An average of 700 Americans die from extreme heat and more than 67,000 are rushed to the emergency room annually

Bill Text (PDF)

Washington (July 28, 2023) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate, and Nuclear Safety, Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) and Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Marilyn Strickland (WA-10) and Ruben Gallego (AZ-03) today reintroduced the Preventing Health Emergencies And Temperature-related (HEAT) Illness and Deaths Act to address the rising health risks of extreme heat. The announcement follows Earth’s hottest day on record, the predicted hottest day in the past 125,000 years, and new national and local responses to extreme heat.

As climate change continues to worsen, extreme heat events in the United States are becoming more frequent, longer-lasting, and more severe. Earlier this month, nearly one in three Americans were under an extreme heat advisory or warning. Prolonged exposure to this kind of heat can have dangerous consequences for human health, including heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and even death. The Preventing HEAT Illness and Deaths Act would improve and expand interagency efforts, provide $100 million in financial assistance for community projects to reduce exposure to extreme heat, and issue recommendations for federal action on heat-health issues.

“It’s no coincidence that we’ve seen back-to-back record-breaking heat this summer—it’s the climate crisis announcing it’s at our doorstep. We need to take bold and aggressive action to combat the climate crisis, but we also need to act fast to protect Americans from the health risks of extreme heat that we are experiencing right now,” said Senator Markey. “My legislation would direct $100 million in federal funding to help local communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis stave off the worst outcomes of heat-related illness. As unprecedented waves of sweltering heat persist, I will keep calling on my colleagues in Congress to pass the Preventing HEAT Illness and Deaths Act and create a national response to save lives.”

“As Americans continue to face extreme, record-breaking heat waves, we must do everything in our power to prevent heat-related illnesses and deaths,”said Senator Padilla.“This legislation will address the rising health risks of extreme heat by providing critical funding for community projects and enhancing interagency coordination so we can ensure our communities are prepared and protected – particularly low-income communities and communities of color who are bearing the brunt of this escalating crisis.”

“We’re protecting Arizonans from heat-related illnesses and deaths as our communities face dangerous heat,” said Senator Sinema.

“Heat-related deaths are preventable, tragic, and too common,” said Representative Bonamici. “July is on track to be the hottest month ever recorded. Many states are seeing record temperatures, and the Pacific Northwest is experiencing unseasonably warm weather and bracing for the possibility of another deadly heat dome. We can save lives, and we must do so quickly. The Preventing HEAT Illness and Deaths Act would strengthen interagency response efforts to address extreme heat and protect Oregonians and Americans, especially workers, seniors, and marginalized groups who are at the greatest risk from these heat emergencies.”

“As we learned from the 2021 Heat Domes, we must actively pursue short-term solutions to save lives during heat waves, in conjunction with long-term steps towards saving our planet,” said Representative Strickland. “The Preventing HEAT Illness and Deaths Act will address the dangers of extreme summer temperatures on human health and equip communities with the ability to combat the heat-health crisis.”

“Arizonans are used to the heat, but this summer’s rising temperatures underscore the pressing need to assist our communities in reducing heat-related emergencies,” said Representative Gallego. “Combatting extreme heat remains one of my top priorities, and that’s why I’m proud to co-lead the Preventing HEAT Illness and Deaths Act. This bill builds on my continued efforts to keep Arizonans cool and safe.”

A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.

Specifically, the Preventing HEAT Illness and Deaths Act would:

  1. Create the National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS) Interagency Committee to enhance interagency efforts to address extreme heat;
  2. Formalize and expand the existing NIHHIS within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which was initiated under President Barack Obama;
  3. Commission a National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine study on federal action on heat-health issues and response; and,
  4. Establish and authorize a $100 million financial assistance program to provide federal funding to community projects that reduce the health impact of extreme heat events, prioritizing projects in historically disadvantaged communities, communities with significant heat disparities associated with race or income, and communities with large gaps in heat preparedness.

Extreme heat poses more serious health impacts in low-income communities, communities of color, and Tribal communities. In urban areas, residents are particularly vulnerable due to the “urban heat island” phenomenon, which can cause some neighborhoods in cities to be more than 20°F warmer than the surrounding area. These communities have less tree coverage and more pavement, in part due to historic practices of redlining, which lead to higher temperatures. Residents of these communities may also lack access to air conditioning, health care, and other tools to mitigate extreme heat, increasing the risks of heat-related illness.

Cosponsors in the Senate include Senators Rob Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

Cosponsors in the House include Representatives Nanette Barragan (CA-44), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Jerry Nadler (NY-12), Bonnie, Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Jennifer McClellan (VA-04), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Kathy Castor (FL-14), Barbara Lee (CA-12), Alma Adams (NC-12), Bobby Scott (VA-03), Brittany Pettersen (CO-07), Kevin Mullin (CA-15), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Dina Titus (NV-01), Raul Ruiz (CA-25), Doris Matsui (CA-07), and Andrea Salinas (OR-06), Mike Levin (CA-49), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29).

The Preventing HEAT Illness and Deaths Act is endorsed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), League of Conservation Voters (LCV), American Public Health Association, Public Health Institute, American Academy of Pediatrics, Adrienne Arsht -Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, Climate Psychiatry Alliance, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action.

"This brutal summer makes clear that we need to do much more to protect communities and workers from crushing heatwaves. This legislation would help build just that by strengthening coordination across the federal government and unlocking assistance for communities that need it most. It will be a critical tool for protecting lives and livelihoods from preventable harm, in a world that is only getting hotter," said Juanita Constible, Senior Climate and Health Advocate at Natural Resources Defense Council.

“The extreme heat the world is suffering right now is an all-of-society problem that requires an all-of-government response. That is why we are pleased to support Senator Markey’s HEAT bill. It will create an interagency taskforce to devise a comprehensive plan and provide the funding to implement it. Ultimately it will help protect the most vulnerable people and reduce preventable deaths. Thank you, Senator Markey for your leadership – we have no time to waste in taking action on heat,” said Kathy Baughman McLeod, Executive Director of the Adrienne Arsht - Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center.

“Given the severity and intensity of our heating planet, national legislation and policies that improve preparedness and response is essential to protect our communities. We urge rapid passage of this important legislation to be part of the solution to managing the changing world we are facing,” said Robin Cooper of the Climate Psychiatry Alliance.