'The climate crisis is a health crisis'

| 3rd March 2020
Heathrow
Pixabay
UK health workers call on the government to respect the Court of Appeal's ruling on Heathrow’s expansion.

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The Court of Appeal has ruled against the expansion of Heathrow airport in a historic win for the climate movement.

Medact is a global health membership organisation made up of people in the health community working together to bring about a world in which everyone can exercise their human right to health. We have launched an open letter to the UK government from the trusted voice of the health community, to add support to the Court's decision.

We need to keep up the momentum to ensure that the third runaway is cancelled, for good.

Crisis

This month we have seen Bristol’s airport expansion opposed by the council thanks to a community of campaigners. We know the significant role that our health workers can play in fighting for climate justice.

Leading voices in the field are speaking up about the impacts of climate change on both human and planetary health.

Dr Lynne Jones, who has recently been involved in the Medact campaign for divestment at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: "The climate crisis is a health crisis. I would encourage other health workers to get involved in tackling climate change."

Over 120 nurses, doctors and health workers have signed  an open letter that warmly welcomes the Court of Appeal's ruling against the expansion of Heathrow Airport. 

Airport expansions dramatically undermine efforts to address the climate crisis. As health workers, we know that climate change is already impacting the health of hundreds of millions of people around the world. 

Risks

Airport expansion also has serious impacts on local public health. Research has shown that aviation emissions contribute to 16,000 premature deaths per year globally in populations living close to airport sites.

Prolonged exposure to aircraft noise increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, dementia and other disorders. It also affects childrens’ learning and memory. 

Dr Lynne Jones, consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, said: “Airport expansion, from a third runway, would mean an increase in particulate matter pollution both from airplanes, but also largely from the increased traffic to the airport on the ground.

"We now know that there are strong associations between children's brain development and exposure to PM pollution - both in the womb and as they develop through childhood. Exposure to particulate matter appears to have some associations with some neurodevelopmental disorders like ASD and ADHD.”

One recent study states that “exposure to air pollution at the beginning of life and throughout childhood is a threat to neurodevelopment and an obstacle that prevents children from reaching their full potential” 

We hope that the Government will respect the precedent that Court of Appeal ruling on Heathrow sets challenging high carbon projects in the UK and around the world. By rejecting high carbon projects and redirecting resources into just climate solutions we can achieve huge health co-benefits and create healthy, flourishing societies. 

This Author 

Rachel Piper is a movement builder for Medact who is currently organising their national gathering of healthworkers - #HealthJustice2020'. Follow on Twitter: @Medact.

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