Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Heat Effects Are Unique: Mortality Risk Depends on Heat Wave, Community Characteristics

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Heat Effects Are Unique: Mortality Risk Depends on Heat Wave, Community Characteristics

Article excerpt

During heat waves, higher-than-normal temperatures can present a deadly threat, with mortality occasionally doubling. Recent studies have demonstrated that heat-related mortality risk is influenced by the characteristics of the individual heat wave (such as heat intensity, duration, and timing in season). Researchers explored this relationship more fully in one of the largest multicity studies to date of heat wave impacts in the United States [EHP 119(2):210-218; Anderson and Bell].

The authors identified heat waves in 43 U.S. communities during the years 1987-2005. A heat wave was defined as 2 or more days in which temperatures exceeded the 95th percentile of warm season (May-September) temperatures for that community during the 19-year period. Each heat wave was characterized according to heat intensity (average mean temperature), duration in days, and the point in the season when the heat wave occurred.

The investigators estimated a 3.74% increase in average daily risk of nonaccidental death during the heat waves compared with non-heat wave days. Although longer and more intense heat waves were more common in the South, estimated effects of heat waves on mortality were greater in the Midwest and greatest of all in the Northeast. …

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