The effects of heat waves

In today’s news we want to focus on a phenomenon that we have all been able to experience in the last few weeks of summer: heat waves. Everyone is aware of the dangers they pose to our health and the precautions that should be taken, but more recently we have begun to study the effects they can have in combination with other factors, such as air pollution.

A recent study ( conducted at the University of Southern California by a group of researchers from 2014 to 2019 has observed that, during the days when there was a heat wave increased the risk of death by about 6% and on days when there were high levels of pollution it increased by 5%. However, these results were eclipsed when measurements were made on days when both a heat wave and high levels of pollution were combined, when the risk was observed to almost quadruple.

This phenomenon is known as “synergistic effect” and occurs when two events or substances that separately have a certain effect, when present together increase their effect significantly. This synergy, moreover, was especially present in the most vulnerable populations, as could be the case of the population over 75 years of age. The following map shows the air quality in the USA. It can be seen that this is not an isolated phenomenon in California itself, but a reality that has spread throughout the country:

Based on this study, new projects have begun to emerge that analyze the different effects that this synergy can have on different fields of human health. As these new studies appear, it becomes more evident that pollution is playing a more and more notorious role in human health, and therefore, the need to develop strategies that can deal with this threat that we can notice more and more.

This post has been written by Adrià Sentís, data manager at the BiSC Project.