Climate change challenges human ability to properly cool down


Via Flickr

Grace Smith | September 8, 2022

As the Earth warms, scientists realize outdoor humidity is making it challenging for sweat to cool down bodies properly. Normally, the body can cool itself by sweating, but when humidity is at a high level, sweat will not evaporate as fast, threatening human health and life.

“The inability to cool down leaves us more than just uncomfortable. It actually wears on our internal processes,” Dr. Benjamin of Health Partners said in a company blog. “As our core temperature continues to rise, our bodies need to work harder to try and cool us down. This causes us to overheat.”

Professor of Physiology and Kinesiology, Larry Kenney conducts tests in his lab at Penn State. Kenney puts test subjects in a climate-controlled room and has them walk on a treadmill as he increases the room’s humidity. It is harder to get subjects’ core temperatures to cool down with that increase. Kenney told NPR when the temperature gets close to the humidity of sweat on the skin, it can no longer evaporate.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 1,300 deaths per year in the United States are heat-related, and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute said that heat-related health issues will continue to rise with an increase in heat.

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