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Phoenix Area Official Heat Deaths Climb After Record-Breaking Summer


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Heat-related deaths in Arizona’s most populous county continue to be tallied after the region recorded its hottest summer ever. It jumped to over 360public health officials warn the final count is sure to set a new record.

Maricopa County, the hottest metropolitan area in the United States and home to Phoenix, this week reported 361 confirmed heat-related deaths this year as of Oct. 7. An additional 238 deaths are under investigation.

As of the same time last year, there were 331 confirmed heatstroke-related deaths, and an additional 126 deaths are still under investigation. No other metropolitan area in the United States reports such high numbers or spends so much time tracking and investigating them.

“The death toll will definitely be higher than last year, possibly over 500,” said Dr. Rebecca Sunenschein, medical director of the Maricopa County Department of Public Health. “But we won’t really know until the season is over.”

Maricopa County is annual record Last year, 425 heat-related deaths were confirmed.

(detail: Phoenix recorded the hottest month of any U.S. city)

This summer, Phoenix experienced its three hottest months since records began in 1895, including the hottest July and second-hottest August. The average daily temperature of 97°F (36.1°C) in June, July, and August exceeded the previous record of 96.7°F (35.9°C) set three years ago.

Phoenix also set a record in July. 31 consecutive days High temperatures are over 110 F (43.3 C).

Sunenschein said Maricopa County began tracking heat-related deaths in 2005 and has since gradually added additional information, such as the age, gender, race, ethnicity, and whether the deceased was indoors or outdoors at the time of illness. He has started collecting them.

Investigators also began looking at whether those who died indoors had air conditioning, whether it was working, and whether there was electricity to power it. Sunnenschein said the collection of such information led to rules that require regulated utilities to keep electricity flowing during heatwaves even if no bills are paid.

“Knowing the circumstances of these deaths is very important,” Sanenshein said. “That could lead to policy changes.”

The number of people dying from heat-related causes is increasing, not just in the Phoenix area, but across the United States and around the world. climate change Heat waves will become more frequent, more intense, and more persistent.

It will take time to count these deaths. Months of researchsuch as toxicology tests to determine whether fever contributed to a person’s death. The Maricopa County death toll includes deaths directly caused by high temperatures, such as heatstroke, as well as deaths caused by heat-related causes, such as heart attacks caused by the heat.

About three-quarters of heat-related deaths in Maricopa County so far this year have occurred outdoors. About 44% of the deaths were among people experiencing homelessness in the county, where an estimated 10,000 people lack permanent housing. More than a third of all deaths were over 65 years old.

There have been 89 confirmed indoor heat-related deaths in the county, most of which occurred in homes where air conditioning was not working or stopped.

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