Climate change prompts concern over farming health risks

by Published Wed 01 Apr 2009 13:49
More research needed on farming and climate change
More research needed on farming and climate change

Researchers have found that exposure to chemicals used in agriculture and pathogens, such as bacteria in animal waste, found on British farms is likely to be higher in future as weather patterns alter and producers adjust their methods to cope.

Climate change is expected to force farmers to increase their use of chemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers. It could also change the way livestock are managed as hot summers lead to more indoor housing and with it a greater use of veterinary medicines and disinfectants.

Extremes of weather will increase the threat of flooding and also turn surface soil to dust. This, in turn, will make it more likely that potentially harmful substances could be carried into neighbouring areas and in larger quantities.

The research is published in the latest edition of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Dr Alistair Boxall, from York University's Environment Department, said: "Our research suggests climate change will result in an increase in the risks from pathogens and chemicals associated with agriculture to human health.

"It is difficult to quantify the risk to health and so, until we know more, it is important that exposure to these substances is carefully managed."

The research, funded by the Joint Environment and Human Health Programme, calls for improved monitoring of farm-related pathogens and chemicals and the effects they have on health.

It also urges regulators and policymakers in this area to give greater consideration to how climate change may have an indirect impact on human health in future.

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