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Climate Change May Threaten Worker Health, Productivity, Study Says
Date:2/25/2013

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Feb. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Although the specter of climate change typically raises concerns about acute events such as hurricanes, droughts and heat waves, new research suggests that global warming may have a much broader chronic impact: the permanent unraveling of worker productivity due to extreme and enduring heat stress.

The problem: As greenhouse gas emissions rise, so does humidity, say scientists who support the theory of global warming. This means that today's steaming hot tropical and mid-latitude regions will increase in size, heat and discomfort, making it impossible for unprotected outdoor laborers to work productively or safely during the hottest times of the year.

Over the past few decades, climate change has already prompted global working capacity to drop, on average, to 90 percent during the peak summer season, the authors of the new study said. Worst-case projections envision a continuing plummet to levels under 40 percent by the year 2200.

"The gist is that this problem is going to get a lot more severe in the future," said study lead author John Dunne, an oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, in Princeton, N.J. "And while the human population has a lot of adaptations for heat stress, we need to have guidelines and be prepared."

Dunne and his colleagues discuss their observations in a research letter published in the March issue of the journal Nature Climate Change.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health noted that the combination of extreme heat and humidity can be hazardous, resulting in heat exhaustion, heat stroke, dizziness, cramping and rashes.

To conduct its analysis, the study authors first pored over data from the lab's Earth System Model as well as information collected by the U.S. National Centers for Environmental Prediction and the Nat
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