A Canadian woman may be the first to be diagnosed with climate change after doctors said that acute breathing problems caused by heatwaves and poor air quality. The diagnosis was made by emergency room doctor Kyle Merritt in Nelson, British Columbia. He told Glacier Media that it was the first time in a decade that he had identified climate change as the cause of a patient’s suffering. He stated, “If we’re just treating the symptoms and not looking at the underlying cause, we’re just going to keep falling further and further behind.”
According to Merritt, the 70-year-old patient was diagnosed in the summer, shortly after a heatwave in June brought temperatures above 121 degrees Fahrenheit. She’s diabetic. Merritt described the patient as having some form of heart failure. She lives in a trailer without air conditioning. Her issues with her health have all gotten worse. Also, she’s truly battling to remain hydrated.
According to coroner reports, this summer’s record-breaking heat in Canada is believed to have killed over 500 people in British Columbia alone. Wildfires also caused the province’s air quality in July and August to be 43 times worse than what is considered safe. Following the diagnosis, Nelson clinicians launched Doctors and Nurses for Planetary Health, a group of forty healthcare professionals “working to better human health by protecting the planet,” according to the Twitter page of the organization.
During a climate action demonstration, Merritt stated to Castlegar News, a local British Columbia news organization, “I don’t think people realize the impacts of environmental degradation and climate change on human health.” Working directly with patients, we are already beginning to see how climate change affects health. It is not merely something that will occur in the future.
By VISHAL NAICKER