such as wind and sun to power your home when available.  Identify your home's "Household Greenhouse Gas Emissions Calculator," and seek ways to reduce them. 

Spread the word to everyone you know!

Dr. Ballard is a Board Certified Internal Medicine and Geriatric Medicine Physician. Her articles are not meant to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your personal physician for questions.  Dr. Ballard practices in Enumclaw, WA and her office can be reached at 360-825-1389.


This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

dexterjibs November 14, 2012 at 05:59 AM
Oh please! Yea right, I will take advice about weather from a doctor. Show me proof. Some of the greatest natural disasters occurred beforeweather records were kept. How did carbon emissions effect those events? The Green Energy cult is alive and well(or is it the mind numbed robots?). Think for yourself for once.
John Anderson November 14, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Thanks for this article, Mary. For most people, though climate change is a reality, it is a distant threat, like a remote island we have never heard of that is already experiencing the effects (Kiribati) or a far off future event that is difficult to imagine (Texas becomes uninhabitable). But we are all aware of the escalation of extreme weather events, like the hundred year storms that occurred two years apart or the unprecedented number of heat records in a single year (this year). Linking these changes to health vulnerabilities brings global warming into a foreseeable future (and present).
dexterjibs November 16, 2012 at 07:07 AM
John, climate change may be a reality, but the big issue I have is the man made climate change accusation. You, John Locatelli and Mary Ballard seem to push that humans are responsible for major weather incidents. All 3 of you come across as very nice people that are misguided. If this country "buys into" the fact that these major storms are caused by man, without solid evidence, the government will have carte blanche to tax us and eliminate private property rights. Even though private property rights are just that- rights. Plus, this will give the government power to shut down certain industries that will cause costs of everything to sky-rocket. Maybe you are a self made millionaire that can afford drastic government action, but me and my family cannot afford the unintended consequences of government regulation. That is why I ask for "proof". ANd, if you do come up with "proof" that man made climate change is real, i am checking out and letting Obama (tax payers) pay for my food stamps and health care cuz there is no motivation to be a producer in this country.
dexterjibs November 18, 2012 at 05:24 AM
And Mary, I apologize for my 1st post. I know it came across as caustic. I am sure you are a very nice person and did not deserve the accusatory tone I set in my comment.
Mary L. Ballard, MD November 24, 2012 at 04:38 PM
I do not know who you are, but your tone and personal attack is uncalled for, unprofessional and verbally abusive, though as a nation and through the First Amendment, we our all guaranteed free speech. In reviewing the medical literature, there was much information I found connecting climate change and the health and welfare of individuals in our society. As stated in my disclaimer, my articles are not meant to be construed as advice, rather as a blog, my composition is a summary of information I have collected, reviewed and choose to present to the public as my personal analysis of a topic. John Locatelli frequently comments on my articles and presents his opinions, agreed or disagreed, in a respectful manner, providing education and enlightenment to the community. Think before you write, words cannot be taken back. Your apology is superficial and without sincerity, meant to only make you feel better for the guilt you knowingly feel for being inappropriate. It is not accepted. I grew up in Chicago, IL, my Grandfather was a shoemaker and made boots for Al Capone, my Grandmother chased Mussolini's soldiers off the family farm in Italy while my mother, aunt and uncle hid behind her and I am a graduate of the University of Notre Dame. Did you honestly think I was going to sit back and take this from you? tAre you sure you want to verbally attack me again? Think about it for next time when you want to respond to one of my articles.
Ron Titus November 29, 2012 at 05:50 AM
hey Dexterjibs: I read your accusations and responses and I can't help wonder why you hide behind a desguised name. It is easy to bash people or ideas while hiding in the shadows. Step up, be a man and tell us who you are.. Dr. Mary Ballard is one of the brightest people I know, has been my personal and my familys physician for many years. I have found her to be compasionate, knowledgable on the issues and solid when it comes to her advice. Wheather she is right, wrong or indifferent at least you know who you are debating. This is my firt post so I hope to hear from you.
Jan Titus November 30, 2012 at 05:21 AM
hey Dexterjibs: I, too, read your accusations and don't mind calling you a coward, hiding behind your pseudo-name. Talk about stabbing someone in the back, who I doubt you know personally or you would never say such things about her. Dr. Ballard saved my mother's life and has been our entire family's doctor for years. You obviously don't know her and should really be introduced to this incredibly talented woman. She isn't just your regular every day doctor. She is caring, kind and knowledgable in many topics like: patient care, the environment and our government. She not only cares about her patients, she cares about their whole family and goes the extra mile to make house calls at the senior living facilites in town. You (we) should be so lucky to have a doctor in our community as well versed as she is. She only sends her patients to the best specialists if she finds it necessary to refer you to another physician. It's a shame you obviously haven't taken the time to get to know her. Her compassion and caring for people goes way beyond the norm. I'm proud to know her and blessed to have her for my physician. You should be so blessed too.
dexterjibs December 05, 2012 at 04:59 AM
Ron and Jan Titus, why the hateful rhetoric? I don't think I ever questioned her kindness, compassion or abilities as a doctor. If Mary has been a great doctor for you, that is awesome. I just question her views on global warming. Just like I question anyone who buys into the biggest hoax of mankind. If I did get to know her, i would still question her views on global warming. As far as using a fake name, well, did you see Mary's feckless, baseless threat about legal action if she found out my real name? She can't expect to call me names and question my integrity without me calling out her integrity. When it comes to slander and libel, if it is the truth, it is neither. You all have a great day and I am glad you have a great doctor like Mary, this country will be in need of more great doctors after ObamaCare ravages the healthcare industry.
Susan Etchey December 05, 2012 at 07:40 AM
Dr. Mary Ballard, you are a very fine doctor, an intelligent woman and gifted writer. I agree with your positions on the environment. It is obvious that the person known as dexterjibs uses the same name-calling tactics and derisive tongue so often found in me-first, screw you zealots like Glen Beck, or Rush Limbaugh. People who feel morally superior in their sense of righteousness are a turn off. Dr. Ballard, you can be grateful his opposition to your views only draws more people to read your well written and researched blog. This man is offering nothing more than put downs, baseless judgments, the same old babble that lost the election for the Republicans, and he offers no facts at all to support his political attacks. He is not worth the quarrel.
dexterjibs December 06, 2012 at 07:03 AM
Really Susan? You don't know me yet you judge me. I made a positive comment on your first blog and i was attacked by Mary. She made it personal and could not argue the facts of the topic. Mary made your blog all about herself by accepting accolades from other Patch readers about her book and all you can do is criticize me? What have I done to hurt you? Obviously your post about keeping your blog strictly about art is a lie and the only reason you post is strictly politcal but you do not have the guts to admit it. Typical lib-tard media type


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