The danger of heat stress in India's brick kilns

Temperatures in Indian brick kilns can exceed 120°F, and heat stress is a very real danger. Brooke India’s research team investigated awareness and management of this serious welfare issue.

Two horses working in an Indian brick kiln

Two horses working in an Indian brick kiln

India’s brick kiln industry produces up to 140 billion bricks a year, making it second only to China as the largest producer of bricks in the world.

It’s hard work for both equines and people who work there. For equines, the harsh environment causes serious health problems such as disease, injuries and lameness, and with temperatures exceeding 120°F, heat stress is also an issue. It’s a serious condition which, if left untreated, can lead to life-threatening heat stroke.

Our research aimed to discover how common heat stress was in Indian brick kilns, and how much equine owners knew about the condition.

WHAT OUR RESEARCH INVOLVED 

Brooke India’s research team visited brick kilns in Baghpat, Unnao and Udgir, where they assessed over 300 equines for signs of heat stress, and interviewed the animals’ owners to gauge their knowledge in managing and preventing it.

During the research, any animals found suffering from heat stress were treated immediately by bathing with cool water, and given shade and fresh drinking water. Any animals that would not drink were provided with isotonic fluid to help them rehydrate.

WHAT WE DISCOVERED

  • Compared to previous research, only a few animals were found to be suffering from heat stress. This may have been due to the temperature and humidity being lower than in earlier studies or because the brick kiln season was coming to an end, resulting in shorter work hours.
  • Equines over 10 years old were more likely to suffer from heat stress, possibly because older animals are less able to regulate their core body temperature.
  • Less than half of equine owners were aware of all the preventative heat stress measures, such as monthly hair clipping and offering water over seven times a day. The majority of owners (67%) did not clip their animals' coats, and over 40% of animals were not provided with any shelter, both of which help prevent animals becoming overheated. 

WHAT’S NEXT

Although this study found a surprisingly low number of animals suffering from heat stress, it still uncovered a need to support and train owners in preventing and managing this condition in their animals.

This research, and the methods used, will also be used for similar investigations.

See also

We work in 3,245 brick kiln sites offering emergency vet treatment and vaccinations as well as advice on disease prevention. To bring about lasting change, we also engage local service providers such as farriers, saddlers and cart makers which are often difficult for poor communities to access.