Death records have recently thrown up interesting yet alarming findings in to wild temperature swings that climate change has brought about. As the earth warms so it becomes more a public risk every day. The elderly are very much at risk with Summer heat waves yet will the more benign winters balance out the statistics.
A recent study has indicated that a 1 degree centigrade rise in average Summer temperatures was fatal for 1% more individuals. Whereas a direct correlation with the rise in Winter temperatures saved no more than 0.6%. The death records that were analyzed accounted for 3 million individuals over the age of 65 residing in New England between 2000>2008. More worryingly sudden and erratic swings of temperature in Summer or Winter were worse killers.
The study in to death records was conducted by an environmental epidemiologist (Joel Schwartz) from Harvard. The study noted that while we physically adapt wild swings in temperature do leave us wanting. Numerous studies considered the after effects of a heat wave. However it was difficult to establish whether individuals may have died irrespective i.e. those with existing respiratory and/or cardiovascular symptoms. Minimal studies have considered longer term effects. Further the comparisons between the harmful heat waves of Summer against the benefits of milder Winters.
The average temperatures for Winter and Summer were calculated over a period of 8 years for zip codes in New England. The deaths of elderly residents was tracked via Medicare data. These statistics confirmed milder winters do not counter balance hotter Summers. Ironically shifts from colder to milder Winter days proved a more potent killer than a Summer heat wave. The fatalities are seen as more of a threat than AIDS. Also comparisons to liver cancer which accounts for around 25,000 fatalities annually in the U.S. The deadly swings do not allow an individual’s respiratory or cardiovascular system time to adapt. Further studies are aimed at Europe where air conditioned properties and offices are not so prevalent.
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