The contribution of physical exertion to heat-related illness and death in the Arizona borderlands


Recent studies and reports suggest an increased mortality rate of undocumented border crossers (UBCs) in Arizona is the result of heat extremes and climatic change. Conversely, others have shown that deaths have occurred in cooler environments than in previous years. We hypothesized that human locomotion plays a greater role in heat-related mortality and that such events are not simply the result of exposure. To test our hypothesis, we used a postmortem geographic application of the human heat balance equation for 2,746 UBC deaths between 1990 and 2022 and performed regression and cluster analyses to assess the impacts of ambient temperature and exertion. Results demonstrate exertion having greater explaining power, suggesting that heat-related mortality among UBCs is not simply a function of extreme temperatures, but more so a result of the required physical exertion. Additionally, the power of these variables is not static but changes with place, time, and policy.

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