Heatwave in New York
Heatwave in New York Creative Commons

As New York navigates a brutal heat wave that forced Gov. Kathy Hochul to activate the National Guard to assist in emergencies, a new report by the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has revealed that each summer, on average, an estimated 350 New Yorkers die prematurely because of the hot weather.

What's more, the report explains that the heat-related death rate of Black New Yorkers is twice as high as White New Yorkers, with Latinos coming in second place. The study pins these differences on inequities stemming from systemic racism: "this inequity is due to past and current structural racism that creates economic, health care, housing, energy, and other systems that benefit White people and disadvantage people of color."

Heat-exacerbated deaths were more likely to occur at homes due to lack of access to home air conditioning (AC). Not surprisingly, at-home risk was also elevated across racial and ethnic groups, with a higher proportion of at-home deaths for Black, and Latino New Yorkers.

The report, which took into account annual averages for the past ten years (2013-2022), discovered that heat-exacerbated deaths increased in the past decade, mainly due to hotter summers overall with "more "non-extreme hot days" of 82°F up to but below the extreme heat threshold (95°F)."

Other findings provide detailed insights into how heat affects different groups in the city:

  • Death rates were higher in neighborhoods with more residents living below the federal poverty line compared with wealthier neighborhoods.
  • Heat-stress deaths occurred among all age groups, with the lowest rates among people aged 20 and younger and the highest among people aged 60 and older.
  • Rates of heat-stress deaths were higher among males than females.
  • Age-adjusted death rates were highest in Brooklyn.

At a news conference Tuesday morning, Gov. Kathy Hochul called the prolonged heat the "Super Bowl" of weather events, while New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan told CBS News that "the risks to our planet present risks to our health, in part, because heat is the deadliest of all extreme weather events in the United States and in New York City. As a city we are stepping up our work to keep New Yorkers safe during these events."

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