International study of temperature, heat and urban mortality: the 'ISOTHURM' project

McMichael, AJ; Wilkinson, P; Kovats, RS; Pattenden, S; Hajat, S; Armstrong, B; Vajanapoom, N; Niciu, EM; Mahomed, H; Kingkeow, C; Kosnik, M; O'Neill, MS; Romieu, I; Ramirez-Aguilar, M; Barreto, ML; Gouveia, N; Nikiforov, B; (2008) International study of temperature, heat and urban mortality: the 'ISOTHURM' project. International journal of epidemiology, 3. p. 3. ISSN 0300-5771 DOI:

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BACKGROUND: This study describes heat- and cold-related mortality in 12 urban populations in low- and middle-income countries, thereby extending knowledge of how diverse populations, in non-OECD countries, respond to temperature extremes. METHODS: The cities were: Delhi, Monterrey, Mexico City, Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Salvador, Sao Paulo, Santiago, Cape Town, Ljubljana, Bucharest and Sofia. For each city, daily mortality was examined in relation to ambient temperature using autoregressive Poisson models (2- to 5-year series) adjusted for season, relative humidity, air pollution, day of week and public holidays. RESULTS: Most cities showed a U-shaped temperature-mortality relationship, with clear evidence of increasing death rates at colder temperatures in all cities except Ljubljana, Salvador and Delhi and with increasing heat in all cities except Chiang Mai and Cape Town. Estimates of the temperature threshold below which cold-related mortality began to increase ranged from 15 degrees C to 29 degrees C; the threshold for heat-related deaths ranged from 16 degrees C to 31 degrees C. Heat thresholds were generally higher in cities with warmer climates, while cold thresholds were unrelated to climate. CONCLUSIONS: Urban populations, in diverse geographic settings, experience increases in mortality due to both high and low temperatures. The effects of heat and cold vary depending on climate and non-climate factors such as the population disease profile and age structure. Although such populations will undergo some adaptation to increasing temperatures, many are likely to have substantial vulnerability to climate change. Additional research is needed to elucidate vulnerability within populations.

Item Type: Article
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Public Health and Policy > Dept of Social and Environmental Health Research
Research Centre: Centre for Global Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)
PubMed ID: 18522981
Web of Science ID: 259771500028


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