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The Real Cost of a Sweltering Summer

By Lewis Braham - 2012-07-19T00:21:34Z

Photograph by Larry W. Smith/EPA

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Health care costs

About 700 U.S. citizens die each year from heat-related illnesses. That pales compared with Russia, which in 2010 experienced Europe's worst heat wave in 130 years; more than 50,000 people died. The elderly find heat waves particularly tough, but even the young and fit can find themselves in the emergency room. In addition to heat stroke "there's a wide range of health effects that are not publicized," says Kim Knowlton, a scientist at the Natural Resource Defense Council. "Kidney stones increase in their incidence. People with migraines get them more often." Knowlton says the 2006 heat wave in California caused 16,000 emergency room visits costing $5.3 billion.