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In Qatar, World Cup construction workers to get 'cooling' hats

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Naseem Zeitoon/Reuters/File

(Read caption) Migrant laborers work at a construction site at Aspire Zone in Doha, Qatar, March 2016.

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Migrant workers building soccer stadiums in Qatar's desert heat are to be given "cooling" hard hats to reduce their body temperature and risk of experiencing heat-related health issues, tournament organizers said.

Scientists at Qatar University designed the solar-powered hard hats to improve conditions for 2022 World Cup laborers who rights groups say have endured abuses.

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A fan in the top of the helmet blows air over a cold pack onto the person's face, reducing skin temperature by up to 10 degrees centigrade (18 degrees F.), said Saud Ghani, an engineering professor at Qatar University.

"Our objective was to reduce heat stress and heat strokes for workers in Qatar and the region," said Ghani.

American athletes have used body-based cooling technology including "ice hats" to improve their performance, but this would be the first time the technology has been used on a widescale basis in construction.

About 5,100 construction workers from Nepal, India and Bangladesh are building stadiums in the wealthy Gulf Arab state, which has drawn charges by human rights groups of labor abuse, including poor safety at work and squalid living conditions.

Summer temperatures in Qatar can reach 50 degrees (about 120 degrees F.), and Doha enforces a ban on outdoor work for several hours a day during the hottest months of the year.

But migrant workers have complained about heat exhaustion and dehydration while working in summer.

Around 260 migrant workers from India died in the whole of Qatar in 2015, according to figures from the Indian embassy in Doha seen by Reuters.

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The helmets, which can provide cooling in hot temperatures for up to four hours, will be introduced at all World Cup building sites next summer, said an official from Qatar's Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the body overseeing the tournament's organization.

Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky.