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Your Environment. Your Health.

Warmer Days may Mean More Emergency Visits and Deaths Among all Ages

Gregory A. Wellenius, Sc.D.
Brown University
NIEHS Grant R01ES020871

An NIEHS-funded study reports that, in Rhode Island, when maximum daily temperatures rose from 75°F to 85°F, heat-related emergency department admissions and deaths increase among people of all ages. The study also projects that the warmer temperatures forecast for the end of the century could increase emergency department visits and deaths even more.

The researchers conducted a statistical analysis of emergency department visits, deaths, and weather data, taking into account possibly confounding factors such as ozone levels. During April through October between 2005 and 2012, they found that an increase in maximum daily temperature from 75 to 85°F was associated with a 23.9 percent higher rate of heat-related visits, which was most pronounced among people ages 18 to 64. The researchers also estimate that if this Rhode Island population were exposed to temperatures projected for 2092 to 2099, there would be 24.4 percent more heat-related emergency department admissions as well as 1.6 percent more deaths each year.

The results suggest the need to consider the cumulative benefit of public health educational campaigns and heat warning systems that reflect the potential hazards of even moderate maximum daily temperatures.

Citation: Kingsley SL, Eliot MN, Gold J, Vanderslice RR, Wellenius GA. 2015. Current and projected heat-related morbidity and mortality in Rhode Island. Environ Health Perspect; doi:10.1289/ehp.1408826 [Online 7 Aug 2015].