By: Keara McLaughlin
Summary. Heat waves are regularly associated with climate chaos and environmental concerns. Many people overlook how detrimental heat waves are to the health of the worlds populations. With heat waves increasing in 2021, not only did we see adverse climate effects, but significant health concerns and deaths. Heat waves create droughts, and droughts dry out areas of land that is not typically dry. When land is dry and thus exposed to wind and other factors, particulates circulate through the air significantly impairing the breathing of those with respiratory illnesses and even creating illnesses in people who have never experienced these issues before. Not only do droughts cause illnesses, they also ruin crops and potable water in reservoirs. Individuals facing food and water shortages are then additionally at risk for other kinds of illness including environmental, communicable and noncommunicable. This severely atypical increase in heat creates numerous public health concerns that many may not view as significant, but overtime cause serious stress on the body. Tradesman who work outdoors in areas that are faced with these heat waves such as Arizona and other southern states experience the effects of heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion can lead to long term side effects such as kidney failure and other serious illnesses. In 2021, in Seattle there was one of the worst heat waves ever recorded for the area with temperatures over 100º Fahrenheit for several days at a time. During this period, over 600 people died. Many people don't correlate increased temperature with health concerns, but with issues like starvation, dehydration, respiratory illness and long term effects, heat waves are very dangerous to the overall health of the worlds populations. Many may say that one could just stay indoors. The concern with this argument is that areas like the Pacific Northwest are not equipped with the infrastructure like HVAC and AC to allow people to stay cool indoors. Many parts of this country and the world were not ready or used to the extreme temperatures brought by heat waves and thus many people suffered and will continue to. Heat waves are extremely detrimental to the overall health of humanity.
Why we should care? The intersection of Public Health and the environment is absolutely critical. Learning and caring about how the environment affects us on a health level incentivizes change.
I found this article to be particularly relevant because it encapsulated the public health concerns with heat waves as well as the environmental causes and their effects on the climate and Earth. This article not only walks through health issues caused by heat waves, but shows important anecdotal evidence of the real effects of heat on the everyday person. I think this article helps to show how severe the heat waves of 2021 were throughout the country, especially in places that people may be unfamiliar with. Most importantly this article shows is the severity of climate change, and in turn heat waves, and the affect on public health.
Science in Action.
Dr. Kristie Ebi is at the University of Washington in the Department of Global Health.
Professor Kristine Ebi, along with a group of international researchers found that the heat waves in America in 2021 were a direct result of human caused climate change. Professor Ebi's work primarily focuses on the intersection of public health and the environment. She has worked on numerous research projects related to environmental concerns and global health, such as the public health implications of rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement and increases in Zika Virus cases due to climate change. This area of study is directly related to my topic as well as the article I found because concerns with heat waves are not only a public health concern but also an environmental concern. Not only does Professor Ebi's work generally operate in this intersection, but she also worked on a study directly related to health concerns related to heat waves.