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      High ambient temperature and mortality: a review of epidemiologic studies from 2001 to 2008

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      Environmental Health

      BioMed Central

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          This review examines recent evidence on mortality from elevated ambient temperature for studies published from January 2001 to December 2008.


          PubMed was used to search for the following keywords: temperature, apparent temperature, heat, heat index, and mortality. The search was limited to the English language and epidemiologic studies. Studies that reported mortality counts or excess deaths following heat waves were excluded so that the focus remained on general ambient temperature and mortality in a variety of locations. Studies focusing on cold temperature effects were also excluded.


          Thirty-six total studies were presented in three tables: 1) elevated ambient temperature and mortality; 2) air pollutants as confounders and/or effect modifiers of the elevated ambient temperature and mortality association; and 3) vulnerable subgroups of the elevated ambient temperature-mortality association. The evidence suggests that particulate matter with less than 10 um in aerodynamic diameter and ozone may confound the association, while ozone was an effect modifier in the warmer months in some locations. Nonetheless, the independent effect of temperature and mortality was withheld. Elevated temperature was associated with increased risk for those dying from cardiovascular, respiratory, cerebrovascular, and some specific cardiovascular diseases, such as ischemic heart disease, congestive heart failure, and myocardial infarction. Vulnerable subgroups also included: Black racial/ethnic group, women, those with lower socioeconomic status, and several age groups, particularly the elderly over 65 years of age as well as infants and young children.


          Many of these outcomes and vulnerable subgroups have only been identified in recent studies and varied by location and study population. Thus, region-specific policies, especially in urban areas, are vital to the mitigation of heat-related deaths.

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          Most cited references 48

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          Temperature and mortality in 11 cities of the eastern United States.

          Episodes of extremely hot or cold temperatures are associated with increased mortality. Time-series analyses show an association between temperature and mortality across a range of less extreme temperatures. In this paper, the authors describe the temperature-mortality association for 11 large eastern US cities in 1973-1994 by estimating the relative risks of mortality using log-linear regression analysis for time-series data and by exploring city characteristics associated with variations in this temperature-mortality relation. Current and recent days' temperatures were the weather components most strongly predictive of mortality, and mortality risk generally decreased as temperature increased from the coldest days to a certain threshold temperature, which varied by latitude, above which mortality risk increased as temperature increased. The authors also found a strong association of the temperature-mortality relation with latitude, with a greater effect of colder temperatures on mortality risk in more-southern cities and of warmer temperatures in more-northern cities. The percentage of households with air conditioners in the south and heaters in the north, which serve as indicators of socioeconomic status of the city population, also predicted weather-related mortality. The model developed in this analysis is potentially useful for projecting the consequences of climate-change scenarios and offering insights into susceptibility to the adverse effects of weather.
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            Heat stroke.

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              Heat effects on mortality in 15 European cities.

              Epidemiologic studies show that high temperatures are related to mortality, but little is known about the exposure-response function and the lagged effect of heat. We report the associations between daily maximum apparent temperature and daily deaths during the warm season in 15 European cities. The city-specific analyses were based on generalized estimating equations and the city-specific results were combined in a Bayesian random effects meta-analysis. We specified distributed lag models in studying the delayed effect of exposure. Time-varying coefficient models were used to check the assumption of a constant heat effect over the warm season. The city-specific exposure-response functions have a V shape, with a change-point that varied among cities. The meta-analytic estimate of the threshold was 29.4 degrees C for Mediterranean cities and 23.3 degrees C for north-continental cities. The estimated overall change in all natural mortality associated with a 1 degrees C increase in maximum apparent temperature above the city-specific threshold was 3.12% (95% credibility interval = 0.60% to 5.72%) in the Mediterranean region and 1.84% (0.06% to 3.64%) in the north-continental region. Stronger associations were found between heat and mortality from respiratory diseases, and with mortality in the elderly. There is an important mortality effect of heat across Europe. The effect is evident from June through August; it is limited to the first week following temperature excess, with evidence of mortality displacement. There is some suggestion of a higher effect of early season exposures. Acclimatization and individual susceptibility need further investigation as possible explanations for the observed heterogeneity among cities.

                Author and article information

                Environ Health
                Environmental Health
                BioMed Central
                16 September 2009
                : 8
                : 40
                [1 ]California Office of Environmental Hazard Assessment, Air Pollution Epidemiology Section, Oakland, California, USA
                Copyright ©2009 Basu; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


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