International Research Institute for Climate and Society and the Mailman School of Public Health will hold a two-day meeting to talk about how climate influences issues of public health, from heat waves to infectious diseases. The event will be livestreamed, and you also can follow it on Twitter at #healthclimate2016.
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The new law is far from perfect, but it is a major improvement over the ineffectual 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act. Under that law, only five of the over 80,000 chemicals now in use have been banned or substantially restricted in use.
New York City has a magnificent system of water supply. It is an example of farsighted long-term leadership and investment without which the modern city of New York could never have been built.
Two decades after arsenic was found to be contaminating drinking water across Bangladesh, tens of millions of people are still exposed to the deadly chemical. Now a new report from the group Human Rights Watch charges that the Bangladesh government “is failing to adequately respond” to the issue, and that political favoritism and neglect have corrupted the government’s efforts.
Air pollution, both outdoors and indoors, causes millions of premature deaths each year. The deaths are mainly caused by the inhalation of particulate matter, especially black carbon. But black carbon not only has impacts on human health, it also affects visibility, harms ecosystems, reduces agricultural productivity and exacerbates global warming.
Madeleine Thomson, a scientist at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, studies the relationship between diseases like Zika, dengue, malaria and others and changes in climate. She spoke at length recently with the Wellcome Trust, a health-focused charity, about the connection.
The reason we have federal water quality standards is to ensure that local economic issues, politics, racism or other factors do not control decisions about water supply. But in Flint, decisions on water supply were not subject to effective federal review.
The issue comes down to willingness to pay upfront for improved systems, rather than pay to address environmental emergencies later on, when pieces of the system fall apart. Both water and energy systems carry user charges, but weak, ideologically-bound politicians refuse to allow these fees to grow to pay the capital cost of modern infrastructure.
The federal government sets the drinking water standards in America, even though monitoring and administration is delegated to the states. The federal EPA had the authority and responsibility to intervene. The failure in Flint belongs to all of us and it should lead to some hard thinking about the causes of this completely avoidable environmental disaster.
As we make the transition to a more sustainable, renewable resource based economy, we will need to build new smart-grid electrical systems, new water infrastructure, coastal resiliency projects, mass transit, public charging stations, and other types of development. This will require innovative efforts to plan, design, build, manage and communicate if it is to succeed.