THE White House severely edited congressional testimony given yesterday by the director of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention on the effect of climate change on health, removing scientific references to potential health risks, according to two sources familiar with the documents.
Dr Julie Gerberding, director of the CDC, the US's disease monitoring agency, told a Senate hearing that climate change "is anticipated to have a broad range of impacts on the health of Americans". But her prepared testimony was devoted to the CDC's preparation, with few details on what effects climate change could have on the spread of disease.
Only during questioning did Dr Gerberding describe some specific diseases that likely would be affected.
Her testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee had much less information on health risks than a draft version she submitted to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review before her appearance.
"It was eviscerated," said a CDC official, who was not prepared to be named. The official said that while it was customary for testimony to be changed in a White House review, these changes were particularly heavy-handed, with the document cut from 14 pages to four.
The deletions included details of how many people might be affected by increased warming and the scientific basis for some of the CDC's analysis of what kinds of disease might be spread in a warmer climate and rising sea levels. The Office of Management and Budget had no comment on Dr Gerberding's testimony.
Senate committee chairwoman Barbara Boxer produced a CDC chart listing the range of health problems that could emerge from a significant temperature increase and sea level rise. They include fatalities from heat stress and heart failure, injuries and deaths from severe weather, more respiratory problems, an increase in water-borne diseases, and increases in carrier-borne diseases, including malaria and hantavirus.
"These are the potential things you can expect," Dr Gerberding said. "In some of these areas it's not a question of if, it's a question of who, what, how and when."
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