CDC Releases Extensive Survey of AmericansÆ Exposure to Environmental Chemicals

July 26, 2005

The Third National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), shows a significant decline in exposure to secondhand smoke and continued decreases in childrenÆs blood lead levels. The report also suggests the need for more research into health effects of exposure to low levels of cadmium.

ôThis is the most extensive assessment ever of AmericansÆ exposure to environmental chemicals; it shows weÆre making tremendous progress, and thatÆs good news,ö said CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding. ôExposure to secondhand smoke continues to plummet and blood lead levels in children are way down. However, many challenges remain. CDC is steadfast in its commitment to health protection, including protection from environmental threats.ö

Levels of a chemical called cotinine, which is a marker of exposure to secondhand smoke in nonsmokers, have dropped significantly since levels were first measured from 1988 to 1991. Compared with median levels for 1988-1991, median cotinine levels measured from 1999-2002 have decreased 68% in children, 69% in adolescents, and about 75% in adults. Still, some populations remain at greater risk; the third report shows that non-Hispanic blacks have levels twice as high as those of non-Hispanic whites or Mexican Americans, and childrenÆs levels are twice as high as adultsÆ levels.

New data on blood lead levels in children aged 1-5 years show that for 1999-2002, 1.6% of children aged 1ù5 years had elevated blood lead levels (levels of 10 micrograms per deciliter or greater û the CDC blood lead level of concern). This percentage has decreased from 4.4% in the early 1990s.

ôLowering blood lead levels in children is one of the major environmental health accomplishments of the past 30 years; however, CDC is still concerned about exposure to lead from lead-based paint and lead-contaminated house dust, soil and consumer products,ö said Dr. Jim Pirkle, Deputy Director for Science at CDCÆs Environmental Health Laboratory. ôThere is no safe blood lead level in children. Children are best protected by controlling or eliminating lead sources before they are exposed.ö

Recent studies have shown that urine levels of the metal cadmium as low as 1 ug/g of creatinine may be associated with subtle kidney injury and an increased risk for low bone mineral density. The report shows that about 5% of the U.S. population aged 20 years and older had urinary cadmium at or near these levels. Cigarette smoking is the likely source for these higher cadmium levels. More research is needed on the public health consequences of these levels in people in this age group.

For this yearÆs report, CDCÆs Environmental Health Laboratory measured 148 chemicals û 38 of which have never been measured in the U.S. population û or their breakdown products (metabolites) in blood or urine. The samples were collected from approximately 2400 people who participated in CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 1999 -2002. NHANES is an ongoing national health survey of the general U.S. population. The report provides exposure data on the U.S. population by age, sex, and race or ethnicity.

In addition to lead and cadmium, the report includes extensive data for such chemicals as mercury, lead, cadmium, and other metals; phthalates; organochlorine pesticides; organophosphate pesticides; pyrethroid insecticides; herbicides; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; dioxins and furans; polychlorinated biphenyls; and phytoestrogens.

CDC conducts this research to learn more about the effectiveness of public health interventions and better understand the health risks of exposure to chemicals in the environment. Research separate from the reportÆs findings is needed to determine the relationship between levels of chemicals in the blood or urine and health effects. The results presented in this and future reports will help set priorities for research on human health risks resulting from exposure to environmental chemicals.




New Alliance Will Promote Safety and Health for Electrical Workers in North Texas

Furthering the safety and health of electrical industry workers in north Texas is the goal of an alliance signed between the Dallas area office of OSHA and the Dallas Chapter of Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC).

"This is an opportunity for OSHA and members of the electrical industry to come together through forums, roundtable discussions and meetings to discuss the safety and health issues faced by electrical workers on a daily basis," said Kathryn Delaney, OSHA area director in Dallas. "The alliance will increase awareness of hazards associated with electrical work and various building trades."

IEC is a trade association of more than 3,200 electrical and systems contractors within 75 chapters nationwide. Members of IEC and OSHA will develop a plan of action based on mutually agreed upon working procedures, roles and responsibilities for the participants. Quarterly meetings will be held to track, analyze and share information on activities and results in achieving the goals of the alliance.

For more information on this alliance or about forming an alliance or partnership with OSHA's Dallas area office, call (214) 320-2400. OSHA has created more than 300 alliances nationwide with organizations committed to fostering safety and health in the workplace.




Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE): Dust Exposures at a Cement Company

Lehigh Portland Cement requested NIOSH assistance in assessing exposures at a new cement production facility. Employee exposures to respirable dust, silica, and metals were below all regulatory and recommended standards, but employees in the raw mill and yard operations were exposed to high levels of total dust. NIOSH investigators offered recommendations to the company managers to reduce total dust exposure through engineering controls, where feasible. Administrative controls and personal protective equipment were recommended if engineering controls were infeasible or ineffective in reducing air contaminants to acceptable levels. The full report is available at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/hhe/reports/pdfs/2004-0016-2971.pdf. More information on HHEs can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/hhe.




NIOSH and European Agency for Safety Launch Joint Web Portal

NIOSH, and the Bilbao-based European Agency for Safety and Health at Work have launched a new joint Web site. The site follows the structure and presentation of the European Agency's Web site network and represents a significant contribution to the creation of a global portal to workplace safety and health information. As well as linking directly to European Union (EU) information, the site is a rich source of occupational safety and health information in the United States.

The common Web site will provide the occupational safety and health community with improved access and sharing of the vast pool of European and American OSH expertise and research. "In today's global economy such cooperation and partnership is not only a need, it is a must," said Dr. Max Lum, Director of the Office of Health Communication, NIOSH.

The Director of the European Agency, Hans-Horst Konkolewsky, added: "The Agency's online network already includes health and safety organizations from Australia, Canada, USA and Japan. With such a significant new partner as NIOSH, the expanded network will be a leading international hub for safety and health information."




EPA Sponsors Safety Outreach for Nail Salon Workers

Weekend workshops targeting Vietnamese nail salon workers were held in two locations to educate them about the health risks from exposure to occupational chemicals and toxics. One was held in Philadelphia on July 17 and two in D.C. on July 18, hosted by EPA Region 3's Business Assistance Center, its Office of Children's Health Protection and its Asian Pacific American Council (APAC). Vietnamese salons make up 40% of the nail salons in the U.S. The technicians, often women of child-bearing age speaking limited English, frequently work 10 to 12 hours a day in poorly-ventilated rooms with hazardous and volatile chemicals from nail products. The workshops were presented in Vietnamese by Lisa Pham, an engineer in EPA Region 6 where the initiative began in 1999.




New Oregon OSHA Administrator Appointed

Michael Wood has been appointed administrator of the Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) of the Department of Consumer & Business Services, effective September 1, 2005. Wood is currently the acting assistant director for industrial safety and health at the State of WashingtonÆs Department of Labor & Industries. DCBS Director Cory Streisinger announced WoodÆs appointment after a competitive recruitment.

ôOregon OSHA is a crucial component of our stateÆs successful workplace safety partnership between industry, labor, and government,ö Streisinger said. ôMichael knows the importance of this partnership and has the experience, policy expertise, and commitment to maintain and expand it. WeÆre very pleased to have him on board.ö

Wood has been acting assistant director for industrial safety and health in Washington since January 2005, and in that position is responsible for administering the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act (WISHA). He was previously senior program manager responsible for the technical content and interpretation of all WISHA policy and standards for more than nine years, and also provided direction to regional enforcement and consultation staff in the appropriate application of WISHA requirements.

In 2004, Wood spent four months as the acting program manager of the Washington Department of Labor & IndustriesÆ self-insurance program for workersÆ compensation. He has worked for the State of Washington for 21 years, including three years as a staff member for the Washington State Legislature and 18 years with Labor and Industries. A certified safety professional, Wood has a B.A. degree from SpokaneÆs Gonzaga University.

ôOregon has one of the best safety plans in the country,ö Wood said. ôItÆs a good, solid program with a history of working effectively with workers and employers, and IÆm looking forward to joining that effort.ö Wood replaces Peter DeLuca, who retired on June 30 after more than nine years as Oregon OSHA administrator.

ôPete did an outstanding job during his tenure as administrator,ö Streisinger said. ôUnder his leadership the divisionÆs relationships with its partners improved significantly and injury and illness rates declined steadily, as did workers' compensation costs. Michael is taking on a program well-positioned for continued success.ö

Oregon OSHA advances workplace safety and health and reduces workplace injuries and illnesses; in doing so, the division reduces the cost of workersÆ compensation insurance in Oregon. Oregon OSHA inspects worksites for safety and health violations; investigates workplace fatalities, major accidents, and safety and health complaints; provides training and consultation services; and develops occupational safety and health rules.

In addition to Oregon OSHA, DCBS administers state laws and rules to protect consumers and workers in the areas of workersÆ compensation, financial services and institutions, insurance, building codes, and targeted contracting opportunities for small businesses.




OSHA and SWRI Renew Alliance

Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Jonathan L. Snare signed a two-year renewal of the Sealant, Waterproofing and Restoration Institute (SWRI) Alliance that will continue to focus on safety and health protection efforts for workers in that industry.

Through the OSHA and SWRI Alliance renewal, the organizations will continue to help advance a culture of injury and illness prevention, while sharing best practices on improving workplace safety and health. Originally signed on Feb. 20, 2003, the Alliance's aim is to provide information and guidance on reducing and preventing exposure to lead and silica, as well as emphasize safety concerns in the areas of confined spaces, fall protection and staging requirements.

"This Alliance demonstrates the excellent working relationship between OSHA and SWRI and our common goal of enhancing the safety and health of workers who apply and otherwise work with sealant, waterproofing and restoration products," Snare said. "This joint effort seeks to equip these workers with the skills and resources to identify and prevent workplace hazards before injuries or illnesses occur."

Added SWRI Executive Vice President Ken Bowman: "The Sealant, Waterproofing and Restoration Institute is excited about renewing our Alliance with OSHA. The communication and access to the compliance assistance tools from OSHA representatives and the OSHA Web site has made it possible for SWRI to disseminate valuable safety and health information to our members. The Institute looks forward to continue working with OSHA in addressing key health and safety issues that affect our industry."

As a direct result of the Alliance, OSHA and SWRI developed a safety manual designed to provide basic information on a wide range of important topics within the sealant, waterproofing and restoration industry such as hazard communication, confined space and fall protection.

In addition, OSHA and SWRI will continue to work together to increase access for employees to safety and health information and outreach programs. Both organizations will also continue to develop and disseminate injury and hazard information at conferences and events, and through print and electronic media.

SWRI is a nonprofit corporation of 200 commercial contractors, manufacturers and consultants engaged in the application, design and manufacture of sealant, waterproofing and restoration products.




Koch Carbon Achieves OSHA Recognition

Koch Carbon LLC, Corpus Christi, Texas, has earned membership in the prestigious "Star" Voluntary Protection Program of the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). "Koch Carbon has demonstrated excellence in effective safety and health management," said OSHA Regional Administrator John Miles in Dallas. "Their outstanding efforts include maintaining an extremely low injury and illness rate compared to the national average for their industry."

Koch Carbon, a subsidiary of Koch Mineral Services,Wichita, Kansas, employs about four workers and provides contract services for the Flint Hills Resources Corpus Christi Coker Unit. The employees load and transport the petroleum coke to a bulk terminal near the Corpus Christi Ship Channel.

The Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) recognize and promote effective workplace safety and health management. About 1,300 work sites representing more than 280 industries throughout the U.S have earned OSHA's highest recognition as VPP participants. VPP workplaces typically achieve injury and illness rates more than 50% below their respective industry's average rates.




Workplace-safety Consultations Remain Confidential in Washington State

WashingtonÆs Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) said a decision by the Washington State Supreme Court that guarantees the confidentiality of workplace-safety consultations is good news for workers and employers.

ôThe guarantee of confidentiality is important to employers who want help in improving workplace safety and avoiding injuries to their employees,ö said L&I Director Gary Weeks. ôWithout that guarantee, we found that some employers were reluctant to request consultations. ThatÆs unfortunate because consultation offers the opportunity for employers to work with the department to ensure a safe and healthy workplace.ö

On July 15, the state Supreme Court declined to review a Court of Appeals decision in a lawsuit filed against L&I by the Building Industry Association of Washington, which sought access to consultation documents. The Court of Appeals, in overturning a Thurston County Superior Court decision, ruled that state law (RCW 49.17.250(3)) provides confidentiality. Also plaintiffs in the case were Allied Daily Newspapers of Washington and the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.

ôI also strongly support the publicÆs right to review government documents,ö Weeks said. ôThis confidentiality exception is just that ù an exception to the general policy that L&IÆs information is available for citizen review.ö

Weeks said the court decision is timely as L&I makes greater efforts to provide assistance to employers on preventing workplace injuries and controlling their workersÆ compensation costs.

ôWe must balance workplace-safety enforcement with education and assistance for those employers who may simply not have a complete understanding of what is legally expected of them,ö he said. ôThis is especially important and appropriate for small businesses.ö




OSHA Fines Northwest Pipe Co. $197,500 for 38 Safety and Health Violations

OSHA has cited Northwest Pipe Co. and proposed penalties totaling $197,500 for exposing employees to safety and health hazards. Northwest Pipe, a steel pipe manufacturing company headquartered in Portland, Ore., was cited for 38 alleged serious safety violations, 15 serious health violations and two other-than-serious violations following an inspection that began Jan. 19 at the company's Houston facility. Northwest Pipe employs 1,200 workers nationwide; about 105 are located in Houston.

Serious safety violations included inadequate machine guarding and unsafely stored steel coils. Also cited as serious was the company's failure to develop and train employees in lockout/tagout procedures to ensure machinery will not start up during maintenance or repair. Additional serious violations involved overloading powered industrial trucks and cranes; failing to properly maintain equipment; and numerous electrical violations, such as damaged flexible cords and circuit breakers that were installed in damp and wet locations.

Serious health citations were issued for failure to: properly label containers and dip tanks; establish a written safety and health program; train employees to safely use hazardous chemicals; provide eye wash stations where caustic materials were being used, and provide ear protection for workers in high-level noise areas.

Other-than-serious citations were issued for failing to mount fire extinguishers and to provide respiratory protection equipment.




OSHA Offers Tips for Working in Hot Weather; Fact Sheets, Pocket Cards

The sun brings special hazards for those working outdoors. To help employers and workers stay safe throughout the summer months, OSHA offers tips that can help prevent heat-related deaths, illnesses, and injuries.

The combination of heat, humidity and physical labor can lead to fatalities. The two most serious forms of heat related illnesses are heat exhaustion (primarily from dehydration) and heat stroke, which could be fatal. Signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke need immediate attention. Recognizing those warning signs and taking quick action can make a difference in preventing a fatality.

Working Outdoors is an OSHA fact sheet that offers advice on ways to protect against exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV), precautions to take if working in extreme heat, and how to protect against Lyme Disease and the West Nile Virus. The fact sheet also offers information links for teenagers working at summer jobs.

OSHA's Heat Stress Card lists tips and precautions to prevent many heat-related deaths and injuries. Available in English and Spanish, this laminated fold-up card is free to employers to distribute to their workers. It offers a quick reference about heat-related injuries, including warning signs, symptoms and early treatment.

Protecting Yourself in the Sun is a pocket card that explains how to perform self-examinations to detect early stages of skin cancer. The card, available in English and Spanish, also describes common physical features of skin cancer that can be caused by exposure to the sun.

The publications can be downloaded from OSHA's web site on the publications page or can be ordered by calling OSHA's publications office at (202) 693-1888.

More information about heat and sun hazards can be found on OSHA's Web site, and at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).




Repeat Violations Result in Tenfold Increase in Penalty

In a combined effort to combat fraud and protect workers from serious injury and death, WashingtonÆs Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) cited a Tacoma roofing contractor for workersÆ compensation fraud and multiple safety violations.

An industrial insurance audit showed that Armstrong Construction owed $3,642 in unpaid premiums for underreporting worker hours and had been audited two times before for the same problem. Because of the severity of the repeats, the company was cited for a misrepresentation penalty of 10 times the amount owed, for an additional $36,420.

During the course of the audit, L&I safety inspectors were alerted to possible safety violations at the contractorÆs job sites. Inspectors found ongoing problems, such as a supervisor and another employee working on a steep-pitched roof at heights of 12 and 30 feet without any fall protection. Fall-protection equipment was at the job site but was not being used. The company was cited $30,500 for two willful, one repeat serious, one serious and two general violations of safety regulations.