Jhun, I. D, Mata. F, Nordio. M, Lee. J, Schwartz. A, Zanobetti. (2017). Ambient Temperature and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in the United States. Epidemiology.
The CRESSH Project 1 (HEAL) team published a study in the September 2017 issue of Epidemiology. The paper titled “Ambient Temperature and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in the United States” characterizes the association between ambient temperature and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome by analyzing individual-level infant mortality data and outdoor temperature data across the United States.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is defined as the unexplained sudden death of an infant less than 1 year old. SIDS is the leading cause of death for infants 1 month to 1 year old and is the third leading cause of overall infant mortality in the US. The rate of SIDS in Massachusetts is greater among black and Hispanic infants than in non-Hispanic white infants. These racial and ethnic disparities in SIDS are of particular concern to CRESSH investigators, who aim to address disparities in health outcomes through their research. While the cause of SIDS is still unknown, overheated bedrooms are known to increase risk due to the limited capabilities of infants to regulate their own body temperature. Because of this, air conditioners as well as good ventilation and airflow in the bedroom can help keep infants from overheating and reduce their risk of SIDS.
To further evaluate the association between ambient temperature and SIDS, Project 1 researchers conducted a national study using infant mortality data from the National Center for Health Statistics and temperature data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from 1972-2006 for 210 US cities. They found that the association between temperature and SIDS was highest during the summer among infants 3-11 months old. When the researchers examined racial differences in temperature-related SIDS risk, they found that the percentage increase in SIDS per 10°F increase in ambient temperature was significantly greater among black infants (18.5%) than among white infants (3.6%). The root cause of these racial disparities remains to be determined, but the findings clearly reinforce the need to address SIDS as an environmental health disparities issue and to consider aspects of the home environment that can influence thermal comfort. Overall, these findings indicate that future temperature rises and increased frequency and intensity of heat waves due to climate change may impact infant health. Infants who live in environmental justice communities may be disproportionately impacted by temperature-related health outcomes such as SIDS.