PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Shortly after a record-breaking winter storm led to two suspected hypothermia deaths in Portland, the Multnomah County Medical Examiner has confirmed five heat deaths from last summer.
A finalized review confirms that five hyperthermia deaths occurred during the extreme heat waves of July and August 2022. Officials previously suspected eight deaths, but further evidence confirmed that three of the eight deaths were caused by other factors.
Hyperthermia is caused by a person’s body temperature climbing too high.
According to a press release from Multnomah County, heat deaths in the county had been rare until 2021, when there were 72 total heat deaths – and 69 of those 72 deaths took place during the June 2021 heat dome.
The report states that four of the five hyperthermia deaths took place when the county underwent seven days of heat above 95 degrees between July 25 and July 31.
The Medical Examiner also found that most of those who died from heat in both 2021 and 2022 were housed without air conditioning. The press release said, in part:
“Of the four people who died indoors, one died in a house, two died on the fourth floor of an apartment building, and one died on the sixth floor. Health experts say more research is needed on how the floor number drives risk. Although heat rises, health department officials have found there is less data on the impact of living on upper floors, while rental housing — and its relationship to income — may be more significant.
“The lack of air conditioning or fans was a significant factor. Two had no air conditioning or fan, another had a non-functioning air conditioning unit, while another had a nonfunctioning portable unit and a fan. A fifth who succumbed had a fan.”