JUL 25, 2021 9:00 AM PDT

Warming climates contributes to increasing heat stress, especially for vulnerable populations

With the recent extremely high temperatures along the northwest coast of the United States due to changing climates, the effect of heat-related stress on the human body has become a major concern. Likewise, heat-related stress has been an issue in more vulnerable regions, such as many African countries, for the past several years.

Scientists have been studying a warming global climate for decades, and recent weather patterns such as increased storm severity and higher temperatures have begun affecting human health in the form of heat stress. Heat stress is brought on by the combined effects from hot temperature, high humidity, and lower wind speed which poses severe threats to human health. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), symptoms of heat stress include heat stroke, exhaustion, cramps, and rashes, though can also result in minor--though dangerous for the workplace--issues such as sweaty hands, fogged safety goggles, and dizziness.

A new survey of research led by Katlego P. Ncongwane from the South African Weather Service and University of KwaZula-Nata in South Africa studied the impact of heat stress due to a changing climate on human health, particularly for Africans. The researchers found that vulnerable populations were particularly susceptible to continued effects from heat stress. Moreover, the effects of heat stress can—and should—have a profound impact on policy development, urban planning, and mitigation efforts, particularly for populations in vulnerable locations.  

Additional recent research led by Cicero Z de Lima from Purdue University has found that agricultural workers—another vulnerable population--are also affected by heat stress. In regions like Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast China, an increase of 3°C could reduce crop output by 30-50%. As reported in the International Journal of Biometeorology, heat exposure has been known to reduce productivity, especially for those who work outside. Thus, the increase in temperature, which subsequently increases heat stress, would have a profound ripple effect, such as rising prices of agricultural crops and the need for more workers, since current laborers would not be able to remain healthy in the field all day. 

An equally vulnerable population are those living in urban China. While urban environments tend to contribute to warming climates, the warmer climate in these urban environments also contributes to heat stress and its affect on humans. The impact of heat stress on various populations due to warming climates is profound, and given the current trajectory where more cities—like Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington—are affected, research across the board suggests that updated domestic and international infrastructure could help mitigate the effects of heat stress for human populations.  

Sources: Center for Disease Control, Sustainability, Environmental Research, International Journal of Biometeorology, Advancing Earth and Space Science, The Atlantic

PhD, Biological Anthropology
Brittany has a PhD in Biological Anthropology and is currently a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Biology at North Carolina State University. She studies human and primate evolution using 3D scanning technology and statistical analysis to answer questions about where we come from, and to whom we're related. She is also a freelance science writer, focusing on evolutionary biology and human health and medicine,
You May Also Like
JUL 21, 2022
Cell & Molecular Biology
'Junk' DNA May Stall Replication, Increasing Cancer Risk
JUL 21, 2022
'Junk' DNA May Stall Replication, Increasing Cancer Risk
Huge sections of the human genome are made up of highly repetitive sequences, areas where bases like ATATAT repeat in lo ...
JUL 23, 2022
Neuroscience
Physical Activity Boosts Cognitive Reserve in Women, not Men
JUL 23, 2022
Physical Activity Boosts Cognitive Reserve in Women, not Men
Physical and mental activity exert different effects on the cognitive reserves of men and women. The corresponding study ...
JUL 23, 2022
Drug Discovery & Development
No Evidence for Depression and Serotonin Activity Link
JUL 23, 2022
No Evidence for Depression and Serotonin Activity Link
A new review study found that there is no clear evidence that serotonin levels or serotonin activity are responsible for ...
AUG 03, 2022
Neuroscience
Children Use Creativity in Response to Novel Tasks
AUG 03, 2022
Children Use Creativity in Response to Novel Tasks
A study by a research group at the Max Planck Institute examined how children employ creativity when faced with novel ta ...
AUG 06, 2022
Coronavirus
Mandated Masking & Vaccination Gets a University Back to 'Normal'
AUG 06, 2022
Mandated Masking & Vaccination Gets a University Back to 'Normal'
Students at Boston University were told to get vaccinated and wear masks on campus. That has allowed people to attend cl ...
AUG 10, 2022
Genetics & Genomics
CRISPR/Cas9 Gene Editing can be Toxic to Cells & Disrupt Genome Stability
AUG 10, 2022
CRISPR/Cas9 Gene Editing can be Toxic to Cells & Disrupt Genome Stability
Errors in human genes can lead to many different types of diseases, and scientists have been searching for ways to corre ...
Loading Comments...