Western heat wave threatens health in vulnerable communities
PHOENIX (AP) — Extreme temperatures like the ones blistering the American West this week aren't just annoying, they're deadly.
The record-breaking temperatures this week are a weather emergency, scientists and health care experts say, with heat responsible for more deaths in the U.S. than all other natural disasters combined. With more frequent and intense heat waves likely because of climate change and the worst drought in modern history, they say communities must better protect the vulnerable, like homeless people and those who live in ethnically and racially diverse low-income neighborhoods.
“This heat has an important effect on people and their health,” said Dr. Suganya Karuppana, chief medical director at the Valle del Sol community health clinics in Arizona.
People — along with plants and animals — need cooler temperatures at night to recover from the stress of high heat, scientists and doctors said. But with overnight temperatures in the 90s, that’s not happening.
Karuppana noted that many people she sees may have no car and have to take public transportation in the Phoenix heat, walking through neighborhoods with few trees and waiting at bus and light rail stops with no or little shade. Some people live in poorly ventilated mobile homes or without air conditioning. Or they may work outside in the sun as construction workers or landscapers.
Phoenix has been baking in temperatures above 115 degrees (46 Celsius) all week. The high Friday was expected to reach 117 degrees (47 Celsius) after hitting a record 118 (48 Celsius) a day earlier. Daily records were set this week in Arizona, Nevada and California, including 128 degrees (53 Celsius) in Death Valley on Thursday.
Those who are vulnerable to high temperatures include the very young, the very old and people...