Giving Compass' Take:
- Lela Nargi explains how heat stress conflates with other factors to exacerbate the negative impacts of rising temperatures on already-burdened farmworkers.
- What health implications are associated with climate change? How can you support the provision of greater legal and physical protections for farmworkers?
- Read about how COVID-19 has impacted farmworkers.
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Research confirms the various ways that climate impacts on food and agriculture are adversely affecting our health: Rising CO2 levels lead to less nutritious crops; increased incidence of diseases and pests may cause some farmers to use more toxic on-farm chemicals; and rising temperatures can lead to upticks of bacteria in the water, making it harder to keep our irrigation-dependent food supply safe.
These threats have direct implications for every human that eats. But farm workers—who number between 2 and 3 million in the U.S., are largely undocumented, and hail mostly from Mexico and Central America—are put at even greater risk by a a host of other dangers related to working outside all day, then sleeping in subpar living situations.
Exposure to increased heat has myriad negative effects; on the milder side, these include heat rash and heat stress. But heat “can and does kill farm workers,” said Elizabeth Strater, director of strategic affairs for United Farm Workers. Pickers are often paid a piece rate, so there’s no incentive for them to slow down or take breaks when it’s hot. Add to that the fact that many states have no shade, rest break, or potable water requirements to protect pickers, and the perils of farm work are compounded.
These and other threats to farm workers aren’t necessarily new, but they “amplify existing hazards” for an already disenfranchised group, Howard Frumkin, professor emeritus of environmental and occupational health at the University of Washington School of Public Health, told The Counter. “Speaking as a physician, this set of challenges [among farm workers] has every hallmark of being an emergency.”
Read the full article about farmworkers by Lela Nargi at The Counter.