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HHS Creating New Office Focused On Health Implications Of Climate Change

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Experts say global warming is impacting the health of all Americans.

That climate change concern is why the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Monday announced it'll create an office focused the on health implications of heat waves, droughts, heavy rainfall and stronger hurricanes.

Fire officials ordered more evacuations Monday around California's Lake Tahoe, the latest area of the west inundated by wildfire. And the smoke has spread far and wide.

"I'm thinking of moving actually, because you can't go outside all summer long, you can't go on vacation anywhere," said one resident. "You can't let your dogs out. You can't let your kids play outside. It's too much and it's bad for people with asthma like me."

In Louisiana, the opposite extreme. Many people became submerged in their cars while trying escape Hurricane Ida.

"You had people fainting out there. And some people just haven't seen nothing that like that before. So, yeah, people are just crying and people out there doing CPR. It was a chaotic scene," said hurricane survivor Joseph Durant.

health risks associated with changing weather are increasing, according to climate specialist and CBS News meteorologist Jeff Beradelli.

"The atmosphere is hotter, we have more energy in the system. The heat waves are worse," he said.

The new HHS office will focus on reducing illness and healthcare costs associated with changing weather.

"The alarm bells are ringing and we can't afford to ignore them any longer," said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.

The office within the department is expected to be small, but work in partnership with other federal departments and President Biden's Climate Change task force.

Right now, climate health risks disproportionately impact poor and minority communities. The office says it will work with its state offices to find local solutions.

HHS also wants to push hospitals and healthcare facilities to reduce their carbon footprint, which account for between 8 to 10% of U.S. emissions.

"Make no mistake, if we have authority to move we will do everything within our authority to make things happen," said Becerra.

That could mean new regulations for hospitals already worn with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The American Hospital Association said in a statement another federal government agency is requiring hospitals to upgrade their air purification systems to guard against COVID which increases a hospital's energy use. The group adds financial penalties will not address the root cause of climate change issues.

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