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Public Health

Pierce County has seen rising temperatures, more extreme precipitation patterns, shifting algal blooms, changes in water conditions, and many other weather shifts in the past few years. With each of these changes, there are effects on human health. Fortunately, by working together with those most affected by these impacts, Pierce County can become a healthier and more climate-resilient community.

Extreme Heat

extremeHeat

Risk2

  • Temperatures are setting new records each year, and rising night temperatures and longer heat waves create serious health risks.
  • Prolonged heat gets dangerous. Several days in the upper 90s and people may begin to suffer health complications and potential death.
  • This issue is particularly dangerous for certain populations, specifically elders and children.

Recommendation2

  • Increase knowledge of and access to cooling centers, specifically in low-income areas where people are less likely to be able to afford air conditioners.
  • Promote information in the community on how to prevent heat-related illness.
  • Educate the community on understanding the threshold at which prolonged extreme heat becomes dangerous.
  • Focus on promoting a built environment that naturally cools Pierce County (i.e. Planting more trees in urban areas.)

Air Quality

airquality

Risk2

  • Wood smoke, including from wildfires, can cause the development of asthma or worsening of asthma and COPD.
  • Wood smoke can also cause a worsening of heart disease and a greater risk of stroke.
  • This issue is particularly dangerous for certain populations such as elders, children, and people suffering from cardiovascular or pulmonary conditions.

Recommendation2

  • Reduce wood smoke pollution by phasing out wood-burning stoves/heating for more efficient and cleaner alternatives.
  • Promote burn bans and other wildfire-prevention policies.
  • Focus efforts on communities most likely to be negatively affected (elders, children, pregnant women, chronic conditions).

Flooding

Flooding

Risk2

  • The flooding season can increase in intensity and frequency, will start flooding out of season.
  • Unprecedented amounts of rain could lead to increased urban flooding in zones not thought to be flood zones.
  • Increased floodwaters increase the risk for bacteria or mold growth in flood-impacted structures.

Recommendation2

  • Study what areas of our county are in flood zones, in zones at risk for water level rises, and at risk from excess rain not seen before.
  • Promote information about the dangers of mold after flooding and what to do about it.
  • Support planning and preparedness efforts within communities most likely to experience flooding.
  • Work specifically with assisted living facilities to work out emergency plans in the event of flooding.

Water Quality

waterquality

Risk2

  • Increased population resulting in more demand on limited water supplies.
  • Predicted decrease in annual snowpack will stress local rivers and streams impacting salmon and instream uses.
  • Increased nutrient loading to lakes, combined with warmer temperatures can cause increase in toxic algae growth.
  • Increased runoff is predicted to cause increased flooding in lowland areas of Pierce County
  • Hypothetically, increased runoff also increases pathogen levels in surface water which could impact marine and freshwater bodies; increase risk of waterborne illnesses.


Recommendation2

  • Increase monitoring and surveillance of water supplies, both drinking water and surface water
  • Educate citizens regarding flood hazards
  • Educate citizens about lessening nutrient impact to water bodies (use less fertilizer, pick up pet wastes, plant native plants adjacent to water bodies to decrease runoff, etc.).
  • Work with water systems to implement conservation measures.
  • Implement comprehensive water use planning (drinking water and surface water).
  • Promote citizen-led science to provide accurate and timely data about water quality in lakes and streams throughout Pierce County.
  • Focus efforts on communities that rely on affected waters for their food and/or livelihood.

Vector Borne Disease

vectorborne

Risk2

  • Hotter water increases the growth of waterborne illnesses, including e. Coli and Vibrio parahaemolyticus in Washington State.
  • Rising temperatures have increased the natural range of many disease vectors, such as ticks and mosquitoes that carry Lyme disease and West Nile virus.


Recommendation2

  • Increase capacity and funding for infectious disease tracking and surveillance.
  • Increase education on how to prevent mosquito and tick bites.


Long-Term Direction:


  • Implement a stakeholder/community engagement strategy to gauge the perception of climate impacts on health, and to inform policy changes.
  • Design and begin an information campaign to educate the individuals of Pierce County the risks of climate change and how it can affect them.
  • Engage and educate vulnerable communities, that face heightened risks due to inequity in Pierce County.