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World's First Climate Change Patient?

17 November 2021

A woman in Canada has recently been the first to be diagnosed with health complications as a direct result of climate-change-induced weather experience. Dr Kyle Merrit credits the suffering the woman in her 70s has experienced to the effects of heatwaves and poor air quality.

The northern region, British Columbia, has been under the lasting influence of pressure surges this summer, leading to subsequent smog and wildfires. These record-breaking temperatures themselves were linked to over 500 reported deaths, and the fires worsened the air quality by 43 times the acceptable levels.


Struggling to Breathe


The senior citizen in question has asthma, hence why the damage to her health was amplified to a level where she struggled to hydrate. Whilst the underlying health conditions and symptoms this elderly person experiences anyway could be cited as reasoning for her hospitalisation, the medical staff think it is not enough to stop at surface diagnostics.

“If we’re not looking at the underlying cause, and we’re just treating the symptoms, we’re just gonna keep falling further and further behind. It’s me trying to just process what I’m seeing,” said the emergency room doctor.

“We’re in the emergency department, we look after everybody, from the most privileged to the most vulnerable, from cradle to grave, we see everybody,” added Dr. Merrit.“It’s hard to see people, especially the most vulnerable people in our society, being affected. It’s frustrating.”

COP26 has highlighted that unless efforts to reduce carbon in the atmosphere are substantially increased, there is a serious potential for 2.7 degrees Celsius of global warming outcome by the end of the century – this is despite recommendations from collective experts that temperatures must be kept to 1.5 degrees Celcius to avoid the most devastating atmospheric consequences.

It will almost inevitably peak at least this high due to carbon deficit, before any chance of dropping towards pre-industrial levels. Already wildfire seasons are now longer and result in more destructive fires. Six of the top ten largest fires in California have occurred in 2020 or 2021, according to CalFire.


Air Quality


Indoor and outdoor air quality is almost unavoidably linked. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, indoor and outdoor air pollution is the most urgent environmental health crisis in the world. Air pollution in some of the worst affected cities has been likened in effect to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.

Official estimates that poor air quality contributes to the deaths of up to 36,000 people in the UK every year and over seven million worldwide – Ella was the first person to have it stated on her death certificate following a landmark ruling at Southwark Coroner’s Court.

Ella’s Law, proposed legislation named in her memory and supported publicly by BESA, would replace the current Clean Air Act – this has not been updated since 1993 and is, in many experts’ opinion, no longer fit for purpose.

Indoors, the pandemic has brought it to our attention that we ventilate this air into our workspaces. Rosamund, who is honorary president of the H&WB Group and spearheaded the Ella’s Law campaign, urged all building professionals to rally behind her call for the protection of children through improved indoor air quality (IAQ).

She pointed to research carried out by Professor Holgate at Southampton University, which showed that IAQ can often be 13 times worse than outside air, but that it can be controlled through a combination of improved building systems and occupant behaviour. She also noted that 80 per cent of people spend an average of 90 per cent of their lives indoors.


What Can Be Done?


Research from both REHA and CIBSE shows that adequate ventilation and effective air distribution can minimise the risk of cross-infection from 1.5 metres onward. A further level of sterilisation needed to truly eliminate viruses is adequate also in cleaning pollutants and particulates in the air.

Concerns regarding the indoor air quality in schools was raised in a webinar hosted by BESA, where many professionals raised fears over the possibility of COVID-19 spreading around poorly ventilated classrooms. We published a video highlighting the major impact that a device like EnviroKlenz’s Air System Plus and its three-stage can have on environments like this, as seen below.



For addressing the symptoms with immediate effect, indoor air quality regulation is vital for our health. In the long run, committing to net-zero goals is the only way to improve on the worsening prospects for the next generation.

There are many ways that businesses can attempt a manageable address of their carbon footprint, in some that may even align with current convenience. The Global Marine Group is implementing a flexible working initiative to reduce CO2 emissions by 233.11 tonnes annually. The programme will allow employees worldwide to have more control over their work-life balance and is intended to lead to a massive positive impact on the business’ CO2 output. 

The UK’s path to net-zero has been recently published by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. The plans detail how the UK will secure 440,000 “well-paid jobs” and unlock” £90 billion in investment in 2030”.

Aiming to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, the 368-page strategy document includes details on transitioning to clean energy and green technology – including the recently announced £450 million 3-year Boiler Upgrade Scheme. We took a look at the key takeaways from the strategy report for the commercial property sector.


Picture: a ventilator mask.

Article written by Bailey Sparkes | Published 17 November 2021


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