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President's Climate Change Action Could Improve CO Health

Climate change is believed to be a factor in extreme weather events, and medical experts say curbing it could also improve Coloradans' health.
Climate change is believed to be a factor in extreme weather events, and medical experts say curbing it could also improve Coloradans' health.
June 26, 2013

DENVER - President Obama's proposals to address the growing problem of climate change also could improve the long-term quality of Colorado's air and the health of its residents.

Tuesday's announcement comes as extreme weather has sparked another round of wildfires - weather some experts believe is related to a warming climate. Pulmonologist Dr. Anthony Gerber at National Jewish Health in Denver says decisive action is needed to protect public health.

"What I've definitely seen, since I've been in Denver, no question that my patients at National Jewish have worse symptoms on the days when there's smoke pollution from the wildfires," Gerber said.

Last year, the state broke 80 heat records and fought 43 large wildfires.

Obama has said he will limit carbon emissions for new and existing power plants and increase funding for clean-energy technology by executive order, thereby avoiding debate on the issue in a divided Congress.

Gerber said it's important to realize that slowing climate change has to be considered a long-term goal.

"Climate change isn't going to be reversed overnight," he said, "but these are the measures we need to prevent ongoing worsening, prevent more and more days of 90 degrees."

Gerber said pulmonary issues are just one health effect of extreme heat. He said doctors also see more cases of food-borne illnesses because food safety is compromised when weather is hot, and people aren't always prepared for it.

More information on Obama's plan is online at whitehouse.gov.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - CO