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Biden launches response to health harms from extreme heat


The Biden administration is moving to protect workers and communities from extreme heat after a dangerously hot summer that spurred an onslaught of drought-worsened wildfires and caused hundreds of deaths from the Pacific Northwest to hurricane-ravaged Louisiana.

According to a Monday announcement, the U.S. According to a Monday announcement, the U.S. Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services along with other federal agencies will launch actions that aim to lower heat-related diseases and protect public safety.

Gina McCarthy, White House climate advisor said heat stress is a silent killer thatdisproportionately impacts the elderly, poor and minorities. While not as dramatic as wildfires or hurricanes, “heat stress is a significant, real threat that has deadly consequences,″ McCarthy said in an interview.

“Many people don’t recognize that heat stress is a real physical problem until it’s too late for them,″ she said.

As President Joe Biden works with global leaders to find the next steps to combat rapidly increasing climate change, this effort to reduce heat stress is a natural one.

A June heat wave in the Pacific Northwest, exacerbated by climate change, caused hundreds of deaths and thousands of emergency room visits for heat-related illnesses, In Louisiana, more than a million people, including the entire city of New Orleans, lost power when Hurricane Ida struck on Aug. 29. At least 12 of the 28 Ida-related deaths in Louisiana were caused by heat, according to the Louisiana Health Department.

Labor Department has launched a program to help outdoor workers. It includes construction, delivery and agricultural workers. The White House stated that the most vulnerable to heat stroke are those working in construction and agriculture, however other workers without climate-controlled workplaces face risk as well.

“Too often, heat-induced injuries and illnesses are misclassified or not reported, especially in sectors that employ vulnerable and undocumented workers,″ the White House said in a statement obtained by The Associated Press.

Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, is set to issue a new rule on heat illness prevention in outdoor and indoor work settings and will focus interventions and workplace inspections on days when the heat index exceeds 80° F (26.7 degrees Celsius). According to the White House, the new rule is a major step towards establishing a Federal Heat Standard in American Workplaces. Officials will also expand the range of unscheduled and scheduled inspections that are required for heat-related hazards.

According to the White House, administration will also expand Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to include programs that address extreme heat. This program is traditionally focused on heating winter homes, but it also provides assistance with cooling costs and purchasing electric equipment. McCarthy explained that those programs will continue to be extended and targeted outreach will take place in order for at-risk homes to maintain a comfortable temperature.

McCarthy said that the administration plans to expand cooling facilities in public schools and other buildings.

“School cooling centers save lives,″ McCarthy said. “They are opportunities for people in every community to actually find relief at a time when they need it most.″

She urged communities to implement programs such as “adopt a senior citizen” to conduct wellness checks, making sure that elderly residents are drinking fluids and not overheating. “That kind of personal touch is going to be the difference between an individual living longer and those that are passing away, basically unrecognized in their own homes,″ McCarthy said.

Since its inception, the Biden administration has made significant progress towards addressing climate change.

Biden on Friday announced a pledge with the European Union to cut climate-wrecking methane leaks. According to scientists, the danger of irreversible climate destruction from the burning of oil, gas, and coal is increasing.

Biden called those accounts “a code red warning for humanity” Friday. Biden cited U.N. reports that Earth’s heat is increasing rapidly and that the temperature will rise to levels that are beyond what world leaders tried to limit.

“We have to act, and we have to act now,″ Biden said, evoking the “damage and destruction” he has seen in the United States, massive flooding in Europe and other global damage from the warming climate as natural disasters increase in number and severity.

Biden visited California in the last few weeks to see how firefighters battle larger, more deadly wildfires nearly every year. He also visited the Northeastern U.S. Coast where hurricane Ida caused flooding that claimed many lives.

In the context of this new initiative, the Administration is now focusing on “heat islands”, where cities that have fewer trees or more pavement can experience higher temperatures than the ones in nearby areas. Neighborhoods that are subject to discriminatory practices, such as denying services to certain residents based upon their race, ethnicity or gender, can make the problem worse. According the White House, it cites a recent Environmental Protection Agency report that shows that the most severe climate-related harms fall on underserved and minorities.

According to the White House, this administration plans to expand urban forest programs and other greening projects in order reduce heat and extreme temperatures. Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security has launched a number of competitions to increase resilience of the country to climate change. First, the competition will examine new methods to help people who are at high risk for heat-related illnesses or death due to extreme heat events.