Heat May Kill Way More Americans Yearly Than We Knew

Heat May Kill Way More Americans Yearly Than We Knew

Heat may kill more people in the US than previously reported, according to a new study.

Death records point to hundreds of US deaths from heat each year, but even moderately hot weather may actually be killing thousands, the researchers report.

“Heat is very much a threat to the health of our communities and our families today.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention previously estimated 600 deaths may be attributable to heat each year.

The study in Environmental Epidemiology estimates that heat contributed to the deaths of 5,600 people each year on average between 1997 and 2006 in 297 counties comprising three-fifths of the US population.

Most of these deaths were from only moderately hot weather, rather than extremely hot weather—categories that the researchers defined not by temperature, but by what temperatures are normal for a given region of the US.

“How dangerous a hot day is may depend on where you live,” says lead author Kate R. Weinberger, assistant professor of occupational and environmental health at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health.


 Get The Latest From InnerSelf


“A 90°F day might be dangerous in Seattle, but not in Phoenix,” she says. “One of the factors that gives rise to this phenomenon is differing degrees of adaptation to heat. For example, air conditioning is much more common in cities like Phoenix that experience hot weather frequently versus cities like Seattle with cooler climates,” Weinberger says. She notes that demographic factors can also affect how vulnerable a population is to heat—heat especially endangers older adults, children, pregnant women, and outdoor workers.

The researchers also point out that COVID-19 will make it harder to stay cool this summer.

The researchers used data from the National Center for Health Statistics on deaths in the most populous counties (1997 to 2006 was the most recent decade with continuous data available), and the Parameter-elevation Relationships on Independent Slopes Model (PRISM), which estimates temperatures across the contiguous US down to the four-square-kilometer area.

While most previous research has focused on the information provided on death records to try to estimate deaths from heat, this study analyzed the association between days considered moderately or extremely hot in that county and the number of deaths from any cause, showing that not hundreds but thousands of deaths are tied to heat. The researchers estimated that moderate heat killed 3,309 people per year in the counties included in the study, and extreme heat killed 2,299 people each year.

“These estimates do not depend on anyone recognizing that a given death was due to excess heat, so they are likely closer to the true number than previous estimates,” says senior author Gregory Wellenius, director of the Climate and Health program at the Boston University School of Public Health.

“Heat is very much a threat to the health of our communities and our families today,” he says. “Public health officials have a responsibility to implement heat action plans—as many communities across the world already have—in order to warn residents ahead of days of extreme heat and to help residents cope with the heat and minimize their health risks.”

However, the researchers point out that COVID-19 will make it harder to stay cool this summer. “Providing publicly accessible air conditioned spaces on hot days now carries additional risks and requires new protocols for keeping people safe from both heat and infection,” Wellenius says.

“At the same time, with many offices, malls, stores, restaurants, and other commercial buildings still largely closed, this summer people are even more reliant on home air conditioning than ever before,” he says.

“Given the high unemployment rates, particularly among vulnerable communities, we may see an even bigger impact of heat on people’s health this summer.”

Original Study

Related Books

Life After Carbon: The Next Global Transformation of Cities

by Peter Plastrik , John Cleveland
1610918495The future of our cities is not what it used to be. The modern-city model that took hold globally in the twentieth century has outlived its usefulness. It cannot solve the problems it helped to create—especially global warming. Fortunately, a new model for urban development is emerging in cities to aggressively tackle the realities of climate change. It transforms the way cities design and use physical space, generate economic wealth, consume and dispose of resources, exploit and sustain the natural ecosystems, and prepare for the future. Available On Amazon

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

by Elizabeth Kolbert
1250062187Over the last half-billion years, there have been Five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In prose that is at once frank, entertaining, and deeply informed, New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert tells us why and how human beings have altered life on the planet in a way no species has before. Interweaving research in half a dozen disciplines, descriptions of the fascinating species that have already been lost, and the history of extinction as a concept, Kolbert provides a moving and comprehensive account of the disappearances occurring before our very eyes. She shows that the sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy, compelling us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human. Available On Amazon

Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival as the World Overheats

by Gwynne Dyer
1851687181Waves of climate refugees. Dozens of failed states. All-out war. From one of the world’s great geopolitical analysts comes a terrifying glimpse of the strategic realities of the near future, when climate change drives the world’s powers towards the cut-throat politics of survival. Prescient and unflinching, Climate Wars will be one of the most important books of the coming years. Read it and find out what we’re heading for. Available On Amazon

From The Publisher:
Purchases on Amazon go to defray the cost of bringing you InnerSelf.comelf.com, MightyNatural.com, and ClimateImpactNews.com at no cost and without advertisers that track your browsing habits. Even if you click on a link but don't buy these selected products, anything else you buy in that same visit on Amazon pays us a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, so please contribute to the effort. You can also use this link to use to Amazon at any time so you can help support our efforts.

 

enafarzh-CNzh-TWnltlfifrdehiiditjakomsnofaptruessvtrvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook-icontwitter-iconrss-icon

 Get The Latest By Email

{emailcloak=off}

FROM THE EDITORS

Blue-Eyes vs Brown Eyes: How Racism is Taught
by Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf
In this 1992 Oprah Show episode, award-winning anti-racism activist and educator Jane Elliott taught the audience a tough lesson about racism by demonstrating just how easy it is to learn prejudice.
A Change Is Gonna Come...
by Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf
(May 30, 2020) As I watch the news on the events in Philadephia and other cities in the country, my heart aches for what is transpiring. I know that this is part of the greater change that is taking…
A Song Can Uplift the Heart and Soul
by Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf
I have several ways that I use to clear the darkness from my mind when I find it has crept in. One is gardening, or spending time in nature. The other is silence. Another way is reading. And one that…
Why Donald Trump Could Be History's Biggest Loser
by Robert Jennings, InnerSelf.com
This whole coronavirus pandemic is costing a fortune, maybe 2 or 3 or 4 fortunes, all of unknown size. Oh yeah, and, hundreds of thousands, maybe a million, of people will die prematurely as a direct…
Mascot for the Pandemic and Theme Song for Social Distancing and Isolation
by Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf
I came across a song recently and as I listened to the lyrics, I thought it would be a perfect song as a "theme song" for these times of social isolation. (Lyrics below the video.)