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Rising global temperatures are impacting the work force and occupational health of people, causing loss of 75 billion hours of work every year in India, states a recent Lancet report.

The report, ‘Countdown on health and climate change’,  shows that India lost 75 billion hours of work due to extreme heat in 2017, which roughly equals to 7% of its working population. Over 80% of these losses were in the agriculture sector, which is the most affected.“Rising temperatures are a key risk for occupational health, with temperatures regularly breaching physiological limits, making sustained work increasingly difficult or impossible,” highlights the report, which examined three work sectors — service, industry and outdoor.

While vulnerability to extremes of heat has steadily risen since 1990, India was identified as most affected by these changes, along with South-east Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and South America. In 2015, the hottest year on record, India lost as many as 2,000 lives due to heat waves. This number declined to 1,110 in 2016 and 222 in 2017, even as the frequency of heat waves continued to increase.

“Heat stroke is a medical emergency and can be fatal if not promptly and properly treated. It usually causes nausea, cramps, irritation, disorientation. In extreme cases it can also induce coma. It mainly affects people with low tolerance and immunity levels, specially the elderly, but it can take a toll on the younger population too,” said by a medical advisor.

In 2017, an additional 157 million heat wave exposure events occurred globally, which was 18 million higher than in 2016. Adults aged more than 65 years are particularly vulnerable, as are individuals with underlying cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases, and those living in urban areas.

Apart from decreasing labour productivity, climate change has also led to increased capacity for the transmission of diseases such as dengue fever, malaria and cholera. According to the report, the global vector capacity for the transmission of the dengue fever virus was the highest on record in 2016, rising to 9.1% for Aedes aegypti and 11.1% for Aedes albopictus above the 1950s baseline.

“When temperature rises, various bacteria, viruses and other microbes get a conducive environment to grow, especially when there is a transition from summer to monsoon, causing diseases like dengue and chikungunya,” Highlighting that lack in progress in reducing emissions is threatening human lives, the report prepared by 27 leading academic institutions, the UN, and intergovernmental agencies from every continent indicates there is an unacceptably high level of risk to the current and future health of populations across the world.

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