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Heat Waves in the United States: Mortality Risk during Heat Waves and Effect Modification by Heat Wave Characteristics in 43 U.S. Communities

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      Abstract

      BackgroundDevastating health effects from recent heat waves, and projected increases in frequency, duration, and severity of heat waves from climate change, highlight the importance of understanding health consequences of heat waves.ObjectivesWe analyzed mortality risk for heat waves in 43 U.S. cities (1987–2005) and investigated how effects relate to heat waves’ intensity, duration, or timing in season.MethodsHeat waves were defined as ≥ 2 days with temperature ≥ 95th percentile for the community for 1 May through 30 September. Heat waves were characterized by their intensity, duration, and timing in season. Within each community, we estimated mortality risk during each heat wave compared with non-heat wave days, controlling for potential confounders. We combined individual heat wave effect estimates using Bayesian hierarchical modeling to generate overall effects at the community, regional, and national levels. We estimated how heat wave mortality effects were modified by heat wave characteristics (intensity, duration, timing in season).ResultsNationally, mortality increased 3.74% [95% posterior interval (PI), 2.29–5.22%] during heat waves compared with non-heat wave days. Heat wave mortality risk increased 2.49% for every 1°F increase in heat wave intensity and 0.38% for every 1-day increase in heat wave duration. Mortality increased 5.04% (95% PI, 3.06–7.06%) during the first heat wave of the summer versus 2.65% (95% PI, 1.14–4.18%) during later heat waves, compared with non-heat wave days. Heat wave mortality impacts and effect modification by heat wave characteristics were more pronounced in the Northeast and Midwest compared with the South.ConclusionsWe found higher mortality risk from heat waves that were more intense or longer, or those occurring earlier in summer. These findings have implications for decision makers and researchers estimating health effects from climate change.

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      More intense, more frequent, and longer lasting heat waves in the 21st century.

      A global coupled climate model shows that there is a distinct geographic pattern to future changes in heat waves. Model results for areas of Europe and North America, associated with the severe heat waves in Chicago in 1995 and Paris in 2003, show that future heat waves in these areas will become more intense, more frequent, and longer lasting in the second half of the 21st century. Observations and the model show that present-day heat waves over Europe and North America coincide with a specific atmospheric circulation pattern that is intensified by ongoing increases in greenhouse gases, indicating that it will produce more severe heat waves in those regions in the future.
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        Evidence on the health risks associated with short-term exposure to fine particles (particulate matter 200,000) with 11.5 million Medicare enrollees (aged >65 years) living an average of 5.9 miles from a PM2.5 monitor. Daily counts of county-wide hospital admissions for primary diagnosis of cerebrovascular, peripheral, and ischemic heart diseases, heart rhythm, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and respiratory infection, and injuries as a control outcome. There was a short-term increase in hospital admission rates associated with PM2.5 for all of the health outcomes except injuries. The largest association was for heart failure, which had a 1.28% (95% confidence interval, 0.78%-1.78%) increase in risk per 10-microg/m3 increase in same-day PM2.5. Cardiovascular risks tended to be higher in counties located in the Eastern region of the United States, which included the Northeast, the Southeast, the Midwest, and the South. Short-term exposure to PM2.5 increases the risk for hospital admission for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ] Environmental Engineering Program and
            [2 ] School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
            Author notes
            Address correspondence to M.L. Bell, 195 Prospect St., New Haven, CT 06511. Telephone: (203) 432-9869. Fax: (203) 436-9158. E-mail: michelle.bell@ 123456yale.edu

            The authors declare they have no actual or potential competing financial interests.

            Journal
            Environ Health Perspect
            Environmental Health Perspectives
            National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
            0091-6765
            1552-9924
            February 2011
            18 November 2010
            : 119
            : 2
            : 210-218
            3040608
            21084239
            10.1289/ehp.1002313
            ehp-119-210
            This is an Open Access article: verbatim copying and redistribution of this article are permitted in all media for any purpose, provided this notice is preserved along with the article's original DOI.
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            Research

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