Meet Dr. Donnica Video Introduction TV Appearances

Diseases & Conditions Today on DrDonnica.com Clinical Trials Decisionnaires FAQs Top Tips Fast Facts Debunking Myths News Alerts Celebrity Speak Out Guest Experts Women's Health Champions Books Women's Health Resources

Mission Privacy Policy Sponsors Press Room What's New? Contact Us

This website is accredited by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify. We comply with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here.


Hope Award

Send to a Friend

Celebrities are Hot on Global Warming

By John Morgan, Spotlight Health
With medical adviser Stephen A. Shoop, M.D.

"The most important thing to understand is that global warming is happening now - not ten years from now - but right now," says actress Mimi Rogers, a founding board member of ECO. "It's happening as we speak. So unless we all want to become aquatic, we better do something pretty soon."

A lot sooner than you might think.

According to climate experts the ten hottest years on record have occurred in the last 15 years. In the last century the average temperature only increased one degree. But the UN sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has projected temperature increases as high as 10.4 degrees over the next 100 years.

"To put that in perspective, the upper end of this projected increase is about the same swing in the opposite direction that occurred during the last ice age," says Kevin Knobloch, executive director of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Scientists believe that global warming and the associated effects will create a range of changes - increased temperature, more erratic weather, rising sea level -- that may adversely affect human health.

"In terms of human health, we likely will see water shortages, famine, and increased infectious and respiratory diseases," Knobloch notes.

"I think the health of the people of this country - the air they breathe, the water they drink and the food they eat - is of paramount importance," says benefit attendee Tim Matheson, who recently played the Vice President on The West Wing. "These will all be influenced adversely by global warming."

"As a parent it concerns me about our children's health and future," Sedgwick says. "Not just children in this country but all over the world. Global warming is here right now and it's getting worse."

And when it comes to our health, global warming may have an even deadlier bite to it.

New threat

"In general, climate restricts the range of infectious diseases but it is the weather that affects the timing and intensity of outbreaks of disease," says Dr. Paul R. Epstein, associate director, Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School. "So it is the extreme weather events -- wide swings like droughts punctuated by heavy rains -- that have significant impacts on the biological systems that underpin our health."

Epstein says that infectious disease could dramatically increase if global warming continues unabated. The major diseases that respond most to environmental change are the mosquito-borne illnesses:

  • Malaria
  • Dengue fever
  • West Nile fever

In the United States, West Nile fever poses an immediate and deadly threat.

While West Nile is asymptomatic in many people, it can cause flu-like symptoms, fever, and most seriously, encephalitis, which can be fatal. This is what happened in New York in 1999 when 7 of the 66 people infected died. In the summer of 2002 - West Nile caused 4,156 cases across the US and 284 deaths.

"We also have learned that West Nile plays new tricks," Epstein notes. "It can be transmitted via blood transfusions and blood products, organ transplants, pregnancy and probably breast milk. So we now face an entirely new issue with respect to the safety of our blood supply." The UK has just banned blood donations from summer travelers to the US for two months following their visits.

Unfortunately, the news doesn't get better.

According to Epstein, the urban-dwelling, bird-biting mosquito responsible for spreading West Nile - Culex pipiens - thrives in drought conditions. And global warming of land surfaces and oceans are producing more prolonged  droughts. 

"It appears paradoxical because one thinks of rain and flood plains for mosquitoes, but these urban-dwelling Culex pipiens thrive in drought," Epstein explains. "What happens during drought is the street corner drains have a little water left in them that becomes organically rich with leaf and other litter. This fosters optimal conditions for Culex pipiens."

As a serious drought now grips much of the western US, many experts, like Epstein, are projecting that the biggest explosion of West Nile yet could well occur this summer. To help people try to avoid getting bitten or sick, the American Mosquito Control Association is sponsoring National Mosquito Awareness week June 22-28.

A few good solutions

Aside from reducing greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming and more drought, there are protective measures that people can employ.

Cities and towns can release bacteria larvicides that kill the mosquito larvae before they become adults.

"Some municipalities are already doing this in the East and parts of the West," Epstein says. "But this should be done in virtually every city in the US this summer."

Other prevention measures include:

  • Removing any standing water from their property
  • Reporting any dead birds to state and local health departments
  • Lobbying -- insist that your town enact prevention programs

On an individual level, people can avoid or reduce being outdoors during peak mosquito hours - generally from dusk until dawn. Also recommended is:

  • Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants to provide a barrier.
  • Repairing or installing screens
  • Using repellents such as N-diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET).

While DEET is the most powerful and commonly used repellent, some people are concerned about toxicity issues, especially with children. For those concerned Epstein recommends citronella-oil based products, which are far less toxic, but must be re-applied every 20 minutes or so.

"If you want to wear DEET, you can spray it on your clothes which is probably safer than putting it on your skin," Epstein notes. But experts advise that you never spray DEET-containing repellents under your clothing.

Ultimately, Epstein says that protecting yourself and your family from West Nile and the spread of such emerging diseases implies a personal and national commitment to stopping global warming.

"We are at a level of carbon dioxide that exceeds anything we have seen in the last 420,000 years," Epstein urges. "We are outside that envelope and are in uncharted waters. We have de-stabilized our climate system -- the warming and erratic weather are affecting biological systems and our health. We must reduce our greenhouse gas emissions now."

"The good news is that energy efficiency and clean energy technologies generate jobs," Epstein adds. "Provided the proper incentives, the clean energy transition can be a "win-win" for the economy and the environment."

"If we don't make it clearer to our politicians that this is vitally important to each and every one of us, then we will pay the price," Sedgwick warns.

"But before people get overwhelmed by the enormity of the issue we're facing, we have to realize that if we all pitch in we can make a big positive impact," Rogers says. "One person can make a difference." 

Spotlight Health is the leading creator of celebrity-featured health-issue awareness campaigns, connecting consumers with impassioned celebrities whose personal health battles can open eyes, dispel myths and change lives. Spotlight Health helps sufferers and caregivers meet the challenges of difficult health circumstances with understandable, in-depth medical information, compassionate support and the inspiration needed to make informed healthcare choices.

Created: 7/7/2003  -  John Morgan & Stephen A. Shoop, M.D.
Reviewed: 7/7/2003  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

All the content contained herein is copyrighted pursuant to federal law. Duplication or use without
the express written permission of DrDonnica.com subjects the violator to both civil & criminal penalties.
Copyright © 2006 DrDonnica.com. All rights reserved.

Home | Today on DrDonnica.com | Meet Dr. Donnica | TV Appearances | Clinical Trials
Diseases & Conditions | Decisionnaires | Celebrity Speak Out | Guest Experts | Women's Health Champions
FAQs | Women’s Health Resources | Archive | Books & Tapes | Site Certification | Advanced Search
Mission | What’s New? | Press Room | Privacy Policy | Sponsors | Partners | Contact Us