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PNS Daily Newscast - November 16, 2018 


Winter Storm Avery takes lives, puts the brakes on commutes across the Northeast. Also on our Friday rundown: A first-of-its-kind report calls for policies to ease transitions of young people living in foster care. And "got gratitude" this holiday season? It could benefit your health.

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Study: Blame Climate Change for More NM Dust, Health Concerns

A new study predicts premature deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory disorders could jump 130 percent in southwestern states due to increased dust particulates brought on by a drier, hotter climate. (env.nm.gov)
A new study predicts premature deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory disorders could jump 130 percent in southwestern states due to increased dust particulates brought on by a drier, hotter climate. (env.nm.gov)
June 21, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — If global temperatures continue to rise, dust could join wildfire in adding harmful air pollution in New Mexico and other southwestern states.

Scientists have long warned about the health risks associated with particulate pollution, and laws like the Clean Air Act have helped reduce emissions from industrial sources and cars. Loretta Mickley, a senior research fellow at Harvard University, said her team has uncovered another major threat to air quality in southwestern states.

"The U.S. has done tremendous work to clean the air, to make our air breathable and safe,” Mickley said. “But climate change could come along and throw a monkey wrench in that effort by increasing dust."

Mickley said if climate pollution isn't sharply reduced, states including New Mexico could experience unprecedented "mega droughts" in coming decades.

She explained without enough rainfall, as temperatures rise, more soil dries out and smaller particles end up airborne. Researchers predict that could lead to a 130 percent increase in premature deaths associated with dust, and triple the number of hospitalizations for cardiovascular and respiratory disorders.

Mickley added more dust in the air carries other health risks, including Valley Fever, which is caused by a fungus that thrives in dry soils and can be fatal. She said if the world stays on its current emissions path, the public health impacts of dust could be significant.

"The increased number of people dying every year in our worst-case scenario due to dust is about equivalent to a little less than the number of people who die every year in car crashes,” she said.

Researchers project in the best-case scenario - in which global warming is held below two degrees Celsius - rising fine dust levels could increase premature deaths by 20 percent, and hospital admissions by 60 percent.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM