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The growing link between extreme rainfall and respiratory health in Japan

Every year, forecasts of heavy rain in Japan raise concerns about flooding and landslides, with such storms causing hundreds of deaths and destroying thousands of homes in recent years. But what if this weather also had serious consequences for respiratory health?

Scientists are now making just that connection, drawing a strong link between the types of extreme rainfall events that are becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change, and the increase in mortality from respiratory diseases. While more work needs to be done to clarify the connection – increases in pollen after storms and drops in atmospheric pressure are among the proposed reasons – this has implications for people with asthma and other similar conditions.

In a paper published in February in Nature Sustainability, researchers examining the link between respiratory mortality and extreme rainfall in 30 cities in East Asia, including Japan, found that rainfall at an intensity that would occur every five to 10 years expected to be “significantly associated” with an increased risk of death from respiratory disease compared to days without extreme rainfall. The association was strongest for asthma, followed by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a lung disease that restricts air flow. However, there was no significant association for pneumonia.



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