A relentless summer with record-breaking sweltering temperatures is putting the human body to the test.
"We are the warmest we have been in 1,000 years based on the best possible data that we have," said Carlos Del Castillo, the NASA Ocean Ecology Laboratory chief.
Scientific data is forecasting that July will be the hottest month globally on record, and possibly the warmest human civilization has ever experienced.
Dr. Pope Moseley is a research professor at Arizona State University and a lung and intensive care unit physician. He is one of two professors studying the impacts of extreme heat on the body in Arizona, using hospital and population data.
"The majority of people who are affected by heat and who seek hospital care or become seriously ill are not captured under the heat-related illness banner," said Moseley. "Heat is the force multiplier of chronic disease."
He says he wants to highlight the health implications of excessive heat beyond just the data on common heat illnesses.
"More than 65% of people have at least one chronic condition, and 40% have two or more. So, these chronic conditions are activated and made worse by heat," said Moseley.
He says research shows that during heat waves, blood stream infections go up, suicides rates tick up 1% to 2%, overdoses increase, and hospitalizations for dementia and heart attacks increase.
A recent report published by the American Heart Association also found that the risk of fatal heart attacks may double when combined with fine particle pollution and heat waves.
In Arizona, the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s office is at 106% capacity. The coroner's office brought in 10 coolers to store bodies. The county spokesperson says this year is worse than past years, with reports showing 25 heat-associated deaths in the county so far this year.
In April, Mayor Kate Gallego of Phoenix called on the federal government to add extreme heat to FEMA's list of declarable disasters, a plea that she made again this week to the president. "We would love it if Congress would give you the ability to declare heat a disaster," said Mayor Gallego.
The move would unlock additional resources for emergency relief. Phoenix is forecast to hit or exceed an entire month with temperatures at 110 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. While other parts of the country can expect to cool off this weekend, there is little relief in sight for the Southwest.
"Phoenix is going to be the place that these health issues are solved, because Phoenix is the place that is ground zero for heat waves right now," said Gallego.
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