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Global Warming May Boost Deaths

Hotter Summers May Mean More Heat-Related Deaths, Experts Predict

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on September 28, 2007
From the WebMD Archives

Sept. 28, 2007 -- Global warming may boost heat-related premature deaths, new research suggests.

The researchers -- who included Columbia University's Kim Knowlton, PhD -- don't claim to know exactly how hot it's going to get.

But Knowlton's team predicts a rise in heat-related premature deaths in New York state, based on two models of global warming.

Knowlton and colleagues checked summer temperatures and heat-related premature deaths in New York state in the 1990s.

They also studied two sets of predictions about how hot New York will get due to global warming in the 2050s.

Based on those figures, the researchers predict that in the 2050s, New York's number of heat-related premature deaths will be an average 70% higher than it was in the 1990s.

People might get used to those hotter temperatures, and that might curb the increase in heat-related premature deaths by about 25%, the researchers also estimate.

The researchers call their estimates "conservative," but they caution that it's not yet clear how well people will adapt to hotter summers.

The findings appear in the advance online edition of the American Journal of Public Health.

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SOURCES: Knowlton, K. American Journal of Public Health, Sept. 27, 2007; advance online edition.

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