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  #1  
Old 01-24-2006, 11:22 PM
andrewdt85 andrewdt85 is offline
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How many Americans freeze to death each year (not homeless) because of oil prices?

Anyone have stats?
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  #2  
Old 01-24-2006, 11:28 PM
groman groman is offline
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Just a WAG, but none.

I mean, if you are not homeless, even without electricity, gas, or hot running water, you should have enough resources to not die of hypothermia. In fact, I do not think any Americans freeze to death which cannot be attributed to intoxication, mental illness or very poor choices.
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  #3  
Old 01-24-2006, 11:31 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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The only way that could happen is through a long-chain of exacerbating circumstances such as an elderly or mentally incapable person was neglected by the family, funds ran out, and the person could not get to a phone for a long period when the weather was below well below freezing. I suppose it could happen to infants or the very sick as well.

Yours is a really odd question actually. Any able bodied person or family would be able to move to some warm place unless things went terribly, terribly wrong out in the middle of nowhere. Out of those impossibly few cases, only a tiny subset could be tied but into the difference in fuel oil costs between a few years ago and now and I am not sure how you could ever prove that given the nature of the horrific things that had to happen before it.

1) Have you ever heard of such a case?
2) How would you envision such a scenario happening in detail?

It is a huge country. I am sure an example of damned near everything can be found if you try enough. Old people die from extreme heat when they don't have air conditioners but I have never heard of someone that froze to death simply because they couldn't afford the heating bill.
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Old 01-25-2006, 12:06 AM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
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When I lived in L.A. it seemed that at least one person died every year from causes related to cold.

Now, I'm living in the PNW. It doesn't get as cold here as it does in many, many other places. But it's a bit colder than L.A. Winter has been rather mild so far, and it's costing me about $150/month to heat the house to 65F while I'm in it. I do remember though, forgetting to turn the heat on in L.A. and walking into a 50F house. Uncomfortable, but not life-threatening. The point is that even in L.A. people want to be warm. Many of these people are poor. (In every case that I recall, the affected family was Hispanic and living in a poor neighbourhood.) So to keep warm in the winter, but in an effort to avoid paying heating bills, they would light a barbecue grill in their homes. Death would be by carbon monoxide poisoning.

So while they did not 'die of cold', they died because it was cold and they were trying to keep warm.

The heating bill for my apartment was only about $10/month. Much cheaper than a month's worth of charcoal for a barbie. And safer as well.
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  #5  
Old 01-25-2006, 12:56 AM
Aspidistra Aspidistra is offline
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Don't have any stats for the US but it happensall the time in the UK. I'd be amazed if the same scenario wasn't fairly prevalent in the US too. Trying to determine how much of that was due to "high" heating costs (and how high is "high"?) would be fraught with problems though
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Old 01-25-2006, 01:56 AM
treis treis is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shagnasty
The only way that could happen is through a long-chain of exacerbating circumstances such as an elderly or mentally incapable person was neglected by the family, funds ran out, and the person could not get to a phone for a long period when the weather was below well below freezing. I suppose it could happen to infants or the very sick as well.
Its unfortunately not that simple. For numerous reasons elderly people, especially in cities, become socially isolated. Afraid to leave their houses they simply stay in their homes and have no contact with the outside world. That in itself can result in easily preventable death and the effect is exacerbated when the person is poor. I also think you underestimate the cost for heating a house in the winter, from Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago by Eric Klinenberg:

Quote:
While the average Illinois family spends roughly 6% of its income on heat-related utilitiees uring winter months, for low-income families the costs constitute nearly 35%
He cites Pearson (1995) for that information. That number is 10 years out of date and with rising heating costs that number has almost certainly risen. Seniors often find themself in the unfortunate predicament of deciding whether to purchase thier needed medicine, food or energy. Out of those 3 energy is the obvious one to skimp on. If you have an extremely cold and long winter the energy bills go way up not only from simply having to heat for a longer period of time but with more energy. Seniors then have to cut back on their heating even more while dealing with a colder winter. Its not hard to see how a frail elderly person that is living in a semi-heated apartment could perish from exposure to the cold.
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  #7  
Old 01-25-2006, 02:22 AM
Shalmanese Shalmanese is offline
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Additionally, low temperatures can excaberate a number of existing medical conditions in the elderly which might be enough to kill them.
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  #8  
Old 01-25-2006, 04:15 AM
Stentor 2.5 Stentor 2.5 is offline
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The weak.
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  #9  
Old 01-25-2006, 05:38 AM
scm1001 scm1001 is offline
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freezing to death is quite common and is known as hypothermia. Mountain climbers, hikers, hunters all the time.


"During 1979--1998, Utah reported 91 deaths attributed to hypothermia, with an age-adjusted rate of 0.4 per 100,000 population. During the same period, Illinois reported the most deaths (859), with an age-adjusted rate of 0.4. Alaska had the highest age-adjusted rate of 2.9, with 250 deaths attributed to hypothermia."

from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5104a2.htm
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  #10  
Old 01-25-2006, 06:33 AM
Balthisar Balthisar is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by treis
For numerous reasons elderly people, especially in cities, become socially isolated. Afraid to leave their houses they simply stay in their homes and have no contact with the outside world.
Well, yeah, but these aren't voters and have no that cares about them, so it's like they don't exist, so we might as well not count them at all.
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  #11  
Old 01-25-2006, 12:16 PM
Kimstu Kimstu is offline
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Total hypothermia deaths in US in recent years:
Quote:
During 1979--2002, a total of 16,555 deaths in the United States, an average of 689 per year (range: 417--1,021), were attributed to exposure to excessive natural cold (International Classification of Diseases, Ninth and Tenth Revision ICD-9 codes E901.0, E901.8, and E901.9; ICD-10 code X31) (Figure 1) (4). Annual death rates were highest before 1990 (range: 0.3--0.4 per 100,000 population), then decreased to 0.2 beginning in 1991, except for an increase to 0.3 in 2000.

In 2002, a total of 646 hypothermia-related deaths were reported, with an annual death rate of 0.2 per 100,000 population. [...]

States with the greatest overall death rates for hypothermia in 2002 were Alaska (3.0), New Mexico (0.9), North Dakota (0.9), and Montana (0.8).
It is suggested, though, that hypothermia is underreported as a cause of death, particularly among the elderly, who are more susceptible to it. And it's claimed that hypothermia deaths track heating costs:
Quote:
Approximately 600 elderly people die in the USA each year from hypothermia. Unfortunately, the prevalence of deaths from hypothermia tracks the cost of energy. Elderly people on a fixed income may cut back on heating during winter months if they feel they cannot afford heating bills.

For persons in their 80's and 90's, an environmental temperature below 65 degrees Fahrenheit (F) causes a serious drop in body temperature, precipitating a drop in the body's core temperature to 95 degrees (F) (35 degrees Celsius) or less.

There are a number of factors that make the elderly person especially prone to hypothermia.
As Aspidistra pointed out, in the UK, "Fuel poverty is estimated to cause thousands of winter deaths". The UK has colder winters than many parts of the US, but then the US has many more people.

I wouldn't be surprised if the annual American death toll directly due to elderly hypothermia directly caused by "fuel poverty", i.e., insufficient home heating due to being unable to afford adequate fuel, were at least in the hundreds. I would be pretty surprised if groman's WAG of a "fuel poverty" death toll literally equal to "none" were accurate.

However, that's a guess, not a stat, and the OP is looking for stats.
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  #12  
Old 01-25-2006, 12:27 PM
elmwood elmwood is offline
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It happens every few years in Buffalo, mainly with the elderly.

The following is from the Buffalo News archives going back to 1990.

Quote:
LANDLORD DISCOVERS BODY OF WOMAN WHO FROZE TO DEATH
Published on February 21, 2001

The remains of a 58-year-old Buffalo woman who froze to death about three weeks ago were discovered earlier this week by her landlord, authorities said.

Velma Fordham had been living in her rear apartment at 227 Burgard Place since the middle of November without heat, according to Joseph Riga, chief of the Buffalo police Homicide Bureau. No foul play is suspected in the death.

HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN?
Published on January 11, 2004

One thing is known for sure: Lee Harris froze to death.

Harris' son found his cold, near lifeless body, the product of 69 years of rough living, face-down on his kitchen floor. The gas and electricity to his father's East Side apartment had been turned off, and Harris may have been without heat for as long as six days.
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  #13  
Old 01-25-2006, 12:37 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Quote:
I also think you underestimate the cost for heating a house in the winter
Just as one data point, my mom spent $490 this past December for heating, and she only keeps the house at 55 Farenheit (about 13 Celsius). Now, granted, she lives in a big, old, leaky house. But she's not the only person who lives in a big, old, leaky house, and most folks probably don't go to as much trouble to plug the leaks as she does.

I seem to recall that the figure in Cleveland is that about 5 people in the city die of hypothermia in their homes every winter, but I don't have a cite for that at the moment. It's certainly not zero, though.
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