USA: So far, more heat waves do not mean more heat deaths

Source(s): NPR
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By Christopher Joyce


In the U.S., in fact, heat-related illness appears to be declining.


The Harvard researchers' findings could be related to the fact that more people have air conditioning in their homes. It could be that public health safety messages are more common or are more effective in getting people out of hot places. Whatever is driving it, Jeremy Hess, a medical doctor and heat-illness researcher at the University of Washington, says it's encouraging.


But Hess' own research suggests that it's not winning out uniformly in the population. He found that emergency room visits for heat-related illness were relatively high in rural areas, perhaps because of more exposure to heat and/or less availability of air conditioning.

Some research also shows that agricultural workers are exposed to heat more often. Hess found that men and boys are more likely to suffer from heat illness than women or girls, as are low-income populations and those with certain pre-existing medical conditions, such as kidney disease.


As the climate continues to warm, scientists warn that the incidence of heat-related illness will rise. A new study projects a big increase in the number of emergency room visits for heat-related illness. Based on two scenarios (moderate warming vs. severe warming), there will be 21,000 to 28,000 more visits every summer by 2050. That increase is not related to a higher population; it's strictly the result of more intense heat waves.


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