Impact of heat exposure costs UK six million potential working hours

A combine harvester cuts wheat during a harvest in Chelmsford - Hollie Adams/Bloomberg

A combine harvester cuts wheat during a harvest in Chelmsford – Hollie Adams/Bloomberg

Six million potential working hours were lost in the UK to heat exposure in 2021, according to a study on the health impacts of climate change.

The impact of heat exposure on workers in agriculture, construction and other exposed sectors has resulted in lost earnings of around £94million, according to the authors of the 2022 Lancet Countdown.

The Met Office issued its first-ever extreme heat warning in July 2021 as temperatures topped 32C in London.

The UK has no laws on minimum or maximum working temperatures, but the Health and Safety Executive says heat stress can make it difficult to concentrate and induce fatigue.

The loss of 6 million working hours represents less than 0.01% of the total hours worked in the UK each year.

The researchers also found that heat-related deaths increased by 45% between 2000-04 and 2017-2. The UK’s ten hottest years have all occurred since 2002.

This includes record high temperatures this year, when parts of the UK reached 104F (40C) for the first time.

Exposure to extreme heat also exacerbates underlying conditions such as cardiovascular and respiratory disease, causes heatstroke, and interrupts sleep.

The report also examines the impact of air pollution from fossil fuels, which it linked to the deaths of 8,000 people in the UK in 2020.

A new report released by the Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday found that it is too difficult for the public to find information on air quality in their area and the UK is unlikely to meet its emission reduction targets by 2030.

Health officials from the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing and others said the Lancet Countdown report showed not enough was being done to reduce pollution and protect health.

“This report is a much-needed wake-up call for the government,” said Dr Latifa Patel of the British Medical Association. “Our country’s leaders must recognize the serious health threat that climate change poses to our country, young and old.

“As doctors working in the NHS, we have seen firsthand the detrimental impact of air pollution on people’s health, increasing the risk of dangerous diseases.”

They called on the government to cut fossil fuel subsidies, which the study authors said amounted to £11billion, equivalent to 4% of UK healthcare spending in 2019 .

The Lancet Countdown study was conducted by 99 experts from 51 institutions around the world, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Meteorological Organization, and led by University College London.

Deterioration of food security

He found that climate change worsens food security and the spread of infectious diseases.

Household concentrations of hazardous air-polluting particles (PM 2.5 ) exceed the WHO recommendation by 30 times in 2020 in the 62 countries assessed.

Meanwhile, 69 of the 86 governments analyzed in the report were found to effectively subsidize fossil fuels, net totaling $400bn (£348.5bn) in 2019.

“Health systems are the first line of defense in addressing the physical and mental health impacts of extreme weather events and the other impacts of climate change.

“But health systems are struggling to cope with the burden of the Covid-19 pandemic, supply chain disruptions and other challenges, putting lives at risk, now and in the future. future,” said Professor Kristie Ebi, a global health expert at the University. of Washington, who contributed to the report.

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