Excess mortality estimated at 2,816 deaths (all causes combined) was recorded during the three heat wave episodes that took place in France in 2022, i.e. a relative excess mortality of 16.7%, according to Public Health France which publishes this Monday 21 November a report on the health impact of heat waves. The summer of 2022 was the second hottest since 1900, recalls the national agency, which insists on “the need for a strategy of adaptation and mitigation to climate change strengthened throughout the territory”.
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“Since 2015, very extensive and atypical heat waves, in terms of intensity, period and area of occurrence, all result in significant excess mortality”we read in the balance sheet.
In detail, more than 20,000 requests for care (emergency visits, SOS Médecins consultations) were recorded between June 1 and September 15, 2022 for the “iHeatwave” health indicator, which includes hyperthermia, dehydration and hyponatremia. Among these requests for care, Public Health France counted 17,000 requests for emergency services and 10,000 hospitalizations.
Seven fatal heat-related workplace accidents
If the heat waves of this summer affected 78% of the metropolitan population, four regions of the South-West and South-East, the most affected by these extreme episodes, “cumulate nearly two-thirds of the national excess” excess mortality: these are Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (+ 473 deaths), New Aquitaine (+ 436 deaths), Occitanie (+ 509 deaths) and Provence-Alpes-Côte-D azur (+ 316 deaths).
People aged 75 and over were the most affected by excess mortality during heat waves, with 2,272 excess deaths, or one excess death in six.
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In addition, seven fatal occupational accidents possibly linked to heat were notified by the Directorate General for Labor to Public Health France during this same monitoring period. The victims were men aged 39 to 54 who worked outdoors, particularly in the construction sector.
Non-heat wave risks
“The heat wave is no longer an exceptional weather event. Over the past 10 years, the recurrence of heat waves, their intensification and the increase in temperature peaks have shown us this.”notes Laëtitia Huiart, scientific director of Public Health France.
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If it insists on the need to anticipate “the very likely intensification of these extreme weather phenomena”the national agency also recalls that “heat can have a health impact, including outside periods of heat waves, defined when the three-day average minimum and maximum temperatures exceed the department’s minimum and maximum alert thresholds”. Thus, during the monitoring period, 80% of emergency care calls took place outside the heat wave periods of June, July and August.
While waiting for the next heat waves, the prevention system deployed this summer (radio spots, toll-free number, SMS alert, etc.) “is the subject of an evaluation which will allow in particular to assess its coverage and its effectiveness”specifies Public Health France.