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More than 50 million people in the US are under excessive heat warnings, and more than 25 major cities have tied or broken record-high temperatures this year, according to NPR.
Heat waves are nothing new, but they are becoming increasingly more common and more severe because of climate change, which is a threat to public health, especially for Latinos.
In fact, about 702 heat-related deaths occur each year due to heat stroke and related diseases.
“Hot weather is associated with an increase in heat-related illnesses, including cardiovascular and respiratory complications, renal failure, electrolyte imbalance, kidney stones, negative impacts on fetal health, and preterm birth,” the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) stated. “Specifically, death rates are noted to rise during and after heat waves.”
In response to rising temperatures and health dangers, the CDC Climate & Health Program released a Heat & Health Tracker that provides local heat and health information so communities can better prepare for and respond to extreme heat events.
The Heat & Health Tracker helps users explore response resources, populations who are at risk, and how extreme heat affects their county.
Explore the Heat & Health Tracker!
Putting the Heat on Climate Change Issues
Although resources like the Heat & Health Tracker are helpful and can help save lives, the need for such resources highlights the crisis of climate change.
Kristina Dahl, a principal climate scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in an NBC News article that more frequent and severe heat waves should be a wake-up call for the entire country.
“Heat is dangerous no matter where you are or how used to it you think you might be,” Dahl stated.
Climate change especially affects Latinos.
According to a report by the Environmental Defense Fund, Latinos are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change because of where they live and work.
More than half (55%) of Latino-Americans live in three states that are already experiencing serious effects related to climate change: a historic drought in California, record-breaking heat in Texas, and increased sea level rise and flooding in Florida.
Furthermore, Latinos are more likely to work in the industries that are deeply affected by the effects of climate change such as agriculture, manufacturing, and construction.
“The majority of the Latino population, from mainland Latinos to Puerto Ricans, lives at the forefront of climate change. They’re first and hardest hit,” Michael Méndez, an assistant professor of environmental policy and planning at the University of California, Irvine, told Yale Climate Connections.
In the same article, Méndez also said that predominantly Latino neighborhoods often lack shade trees and green space, which can help neighborhoods stay cool.
Researchers at the University of California Davis have found that the Los Angeles neighborhoods with the highest percentage of Latino residents were up to 6.5°F hotter on extreme heat days than the neighborhoods with the fewest Latinos.
Onys Sierra, a Latina immigrant who lives in Durham, North Carolina, which has been hotter in recent years, expressed her concern about climate change.
“The environment, we’re not taking care of it. It’s the most precious, beautiful thing we have and we’re not taking care of it,” she told Yale Climate Connections. “What’s going to happen in 2030? What are my grandchildren going to live through when they grow up?”
Latinos Advocate for Climate Change Action
According to a report by the Environmental Defense Fund, Latinos are more likely than whites to both attribute climate change to human activity and to support action to protect the environment.
This may be because Latinos are more vulnerable to experiencing the effects of climate change.
Latinos across the US are confronting environmental justice issues in their community at the local and state level.
Latinos are also implementing environmentally friendly practices into daily life.
For instance, Sierra tries to use less plastic and conserve water.
“The environment is what gives us life,” she told Yale Climate Connections. “So destroying it is the same as destroying ourselves.”
You can also help speak up for a healthier environment.
Select your county and get a Health Equity Report Card by Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio. In your report card, you will see maps, data, and gauges to compare health equity issues, including environmental concerns, to the rest of your state and nation.
You can email your Health Equity Report Card to local leaders to stimulate community change. Use the data in your materials or share on social media to raise awareness.
Get your Health Equity Report Card!
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