When climate change makes it hard to breathe

When climate change makes it hard to breathe

Tyrone Turner/ WAMU

Climate change isn’t just contributing to drought, superstorms, sea level rise and flooding. It’s also making it harder for many people to breathe. People like 13 year old Estefany Velasquez. Her family faced a tough choice because of her asthma.  

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More than 24 million1 Americans have asthma.

Rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns can lead to longer growing seasons and higher pollen counts, all of which can worsen asthma symptoms.

“Those are all expected to contribute to increases in some of the signs of airborne allergens that can trigger an asthma attack,” said Kim Knowlton, assistant professor in the climate and health program at Columbia University.

With climate change we’re also seeing more intense wildfires across the west, and in recent years, scientists have correlated those bad smoke days with an increase in emergency room visits for people with respiratory diseases.

Asthma rates are on the rise, nationally and health experts and scientists expect to see that trend continue in the coming years, as the effects of climate change take hold. 

Estefany Velasquez has to stay indoors when pollen counts are high because the pollen triggers her asthma attacks. Experts warn that climate change is contributing to longer growing seasons and more pollen.

Tyrone Turner/WAMU

Sasha-Ann Simons, a reporter with WAMU in Washington, D.C., tells us the story of how one young woman and her family chose to deal with her asthma - and what that decision has cost them.

This story was produced in partnership with WAMU. You can read more here.

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