Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Public Health and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Health impacts of the July 2010 heat wave in Québec, Canada

Ray Bustinza12*, Germain Lebel1, Pierre Gosselin1234, Diane Bélanger34 and Fateh Chebana4

Author Affiliations

1 Institut national de santé publique du Québec, Direction de la santé environnementale et de la toxicologie, Québec, Canada

2 Université Laval, Québec, Canada

3 Centre hospitalier universitaire de Québec, Centre de recherche, Québec, Canada

4 Institut national de la recherche scientifique, Centre eau-terre-environnement, Québec, Canada

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Public Health 2013, 13:56  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-56

Published: 21 January 2013

Abstract

Background

One of the consequences of climate change is the increased frequency and intensity of heat waves which can cause serious health impacts. In Québec, July 2010 was marked by an unprecedented heat wave in recent history. The purpose of this study is to estimate certain health impacts of this heat wave.

Methods

The crude daily death and emergency department admission rates during the heat wave were analyzed in relation to comparison periods using 95% confidence intervals.

Results

During the heat wave, the crude daily rates showed a significant increase of 33% for deaths and 4% for emergency department admissions in relation to comparison periods. No displacement of mortality was observed over a 60-day horizon.

Conclusions

The all-cause death indicator seems to be sufficiently sensitive and specific for surveillance of exceedences of critical temperature thresholds, which makes it useful for a heat health-watch system. Many public health actions combined with the increased use of air conditioning in recent decades have contributed to a marked reduction in mortality during heat waves. However, an important residual risk remains, which needs to be more vigorously addressed by public health authorities in light of the expected increase in the frequency and severity of heat waves and the aging of the population.