Fed Report Warns of Increase in U.S. Illnesses and Deaths from Global Warming

Thursday, April 07, 2016
(photo: AFP/Getty Images)

By Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer


WASHINGTON (AP) — Man-made global warming is making America sicker, and it's only going to get worse, according to a new federal government report.


The 332-page report issued Monday by the Obama administration said global warming will make the air dirtier, water more contaminated and food more tainted. It warned of diseases, such as those spread by ticks and mosquitoes, longer allergy seasons, and thousands of heat wave deaths.


Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy said if that's not enough, climate change affects people's mental health, too.


"It's not just about polar bears and melting ice caps. It's about our families. It's about our future," McCarthy said at a White House event unveiling the report.


Climate change affects more people in more ways than anything doctors have seen in the past, said Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. He said the report allows doctors to better quantify "the sheer number of pathways through which climate affects health."


That includes air pollution worsened from power plants, pollen and even wildfires, he said.


"Not being able to breathe is one of the most frightening experience" for people, Murthy said. "We're talking about scary moments for parents and children."


Asthma is already the No. 1 cause of children going to the hospital and "now we're seeing it worsening because of the heat, the allergens," and air pollution, said Lynn Goldman, dean of the George Washington University's public health school.


White House science adviser John Holdren highlighted heat waves, saying that even with some reduction in emissions of heat-trapping gases globally, "we can see thousands to tens of thousands of heat-related deaths in the United States each summer."


Centers of Disease Control and Prevention computer simulations of 209 cities show that extra summer heat deaths will outweigh fewer winter cold deaths from climate change, said CDC's Shubhayu Saha, a study lead author.


Holdren said the report is based on more than 1,800 published scientific studies and new federal research, and was reviewed by the National Academies of Sciences.


"The report clearly establishes that climate change is a major threat to public health in the United States," said Howard Frumkin, dean of the University of Washington's public health school, who wasn't part of the report. He said the government isn't doing enough. "There is a vast disconnect between the magnitude of the problem, as outlined by this report, and the response of government health agencies."


To Learn More:

The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment (by John Balbus, Allison Crimmins and Janet L. Gamble, GlobalChange.gov)

Alarmed Scientists Describe February’s “Astronomical” Increase in Global Heat as “Out of a Sci-Fi Movie” (by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer)

Global Warming Nurtures Infectious Disease Outbreaks (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Will Global Warming Unleash Deadly, Buried Viruses? (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)


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