Toronto, and many other communities, are suffering extreme – and record-breaking – heat. This is not merely unpleasant, it is deadly. Extreme heat affects the most vulnerable (elderly, young, people with compromised health, people taking certain medications) leading to increased illness and early death, but everyone is affected.
There is a “dose-response” relationship with the heat: The higher the heat, the longer the heat wave and the more episodes of extreme heat – all this combines to lethal effect.
After a deadly heat wave in 1988, the Ontario Ministry of Health established maximum heat standards:
- humid air of 26 (dry air of 28) is considered the upper limit of the healthy zone – or, the start of the danger zone.
- humid air of 32 (dry air of 34) is considered the highest level of heat stress that can be tolerated without ill health effects.
Last night (July 31) Toronto set an overnight heat record of 27 (that’s the highest since the weather office started keeping records in 1840). Today (August 1) at 1 p.m., the Pearson weather office was reporting a temperature of 35 (which is just shy of the day-time record for today), with a humidex in the extreme level of 46.
There area number of specific steps that Toronto can take to cool things down: Emergency relief immediately for those most at risk, a short-term strategy to cool down the hottest housing, and a medium-term”urban heat island mitigation strategy” to address the root causes of the summer heat crisis.
The Wellesley Institute has prepared a one-page backgrounder on a “Cool Toronto” strategy.
Drink plenty of water, stay cool (visit a cooling centre, library, movie theatre or other cool spot if your home isn’t cool) and read about howwe can get the temperature down.
- Michael Shapcott, Senior Fellow