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Health Highlights: May 6, 2014

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Climate Change Effects Already Being Felt Across the United States: Report

Every part of the United States is feeling the effects of climate change, according to a new report.

It says that heat waves are becoming more common and severe, wildfires are getting worse, forests are being ravaged by heat-loving insects, heavy rains are increasing in wet regions and water resources are dwindling in dry areas, The New York Times reported.

These significant impacts have been caused by an average warming of less than 2 degrees Fahrenheit over most parts of the U.S. in the past century, the panel of scientists wrote in the National Climate Assessment paper.

They warned that if emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide continue to rise at a rapid rate, the climate could warm by more than 10 degrees F by the end of the century, The Times reported.

"Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present," the panel wrote.

"Summers are longer and hotter, and extended periods of unusual heat last longer than any living American has ever experienced," the report noted. "Winters are generally shorter and warmer. Rain comes in heavier downpours. People are seeing changes in the length and severity of seasonal allergies, the plant varieties that thrive in their gardens, and the kinds of birds they see in any particular month in their neighborhoods."

Climate change does provide some benefits in the short term -- such as a longer growing season for farmers and a longer shipping season on the Great Lakes -- but these are likely to offset by increasing negative effects, the panel said. For example, food production may fall in coming decades due to the effects of rising temperatures and water shortages, The Times reported.

"Climate change presents a major challenge for society," the scientists wrote. "There is mounting evidence that harm to the nation will increase substantially in the future unless global emissions of heat-trapping gases are greatly reduced."

The report was released Tuesday morning at the White House. The Obama administration hopes the findings will help create public support for new regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

"Yes, climate change is already here," Richard Alley, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University, told The Times."But the costs so far are still on the low side compared to what will be coming under business as usual by late in this century."

He was not involved in writing the report but reviewed a late draft.

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Coca-Cola to Eliminate Controversial Substance From Beverages

A controversial ingredient will be removed from many of Coca-Cola's citrus-flavored drinks, the company says.

The move is in response to consumers' concerns about brominated vegetable oil, which contains bromine, an element found in flame retardants, The New York Times reported.

The beverages that contain the substance include Fresca, some varieties of Fanta, and some fountain drinks.

Coca-Cola said that brominated vegetable oil will be replaced with sucrose acetate isobutyrate and/or glycerol ester of rosin. The first is common in beverages, and the second is used in gum, The Times reported.

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