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Public Health

Pierce County has seen rising temperatures, more extreme precipitation patterns, shifting algae blooms, changes in water conditions and other weather shifts in the past few years. These changes also affect human health. When agencies collaborate to work with residents who experience these changes, 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. When we experience several days with temperatures in the upper 90s, people may begin to suffer health complications and even death.
  • Extreme heat is particularly dangerous for certain populations, such as seniors, the immune-compromised and young children.

Recommendation2

  • Increase awareness of and access to cooling centers, specifically in low-income areas where people are less likely to be able to afford air conditioners.
  • Promote heat-related illness prevention steps.
  • Share simple messages about when prolonged extreme heat becomes dangerous.
  • Focus on promoting a built environment that naturally cools Pierce County (e.g. planting more trees in urban areas.)

Air Quality

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Risk2

  • Wood smoke, including from wildfires, can cause or worsen asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
  • Wood smoke can worsen heart disease and lead to a greater risk of stroke.
  • It's particularly dangerous for certain populations such as seniors, children and people suffering from cardiovascular or pulmonary conditions.

Recommendation2

  • Phase out wood-burning stoves/heating for more efficient and cleaner alternatives to reduce wood smoke pollution.
  • Promote burn bans and other wildfire-prevention policies.
  • Focus efforts on interventions for the most vulnerable—seniors, children, pregnant women and those suffering from chronic conditions.

Flooding

Flooding
Risk2
  • Increased intensity and frequency of floods expected to occur outside of the typical season.
  • Unprecedented amounts of rain could lead to increased urban flooding in zones not previously identified as flood zones.
  • Increased floodwaters increase the risk for bacteria or mold growth in flooded structures.

Recommendation2

  • Study what areas of our county are in flood zones or in zones at risk for water level rises and excess rain.
  • 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 develop emergency plans for flooding.

Water Quality

waterquality
Risk2
  • Increased population creates more demand on limited water supplies.
  • Predicted decrease in annual snowpack will stress local rivers and streams, affecting salmon and in-stream uses.
  • Increased nutrient loading to lakes, combined with warmer temperatures, can cause increase in toxic algae growth.
  • Increased runoff may cause increased flooding in lowland areas of Pierce County
  • Increased runoff also increases pathogen levels in surface water, which could affect marine and freshwater bodies and increase risk of waterborne illnesses.

Recommendation2

  • Increase monitoring and surveillance of water supplies, both drinking water and surface water
  • Educate residents regarding flood hazards
  • Educate residents about steps to take to increase water quality (use less fertilizer, pick up pet waste, 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 community-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

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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 launch an information campaign to educate the Pierce County residents on the risks of climate change and how it can affect them.
  • Prioritize community engagement with Pierce County's most vulnerable communities with the greatest health disparities to build resiliency.