Missouri Independent: Kansas City suffers from severe urban heat. Research underway may help leaders address it
By Allison Kite
The strain excessive heat was putting on the streets of Kansas City was obvious during a streak of days earlier this month when peak temperatures stayed above 90 degrees for days in a row.
Kansas City, more than most, falls victim to the urban heat island effect: the bubble of heat created around cities when heat is trapped in pavement and buildings and re-released rather than being cooled by vegetation and water. Kansas City was ranked 7th on a list of 60 cities with the most intense urban heat islands.
Elizabeth Friedman, the medical director of the environmental health program at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, said heat waves are associated with premature mortality. And it’s not just heat exhaustion and heat strokes.
She said dehydration stemming from heat waves can increase the risk for acute renal failure, kidney damage and declining blood pressure. The risk of an emergency room visit for a stroke or cardiac arrhythmia increases.
And the economic insecurity brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, she said, only raises the risk.
“We’re seeing a huge jump in housing insecurity … and with that comes less access to cool spaces, and when people are forced to be in 100 degree weather heat, that’s when their risks really do go up — kids with chronic diseases, the elderly, people who are on medication to manage blood pressure, things like that,” Friedman said.
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Learn about Children's Mercy's Environmental Health Program
Learn about Children's Mercy's Mid-America Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (MAPEHSU)