EPA Report Concludes Impacts of Climate Change will be Burden on Public Health System, Report Co-Author Says

July 17, 2008
Dr. John Balbus, (301) 908-8186, jbalbus@edf.org
Sean Crowley, (202) 550-6524, scrowley@edf.org
(Washington, DC – July 17, 2008) A report released today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concludes that the United States is likely to have the resources necessary to alleviate most direct health threats from climate change. However, the report also concludes there will be an additional burden on an already stretched public health system as a result of climate change.
“The nation needs to know how climate change will impact people’s health within our own borders, and that additional public health protections will be needed to ensure our most vulnerable citizens are adequately protected,” said Dr. John Balbus, chief health scientist for Environmental Defense Fund and a contributing author to the report.
The report, called Synthesis and Assessment Product 4.6, is one of 21 five-year updates required under the Climate Change Science Program on the scientific literature about the impacts of climate change on human health, welfare and settlements. It also assesses the nation’s ability to adapt to climate change threats and where impacts may be greatest.
In addition, the report notes the nation is likely to experience worsened heat stress, the health effects of higher ozone concentrations resulting from higher temperatures, health impacts of floods and drought-related wildfires, and increased spread of water and food-borne illness. The most vulnerable populations and communities in the nation, those already experiencing a disproportionate burden of ill health, are likely to experience the greatest impacts from climate change as well.
Environmental Defense Fund has already released a report, “Are We Ready? Preparing for the Public Health Challenges of Climate Change,” which highlights the gaps in public health preparedness for climate change with a nationwide survey of public health departments.