EPA: Global Warming a Health Risk

Report by Environmental Protection Agency Predicts Potentially Deadly Health Hazards From Global Warming

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on July 18, 2008

July 18, 2008 -- Global warming is likely going to hurt U.S. health,especially in the North and Midwest, according to the Environmental ProtectionAgency (EPA).

The EPA has released a new report on the health effects of climate change.The report predicts the following health risks from a warming climate:

  • More heat stroke
  • More cases of gastrointestinal illness because extreme precipitation mayput water and food supplies at risk for bad "bugs" such as salmonella.
  • More drowning because of storm surges
  • Injuries from flying debris in hurricanes
  • Possible increase in heart disease because ofworsening ozone
  • Possible worsening of asthma, COPD, and other respiratoryillnesses because of poor air quality from ozone and increase in wildfires

The report predicts that the North and Midwest will be especially hard hitbecause those regions aren't as used to the heat as the South. For instance,air conditioning is more common in the South than in the North and Midwest.

Very young children, the elderly, people with weak immune systems, andpeople living in poverty will likely suffer more than others from globalwarming's health risks, the report notes.

Will death rates rise? The report says that's not clear, because it's notknown if warmer winters will affect death rates.

The weather isn't the only factor at work. America's population is aging,and the elderly are more vulnerable to heat. Also, booming populations in themountains may put more pressure on the environment. That's also true in coastalareas, where more people could be affected by hurricanes and storm surges, thereport notes.

The report includes these suggestions to adapt to the risks:

  • Install cooling systems in residential and commercial buildings.
  • Develop early watch and warning systems for extreme heat.
  • Improve infrastructure to keep water clean.
  • Issue "boil water" advisories if water is at risk.
  • Beef up warnings and responses for hurricanes and storm surges.
  • Issue public warnings on bad air quality days.
  • Encourage people to take public transit, walk, and bicycle to cut vehicleemissions.

The U.S. Climate Change Science Program commissioned the report.

Show Sources


Gamble, J. "Analyses of the Effects of Global Change on Human Health and Welfare and Human Systems."

News release, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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