• Asthma.

Asthma. (Photo : Getty Images)

A survey by the American Thoracic Society (ATS) of its international members found that 81 percent of respondents indicated climate change has direct relevance to patient care while 96 percent agreed climate change is occurring.

Compared to a similar survey of American ATS members, more international physician members reported that climate change was affecting their patients "a great deal" or a "moderate amount" (69 percent international vs. 44 percent U.S.).

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"The response from international physicians underscores that of American respondents who noted the impact of illness severity related to increases in pollution, specifically asthma, COPD, pneumonia and cardiovascular disease," said John Balmes, MD, past Chair of the ATS Environmental Health Policy Committee and one of the study authors.

Respondents said the following are the most common health effects of climate change among their patients:

* Severity of chronic disease - 88 percent

* Increased allergic symptoms - 72 percent

* Heat-related effects - 70 percent

* Injuries due to severe weather - 69 percent

* Vector-borne infections - 59 percent

* Diarrhea from food/water-borne illnesses - 55 percent

The survey was conducted by the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University in Virginia and polled 5,013 international members. The survey had a response rate of 9.8 percent and respondents represented 68 countries.

The survey results come on the heels of the DC District Court of Appeals' hearing of oral arguments related to the US Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan on September 27. ATS and several physician organizations jointly filed an amicus brief with the court arguing that climate change has negative consequences for patients' health.

Survey results were published in the October issue of the Annals of the American Thoracic Society.