The following is a media release from Sen. Ed Markey, who was elected by voters in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to serve the state in Washington DC in the US Senate. He is a Democrat.
WASHINGTON DC – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today, July 22, announced he will introduce legislation to address the rising health risks of extreme heat. The Preventing Health Emergencies And Temperature-related (HEAT) Illness and Deaths Act would strengthen interagency efforts to address extreme heat, provide $100 million in grants to reduce exposure to extreme heat, and issue recommendations for federal action on heat-health issues.
The combination of extreme heat and coronavirus has made this summer especially dangerous. Usually, individuals without sufficient air conditioning can visit public cooling centers, such as public pools, malls, and community centers, during extreme heat events; however, the coronavirus pandemic has led to the closure of some public cooling centers and rendered them inaccessible to people concerned about contracting the highly contagious coronavirus. Additionally, extreme heat can exacerbate respiratory conditions, including those caused by coronavirus.
“While most heat-related deaths and illness are preventable through outreach and intervention, extreme heat events have been the leading cause of weather-related death in the United States over the last 30 years,” said Senator Markey. “The threat of extreme heat is heightened by the coronavirus pandemic, which has most severely harmed the same communities most vulnerable to extreme heat. This legislation would provide the funds, coordination, and help that our communities need to prepare for and respond to extreme heat events.”
As climate change worsens, extreme heat events in the United States will become more frequent, longer-lasting, and more severe. Prolonged exposure to this kind of heat can have dangerous consequences for human health, such as heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and even death. Extreme heat also will have more serious health consequences on people living in low-income communities, communities of color, and tribal communities. People in these communities are disproportionately impacted by coronavirus and high rates of underlying health conditions, which can be exacerbated by extreme heat. Residents of urban areas are particularly vulnerable due to the “urban heat island” phenomenon, which can cause cities to be more than 20°F warmer than the surrounding area. This effect can be even more pronounced in low-income urban neighborhoods, which have been found to have less tree cover and higher temperatures.
Specifically, the Preventing HEAT Illness and Deaths Act would:
- Formalize the National Integrated Heat Health Information System Interagency Committee (NIHHIS) and enhance interagency efforts to address extreme heat. NIHHIS was initiated by President Obama in June 2015; this legislation would authorize and expand the committee focus.
- Require NIHHIS to conduct a study on extreme heat and identify ways to: improve heat warnings; address heat-related data gaps (including on schools, prisons, and public facilities that lack air conditioning); develop alternatives to public cooling centers; and better protect workers exposed to extreme heat conditions.
- Establish a $100 million grant program to provide federal funding to community projects that reduce the health impact of extreme heat events, prioritizing projects in historically disadvantaged communities, communities with significant heat disparities associated with race or income, and communities with large gaps in heat preparedness.
The legislation is endorsed by the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.
Photo courtesy of Government