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Experts Warn Climate Change Will Bring More ER Visits, Mortality

Strongest link between temperatures and heat-related hospital visits is among 18- to 64-year-olds

MONDAY, Aug. 24, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- High temperatures lead to increased emergency department visits and mortality, and the numbers will grow as climate change makes summers even hotter by the end of the century, according to research published online Aug. 7 in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Gregory Wellenius, Sc.D., an associate professor of epidemiology at the Brown University School of Public Health in Providence, R.I., and colleagues analyzed data from across Rhode Island and found that when temperatures rise above 75 degrees Fahrenheit, there is a significant increase in medical problems among people of all ages.

Heat-related emergency department visits were 3.3 percent higher on days with a high of 75 degrees than on days with a high of 65, and 23.9 percent higher on days with a high of 85 degrees than on days with a high of 75. Rhode Island's mortality rate was 4 percent higher on a typical 85-degree day than on a typical 75-degree day. The researchers found that the strongest link between higher temperatures and heat-related emergency department visits was among those between 18 and 64 years of age.

The researchers also estimated that if climate change boosts summer temperatures 10 degrees hotter by the end of the century, Rhode Island's summertime mortality rate would rise by about 80 each year, or about 1.5 percent. Heat-related emergency department visits would increase 25 percent, from about 6,000 to 7,500 each summer, the researchers said.

Wellenius has received consulting fees from Environmental Health and Engineering Inc.

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