How Heatwaves Affect Low-Income Communities

    For the past two weeks, the northern and western United States have been facing an incapacitating heatwave. Temperatures have reached over 100°, and many people do not have access to the appropriate methods of dealing with this extreme heat.  These temperatures disproportionately affect low-income neighborhoods, BIPOC, and the homeless.

    The heatwave is murderous.  In British Columbia, Canada, over 230 deaths were reported due to the extremity of the heatwave. “Heat-related deaths have depleted front-line resources and severely delayed response times, officials said.” (CNN)  June was the hottest month on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Urban Heat Island Effect

Urban areas tend to experience higher temperatures than rural ones, due to infrastructure absorbing and emitting the sun’s heat. “Daytime temperatures in urban areas are about 1–7°F higher than temperatures in outlying areas.” (EPA) As cities tend to have more low-income and BIPOC residents, these communities are subject to higher temperatures due to their location. This disproportionate spread of heat changes how people experience the heatwave. As there are more low-income neighborhoods in cities, city residents will experience the greater impacts of the heatwave.

Risks of the Heatwave

Heatwaves can cause heat exhaustion, dehydration, muscle pain, or heat strokes. Low income neighborhoods are more prone to facing the severe effects of the heatwave as they have less access to air conditioning and other cooling methods. These neighborhoods also lack the infrastructure to protect their people. Many areas are left unshaded, exposing residents to direct harmful sunlight.

How to Protect Yourself

  • Stay hydrated
  • Wear loose-fitting, light colored clothing
  • Find shaded areas, or cooling centers
  • Limit physical effort, especially when temperatures are highest.
  • Look out for your fellow residents who may be struggling under extreme heat.
    • Children, elderly, and those with pre-existing conditions are at higher risk of heat illness

Donate to Help Others in Need

  • Give to community fridges.
  • Donate to GoFundMe’s for those who have been displaced or whose cars have broken down.
  • Hand out supplies or offer shelter to the homeless.

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