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NC Medical Professionals Prescribe Climate Action to Protect Health

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Thursday, October 29, 2020   

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Doctors and nurses around the country are warning climate change is a clear and present threat to their patients' health and safety.

Sea levels along North Carolina's coasts are rising, putting drinking water and infrastructure at risk, while increasingly frequent and fierce hurricanes and floods are threatening communities' homes and livelihoods.

Extreme heat exposure, which can lead to heat exhaustion, heart disease and diabetes complications, is another looming climate threat, experts believe.

Dr. Norma Safranksy, a private-practice psychiatrist in Chapel Hill, said she's seeing increasing distress and worry about climate change among her patients.

"A lot of the young people that I'm working with as a psychiatrist are wondering whether they should think about having children or not," Safranksy observed. "They're going to be raising them on a planet that isn't sustainable for human habitation. I hear a lot of anxiety and depression coming from those sorts of worries."

Thousands of medical professionals in all 50 states recently signed a letter calling on the American people to demand leaders act to solve climate change in order to protect everyone's health and safety now and in the future.

Dr. Minta Philips, a retired radiologist based in Greensboro, said physicians take oaths to protect patients from harm, and believes it's the responsibility of medical professionals to make patients aware of the dangers of rising temperatures.

"In 2016, nearly 5,000 North Carolinians visited the emergency department for heat-related illness, a 43% increase from previous years," Philips noted.

Experts say supply-chain disruptions, which many Americans experienced at the start of the pandemic, may become an everyday reality for communities, especially coastal residents, who are grappling with increasingly extreme weather events.

But Safranksy contended North Carolinians can make a difference on climate issues. She said it's up to residents to learn how their candidates stand by checking legislative scorecards and climate report cards.

"Everybody can make a difference," Safranksy maintained. "If you would, please all call your senators and your congressman and let them know this is an issue that needs to be addressed pretty quickly."

Researchers estimate that each degree Celsius increase in temperature will lead to an additional 1,000 deaths in the U.S., and many more cases of respiratory illness and asthma.


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