Climate Change

Published on June 18th, 2010 | by Jennifer Lance


Amazon Deforestation Increases Malaria by 48 Percent

Malaria is a life-threatening tropical disease that is transmitted through mosquito bites. Caused by the parasite Plasmodium, this disease results in almost one million deaths with most of the victims being children.  Unfortunately, scientists have recently discovered an link between “increased incidence of malaria to land-use practices in the Amazon.”

Photo by Threat to Democracy
Amazon deforestation increases malaria

Amazon deforestation increases malaria

Environmentalists have been alarmed about Amazon deforestation for decades.  The region is considered the “lungs of the planet” absorbing much carbon dioxide.  The Independent explains:

The accelerating destruction of the rainforests that form a precious cooling band around the Earth’s equator, is now being recognised as one of the main causes of climate change. Carbon emissions from deforestation far outstrip damage caused by planes and automobiles and factories.

Furthermore, deforestation in Brazil is actually on the rise “nearly doubling” in the spring of 2010.  Reasons for clear cutting the rainforest include “clearing for pastureland by commercial and speculative interests, misguided government policies, inappropriate World Bank projects, and commercial exploitation of forest resources”.

Not only do we need to be concerned about climate change when it comes to Amazon deforestation, but a new study has found it causes a 48 percent increase in malaria.  Published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, this news study finds a direct link between malaria epidemics and logging.  Medical News Today reports:

“It appears that deforestation is one of the initial ecological factors that can trigger a malaria epidemic,” says Sarah Olson, the lead author of the new report and a postdoctoral fellow at the Nelson Institute, Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment…

The message from the study, say Olson and Patz, is that tropical forest conservation may benefit human health more than we realized.

“Land-management practices show promise as useful interventions to reduce malaria risk factors,” says Olson.

Climate change affects human health; however, the effects may not be as immediate or evident as a malaria epidemic.  This new study offers further evidence that environmental practices are directly tied to human health.  It is just one more reason to protect the Amazonian rainforest.

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