Thursday, February 11, 2010

New device detects who will suffer most from global warming heat waves

Randy Shore in the Vancouver Sun: SFU researchers have fashioned a device that can detect who will be most at risk of death during heat waves associated with global warming, a potential boon to elderly people and heart patients. The End-Tidal Forcing (ETF) system looks like the breathing apparatus that professional sports teams use to assess athletes, but it allows environmental physiologist Matthew White and his colleagues to measure a person’s ability to withstand periods of extreme heat or rising carbon dioxide levels.

“Global warming may only raise the temperature by a few degrees on average, but it is increasing the frequency of heat waves,” said White. “There is a substantial risk of death among the elderly during heat waves. “The elderly have a lower chemo-sensitivity in the heat, a lower ability to adapt.”

The ETF can alter the mix of nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide that a person breathes allowing researchers to measure how well the body delivers oxygen to the body’s tissues and how well it regulates respiration under extreme conditions. White can create the experience of breathing at the top of Mount Everest or 20,000 leagues under the sea.

…White expects the device may be used to assess heart patients and determine those most at risk of adverse reactions to heat and even changing barometric pressure, such as people experience during air travel. White plans to study how people with heart and lung disease respond to climate change-induced hot environments…..

Suffering in the summer heat in New York's Time Square, shot by Alex Guerrero, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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