2022 Upton Sinclair Memorial Lecture to Examine Cost of Heat-Related Illness on U.S. Workers

AIHA’s 2022 Upton Sinclair Memorial Lecture will be presented by Kristen Lombardi, who is the head of Columbia Journalism Investigations

AIHA’s 2022 Upton Sinclair Memorial Lecture will be presented by Kristen Lombardi, who is the head of Columbia Journalism Investigations, the postgraduate reporting program of the Columbia Journalism School. The Upton Sinclair Memorial Lecture is one of the programmed events at AIHA’s annual conference and expo, AIHce EXP. Titled “Hot Days: How Data and Documents Shined a Light on Heat’s Mounting Death Toll on Workers In the US,” Lombard’s lecture will offer insight into how the lack of a national heat standard safeguarding workers against hot temperatures has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of American workers and enforced a system rife with problems.

With record-breaking temperatures becoming more common during summer months, the risk of heat stress-related illness in the workplace is increasing, and as climate change fuels hotter days, scientists assert that the problem will get worse. NPR and Columbia Journalism Investigations found that 384 workers in 37 states have died from environmental heat exposure in the U.S. within the last decade. These workers include farm laborers in California, construction and trash collection workers in Texas, and tree trimmers in North Carolina and Virginia. Lombardi is one of four partner editors, along with eight reporters, who produced this multi-newsroom collaboration

“We at Columbia Journalism Investigations feel humbled by AIHA’s recognition of this important story,” said Lombardi. “Upton Sinclair embodied the very best of investigative reporting—exposing those responsible for workplace harms and showing the path to a better way.”

The Texas Newsroom, the California Newsroom, and Public Health Watch participated alongside NPR and Columbia Journalism Investigations, and Lombardi cited these organizations as sharing the honor brought by AIHA’s recognition. “All of us are grateful for the opportunity to give an inside look at what it took to do this investigation,” she said, “and to highlight the shortfalls we found in the regulatory system for dangerous heat and the lasting consequences for the families of workers who died as a result. We could not have told this story without their trust that we would do their loved ones justice.”
More information can be found in NPR’s August 17, 2021, article covering the investigation.

The Upton Sinclair Memorial Lecture will be held at 3:15 p.m. Central time on Monday, May 23, at the Music City Center in Nashville, Tennessee. Members of local media who are interested in obtaining press passes to this event should contact Ina Xhani, AIHA’s communication specialist.

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