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      Heat Stress and Public Health: A Critical Review

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      Annual Review of Public Health

      Annual Reviews

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          Abstract

          Heat is an environmental and occupational hazard. The prevention of deaths in the community caused by extreme high temperatures (heat waves) is now an issue of public health concern. The risk of heat-related mortality increases with natural aging, but persons with particular social and/or physical vulnerability are also at risk. Important differences in vulnerability exist between populations, depending on climate, culture, infrastructure (housing), and other factors. Public health measures include health promotion and heat wave warning systems, but the effectiveness of acute measures in response to heat waves has not yet been formally evaluated. Climate change will increase the frequency and the intensity of heat waves, and a range of measures, including improvements to housing, management of chronic diseases, and institutional care of the elderly and the vulnerable, will need to be developed to reduce health impacts.

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          Most cited references 69

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          Climate Change 2007

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            Human contribution to the European heatwave of 2003.

            The summer of 2003 was probably the hottest in Europe since at latest ad 1500, and unusually large numbers of heat-related deaths were reported in France, Germany and Italy. It is an ill-posed question whether the 2003 heatwave was caused, in a simple deterministic sense, by a modification of the external influences on climate--for example, increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere--because almost any such weather event might have occurred by chance in an unmodified climate. However, it is possible to estimate by how much human activities may have increased the risk of the occurrence of such a heatwave. Here we use this conceptual framework to estimate the contribution of human-induced increases in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and other pollutants to the risk of the occurrence of unusually high mean summer temperatures throughout a large region of continental Europe. Using a threshold for mean summer temperature that was exceeded in 2003, but in no other year since the start of the instrumental record in 1851, we estimate it is very likely (confidence level >90%) that human influence has at least doubled the risk of a heatwave exceeding this threshold magnitude.
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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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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Annual Review of Public Health
                Annu. Rev. Public Health
                Annual Reviews
                0163-7525
                1545-2093
                April 2008
                April 2008
                : 29
                : 1
                : 41-55
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Public and Environmental Health Research Unit (PEHRU), London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT, United Kingdom; email: ,
                Article
                10.1146/annurev.publhealth.29.020907.090843
                18031221
                © 2008

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