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Climate Change Adaptation Resource Center (ARC-X)

Climate Adaptation and Public Health

EPA works to protect and improve human health and the environment. Climate change poses significant risks to public health. These risks make it more challenging for communities to provide public health services.

Changes in climate, such as higher average temperatures and increased storm frequency and intensity, can intensify public health stressors including decreased air and water quality, accidental exposure to chemicals, and extreme heat (see chart below).

Climate change will affect some people’s health more than others, depending on where they live and their ability to cope with different climate impacts. The most vulnerable often include the very young, the elderly, the poor, the infirm, and tribes.

Health Risks Related to EPA's Mission

This chart illustrates key risks posed by climate change to public health, recognizing other factors can also affect the health outcomes.

Changes in Climate and
Sea Level
Risks to the Environment Risks to Public Health
  • Rising temperatures
  • Changes in precipitation
  • More extreme weather
  • Rising sea levels

Extreme Heat
More frequent and intense heat waves

Expected increase in heat-related illnesses and deaths, especially cardiovascular and respiratory diseases

Air Quality
Decrease in air quality due to increases in average temperature, and frequency and intensity of extreme weather events (e.g. droughts, storms) and wildfires

Worsening of existing, and/or increased incidence of, acute and chronic respiratory disorders such as asthma

Water Quality
Decrease in water quality as a result of flooding due to increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events (e.g. storms and droughts)

Worsening of existing, and/or increased incidence of:

  • Gastrointestinal diseases from water-borne parasites such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia
  • Illness and/or death from toxic algal blooms

Chemical Exposure
Spread of contaminants due to flooding from more frequent and intense storm events

Additional illness, injury, or death due to accidental chemical exposure

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