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Maps Show Northeast LA, San Pedro, Wilmington Among Areas Most Affected By Extreme Heat

The yellow-white sun setting behind the L.A. skyline, which is just a dark silhouette of buildings against a burnt orange sky.
The sun sets behind highrise buildings in downtown Los Angeles, California on September 30, 2020. - A heat advisory is in effect for southern California as temperatures hit triple-digits this week with potential for stress on the power grid causing power outages or rolling blackouts. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
(Frederic J. Brown
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Researchers at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health have released a new tool showing which communities throughout the state are hit hardest by extreme heat caused by the climate crisis.

Using maps, the project shows the increase in visits to local emergency rooms on so-called “extreme heat days” as compared to visits on other days.

In Los Angeles County, the areas affected most by extreme heat days include the northern and western San Fernando Valley, Northeast L.A. and Highland Park, South L.A., Wilmington and San Pedro, East L.A. and Baldwin Park, Valinda, Pomona, and western Lancaster.

The study also found that on average, L.A. County has 1,510 excess visits to the ER for heat-related conditions on extreme heat days.

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To compile their results, researchers used information from emergency room visits from May through September, 2009 - 2018. Some of the diagnoses patients received from heat-related visits were cardiovascular disease, respiratory illness, acute kidney failure and chronic kidney disease, and electrolyte imbalance.

Map users can plug in a zip code to see how their own neighborhood fares. David Eisenman, co-director of the UCLA Center for Healthy Climate Solutions and co-author of the study, said the map shows how different the outcomes can be for people who live just miles apart. Eisenman spoke with our newsroom's public affairs show Airtalk on KPCC 89.3.

"Two neighborhoods can be right next to each other ... and the amount of people per 10,000 that go to the emergency room can be very different," he said.

Another study released by UCLA researchers last month found that most large American cities are not prepared to combat heat-related problems. Among the 50 municipalities studied, including L.A., 78% mentioned heat in their climate plans, but few include strategies to address it.

L.A. does have an office dedicated to combating the effects of climate change on the lived experiences of residents: the Climate Emergency Mobilization Office, headed up by director Marta Segura.

According to its official website, the CEMO is devoted to identifying and enacting equitable climate policies, knowing that some communities are hit harder than others.

Researchers at UCLA hope their heat maps, which are still in beta mode, can be used to target efforts, such as heat mobility programs and adding shade canopies, to areas that need it most.

“I really hope that communities will take this map, look at their zip code, and if they are one of the most affected ones, call their legislators … and ask them what they're doing right now to help them,” said Eisenman. “We're also hoping that this will be used by planners, public health emergency managers and so on across the state.”

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