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Factory swaps masks for mouth shields in Japan's summer heat

Employers grapple with protecting workers from virus and sweltering weather

A worker at the Kurobe Bekko plant wears a plastic shield covering the mouth. YKK AP wants to protect employees from both heat stroke and the coronavirus. (Photo by Masashi Ijichi)

TOYAMA, Japan -- As Japan heads into the peak of its summer heat and humidity, the country's factories are grappling with how to protect their workers from both the coronavirus and rising temperatures at the same time.

One window-and-door-parts factory about 400 km north of Tokyo has been at the forefront of this dilemma. On a cloudy day in July, the inside of YKK AP's Kurobe Ekko plant registered at 25 C and 80% humidity -- enough to make a masked person sweat from just walking across its floor.

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