From: Meraiah Foley, Associated Press
Published September 22, 2005 12:00 AM

Global Warming Could Cause up to 10,000 Deaths Per Year in Asia-Pacific, WHO Official Says

NOUMEA, New Caledonia — Up to 10,000 people in the Asia-Pacific region could be dying each year as a result of factors associated with global warming such as severe weather and mosquito-borne disease, a World Health Organization expert said Thursday.


Based on data gathered in 2000, the U.N. health agency estimates that changing weather patterns already has a substantial impact on people in the Western Pacific region, which includes most of North Asia, parts of Southeast Asia and the South Pacific, according to Dr. Hisashi Ogawa, WHO's regional environmental adviser.


"Roughly 10,000 people ... are estimated to die due to various factors" resulting from climate change every year, Ogawa told The Associated Press during a break in a WHO conference in Noumea, New Caledonia.


But, he warned: "That number could increase" over the next 50 to 100 years.


Preliminary research suggests that rising global temperatures have already led to an increase in extreme weather patterns in the region, including cyclones, typhoons, droughts and floods, he said.


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For example, the incidence of storms in the Western Pacific region had risen by about 2 percent from the early 1980s to the late 1990s, Ogawa said.


"But the number of deaths due to various natural disasters -- droughts, floods, storms -- has increased (by) about 30 to 40 percent," he said.


Ogawa said it was not possible to pinpoint the exact reason for the rise in deaths, but said the region's increasingly aged population was more vulnerable to adverse weather conditions.


Rising temperatures also may reduce water quality in some areas and lead to a rise in diseases spread by mosquitoes, which breed in stagnant water, Ogawa warned.


He said regional governments should step-up measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but should also boost surveillance of climate change related illnesses.


"Of course we need to reduce the emissions," he said. "But in the meantime, knowing the increase in global temperature, we need to adapt ourselves or our way of living to ... the changing climate (and) weather patterns."


Other environmental factors have also taken their toll on health in the region, WHO said.


An estimated 1 million people die each year from health risks associated with indoor smoke from cooking and heating fuels, urban air pollution, unsafe water and inadequate hygiene and sanitation. Other risks include exposure to lead, agrochemical contaminants and industrial accidents, WHO said.


On Thursday, the Western Pacific Regional Committee, WHO's governing body in the region, said the number of fatalities could increase if member states do not work to improve workplace conditions and do more to fight environmental health risks.


Source: Associated Press


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