KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 15 — Some 1,600 deaths caused by injuries could be recorded in the United States (US) if climate change continued unabated, a new study claimed.
Researchers looking at US data from 1980 and 2017 recently found a correlation between deaths from traffic accidents, drownings, assault and suicides, among other causes of deaths, and unusually high temperatures.
Should the globe record an “anomalously warm year” of 1.5 degree Celsius higher than the long-term average, they found that 1,601 Americans would die of injuries, with boys and men between the ages of 15 and 64 accounting for most of that increase.
However, the study, led by researcher Robbie Parks, who is attached with Columbia University’s Earth Institute in New York City, did not prove that climate change caused these injuries, reported a health news site.
Connecticut-based portal HealthDay reported Parks as saying that his study’s findings are not necessarily new, as the focus has always been mainly on links between infectious diseases and chronic conditions such as heart and lung disease.
“The association between rising temperatures and injuries has, until now, been less explored and understood,” Parks said yesterday, following the release of his study’s findings online in the monthly peer-reviewed medical journal, Nature Medicine.
The singling out of the two age groups was attributed to the higher impact of heat on certain risks, such as drowning, in men than women, as well as a higher risk of various injuries. Warming, on the other hand, would not be uniform in the US, with certain parts of the country, including large cities and the southwest, expected to be more hard-hit than others.
HealthDay said global warming would affect fatal injury rates for various reasons, citing as examples people tending to be out on the roads more often and drinking more alcohol during warm weather. Heat can also fuel anger and distress, it said, quoting unnamed researchers.
Parks’ study’s findings were welcomed by researcher Dr Mona Sarfaty, who heads the climate and health programme at George Mason University in Virginia. She said the study offers “rational explanations” as to why climate change could contribute to deaths from injuries.
Dr Mona was also quoted by HealthDay as promoting the benefits of the study’s findings being put to practice. As an example, if local authorities knew that certain fatal injuries rise during heat waves, they could take preventive steps, including having a more visible presence of police on the roads, or tougher enforcement of swimming restrictions in public waters.
Dr Mona is also executive director of the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health, a group that has highlighted the broad range of health effects related to global warming.
These include heat-related illness from more frequent heat waves, exacerbation of heart and lung disease from air pollution, increases in insect-borne infections, and illnesses caused by contamination of water and food supplies due to downpours, rising sea levels, and flooding.