Crop workers more susceptible to heat death

06/20/08 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the chances of dying due to extreme heat are greatest in this country if you are a crop worker.

Last month, an undocumented Mexican immigrant, 17-year-old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez, collapsed and died while pruning grave vines in 100 degree heat. Her death led more than 500 farmworkers and their advocates to protest in California’s state capital, demanding safer conditions on thousands of vineyards and orchards.

Dawn Castillo, with the Division of Safety Research for the CDC, said that many of those who toil in the industry are foreign born, but the federal agency does not have the ethnic breakdown of all of those who have died within the balance of the years studied. She says the CDC does have statistics over the last four years, which indicates that 71% of those fatalties were foreign born.

Overall, there were 423 heat-related deaths among workers in the U.S., from 1992 to 2006; 148 of those deaths came from the construction industry.

The study examines only fatalities due to extreme heat, not illnesses. The source for the information on deaths in the workplace comes from the Census of Fatal Occupational industries.

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