In Your Backyard: New NRDC Web Tool Details How Climate Change Increases Threat of Infectious Disease, High Frequency of Drought, Flooding, Air Pollution in Southern States

AL, AR, DC, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, VA and WV, analyzed in NRDC web tool

WASHINGTON, Aug. 3, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Climate change is expected to lead to increased threats of Dengue Fever and worsen drought, floods, and air pollution along with myriad health problems, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

A new web tool unveiled by NRDC lets users read just how badly their state might be impacted by climate change. On the site, www.nrdc.org/climatemaps, users can see local data and maps detailing extreme weather patterns throughout the country, see local climate change vulnerabilities and learn about health problems in their own communities that are connected to climate change.  

Based on an analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Climatic Data Center, and other resources, NRDC's new "Climate Change Threatens Health" webpage lets users see the effects of climate change at a regional and state level.

For example, the website shows that 47 percent of states, mainly in the south and southeast (24 of 51: AL, AZ, AR, DE, DC, FL, GA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MD, MS, MO, NJ, NC, OH, OK, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA, WV), are vulnerable to the spread of dengue fever.

States are vulnerable to the spread of Dengue Fever when there are documented human cases, as well as mosquitoes that can carry and transmit the virus. As climate change warms temperatures and disrupts rainfall patterns, it can extend mosquito activity seasons, leaving people exposed longer, or expanding areas suitable for the mosquito to inhabit. These mosquitoes that transmit dengue thrive in close contact with humans. An estimated 173.5 million Americans live in counties with one or both of the mosquito species.

Among the key findings of the data:

  • Mid-Atlantic states like New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland had the majority of counties reporting having one or both of the mosquito species that can carry and transmit this painful viral illness. Other areas vulnerable to the spread of Dengue Fever cut across a swath of states from California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas all the way up into New York and New Hampshire, as of 2005.
  • Of the 24 states most vulnerable to dengue fever, 21 (88 percent) do not have climate change adaptation plans that specifically address infectious diseases (AL, AZ, AR, DE, DC, GA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MS, MO, NJ, NC, OH, OK, PA, SC, TN, TX, WV), highlighting the low state of national climate-health preparedness in many locations.
  • On the positive side, 12 percent (3 of 24: FL, MD, VA) of states in the highest vulnerability group have infectious disease climate preparedness plans to help protect their residents' health, and eight more states have infectious disease climate-health preparedness plans already in place (8 of 51, or 16 percent of states: Alaska, California, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Washington state, and Wisconsin).

"Climate change is real and in many cases is already affecting people and natural ecosystems," said Kim Knowlton, senior scientist in NRDC's health and environment program "Our analysis will help people across the country find out exactly how climate change affects their state. From the dangers of extreme heat and increased flooding to the spread of  ragweed whose pollen causes allergies or mosquitoes that can spread disease, climate change does not discriminate and local communities need to be better prepared."

Dan Lashof, director of NRDC's Climate Center, said these threats, aggravated by increased levels of carbon pollution, illustrate the danger of congressional efforts to dismantle the Clean Air Act and its public health protections.

 "Climate preparedness should be better funded, and the states that don't have public health preparedness strategies in their climate adaptation plans definitely need to add those," Lashof said.  "Our maps show this is an ongoing problem, and the health effects of this summer's heat waves have not even been fully measured yet."

The NRDC website can be found here www.nrdc.org/climatemaps.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org.

SOURCE Natural Resources Defense Council, Washington, D.C.



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