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More Hot Summer Days in New Hampshire's Future?

August 26, 2009

CONCORD, N. H. - With all the rain that has splashed the Northeast this summer, you'll hear few complaints about high temperatures - that is, unless you're listening to climate scientists and health experts. A new report from the National Wildlife Federation details growing concern for human health as a result of extended days of extreme summer heat.

Dr. Amanda Staudt, an NWF scientist, says global warming is changing the climate and, unless the nation works to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, pollution could get worse as temperatures rise. In areas like Concord, Manchester and Nashua, hotter summers could prompt increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and asthma attacks.

"Particularly, people who are in poor health and the elderly often suffer the most. Heat waves can also exacerbate air pollution, so that puts children at risk, too."

According to Jim Rubens, policy consultant for the Union of Concerned Scientists, cases of people with asthma in the United States have doubled since 1970; in New Hampshire, they've increased 25 percent since 2000. He attributes the spike to such factors as increased air pollutants, adding that one of the main causes of pollution in the state is the coal-fired power plant in Bow. If we don't change our reliance on fossil fuels, says Rubens, he agrees with the NWF report - that we will see an increase in hot summer days.

"In New Hampshire, by the end of this century, we are going to see over three weeks every year, over a hundred degrees Fahrenheit - and these extreme heat days cost human lives."

He says individuals can help reduce the effects of global warming by properly insulating their homes and using wood-pellet stoves for winter heating. Not everyone agrees that global warming exists, however - some remain convinced that changes in weather patterns are cyclical, and that fossil fuels do not contribute.

The New Hampshire Department of Health & Human Services offers this list of tips for persons at higher risk of heat-related illnesses: Limit outdoor activity during especially hot days, and try to stay in an air-conditioned home or public facility. Stay hydrated, too - that means avoiding caffeine and alcohol, both of which can cause dehydration.

The report, "More Extreme Heat Waves: Global Warming's Wakeup Call," is available online at www.nwf.org.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - NH