Extreme Heat Responsible for Growing Death Rates Among Unhoused People

Extreme heat waves are respon­si­ble for a grow­ing of deaths among unhoused peo­ple in Los Ange­les, reports Sum­mer Lin in the Los Ange­les Times. “Although the unhoused pop­u­la­tion rep­re­sents about 70,000 of Los Ange­les Coun­ty’s than 9.8 peo­ple, they account­ed for near­ly half — 5 in 12 — of deaths from heat ill­ness or heat expo­sure last year, accord­ing to data from the coro­ner’s office.”

As Lin explains, “Heat-relat­ed ill­ness and death are “noto­ri­ous­ly” under­count­ed because patients in emer­gency rooms are fre­quent­ly diag­nosed with oth­er med­ical con­di­tions, such as dehy­dra­tion and kid­ney fail­ure, any men­tion of their high tem­per­a­tures and expo­sure to heat, accord­ing to David Eisen­man, a pro­fes­sor spe­cial­iz­ing in cli­mate change at the UCLA Field­ing School of Pub­lic .”

Lar­ry Kalk­stein, the pres­i­dent of Applied Cli­ma­tol­o­gists, esti­mates that up to 2,000 peo­ple die of heat-relat­ed caus­es every year, which would heat dead­lier than hur­ri­canes, tor­na­does, and snow­storms. This num­ber will only rise as cli­mate change caus­es longer and more severe heat waves, and unhoused peo­ple face some of the high­est risks.

“More than a quar­ter of the lost dur­ing heat waves could have been saved if imple­ment­ed to pro­vide tree canopy, veg­e­ta­tion and reflec­tive mate­ri­als in roof­ing, side­walks and oth­er infra­struc­ture, accord­ing to a March 2022 arti­cle co-writ­ten by [UCLA researcher Edith De Guz­man].” In addi­tion to mea­sures, cities can make more cool­ing cen­ters avail­able to all res­i­dents, so unhoused peo­ple don’t have to rely on pri­vate busi­ness­es that may be hos­tile to them.

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