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New report states that climate change could soon kill thousands in the UK

by Rachel Thomas
February 12, 2008

A department of health report today suggested that it is highly likely that a nine day, 27 degree heatwave could occur in the South-East of England within the next decade; potentially killing up to 3,000 people.

The report, entitled Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK 2008, forecast that there would be a rise in skin cancers as a result of increased exposure to sunlight.

Furthermore the report suggested that over the next fifty years air pollution could lead to an additional 1,500 hospital admissions and deaths each year.

The report suggested that, without any prevention, chances of a heatwave of this severity happening by 2017 were at 25%. The report predicted that in addition to an immediate 3000 deaths, an expected further 3350 people would die from heat-related conditions throughout the summer.

In addition to this skin cancer rates are predicted to rise, with new studies confirming the damaging effects of increased exposure to ultra-violet light.

The report also stated that temperatures are set to rise by between 2.5C and 3C over the next 100 years with cold weather periods being less frequent but heatwaves increasingly widespread.

The report referred to the fact that the air pollution climate in the UK will continue to change, with the concentration of the ozone expected to intensify.

An increase in food poisoning is also expected as a result of the temperature rises, with the report forecasting that there would be an increase in food poisoning cases of 14.5%, up to 14,000 more cases altogether.

Several experts have spoken of the challenge humanity faces in climate change. Professor Robert Maynard, chairman of the expert panel that constructed the report, identified climate change as one of the foremost challenges to be faced this century. He further stated the importance of taking any actions to reduce consequences and gauge the impact upon health.

Dawn Primarolo, the health minister, stated that the NHS would have to acclimatize to the problems to be faced as a result of climate change.

Such steps would include ensuring that hospitals could deal with the effects of heat, floods and gales; disaster preparation; distributing general advice on how to deal with climate change to the public and developing local plans for gales, heatwaves and flooding.

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