The global climate crisis has become also a threat to human health. Extreme weather events, disruptions to food and water security, worsening of air quality, the rise of vector-borne diseases, exacerbations of chronic disease, mental health stressors, and worker injury risks, are just some of the climate change disturbances adversely affecting health. Furthermore, the social determinants of health, from wealth to housing and race, can ameliorate or indeed amplify environmental exposures and climate impacts on health, with under-resourced and vulnerable communities disproportionately affected. Therefore, communities of color are more vulnerable to the health aspects of climate change in accord with susceptibility, exposure and ability to adapt. In this regard, the new “Climate Change, Planetary, Human Health and Sustainability” research core of CEED coordinates research activities among CEED investigators across the environmental exposures-disease continuum. A number of new CEED investigators (S. Xiao, G. Kelesidis, P. Georgopoulos) are currently working on assessing and mitigating the impact of climate change on human health.
This paper has been selected as the NIEHS Extramural Papers of the Month in September 2023.
Our new research core “Climate Change, Human Health and Sustainability” can provide novel mechanistic insights and actionable knowledge about 1) how climate change impacts planetary and human health and environmental justice, and 2) how those impacts may be mitigated, ultimately leading to effective interventions. Climate engineering projects are also expected to develop solutions to increase resiliency and adaptation for our vulnerable communities in NJ and beyond. This is in line with CEED’s vision and mission and will stimulate further transdisciplinary collaborations among existing CEED investigators and also help recruiting diverse investigators from across Rutgers and beyond.
Dr. P. Georgopoulos has developed machine learning based, transport/fate and climate models to characterize climate driven wildfire exposures in regional scale, but also to quantify accurately their contribution to global warming. Similarly, Dr. Kelesidis recently showed that incorporating accurate black carbon optical properties in climate models is essential for the accurate estimation of its radiative forcing and climate change impact, explaining satellite observations and climate change.
Climate change is increasingly recognized as a global health threat to humans, including female reproduction. Under the supports from NIH and New Jersey Department of Environmental Health Protection (NJDEP), Dr. Shuo Xiao and his team use both classic whole animal model and the emerging organ-a-chip model to study the impact exposure to climate change-related environmental contaminants and other stressors (e.g., extreme heat) on women’s sex hormone secretion, ovulation, and fertility as well as the toxic mechanisms involved. The toxicants they focus on include harmful algal bloom (HAB) toxins, wildfire smoke, and mycotoxins. Dr. Xiao and Lauren Aleksunes also recently received a Seed Fund from the Rutgers Office of Research to study how HAB toxins accumulate in the placenta in pregnant women and the potential developmental toxicities. These studies are important for us to develop mechanism-based strategies to prevent, mitigate, and remediate climate change-induced defective female reproductive health.
Rutgers University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Princeton University, and Stevens Institute of Technology have joined forces to hold a Regional Symposium on ‘Climate Change and Planetary Human Health’. The goal of this symposium it to learn what each of our respective institutions are engaged with in research, innovation and implementation to address one the 21st century biggest challenges, and to identify potential areas of collaboration that would benefit the population of New Jersey and beyond. We have put together a timely and exciting line of topics and speakers.
Dr. Shuo Xiao from Rutgers EOHSI together with Drs. Qiang Zhang and Audrey Gaskins from Emory University recently received a one-year Climate Change and Health Administrative Supplement (PA-20-272) Award from NIEHS. They will use an ovary-on-a-chip model to study the impacts of extreme heat and exposure to climate change-related environmental toxicants on female ovarian functions and fertility.
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