November 23, 2012. Climate Change–Induced Salinity Threatens Health. Science Vol 338: 1028-1029
Sea-level rise, storm surges, and cyclones exacerbated by climate change have begun to severely affect coasts and river estuaries in low-income countries. The resulting increased salinity in soil and drinking water has health implications for large populations.
The increased salinity in drinking water will likely affect health over the long term [because it increases blood pressure], potentially leading to a substantial rise in cases of hypertension, as well as other associated health problems.
Salinity is also affecting other areas such as the Pearl River Delta, China (5); the San Joaquin Delta, California (6); and in the Netherlands (7), Australia (8), and Brazil (9). These estimates show that salinity may be an increasing problem in a number of coastal areas affected by intrusion of salty water into rivers.
To mitigate the risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and other associated health problems caused by climate change–induced salt intrusions, we must take immediate action. Adaptation measures, including rainwater harvesting and solar distillation, require coordination among governments and nongovernmental organizations. Putting these prevention plans in place will be far less expensive than treating the disease that will occur later if salt intrusions continue unabated.