The Heat Is Online

WHO: Climate Change Will Harm Human Health

WHO Warns that Global Warming Will Adversely Affect Human Health

Reuters News Service, March 22, 1999

WESTPORT - World Health Organization director Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland has warned that the climate changes observed over the past several decades may already be adversely affecting human health. She alerted her fellow health officials throughout the world to monitor and research the effects of global warming.

"We can see increasingly clearly the profound changes that climate change will have for public health and for the world economy. The need for early warning public health systems is clear," Dr. Brundtland said in a statement from WHO headquarters in Geneva.

Dr. Roberto Bertollini of the WHO European Centre for Environment and Health added that "[t]he initial climate changes we have observed over the past decades may already be manifesting themselves as increased mortality and morbidity for specific diseases."

In June, the 51 member states of WHO's European Region "...will be asked to take preventive action to minimize the health effects of climate change and ozone depletion and to monitor the human health effects that are already being detected in the European Region," as part of the Third Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health, Dr. Bertolini noted.

Among other issues, members will be asked to consider: - the effects of increased ultraviolet irradiation and the increased risk of skin cancer, - the increase in number and severity of heat waves, - the increase in waterborne diseases, including cholera and cryptosporidiosis, - the increase in vector-borne illnesses such as malaria and dengue fever, - death or injury caused by floods, storms and other violent weather events and - air pollution aggravated by climatic changes.

(c) Reuters Limited 1999.

Climate change will increase European health woes

Reuters News Service, June 21, 1999

LONDON - Climate changes due to global warming could cause a host of major health problems in Europe including an increase in diseases such as malaria and encephalitis, doctors warned late last week.

They advised governments to take urgent action to minimise the impact of rising temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns which could cause flooding, disrupt water supplies and sewage disposal and cause toxic waste sites to overflow.

"Few countries in Europe have undertaken national or subnational assessments on the impacts of climate change on human health," Savi Kovats, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicines, said in a report in the British Medical Journal.

"There is an urgent need to consider how to improve research and monitoring, how to minimise adverse health impacts and how to achieve Europe-wide co-ordination, sharing of information, and participation in wider international efforts in this area."

Kovats and a team of experts from an international working group convened by the World Health Organisation (WHO) said countries will need to adapt to changes caused by global warming.

The average temperature in Europe has increased by 0.8 Celsius during the past century and is likely to continue rising, bringing with it more heatwaves, air pollution and deaths, the researchers said.

Rising temperatures could result in more stomach complaints and insect-borne diseases and lead to the reintroduction of malaria in Eastern Europe, they said.

The researchers said "improved co-ordination of data on infection across Europe will be needed". The publication of the report coincided with the third European Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health in London, which was organised by the WHO.

Ministers from 51 member countries were expected to sign a protocol on water and health during the three-day conference and were to consider a charter on transport, environment and health to reduce air pollution from cars.