The top five health risks to Finns caused by climate change are health effects of heat, water-related epidemics, animal-borne infectious diseases, slipping accidents, and indoor air problems attributable to moisture and mould damage in buildings. “These are considered key risks because they affect so many people, some of them are potentially life-threatening on the individual level, or due to the cost of protective measures to adapt to them being high,” says Professor Timo Lanki.
Lanki was the expert on health effects in the Assessment of weather and climate risks (SIETO) project, which produced a national weather and climate risk assessment for Finland. He is Professor of Environmental Epidemiology and Risk Assessment at the University of Eastern Finland and Chief Researcher at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) in the Environmental Health Unit.
Finns are more sensitive to the health effects of heat
The climate change is causing temperatures to rise in Finland more than they are rising on average elsewhere in the world. “Longer heat waves with higher temperatures pose even greater risks on older people and those with chronic conditions,” says Lanki.
For example, a heat wave caused more than 200 premature deaths in 2003 and more than 300 premature deaths in 2010 in Finland. The mortality of over 75-year-olds increased by 21 percent, and the risk of dying from e.g. cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, and mental and behavioural disorders, increased during the heat waves. New knowledge on the effects of heat, population groups sensitive to heat and ways of adapting to heat will be produced in the Heat and Health in the Changing Climate (HEATCLIM) project coordinated by Professor Lanki and funded by the Academy of Finland.