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PLoS One. 2018 Oct 5;13(10):e0205181. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0205181. eCollection 2018.

The impact of heat and impaired kidney function on productivity of Guatemalan sugarcane workers.

Author information

1
Center for Health, Work & Environment, Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colorado, United States of America.
2
Colorado Consortium on Climate Change and Human Health, University of Colorado Denver, Aurora, Colorado, United States of America.
3
National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, United States of America.
4
Department of Biostatistics and Informatics, Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colorado, United States of America.
5
Department of Emergency Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colorado, United States of America.
6
Division of Renal Diseases and Hypertension, School of Medicine, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colorado, United States of America.
7
Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colorado, United States of America.
8
Pantaleon, Guatemala City, Guatemala.
9
Division of Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colorado, United States of America.
10
Department of Epidemiology, Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colorado, United States of America.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Climate change has implications for human health and productivity. Models suggest that heat extremes affect worker health, reduce labor capacity, and commodity supply. Chronic health conditions are on the rise internationally. However there is a paucity of direct empirical evidence relating increasing temperatures to both agricultural worker health and productivity.

METHODS AND FINDINGS:

We evaluated the relationship between temperature exposure, kidney function, and two measures of productivity-tons of commodity produced and job attrition, of 4,095 Guatemalan sugarcane cutters over a 6-month harvest. We used distributed lag non-linear models to evaluate associations between wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT) and productivity of workers with normal or impaired kidney function. The cumulative effect of exposure to a max WBGT of 34°C was 1.16 tons (95% CI: -2.87, 0.54) less sugarcane cut over the next five days by workers with impaired kidney function, compared to exposure to 29°C. Impaired kidney function was associated with premature workforce attrition. Workers starting the harvest season with impaired kidney function were more than twice as likely to leave employment (HR: 2.92, 95% CI: 1.88, 4.32).

CONCLUSIONS:

Heat extremes may be associated with loss of agricultural worker productivity and employment, especially among those with impaired kidney function. Agricultural workers who develop health conditions, such as kidney disease, are particularly vulnerable in the face of climate change and increasing heat extremes. The resultant loss of employment and productivity has significant implications for global commodity supplies.

Conflict of interest statement

This evaluation was partially supported by Pantaleon. This does not alter our adherence to PLOS ONE policies on sharing data and material.

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