Heat-Exacerbated Deaths Increased in the Past Decade in NYC

By A Correspondent
Global warming is changing weather patterns and the northeastern United States is just going through one such intense heatwave. (Pakistan Week photo)

The New York City Health Department has released the 2024 New York City Heat-Related Mortality Report, highlighting the severe impact of heat on New Yorkers’ health. The report reveals an average of 350 heat-related deaths annually, with the majority being heat-exacerbated deaths that worsen existing conditions like heart disease. Direct heat stress deaths average around seven per year. The report notes that while heat-exacerbated deaths declined between 1971 and 2000, they have increased over the past decade due to the city’s warming climate, plateauing in recent years.

“Climate change is making our summers hotter and more deadly,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “Heat is the deadliest of all extreme weather events in the United States and New York City. We are enhancing our efforts to safeguard New Yorkers during these events. Promoting sustainability can be lifesaving.”

NYC Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol emphasized the importance of preparation: “We mourn these unnecessary deaths and work daily to empower New Yorkers with awareness and resources to stay safe. Heat should not claim a single life. New Yorkers must prepare for heat with the same seriousness as other weather emergencies. Visit nyc.gov/beattheheat to see how the City can support your heat plan.”

Elijah M. Hutchinson, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Climate & Environmental Justice, highlighted the broader implications of extreme heat: “Extreme heat is a public health, environmental justice, and economic inequality issue. Our initiatives, like planting trees in heat-vulnerable areas and reforming the Home Energy Assistance Program, aim for a future without heat deaths and where utility costs are not a barrier to cooling.”

The report indicates that most heat-related deaths occur at home, stressing the need for home cooling access. Black New Yorkers are disproportionately affected, reflecting the impacts of structural racism on economic, educational, healthcare, and housing systems. Approximately 100 heat-exacerbated deaths occur on extreme heat days, with the rest on days above 82°F but below the heat advisory threshold.

NYC is proactively addressing the climate crisis and preparing residents for warmer summers. The City’s strategic climate plan, PlaNYC: Getting Sustainability Done, includes measures to extend home air conditioning, such as developing maximum temperature regulations by 2030, requiring cooling in new housing by 2025, and utilizing subsidy programs like the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP). Eligible New Yorkers can receive free air conditioners and installation through HEAP.

Residents can stay updated on weather and emergencies by signing up for Notify NYC, the city’s free emergency notification system, and using the revamped Cool Options Map to find air-conditioned spaces and cooling centers. NYCEM has expanded cooling center partnerships, including pet-friendly options, and is piloting ‘cool kits’ distribution for at-risk groups.

For more information on the City’s efforts to protect New Yorkers from extreme heat and combat climate change, visit the Health Department’s Climate and Health data hub.

 

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