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Heat Stress, Physiological Response, and Heat-Related Symptoms among Thai Sugarcane Workers

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School of Occupational Health and Safety, Institute of Public Health, Suranaree University of Technology, 111 University Ave., Muang, Nakhon Ratchasima 30000, Thailand
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School of Community Health Nursing, Institute of Nursing, Suranaree University of Technology, 111 University Ave., Muang, Nakhon Ratchasima 30000, Thailand
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Department of Occupational Health and Safety, Faculty of Public Health, Mahidol University, 420/1 Rajvithi Road, Bangkok 10400, Thailand
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Center of Excellence on Environmental Health and Toxicology, EHT, Bangkok 10400, Thailand
5
Department of Public Health, University of Massachusetts Lowell, One University Ave, Lowell, MA 01854-2867, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(17), 6363; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17176363
Received: 4 July 2020 / Revised: 27 August 2020 / Accepted: 28 August 2020 / Published: 1 September 2020
Prolonged or intense exposure to heat can lead to a range of health effects. This study investigated heat exposure and heat-related symptoms which sugarcane workers (90 sugarcane cutters and 93 factory workers) experienced during a harvesting season in Thailand. During the hottest month of harvesting season, wet bulb globe temperature was collected in the work environment, and workloads observed, to assess heat stress. Urine samples for dehydration test, blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature were measured pre- and post-shift to measure heat strain. Fluid intake and heat-related symptoms which subjects had experienced during the harvesting season were gathered via interviews at the end of the season. From the results, sugarcane cutters showed high risk for heat stress and strain, unlike factory workers who had low risk based on the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygiene (ACGIH) threshold limit values (TLVs) for heat stress. Dehydration was observed among sugarcane cutters and significant physiological changes including heart rate, body temperature, and systolic blood pressure occurred across the work shift. Significantly more sugarcane cutters reported experiencing heat-related symptoms including weakness/fatigue, heavy sweating, headache, rash, muscle cramp, dry mouth, dizziness, fever, dry/cracking skin, and swelling, compared to sugarcane factory workers. We conclude that the heat stress experienced by sugarcane cutters working in extremely hot environments, with high workloads, is associated with acute health effects. Preventive and control measures for heat stress are needed to reduce the risk of heat strain. View Full-Text
Keywords: heat stress; wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT); heat-related symptom; heat strain; sugarcane worker; harvesting season heat stress; wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT); heat-related symptom; heat strain; sugarcane worker; harvesting season
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Boonruksa, P.; Maturachon, T.; Kongtip, P.; Woskie, S. Heat Stress, Physiological Response, and Heat-Related Symptoms among Thai Sugarcane Workers. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17, 6363.

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