Lab Matters Fall Winter 2021 - Page 8

FEATURE
There are technical and financial resources being distributed to the federal agencies , and we need to show them that there ’ s value to what the public health laboratories can offer .”
Julianne Nassif , MS
On August 5 , the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its Sixth Assessment Report . On the first page of the Summary for Policymakers , it states : “ It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere , ocean and land . Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere , ocean , cryosphere and biosphere have occurred .”
Climate change affects human health in a variety of ways , from a decrease in air and water quality to temperature changes that lead to illness and death . Climate change is even connected to COVID-19 : A Harvard University study found that those who lived in areas with higher levels of the dangerous air particles known as PM 2.5 were associated with higher death rates from the virus .
Public health laboratories , particularly environmental health professionals , are also noticing the effects of climate change in their daily work . As seasons and weather patterns change , laboratories are experiencing changes in the timing and types of testing requested .

These climate change connections to environmental health and human health provide an opportunity for public health laboratories to become equal partners in discussions around climate change and environmental health issues , says Julianne Nassif , MS , APHL ’ s director of Environmental Health .

Rather than only running tests when requested , public health laboratories can lead and partner on programs that monitor and track environmental health trends over time and then work to develop programs to study or mitigate effects .
“ We ’ re really at the inception of this , and this is a big opportunity ,” Nassif says . “ There are technical and financial resources being distributed to the federal agencies , and we need to show them that there ’ s value to what the public health laboratories can offer .”
The data that public health laboratories collect on environmental changes can be connected to larger climate change trends and health effects .
“ I ’ m not sure the federal agencies are aware of all of the testing that ’ s done ,” Nassif says . “ We need to think about a system that would integrate environmental monitoring data , some
6 LAB MATTERS Fall / Winter 2021
PublicHealthLabs @ APHL APHL . org