Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Missouri Tops Nation in Rate of Heat Deaths

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Missouri Tops Nation in Rate of Heat Deaths

Article excerpt

Everyone knows Missouri's summer heat can kill.

But just how deadly it is has now been scorched into the record books by a new study at Western Michigan University, at Kalamazoo.

From 1980 to 1990, no other state came close to Missouri's total of 514 heat-related deaths, the study says.

Missouri had 10.2 heat-related deaths per 100,000 residents during the decade - nearly twice Arizona's rate, the second-highest in the nation.

Results of the study are timely because hot weather's on the way. Over the weekend, temperatures will edge higher into the 90s.

"By the Fourth of July, the high temperature will be 97 degrees and the heat index (the combined effect of heat and humidity) will be 103 degrees," said meteorologist Stephen Pryor of WeatherData Inc., a forecasting company in Wichita, Kan.

Health officials here said earlier studies of heat-deaths had shown them how to prepare for heat waves.

In the study by Western Michigan University, Arizona had 187 deaths and Oklahoma had 178 deaths - or rates of 5.9 and 5.8 deaths per 100,000 residents, respectively. Such rates give a more accurate picture of a health problem than simply the number of deaths. The total number of deaths in a state or city can be misleading because they don't account for changes in population.

In the new study, Illinois had the fifth-highest total of deaths - 213 - in the decade surveyed. But Illinois had a low heat-death rate - only 1.9 deaths per 100,000 people. California had the second-highest number of deaths - 269 - but only one death per 100,000 residents. Alaska was the only state that reported no heat-related deaths for the decade.

States often were inconsistent in gathering statistics, said Stephen Podewell, a geographer at Western Michigan University, who directed the study. Podewell said he had double-checked all the deaths to make sure they were caused by heat and not other problems. …

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