Temporal and spatial variation in personal ambient temperatures for outdoor working populations in the southeastern USA
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Excessive ambient temperature exposure can result in significant morbidity and mortality, especially among vulnerable occupational groups like outdoor workers. Average temperatures in the USA are projected to increase in frequency and intensity, placing future worker populations at greater risk for unhealthy levels of exposure. Unlike previous research focused on aggregate-level temperature exposures from in situ weather station data, this study will measure location-based personal ambient temperatures (PAT) at the individual-level by piloting the use of wearable sensor technology. A total of 66 outdoor workers in three geographically and climatologically diverse regions in the Southeast USA were continuously sampled during the workday for a 1-week period throughout July 11 to August 8 2016. Results indicate significant worker variation in temperature exposure within and between study locations; with PAT characterized by less pronounced variability as workers moved between indoor and outdoor environments. Developed land covers, a factor often associated with higher temperatures, were poorly correlated with PAT. Future analysis should focus on a worker’s physiological response to PAT and mapping of spatial patterns of PAT for a larger worker population to produce innovative and targeted heat prevention programs.
We gratefully acknowledge support for this work by the American Association of Geographers (AAG), the Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) Travel Grant, and the Appalachian State University’s University Research Council Grant. The authors also thank Scott Stevens at the North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies for his expertise in data management and data merger and our ground workers partners at the NCSU, ASU, and MSU. This work would not be possible without their support. We also wish to thank the anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback that greatly improved the manuscript.
Compliance with ethical standards
This project received human subjects approval from the institutional review board (IRB) at ASU (IRB no. 16-0303), NCSU (IRB no. 7986), and MSU (IRB no. 16-254).
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