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As Earth repeatedly broke unofficial records for average global heat, it served as a reminder of a danger that climate change is making steadily worse for farmworkers and others who labor outside.
Heat advisories and excessive heat warnings rolled out across much of the U.S., and farms in Oregon, Texas and much of the southern and central regions of the country were expected to see highs pushing 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Farm workers are 35 times more likely to die of heat exposure than workers in other industries, according to the National Institutes of Health, but there is no federal heat standard that ensures their health and safety.
Climate change makes extreme heat more likely and more intense. Farm work is particularly dangerous because workers raise their internal body temperature by moving, lifting and walking at the same time they’re exposed to high heat and humidity, said Dr. Jonathan Patz, chair of health and the environment at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Pedro Murrieta Baltazar, a worker in sweet corn and vegetable fields at Way Farms in Waverly, Ohio, said that this year’s heat hasn’t felt as bad to him as some prior years. But the farm where he works takes precautions nonetheless.
If workers don’t take breaks to get out of the sun, drink water and rest, they can experience nausea, vomiting, dehydration, muscle cramps and more — all the symptoms of a fever without any infection, said Roxana Chicas, an assistant professor in the nursing school at Emory University in Atlanta.
Even as the heat makes life more challenging for agricultural workers, unsustainable farming practices are also contributing to the emissions that fuel climate extremes.
Patz noted the need to reduce the demand for meat in Western diets. He called for changes in farming that could use less water and fertilizer and store more of the carbon that contributes to climate change.
This article was provided by The Associated Press.