Sunday, May 24, 2015

Moderately Cold Temps ‘More Deadly Than Heat Waves’

Elderly lady on street (Credit: Stef Lewandowski/flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Heat waves are not as deadly as has been assumed, according to research that suggests prolonged exposure to moderately cold temperatures kills more people than scorching or freezing spells.

The study of deaths in 13 countries, published in the Lancet medical journal, found that cold weather kills 20 times as many people as hot weather, and that premature deaths are more often caused by prolonged spells of moderate cold than short extreme bursts.

“It’s often assumed that extreme weather causes the majority of deaths, with most previous research focusing on the effects of extreme heat waves,” says lead author Dr. Antonio Gasparrini from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“Our findings, from an analysis of the largest dataset of temperature-related deaths ever collected, show that the majority of these deaths actually happen on moderately hot and cold days, with most deaths caused by moderately cold temperatures.”

The European heat wave of 2003 killed 70,000 people, almost 15,000 of whom were elderly or vulnerable in France.  The death rate was an average of 60 percent higher than usual, attributed to the 40°C (104°F)  heat in parts of Europe.

But, say the researchers, their study of 74 million deaths in 384 locations between 1985 and 2012, including 10 regions of the UK and 135 cities in the U.S., found that, while around 7.71 percent of all deaths were caused by temperatures that were too low or too high, cold was responsible for the vast majority — 7.29 percent — while heat was implicated in just 0.42 percent.

Read more at Moderately Cold Temps ‘More Deadly Than Heat Waves’

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