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‘You feel death at your doorstep but have no choice': Extreme heat takes toll on outdoor workers

·2 mins

The skin gets flush with fever, the breaths grow short, the heart races, dizziness sets in. The helmet and goggles only make matters worse, trapping heat on the head and the eyes. There’s little to no escape from sweltering temperatures for construction workers, who cleans work sites in a city in Texas, and has worked in the industry for 17 years. Another punishing wave of intense heat has put much of the US in a vice grip this week, subjecting some workers to dangerous (if not deadly) conditions; disrupting businesses; sapping away consumer spending and tourism; and taking a big bite out of economic activity. It’s estimated that heatwaves result in a loss of global economic activity, a GDP hit that’s forecast to grow in the coming years. An economic letter estimated that extreme heat will reduce the US capital stock, or the value of accumulated investment, and annual consumption, primarily due to labor productivity losses in construction. The summers are indeed getting longer and hotter. The heatwave season has steadily grown in recent decades, and according to data, heatwaves are occurring more often than they used to and delivering hotter high temperatures in the process, exacerbating the human and economic risks. Those risks aren’t shared equally: a study found that low-income workers experience more heat-related injuries than those who are the highest earners. The high heat has weighed on hiring, employee hours, and businesses’ ability to stay open, as well as the amount of money they’re bringing in. This week, some cities experienced record-high temperatures, affecting businesses and individuals alike.