Review

Climate Change and Infectious Diseases: From Evidence to a Predictive Framework

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Science  02 Aug 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6145, pp. 514-519
DOI: 10.1126/science.1239401

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  • CO2 concentrations, ground floor flats and diseases
    • Qiuyun Liu, Professor, Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Improved Variety Reproduction in Aquatic Economic Animals, Sun Yat-sen University
    • Other Contributors:
      • Yanchao Zhou, Student, School of Life Sciences, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China
      • Tao Gan, Professor, Department of Biotechnology, School of Basic Medicines, Gannan Medical University, China
      • Jinhuan Qi, Student, School of Life Sciences, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China
      • Wenze Chen, student, School of Life Sciences, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China
      • Jieyu Wu, Student, School of Life Sciences, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China

    Climate change and global warming has dire consequences on human health, although not fully elucidated at present. Interestingly, people who live in the ground floor flats had 22% higher likelihood to die early, and were 40%, 35%, 36% and 22% more likely to die from respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, stroke and lung cancer respectively than residents of flats on the eight floor or higher (1). Lifestyle such as physical exercises could be one underlying factor in the higher life expectancy of people living in high floors, and less pollution and noise could be other potential factors. The continuous increases of mortality rates with gradually lower floors (1) suggest that an alternative fine mechanism is at play. The likely scenario is that CO2 concentration is highest at ground level (2), and it builds up to certain extent as it is heavier in density than O2. Lung is the critical organ where O2 and CO2 exchanges take place, and CO2 accumulation at lung-air interface may be stressful to the respiratory system. Many people experience chest distress (3,4) in the summer when lighter O2 is likely to rise and CO2 accumulates. Air circulation or cool air from electric fans and air conditioners help breathing and relieve sufferings, perhaps by increasing local O2 level and reducing CO2 buildup via air circulation and local temperature changes.
    The hydration of CO2 by carbonic anhydrase in vivo leads to generation of protons and bicarbonic acid. Bicarbonic acid could b...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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