Climate bad for health

October 16, 1998

Health is going to suffer with climate change, a Royal Society conference will hear later this month. Deaths from heatwaves, storms, floods and food poisoning will increase if temperatures continue to rise. Ozone depletion will lead to more skin cancer, more types of cataracts and damaged immune systems.

The range and activity of vector-borne infectious diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, a tropical viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, will also expand.

But direct effects of a change in climate may not all be bad in the United Kingdom. Graham Bentham, of the University of East Anglia, said we will "probably see some benefits such as a reduction in the numbers of winter deaths which will exceed heatwave deaths".

Climate records show the hot summer of 1976 to be a one-in-1,000 years event. However, Professor Bentham predicted that a year like 1976 could come once every three years.

The conference will hear projections that suggest malaria will be transmitted over a larger part of the Earth's surface.

According to Tony McMichael, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, "the issues for us in Northern Europe are things like salmonella and cryptosporidiosis". Cryptosporidiosis is a parasitic infection, transmitted from water contaminated with animal faeces. UK outbreaks are climate dependent.

Kapitsa on warming, page 22

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