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Report: Climate change threatens health (3/6)

March 6, 2009
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According to a report in the March 2009 issue of Harvard Men’s Health Watch, climate change threatens human health in many ways. Heat-related illnesses and deaths will increase as the earth warms up. Hurricanes, cyclones, floods, and wildfires are expected to increase, causing injury and death. Many insects thrive in warm weather, meaning potential for more insect-borne diseases, including West Nile virus, viral encephalitis, and Lyme disease. Tropical diseases such as malaria and yellow fever could also spread to temperate zones like the United States.

Climate change is already producing health problems in the U.S., the report says. Ozone layer depletion has increased exposure to ultraviolet B radiation, which contributes to skin cancer and cataracts. Global warming has promoted the growth of ragweed — another reason for the increase in asthma, as well as hay fever and allergies.

Harvard Men’s Health Watch notes that new technologies, along with governmental, corporate, and individual actions, are needed to stem the tide of climate change. Here are some of the things you can do:
  • Walk (or bike). You’ll not only benefit from the exercise, you’ll cut your gas bill and generate fewer carbon emissions.
  • Eat for a cooler planet. Cows generate two powerful greenhouse gases. If you eat less meat and dairy, you’ll reduce the demand for cows.
  • Become a “locavore.” Choosing locally grown and organic foods saves energy used for fertilizer, pesticides, transportation, and storage.
  • Ride right. Make your next car a high-mileage model.
  • Make home improvements. Invest in insulation and storm windows.

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