Human Health Impacts of Climate Change

OEHHA conducts human health studies that have found relationships between higher temperatures and adverse health outcomes such as death and illness, including hospital visits, emergency room visits, and birth defects . In these studies, we often focus on heat-related effects by restricting our data to the warm season in California over multiple years. We discuss methodological issues involved in studying health effects from temperature and air pollution and use two types of human health studies to examine acute effects of temperature. The studies have helped identify groups who are vulnerable to heat-related mortality and illness. To obtain our data for analysis, we generally rely on records available for public use, where we examine variables such as daily levels of air pollutants, race/ethnic group, age group, highest education level completed, disease category or subgroup, underlying cause of death, date of outcome occurrence, and zip code or county of residence.  

We collaborate on health studies with other institutions, including:

Published Health Studies

Climate change is a global phenomenon and requires the participation of a variety of local, national and international entities to curb its negative effects. The State of California has been a pioneer on the national stage in identifying the health effects associated with climate change.

Over the years, OEHHA has contributed to the growing body of literature linking harmful health effects to increasing temperatures and heat waves. Our studies have identified subpopulations that are particularly sensitive to heat, specifically the elderly, pregnant women and children, as well as people who reside in coastal areas. (Coastal areas are typically cooler, and their residents are less acclimated to sudden temperature increases and often do not have air conditioners, particularly in northern California.) Such findings enable OEHHA to target our information and messages to the most critical audiences about the need to take proper precautions during heat waves and hot days. 



Note: This link provides access to portions of a privately produced television documentary including an interview with OEHHA staff scientist Dr. Rupa Basu. Opinions expressed in the documentary are those of the individuals involved and are not official policies or positions of the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, the California Environmental Protection Agency or the State of California.