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When Climate Change Makes It Hard To Breathe | Terrestrial


Estefany Velasquez, 13, has suffered from asthma for the last decade.

Estefany Velasquez, 13, has suffered from asthma for the last decade.

Tyrone Turner/WAMU

Climate change isn’t just contributing to drought, superstorms, sea level rise and flooding. It’s also making it harder for many people to breathe. People like 13 year old Estefany Velasquez. Her family faced a tough choice because of her asthma.  

More than 24 million Americans have asthma.

Rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns can lead to longer growing seasons and higher pollen counts, all of which can worsen asthma symptoms.

“Those are all expected to contribute to increases in some of the signs of airborne allergens that can trigger an asthma attack,” said Kim Knowlton, assistant professor in the climate and health program at Columbia University.

With climate change we’re also seeing more intense wildfires across the west, and in recent years, scientists have correlated those bad smoke days with an increase in emergency room visits for people with respiratory diseases.

Asthma rates are on the rise, nationally and health experts and scientists expect to see that trend continue in the coming years, as the effects of climate change take hold.

Estefany Velasquez, 13, has suffered from asthma for the last decade. Location: Silver Spring, Maryland. Here Estefany poses at one of the windows in her home. Although she likes to play soccer, her asthma is triggered by many outside environmental factors, so she finds it easier to spend time indoors.

Estefany Velasquez, 13, has suffered from asthma for the last decade. Location: Silver Spring, Maryland. Here Estefany poses at one of the windows in her home. Although she likes to play soccer, her asthma is triggered by many outside environmental factors, so she finds it easier to spend time indoors.

Tyrone Turner/WAMU

Sasha-Ann Simons, a reporter with WAMU in Washington, D.C., tells us the story of how one young woman and her family chose to deal with her asthma - and what that decision has cost them.

This story was produced in partnership with WAMU. You can read more here.

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