A doctor in the Canadian province of British Columbia labelled a patient with breathing problems as suffering from “climate change,” maybe the first such case ever documented.
The woman was having trouble breathing after the recent wildfires in the Kootenays aggravated her asthma, according to the Times Colonist newspaper in Canada. According to the BC Wildfire Service website, the Kootenays region in British Columbia has seen over 1,600 wildfires this fiscal year.
Dr. Kyle Merritt, who oversees the emergency room (ER) at Kootenay Lake Hospital, has seen multiple cases where the record heat has exacerbated pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes, heart failure, and so on. However, it is difficult to link mortality or serious disease to heatwaves or air pollution. Dr. Merritt sought out to other medical specialists in neighbouring provinces of Prince George, Kamloops, Vancouver, and Victoria to address the rising cases of heart disease, which he had only observed in medical school, according to the story.
Hundreds of people have died in a heatwave that has broken Canadian heat records, including an all-time high of 49.6 degrees Celsius in Lytton, British Columbia, on June 29.
When asked why he made the unexpected diagnosis, Dr. Merritt is quoted in the article as saying: “If we’re not looking at the underlying cause, and we’re just treating the symptoms, we’re just gonna keep falling further and further behind.” The three weeks of summer, when the COVID-19 pandemic, the heatwave, wildfires, and air pollution all collided, were exceptionally tough, according to the father of three.