Ocean acidification and human health

The ocean provides resources key to human health and well-being, including food, oxygen, livelihoods, blue spaces, and medicines. The global threat to these resources posed by accelerating ocean acidification is becoming increasingly evident as the world’s oceans absorb carbon dioxide emissions. While ocean acidification was initially perceived as a threat only to the marine realm, here we argue that it is also an emerging human health issue. Specifically, we explore how ocean acidification affects the quantity and quality of resources key to human health and well-being in the context of: (1) malnutrition and poisoning, (2) respiratory issues, (3) mental health impacts, and (4) development of medical resources. We explore mitigation and adaptation management strategies that can be implemented to strengthen the capacity of acidifying oceans to continue providing human health benefits. Importantly, we emphasize that the cost of such actions will be dependent upon the socioeconomic context; specifically, costs will likely be greater for socioeconomically disadvantaged populations, exacerbating the current inequitable distribution of environmental and human health challenges. Given the scale of ocean acidification impacts on human health and well-being, recognizing and researching these complexities may allow the adaptation of management such that not only are the harms to human health reduced but the benefits enhanced.

Falkenberg L. J. 1, Bellerby R. G. J., Connell S. D., Fleming L. E., Maycock B., Russell B. D., Sullivan F. J. & Dupont S., 2020. Ocean acidification and human health. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 17(12): 4563. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17124563. Article.

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