Study of heat exposure during Hajj (pilgrimage).Environ Monit Assess. 2008 Dec; 147(1-3):279-95.EM
Heat stress presents a main problem to Muslim Hajeej (pilgrims) during Hajj (pilgrimage) season, particularly in summer. Records of the Saudi Ministry of Health show close relation between heat casualties and climatic heat load through consequent Hajj seasons. The present study was conducted to evaluate the climatic heat load in Hajj locations during summer of 1995 as well as just before and during the Hajj season of 1997. Heat measurements including: T (a), T (w), T (g), WBGT, relative humidity and air velocity were conducted through July-September 1995, and on March/April 1997, in 10 Hajj locations at morning, noon, afternoon and night. The highest WBGTs were at Haram court, Ghazzah area and Muna housing area, followed by Arafat areas and Muzdalefah, and the lowest at Azizia area. However, all the WBGTs were considerably higher than the ACGIH-TLV for safe heat exposure, particularly during daytime; meanwhile, heat exposure considerably exceeded the ASHRAE comfort zone at all locations all times. The natural climatic condition is a major contributing factor to the overall heat load; moreover, potentiated by heat dissipated from Hajj activities, including Hajeej crowds, human activities, and the vehicles' masses exhaust. This situation is further synergized by some pilgrims' misbehavior (e.g. living in open sunny areas, using vehicles without roofs) and lack of awareness of the seriousness of heat exposure among them. An outline for a control strategy has been suggested based on planting open areas of Arafat and Muna, provision of air conditioned housing and tents in Muna, segregation of pedestrians from vehicles and their provision of shaded roads and rest areas, establishing more water spatters in Arafat and Muna, checking the performance of large vehicles before issuing their permits for operation during Hajj, providing vehicles parking isolated areas away from Hajeej tents, provision of ample amounts of quality drinking water in all Hajj locations, provision of ample optimal ambulance services, and dissemination of educational information to Hajeej for their taking advantage of Fiqh (religion rules) waivers in performing Hajj rituals to minimize their heat exposure, and for their personal protection.