Protecting the health of Canadians and Canadian workers on our warming planet
Glen Kenney, PhD
Canada is entering unchartered territory as it regularly experiences record high temperatures. It is predicted that this trend will continue and periods of extreme heat in Canada will be more frequent, intensify, and likely to be five times more deadly within the next few decades. However, our understanding of the effectiveness of commonly recommended heat-mitigation strategies to protect vulnerable Canadians and Canadian workers remains incomplete, limiting our ability to make evidence-based decisions on the best strategies to implement.
We showed that the body’s response to heat is impaired in healthy adults as young as 40 years. This impairment is worse in older adults and in those with common chronic disease such as diabetes and hypertension. In these individuals, heat tolerance is reduced as the body is unable to cool itself via the evaporation of sweat, placing them at increased risk of heat-induced illnesses or death.
Given that Canada’s population and workforce is aging rapidly, the development of strategies to mitigate the adverse health impacts of heat stress in vulnerable sectors of the population is crucial to helping Canada adapt to the impacts of rising temperatures.
This presentation will focus on examining the physiological factors that contribute to increased heat vulnerability and identify thresholds/limits for ‘high risk’ ambient and work conditions. This includes the identification of heat protection measures (e.g., indoor temperature limits, use of cooling centres, work/exercise exposure limits) to prevent excessive heat strain during hot weather in vulnerable people including workers.