Climate Change Will Seriously Impact Human Health, But Research Lacking, Peer-Reviewed Report Concludes

March 18, 2009
Contact: 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 
Contact:
Jennifer Andreassen, 202-572-3387, jandreassen@edf.org
John Balbus, 202-572-3316, jbalbus@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. – March 18, 2009) Climate change will seriously impact public health, but the United States is failing to support the research needed to prepare for it, according to a report published in the peer-reviewed journal published by the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
 
"The lack of attention from the Federal government on the health risks of climate change to U.S. populations is needlessly putting multitudes at risk," warns the report, "U.S. Funding is Insufficient to Address the Human Health Impacts of and Public Health Responses to Climate Variability and Change," published in Environmental Health Perspectives.
 
The report is co-authored by the same authors who wrote the Climate Change and Human Health chapter in the July 2008 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report: "Analyses of the Effects of Global Change on Human Health and Welfare and Human Systems," including Environmental Defense Fund"s Chief Health Scientist Dr. John Balbus.  Dr. Balbus also is a member of the National Academy of Science Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology, the Institute of Medicine Roundtable on Environmental Health Sciences, Research and Medicine, and the Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
 
Global warming is expected to worsen many health problems, including heat-related mortality, diarrheal diseases, and diseases associated with exposure to ozone and allergens from the air.  Health effects are also likely to result from altered air, water, agriculture, and ecosystems processes, according to the report. 
 
Despite these facts, federal funding of health research related to climate change is estimated to be less than $3 million per year. The report concludes that more than $200 million is needed annually to sponsor "robust intra- and extramural programs" in federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 
 
Funding research in climate change and health research "that is directly linked to protective action at the local level is a wise investment, consistent with the goals of restoring economic stability, justice and environmental quality, and reducing health care costs," according to the report.
 
The inadequate level of U.S. funding, the report states, "appears to be due to the low priority placed on identifying and managing the health risks of climate change by Congress and the Federal government."  The report also concludes that reporting of the research funding needs more transparency and clarity.