THE US is on high alert after extreme heat was found to be the leading weather-related cause of death, killing up to 1,300 people a year.
President Joe Biden is mobilizing an interagency effort to deal with the effects of extreme heat across the country, the White House announced today.
In fact sheet issued by Biden’s administration it said record-breaking temperatures over the summer and more intense and frequent heat waves were due to climate change.
“My Administration will not leave Americans to face this threat alone,” Biden said in a statement. “Today, I am mobilizing an all-of-government effort to protect workers, children, seniors, and at-risk communities from extreme heat.”
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states: “Some statistical approaches estimate that more than 1,300 deaths per year in the United States are due to extreme heat.”
In June, the northwest endured a record-breaking heatwave which scientists said would have been “virtually impossible” without human-caused climate change.
The heatwave killed hundreds of people in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.
A heatwave also exacerbated the impact of Hurricane Ida when it struck Louisiana last month.
However, it has been found the consequences of extreme heat don’t impact communities equally.
The findings from a study by the University of California, San Diego, revealed that low-income neighborhoods and communities with high Black, Hispanic and Asian populations experienced significantly more heat than wealthier and predominantly White areas.
A study by Redfin also found that Black homeowners are nearly five times more likely than White families to own homes in these historically redlined communities.
IMPACT OF EXTREME HEAT
The White House factsheet also stressed the impact extreme heat has on vulnerable Americans, CNN reports.
“Millions of US workers are exposed to heat in their workplaces, and essential jobs with high exposure levels are disproportionately held by Black and Brown workers. Heat also poses higher risks in urban centers and to children, seniors, economically disadvantaged groups, and those with underlying health conditions,” it said.
“The Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other agencies will work together to help ensure that the American people have safe and healthy working conditions, provide cooling assistance to homes and neighborhoods, and coordinate with state and local officials to bolster their resilience and address the impacts of this threat,” Biden said in the statement.
Steps are being taken by the Department of Labor to protect workers facing occupational heat exposure, setting and enforcing standards via the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
OSHA will launch “a rulemaking process to develop a workplace heat standard,” implement an enforcement initiative, develop an inspection program, and form a working group.
Biden’s administration has also said it will build on efforts to provide cooling assistance to vulnerable Americans.
The Department of Health and Human Services is issuing guidance on flexibility for federal funding of programs to address heat problems, giving help for the purchase of air conditioning units and assistance with electric bills.
The EPA will also use funding from the Covid relief package passed earlier this year to use schools as cooling centers.
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