The Burns Can Cook Them Cover Image

'The burns can cook them:' Reflections on burns injuries and the climate crisis

On 28th August 2023, The Guardian published 'The burns can cook them’: searing sidewalks cause horrific injuries in US.

Our CEO, Richard Nugee, responds with his thoughts.

I am the Chief Executive of The Scar Free Foundation. I am also a Non-Executive Director for Climate Change and Sustainability with the Ministry of Defence. I’m deeply concerned about the impact of the rapidly changing climate on us, the individuals and peoples of this world.

These two sides of my life rarely intersect. But my interest in scar free healing and my passion for sustainability and climate science coincided when I read, ‘The burns can cook them: searing sidewalks cause horrific injuries in US” (28th Aug 2023, The Guardian).

The journalist, Amy Silverman, goes to a burns unit in Phoenix, Arizona. The clinicians there have been overrun with patients suffering severe burns from superheated pavements and other urban surfaces. Shockingly, Silverman report that between June and mid-August, the unit treated 85 serious cases of contact burns – all from coming into contact with asphalt and railings almost as hot as boiling water.

Even after leaving the burns unit, survivors have to live with lifelong scars. These scars be taut, itchy and painful even after the burn has ‘healed.’ Many burns require skin grafts – a procedure that produces even more scarring.

The stories emerging from Phoenix are harrowing - and, I fear, only the beginning. As the UK comes out of yet another record-breaking heatwave, stories like these are a timely reminder, if one was needed, that the impact of climate change and a heating world often have very personal consequences.