Stricter regulations needed as Montreal sees more heat waves per year
Montrealers are getting a little breather from the scorching heat to start the week, but weather experts say that relief won't last long, with the humidex expected to rise again soon.
Public health officials are warning that deadly heat waves are becoming more common and people need to learn proper ways to deal with them.
"I have signed up myself to WeatherCAN and it seems I'm getting heat alerts every week," points out Joanna Eyquem, managing director of Climate-Resilient Infrastructure.
According to data from the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ), Quebec has seen two significant instances where the heat caused a spike in deaths over the last five years.
"Since 2003, we've had maybe one heat wave per three years," says Céline Campagna with the institute. "Now, we can see in the last five years it's an average of one, two heat waves per year."
- SEE THE MAP: 30-year average of the annual number of days when the temperature rises to at least 30 C.
In 2018, 66 Montrealers died during a heat wave, prompting changes to how city officials respond, including more door-to-door checks -- especially in underprivileged areas where there is more density and fewer green spaces.
"We have hard winters, so it's like our body does a reset for heat every year," explains Campagna.
According to Environment Canada and the University of Winnipeg, between 1975 and 2005, Montreal saw an average of 11 days per year where temperatures rose over 30 degrees Celcius.
By 2050, that number is projected to rise to 26 to 28 days per year, and by the end of this century, 37 to 54 days per year.
Eyquem notes one way to prevent deaths is to force landlords to maintain a certain temperature in apartment buildings.
"Indoor temperatures are a big part of this," she says. "The quality of housing, and maybe putting a bit more responsibility on landlords to provide a certain temperature."
There is currently no standard for what an acceptable indoor temperature is.
However, a bylaw in Toronto states that if a building has air-conditioning, it must be turned on between June and September and temperatures cannot exceed 26 degrees Celcius.
Eyquem is calling on officials in Montreal to consider a similar regulation.
STAYING SAFE IN THE HEAT
Those at greater risk of complications related to the heat are young children, pregnant women, older adults, people with chronic illnesses and people working or exercising outdoors.
"Watch for the effects of heat illness: swelling, rash, cramps, fainting, heat exhaustion, heatstroke and the worsening of some health conditions," Environment Canada warns. "Drink plenty of water even before you feel thirsty and stay in a cool place."
To avoid heatstroke or aggravating any health conditions, the Quebec Ministry of Health suggests the following:
- Drink six to eight glasses of water per day; always follow your physician's instructions regarding the amount of fluid to drink;
- Avoid alcoholic beverages;
- If possible, spend at least two hours a day in an air-conditioned or cool place;
- Take at least one cool shower or bath per day, or cool your skin several times a day with wet towels;
- Limit physical activity;
- Wear light clothes.
In addition, the ministry is reminding people to never leave a child or baby alone in a vehicle or a poorly ventilated room, even if for just a few minutes.
As always, check on your loved ones, especially those who are vulnerable or living alone.
Anyone with health-related questions can call Info-Santé at 811 and ask for a health care provider.
In case of emergency, call 911.
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