IMO conference told plan is needed to deal with health effects from heatwaves

Warning that the environmental impact of climate change could lead to a public health crisis in Ireland

 “Drought can  have a huge affect on farmers who themselves are under pressure to consider the impacts of cattle density and the subsequent that has on carbon emissions and on water contamination.” Photograph: Getty Images

“Drought can have a huge affect on farmers who themselves are under pressure to consider the impacts of cattle density and the subsequent that has on carbon emissions and on water contamination.” Photograph: Getty Images

 

The environmental impact of climate change could lead to a public health crisis in Ireland, the annual conference of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has been told.

Dr Ina Kelly, consultant in public health medicine in HSE Midlands, warned of the potential vulnerability of water provided from wells. She also said that a plan for dealing with the health effects from heatwaves needed to be developed.

She said many people could be facing a potential climate disaster in Ireland if all necessary efforts were not implemented and co-ordinated as soon as possible.

Dr Kelly said Ireland had very significant vulnerabilities in relation to climate change, and the country needed to focus on these vulnerabilities.

“Our susceptibility to serious water-borne disease from severe rainfall events is very high, with 170,000 private wells around the country providing untreated and sometimes contaminated drinking water.”

She said there were “magical beliefs” in Ireland that water coming from wells was pristine. However, she said the reality was it was vulnerable to contamination.

“Drought can also have a huge affect on farmers, who themselves are under pressure to consider the impacts of cattle density and the subsequent that has on carbon emissions and on water contamination.”

Dr Kelly also said the State did not have a national heatwave plan, and this would have to be developed.

Critical infrastructure

She also warned that the health service needed to adapt in order to deal with the threat from climate change.

“We need to think about our critical infrastructure, our hospitals and health centres. Are they resilient to flooding and storms. Are they accessible during severe weather.”

“Some of our hospital buildings are probably not fit for purpose even now in terms of room temperature control and hygiene facilities.”

Dr Kelly told delegates: “It appears that climate change will have four primary effects; more extreme weather, a change in precipitation levels,warmer weather and rising sea levels.”

“These events in isolation may be very challenging ; together they could pose a potential climate change disaster for many Irish people.”