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Water Quality and Waterborne Disease
Many parts of the United States will experience more precipitation as a result of global warming and much of this increased rainfall likely will come during very heavy storms. Flooding following such storms could jeopardize water quality. In rural areas, runoff would pick up animal wastes, pesticides, and fertilizers as it traversed farms and fields. In cities, floodwaters carrying toxins and other contaminants could overwhelm sewage systems, causing untreated sewage to flow directly into waterways. The resulting contamination of drinking water by bacteria, viruses, and protozoa could trigger outbreaks of waterborne disease, while increased toxic contamination could have both acute and long-term health effects. Warmer water temperatures because of global warming would also threaten water quality by promoting the growth and reproduction of disease-causing bacteria in drinking water supplies.
In the ocean, the combination of higher surface water temperatures and increased nutrient loading from rivers carrying agricultural runoff, may contribute to harmful blooms of algal species that produce biotoxins. Consumption of fish or shellfish contaminated with these toxins can cause neurological damage, respiratory impairment, skin irritations, and diarrhea.
Some areas, both in the United Sates and globally, will experience decreased precipitation as a result of global warming. Drought conditions can also impair water quality because as water supplies decline the concentration of contaminants increases. Additionally, lack of access to clean water disrupts good hygiene and may prevent adequate hydration.
Download PSR's Fact Sheet:
The Medical and Public Health Impacts of Global Warming (PDF)
On Climate Change and Health
We are proud endorsers of PSR's former president’s new important course On Climate Change and Health, offered for free online at NextGenU. Learn the effects of climate change on human health and practice techniques to reduce those effects. Read more »
Video: Health Impacts of Coal
For this webinar, PSR's Dr. Alan Lockwood presented an overview of the life cycle of coal and the impact on air, water, climate change, and our economy. Read more »
Climate Change and Conflict
Presentation by PSR Executive Director Dr. Catherine Thomasson, given at the American Public Health Association 2013 annual meeting in Boston. Read more »
In the Spotlight
December 3, 2013
Climate Change: Impacts on Public Health
Open to the public, this dinner program highlights the relationship between climate change and health, and provides ideas for mitigation. Featuring keynote speakers Dr. George Luber and Meredith Jagger.