Saud Anwar

State Senator

Saud Anwar

Deputy President Pro Tempore

Working For You

March 13, 2024
Contact: Joe O’Leary | | 508-479-4969

Wildfires, air pollution, excessive heat placing additional health burdens on Connecticut patients 

Today, legislators including State Senator Saud Anwar (D-South Windsor)State Representative Christine Palm (D-Chester, Deep River, Essex, Haddam) and State Representative Keith Denning (D-New Canaan, Ridgefield, Wilton) joined leaders of the Connecticut Health Professionals for Climate Action in the Legislative Office Building to call for action against climate change as its impacts grow in Connecticut and beyond, having a direct and growing impact on public health.

Livestreamed video is available on the League of Conservation Voters’ Facebook Page.

Legislators, doctors, and nurses all called attention to the impacts climate change has on human health. Rising temperatures are increasing heat-related illness and death, while increased spread of disease-carrying insects such as mosquitoes worsen malaria, eastern equine encephalitis, and Lyme disease transmission.

Perhaps most prominently, air pollution worsens as greenhouse gas emissions increase, thereby worsening conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cardiovascular disease and even premature birth. Inner cities bear the brunt of these diseases as air pollution is concentrated in urban areas compared to suburban and rural areas.

Legislators and health professionals rallied and called for the passage of legislation, acting against climate change and supporting Connecticut residents, including House Bill 5004. Incentivizing further adoption of clean energy can reduce pollutive greenhouse gas emissions, protecting and improving public health and supporting future generations.

According to studies conducted by Yale University, 82% of Connecticut residents support generating renewable energy on public lands, with 77% supporting tax rebates for energy efficient vehicles or solar panels and 73% support requiring fossil fuel companies to pay a carbon tax.

The Yale Center for Climate Change and Health Report in 2020 found that Connecticut is seeing an increased prominence of extreme weather events (nine federal disasters in 10 years compared to 13 in 56 years), 10 species of mosquito known to carry viruses causing human disease are growing in abundance in the state and average annual temperature increased by at least 3 degrees in Connecticut in every county from 1895 to 2019.

“Heat waves, extreme weather, allergies and air pollution are all getting worse due to climate change, and all of these factors harm public health,” said Sen. Anwar. “Last summer’s wildfire smoke spreading from Canada to Connecticut was just the latest reminder of our changing world. Heat-related illness, respiratory issues and cardiovascular disease are just some of the conditions growing in our state. It is not too late to act, however. I will continue to support bills protecting our environment and our state’s residents in the hopes that we can reverse these trends and support patients statewide, especially our most vulnerable populations.”

“Healthcare professionals, business executives, and educators are acutely aware of the effects climate change is having on our physical and economic health,” said Rep. Palm. “And our young people are telling us constantly about the toll it is taking on their mental health – as many as 40 percent of Millennials are seriously considering not having children because of an uncertain future.  As elected officials, we have the moral imperative to do something. And it must be bold, and it must be now.”

“As a pulmonologist, I see the effects of climate change on my patients almost every day. Pollen and allergy seasons start earlier and last longer,” said David Hill, MD. “Air quality effects due to heat, ozone, and wildfire pollution lead to increasing illness in my patients with asthma and COPD. We have had to add areas in our electronic health record because so many patients complain of difficulty breathing when it is hot and humid. These changes will only get worse as temperatures increase. The time to take action is now. My patients’ lives depend upon it.”

“I’ve noted increased hospitalizations during heat waves, for example hospitalizations for acute mental status changes (encephalopathy), acute kidney injuries and dehydration, exacerbations of neurological illnesses, tick-borne infections, summer legionella pneumonia, skin infections after warm seawater exposure, and respiratory illnesses during last summer’s wildfires events. Our senior citizens and medically complex patients are particularly vulnerable,” said Kirsten Ek, MD.

“Those at extremes of ages are affected more by climate related health problems. After the Canadian wildfires last year, many of my older patients – who had never had lung problems, their entire lives – were incapacitated not just during the time of excessive wildfire air pollution, but for months. This leads to staying at home, not going to their exercise programs to stay fit, not socializing, etc. This also led to emergency department visits and increased costs for them and Medicare,” said Gail Sullivan, MD.

Caption: Sen. Anwar, center, speaks with, from left, Sanjiv Godse, a pediatric pulmonologist and chair of the Connecticut Health Professionals for Climate Action; State Representative Keith Denning; and State Representative Christine Palm.

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