Climatic Change

, Volume 102, Issue 1–2, pp 159–186 | Cite as

Public health impacts of climate change in Washington State: projected mortality risks due to heat events and air pollution

  • J. Elizabeth Jackson
  • Michael G. Yost
  • Catherine Karr
  • Cole Fitzpatrick
  • Brian K. Lamb
  • Serena H. Chung
  • Jack Chen
  • Jeremy Avise
  • Roger A. Rosenblatt
  • Richard A. FenskeEmail author


Illness and mortality related to heat and worsening air quality are core public health concerns associated with climate change projections. We examined the historical relationship between age- and cause-specific mortality rates from 1980 through 2006 and heat events at the 99th percentile of humidex values in the historic period from January 1, 1970 to December 31, 2006 in the greater Seattle area (King, Pierce and Snohomish counties), Spokane County, the Tri-Cities (Benton and Franklin counties) and Yakima County; the relative risks of mortality during heat events were applied to population and climate projections for Washington State to calculate number of deaths above the baseline (1980–2006) expected during projected heat events in 2025, 2045 and 2085. Three different warming scenarios were used in the analysis. Relative risks for the greater Seattle area showed a significant dose-response relationship between heat event duration and daily mortality rates for non-traumatic deaths for persons ages 45 and above, typically peaking at four days of exposure to humidex values above the 99th percentile. The largest number of projected excess deaths in all years and scenarios for the Seattle region was found for age 65 and above. Under the middle warming scenario, this age group is expected to have 96, 148 and 266 excess deaths from all non-traumatic causes in 2025, 2045 and 2085, respectively. We also examined projected excess deaths due to ground-level ozone concentrations at mid century (2045–2054) in King and Spokane counties. Current (1997–2006) ozone measurements and mid-twenty-first century ozone projections were coupled with dose-response data from the scientific literature to produce estimates overall and cardiopulmonary mortality. Daily maximum 8-h ozone concentrations are forecasted to be 16–28% higher in the mid twenty-first century compared to the recent decade of 1997–2006. By mid-century in King County the non-traumatic mortality rate related to ozone was projected to increase from baseline (0.026 per 100,000; 95% confidence interval 0.013–0.038) to 0.033 (95% CI 0.017–0.049). For the same health outcome in Spokane County, the baseline period rate of 0.058 (95% CI 0.030–0.085) was estimated increase to 0.068 (95% CI 0.035–0.100) by mid-century. The cardiopulmonary death rate per 100,000 due to ozone was estimated to increase from 0.011 (95% CI 0.005–0.017) to 0.015 (0.007–0.022) in King County, and from 0.027 (95% CI 0.013–0.042) to 0.032 (95% CI 0.015–0.049) in Spokane County. Public health interventions aimed at protecting Washington’s population from excessive heat and increased ozone concentrations will become increasingly important for preventing deaths, especially among older adults. Furthermore, heat and air quality related illnesses that do not result in death, but are serious nevertheless, may be reduced by the same measures.


Ozone Heat Wave Ozone Concentration Heat Event Excess Death 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Elizabeth Jackson
    • 1
    • 2
  • Michael G. Yost
    • 3
  • Catherine Karr
    • 3
    • 4
  • Cole Fitzpatrick
    • 3
  • Brian K. Lamb
    • 5
  • Serena H. Chung
    • 5
  • Jack Chen
    • 6
  • Jeremy Avise
    • 7
  • Roger A. Rosenblatt
    • 1
  • Richard A. Fenske
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Family MedicineUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Environmental & Occupational Health SciencesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  4. 4.Department of PediatricsUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  5. 5.Laboratory for Atmospheric Research, Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA
  6. 6.Institute for Chemical Process and Environmental TechnologyNational Research Council CanadaOttawaCanada
  7. 7.Atmospheric Modeling and Support SectionCalifornia Air Resources BoardSacramentoUSA

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