The Public Health Dangers of Extreme Urban Heat

Last week, we discussed the urban heat island effect as it related to the record-breaking heat wave in Chicago. The Cook County medical examiner’s office now blames the heat in part for several area deaths.

Cool air gushed into the Chicago area Saturday evening, but not before several days of suffocating temperatures claimed the lives of 10 people who fell victim to heat stroke or heat stress, Cook County officials said.

The three consecutive days of triple-digit temperatures that began Wednesday struck hardest in parts of the Chicago area where residents lacked air conditioning or were stuck in small apartments with limited ventilation.

The 10 people who died from a combination of the heat and underlying ailments ranged in age from an unidentified man in his 30s to a 91-year-old woman, the Cook County medical examiner’s office said. The county was also investigating whether six more deaths were related to the heat….

City authorities conducted hundreds of well-being checks, home visits and emergency transports during the heat wave, said Gary Schenkel, director of the Office of Emergency Management and Communications. Though the extreme temperatures are gone, residents should continue to check on the elderly and people with medical conditions, he said.

“Quite frankly … this is an accumulative effect that lasts awhile even after the temperature itself goes down,” Schenkel said.

Discussion of how to mitigate the urban heat island effect takes place in several Roosevelt University seminars, including SUST 210 The Sustainable Future, SUST 310 Energy and Climate Change, and SUST 320 Sprawl, Transportation, and Planning. For more information on these or any other of our courses, please visit our Sustainability Studies website, call 1-877-277-5978 (1-877-APPLY RU) or email

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