Weather can affect human health in a variety of ways. For New Zealand, some of the specific health issues that are linked to weather and climate include melanoma skin cancer, weather-sensitive rheumatism, asthma, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and stress in farmers caused by weather extremes. Several studies have been done in New Zealand investigating the link between particular health problems and the weather. There are limitations to such studies, including the obstacle of trying to isolate cause and effect, but it is clear that weather and health correlations do exist.
Lying on a New Zealand beach and basking in the warm sun sure sounds appealing, but there are health risks involved. Prolonged exposure to UV radiation can lead to skin cancer and eye diseases, and this is a significant issue in New Zealand. Malignant melanoma is one of the most serious types of skin cancer, and New Zealand has the second highest rate of melanoma in the world. Only Australia has a higher rate, which seems to imply that this region is particularly susceptible to harmful UV radiation.1 One cause for this may be the depletion of stratospheric ozone, which acts as a shield for earth’s surface against this radiation. Decrease in the levels of ozone has been an issue around the world, but the southern hemisphere has generally been more strongly affected. Ozone monitoring in New Zealand shows that the concentration of ozone has declined 5-7 percent over the last 30 years. During this same period of time, the skin-damaging solar radiation has increased approximately 6-9 percent.2 Fortunately, due to international government actions such as the Montreal Protocol, restrictions are in place against the use of ozone-depleting substances. But the damage t...
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... Zealanders: 1995-1999. J. Surg. 2004; 74: 233-237.
2 The state of the Atmosphere. Ministry for the Environment website: http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/ser/ser1997/html/chapter5.8.html
3 SunSmart in New Zealand website: http://www.sunsmart.co.nz
4 Ng J, Scott D, Taneja A, Gow P, and Gosai A, Weather changes and pain in rheumatology patients. Journal of Rheumatology 2004; 7: 204-206.
5 Hales S, Lewis S, Slater T, Crane J, and Pearce N, Prevalence of adult asthma symptoms in relation to climate in New Zealand. Environmental Health Perspectives 1998; 106: 607-610.
6 Broederlow, Christel, Weather Hypersensitivity. The Universal Empath 101 website: http://www.geocities.com/christabelle67/WeatherHypersensitivity.html
7 Cutt, John, Lambs up despite losses. The Southland Times, Nov 20, 2004. http://stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,3103633a3600,00.html
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