How climate change affects health in Minnesota

Ragweed pollen
A sample of ragweed pollen collected Aug. 27, 2014 is the cluster of three spiky grains at left.
Courtesy of the Clinical Researc
Climate Cast
Every Thursday, MPR meteorologist Paul Huttner joins The Daily Circuit to talk about the latest research on our changing climate and the consequences we're seeing here in Minnesota and worldwide.
MPR Illustration

On a special edition of Climate Cast this week, Kerri Miller and Paul Huttner discuss the connection between climate change and our health.

A Minnesota Department of Health report looked at how climate change impacts the health of state residents.

From MPR News:

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The report, "Minnesota's Climate and Health Profile and Report," cites pollen as one of several contributors to "bad air days." Wood smoke and vehicle exhaust also contribute to poor air quality, and climate change could make some of the resulting pollution worse.

The report explores the likelihood of summer heat waves and flash floods, two events that come with a host of additional worries -- heat illness, mold, contaminated drinking water -- and even our mental health. It also found that Lyme disease and West Nile virus are becoming more common in a changing climate.

MPR Meteorologist Paul Huttner said hotter and longer heat waves are a big concern.

"We got off lucky last summer," he said. "This was a relatively mild summer in Minnesota last year. We've had a couple of fairly mild summers, but that is going to change."

Kristin Raab, climate and health program director for Minnesota Department of Health, said information about heat-related illness, hospitalizations and death is likely under-reported.

She said heat often exacerbates other health conditions like diabetes, but the hospital records wouldn't record heat as a factor for the patient's visit. Heat can also cause a number of minor issues, such as rashes and heat exhaustion, and those residents might not seek treatment.

Some listeners are already experiencing health changes due to changing weather conditions: