Delivery Workers’ Hazards

Zuha Siddiqui, Samriddhi Sakunia, and Faisal Mahmud, Rest of World:

To better understand air quality exposure among gig workers in South Asia, Rest of World gave three gig workers — one each in Lahore, New Delhi, and Dhaka — air quality monitors to wear throughout a regular shift in January. The Atmotube Pro monitors continually tracked their exposure to carcinogenic pollutants — specifically PM1, PM2.5, and PM10 (different sizes of particulate matter), and volatile organic compounds such as benzene and formaldehyde.


Although pollution can affect anyone exposed to it, delivery riders are particularly vulnerable owing to the nature of their work: They are outside for extended periods of time, often on congested streets, with little shelter from the smog.

These are obviously among the most extreme examples of what delivery workers’ lungs endure. Conditions similar to these are common across Southeast Asia and South Asia, but are not limited to those regions. According to IQAir, many cities in South Africa are dealing with dangerous levels of pollution, and winter months are particularly hazardous in Chile.

Back in the United States, John Oliver spent the main portion of the March 31 edition of “Last Week Tonight” talking about delivery workers. I have to wonder how any of these supposedly revolutionary “gig” jobs will last in their current form.

Update: Corrected to reflect that July is, in fact, winter in Chile. What a silly mistake.