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UN: Heat, World's Workers     04/22 05:33


   GENEVA (AP) -- The U.N. labor organization warned Monday that over 70% of 
the world's workforce is likely to be exposed to excessive heat during their 
careers, citing increased concern about exposure to sunlight. It also warned of 
air pollution, pesticides and other hazards that could lead to health problems 
including cancer.

   In a new report, the International Labor Organization suggested ways that 
governments can improve their legislation and help cope with the rising effects 
of climate change on workers.

   "It's clear that climate change is already creating significant additional 
health hazards for workers," said Manal Azzi, the organization's team lead on 
occupational safety and health. "It is essential that we heed these warnings."

   The ILO estimates that over 2.4 billion workers -- more than 70% of the 
global workforce -- are likely to face excessive heat as part of their jobs at 
some point, according to the most recent figures available, from 2020. That's 
up from over 65% in 2000.

   The Geneva-based body cited the growing link between climate change and harm 
to human health, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory troubles 
and mental health.

   It estimates, for example, that 1.6 billion workers are exposed to 
ultraviolet radiation as part of their jobs, citing nearly 19,000 deaths a year 
from non-melanoma skin cancer, and ailments as diverse as sunburn, skin 
blistering and eye damage, cataracts and retina trouble like macular 

   The same number of workers -- 1.6 billion -- are exposed to workplace air 
pollution "resulting in up to 860,000 work-related deaths among outdoor workers 
annually," it said in a statement.

   The report said some subsets of workers are particularly vulnerable, such as 
firefighters in the United States battling wildfires, which experts say have 
become bigger and more frequent because of climate change due to high heat and 
excessively dry conditions.

   "Workers are often forgotten when we're talking about climate change and the 
health impacts are very severe from death, to millions of sick people because 
of hazards exacerbated by climate change, but also millions living with chronic 
diseases," Aziz said.

   Some countries have taken action by enacting legislation that calls for 
regular surveillance of workers regularly exposed to heat, excess sunlight, air 
pollution and other health risks on the job. In other cases, ILO says 
collective bargaining agreements between labor and business leaders have helped 
mitigate the risks.

   U.N. agencies and environmental activists have increasingly sought to 
highlight the link between climate change and human health. Planet Earth 
tallied a 10th straight month of record monthly temperatures in March, 
according to the European Union's climate agency.

   The World Health Organization estimates that between 2030 and 2050, just a 
handful of climate-related threats, such as malaria and water insecurity, will 
claim a quarter of a million additional lives each year.

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