How Hot is Too Hot?

While they may not sound extreme, temperatures over 90 degrees can easily pose fatal risks and could have long-term impacts on public health.

1 minute read

May 23, 2023, 11:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Too often, policymakers overlook extreme heat as a major public health risk, despite heat being the top weather-related killer in the United States. As Sarah Trent warns in an article for High Country News, “Health risks increase when temperatures are higher than locals are used to, not just when they reach triple-digits.”

Trent notes that “In addition to direct health impacts, heat waves are known to increase gun violence, as well as domestic and other violence.” New research is also revealing long-term impacts for pregnant people: “Prolonged heat can cause pre-term births, low birth weight and gestational diabetes.”

In the Pacific Northwest, where hundreds of people died of heat-related causes during a heat wave in 2021, temperatures are now reaching 90 degrees and above earlier in the year, when human bodies and behavior are not yet acclimated to the heat and heat mitigation facilities are not yet open for the summer.

According to Adelle Monteblanco, a public health professor at Pacific University, “We have to prepare our cities for hotter temperatures” with cooling centers and policy changes to protect workers, unhoused people, and other vulnerable groups.

Friday, May 19, 2023 in High Country News

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