Heat Risk Perceptions among different occupational groups in South India

This research is carried out by  PK Latha1, S Ranjith1, Vidhya Venugopal1  with funding support from the Global Disaster Preparedness Center.

Dehydration and volume loss from climate-related excessive heat exposure can cause rapid mortality from chronic disease exacerbations, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. In India, where many people perform hard physical labour in extreme heat, their occupational health is understudied. The objective of this research  is to examine the workers’ heat exposures and awareness of renal illness caused by non-traditional risk factors, as well as their everyday coping techniques for protecting themselves against heat exposure in southern India. Perception surveys were administered to 418 brick manufacturing, agriculture, Mahatma Gandhi rural, and construction workers. The average dry bulb temperature from May to October 2022 was 31°C, and the heat index Wet Bulb Globe temperature (WBGT) was higher than the safe index. Since most workers had heavy and moderate workloads, they were all working above the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) safe limit.44% (n=184) thought high heat exposures in May, June, and July made their work harder. 86% of workers reported experiencing any one Heat Related Illnesses (OR=1.03, CI= 0.59-1.8). The study’s main finding showed us which population to target for health awareness”. The urino-genital symptoms among female workers indicated that they were more dehydrated (57%) and had lower back pain (20%) due to awkward ergonomic situations and long work hours than males. Female workers had a high perception (70%) and risk of “any one urino-genital symptom” (Odds ratio = 1.14, CI = 0.75–1.73). “Heat exposure and a lack of welfare amenities at workplaces made female workers the most exposed to kidney stones or kidney-related disorders.”

Half the workers surveyed strongly agreed that wearing less or thinner/cotton clothes, drinking more, travelling to a shady area, and showering can reduce heat exposure. A majority of the working population were uninformed of the “Sitali breathing technique”, anYoga method to cool down their body effortlessly. Higher percentages of workers strongly agreed with the intake of tender coconut (66%), fruits such as melon and lemon (55%), cucumber (48%), buttermilk (45%), and Indian traditional cooling drinks (42%). However, their awareness of sabja seeds (11%), aloe-vera (18%), and fenugreek (13%), which are also proven to be effective coolants, was minimal.

1Department of Environmental Health Engineering, Faculty of Public Health, Sri Ramachandra Institute of Higher Education & Research, Chennai, India 

India Heat Perceptions Research by PK. Lahta 2022


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