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Heat Stress: The Third Deathly Hallow after Environmental Degradation and COVID-19

The year 2019 was the second hottest year on record for the planet. With the amount of ever-increasing pollution, the conditions may worsen in 2021. As the pandemic has already brought the world to a complete halt, heat stress is going to be as deadly as COVID-19. Millions of people around the world could be exposed to dangerous levels of heat stress – a life threatening condition which can cause organs to shut down.

Our body maintains a core temperature of 37.5°C, whether we’re in a snowstorm or a heat wave but as the temperature increases, our body works harder to keep its core temperature down. The result of which is sweating. To keep the body cool, the sweat evaporates, which vehemently increases the heat loss from the skin. This puts strain on the body and can lead to dizziness, fainting, confusion, nausea, muscle cramps or worse organ failure.

Old age and some long term conditions such as heart diseases, diabetes type 1 and 2 can leave people more vulnerable to heat stress. Children and babies who are less mobile will also be at risk and people suffering from dementia will be left unaware and helpless to do anything about it. The violent pace of global warming will make the conditions too hot for humans to work in. Especially, the daily wagers such as farmers, mine workers, construction workers, rickshaw pullers and cab drivers. Currently the worst sufferers are the doctors and the health workers who have to wear protective equipment to avoid contacting infection. They can’t turn on the air conditioners as it will increase the probability of infliction to COVID-19.

Image Credits: BBC News

In India, heat waves have killed about 6,167 people over a period of eight years ending in 2018. Moreover, India does not recognize heat wave as a disaster under its Disaster Management Law, thereby cutting it off from the government’s Disaster Response Fund. It is predicted that the annual average temperature will increase up to 1.5°-2°C by 2030. It had already risen by 2°C in the past 200 years till 2006.

Image Credits: Firstpost

At least 1.2 billion people in India will be living in areas as hot as the Sahara in the coming 50 years if the greenhouse gas emissions keep rising. The impact of heat stress is not limited to sectors where employees are directly exposed to sunlight. Small industries, such as cloth-weaving units, which cannot afford air-conditioning, are also vulnerable to production losses due to a rise in temperatures, found a 2018 study prepared by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, a think-tank. For every 1°C rise in temperature beyond 27°C on a hot day in India, productivity of workers drops by as much as 4 per cent, the study stated.

Saher Hiba Khan is a student pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.

Edited by: Varda Ahmad

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.

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Written by Saher Hiba Khan

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