UN: 'Incredible numbers' of workers exposed to health risks due to climate change

“Agricultural workers and others who do heavy work in hot climates are particularly at risk,” the ILO said.

UN: 'Incredible numbers' of workers exposed to health risks due to climate change

“Agricultural workers and others who do heavy work in hot climates are particularly at risk,” the ILO said. The dangers include excessive heat, UV radiation, air pollution, communicable diseases and chemical exposure.

"Workers are among those most exposed to the dangers of climate change, but often have no choice but to continue working even when conditions are dangerous," the UN agency's report continued. In 2020 - the last year for which detailed data is available - 2.4 billion workers worldwide were exposed to "extreme heat" at work.

Proportionately, this is more than 70 percent of the entire workforce. Around two decades ago, this proportion was 65.5 percent. According to the ILO, almost 23 million work-related accidents caused by excessive heat are reported every year. Experts estimate the loss of human life at 19,000 per year.

According to the ILO report, numerous life-threatening diseases are linked to climate change, including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, kidney dysfunction and mental illnesses. 1.6 billion workers alone are exposed to harmful UV radiation at work every year, which leads to almost 19,000 deaths from skin cancer.

An estimated 1.6 billion people worldwide breathe in bad air at work, leading to 860,000 deaths, experts said. 870 million agricultural workers also come into contact with dangerous pesticides - resulting in 300,000 deaths.

“It is clear that climate change is already creating significant additional health risks for workers,” said Manal Azzi, head of the ILO Occupational Safety and Health Team. "It is important that we heed these warnings. Occupational health and safety considerations must become part of our response to climate change."

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