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date: 26 April 2018

Impacts of Climate Change on Workers’ Health

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Global Public Health. Please check back later for the full article.

As a result of climate change, workers are at increased risk to their health and safety. Workers, especially those who work outdoors or in already-hot indoor environments, are at increased risk of heat stress and other heat-related disorders, occupational injuries, and reduced productivity at work. Increased ambient temperatures may contribute to chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology among workers. A variety of approaches have been developed to measure and assess workers’ occupational heat exposure and their risk of heat-related disorders. In addition, increased ambient temperature may increase worker exposure to hazardous chemicals and the adverse effects of chemicals on workers’ health. Global warming will influence the distribution of weeds, insect pests, and pathogens, changing the types and amounts of pesticides used and thereby affecting the health of agricultural workers and others. Global warming is increasing ground-level ozone concentrations, with adverse effects on outdoor workers and others, as well. Extreme weather events related to climate change pose injury risks to rescue and recovery workers. Reducing the risks of work-related illnesses and injuries from climate change requires a three-pronged approach: (1) mitigating the production of greenhouse gases, the primary cause of climate change; (2) implementing adaptation measures to address the overall consequences of climate change; and (3) implementing improved measures for occupational health and safety.