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Heatwaves already causing more deaths, hospitalizations — researchers

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Climate change is already taking its toll on Israel’s health system, with both premature deaths from exposure to extreme heat and weather-linked hospital visits on the rise. But the Health Ministry has no action plan or any specific budget for dealing with the consequences of climate change.

Extreme heat can cause premature births and eclampsia and increase the chances of strokes and strong allergic reactions, a conference on climate change and public health at Ben Gurion University in southern Israel heard on Sunday.

Furthermore, with global warming, disease-bearing parasites are spreading to areas where they have no natural predators. Floods caused by heavy rainfall can churn up pollutants and sweep them into the water system. These include animal urine, which can transmit the potentially fatal leptospirosis disease, fears of which have already prompted the temporary closure of streams in northern Israel.

Dr. Tamar Berman, an environmental toxicologist from Jerusalem’s Hebrew University who works with the Health Ministry, told the online confab that while the government had approved a decision (in Hebrew) in 2018 to prepare for climate change, none of the relevant ministries had received any funding to carry out the necessary work.

A Health Ministry spokesperson confirmed to The Times of Israel that “there is no dedicated budget for dealing with the climate crisis.”

Some progress had been made, Berman said, with the establishment of a special directorate and seven subcommittees and steps such as the mapping of the heat-related dangers ahead. In the sphere of health, these include increasing pressure on accident and emergency departments, a rise in pathogenic disease and physiological and mental illness, more pollution of the air (for example from sandstorms), and........

© The Times of Israel

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