July 09, 2018
People who have been exposed to paint, varnish and other solvents and who also carry genes that make them more susceptible to developing multiple sclerosis (MS) may be at much greater risk of developing the disease than people who have only the exposure to solvents or the MS genes, according to a study published in the July 3, 2018, online issue of Neurology®
, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
People with exposure to paint or other solvents are 50% more likely to develop MS than people with no exposure. People with exposure to solvents who also carry the genes that make them more susceptible to MS are nearly seven times as likely to develop the disease as people with no solvent exposure who do not carry the MS genes.
For people who have been smokers, the risk is even greater. Those who have been smokers with solvent exposure and the MS genes are 30 times more likely to develop MS than those who have never smoked or been exposed to solvents and who do not have the genetic risk factors.
"These are significant interactions where the factors have a much greater effect in combination than they do on their own," said study author Anna Hedström, MD, PhD, of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. "More research is needed to understand how these factors interact to create this risk. It's possible that exposure to solvents and smoking may both involve lung inflammation and irritation that leads to an immune reaction in the lungs."
For the study, researchers identified 2,042 people who had recently been diagnosed with MS in Sweden and matched them with 2,947 people of the same age and sex. Blood tests were used to determine whether the participants had two human leukocyte antigen gene variants, one of which makes people more likely to develop MS and the other reduces the risk of MS. The participants were also asked whether they had been exposed to organic solvents, painting products or varnish and whether they had ever been a smoker.
In the group with neither of the MS genes and no smoking or exposure to solvents, there were 139 people with MS and 525 people without the disease. In the group with the MS genes and exposure to solvents but no smoking, there were 34 people with MS and 19 people without the disease. In the group with MS genes and exposure to solvents and smoking, there were 40 people with MS and five people without the disease.
The researchers determined that the MS genes and exposure to solvents combined were responsible for an estimated 60% of the risk of developing MS.
"How this cocktail of MS genes, organic solvents and smoking contributes so significantly to MS risk warrants investigation," said Gabriele C. DeLuca, MD, DPhil, of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, in an accompanying editorial. "In the meantime, avoiding cigarette smoke and unnecessary exposure to organic solvents, particularly in combination with each other, would seem reasonable lifestyle changes people can take to reduce the risk of MS, especially in people with a family history of the disease."
One limitation of the study was that participants were asked to remember any exposure they had to solvents, so it is possible that they may not have remembered correctly.
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Compliance Date for Some Provisions of the Beryllium Standard Extended to August 9
OSHA has announced a delay in enforcing certain requirements of the final rule on occupational exposure to beryllium in general industry. These requirements will not be enforced until August 9, 2018.
The requirements include beryllium work areas, regulated work areas, methods of compliance, personal protective clothing and equipment, hygiene areas and practices, housekeeping, communication of hazards, and recordkeeping.
On June 1, 2018, OSHA published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to further extend the compliance dates of the remaining requirements until December 12, 2018.
On May 11, 2018, OSHA began enforcing
the permissible exposure limits for the construction and maritime industries, as well as other requirements of the general industry standard. However, the Agency will not enforce any other provisions for beryllium exposure in those standards unless it provides notice. Certain compliance dates outlined in the rule remain unchanged. Enforcement of the general industry requirements for change rooms and showers will begin March 11, 2019, and requirements for engineering controls will begin March 10, 2020.
How Vibrations in Cars Make Drivers Sleepy
With about 20% of fatal road crashes involving driver fatigue, RMIT University researchers hope their findings can be used by manufacturers to improve car seat designs to help keep drivers awake.
Professor Stephen Robinson said the effects of physical vibration on drivers were not well understood, despite growing evidence that vibration contributes to feelings of sleepiness.
“We know 1 in 5 Australians have fallen asleep at the wheel and we know that drowsy driving is a significant issue for road safety,” Robinson said.
“When you’re tired, it doesn’t take much to start nodding off and we’ve found that the gentle vibrations made by car seats as you drive can lull your brain and body.
“Our study shows steady vibrations at low frequencies—the kind we experience when driving cars and trucks—progressively induce sleepiness even among people who are well rested and healthy.
“From 15 minutes of getting in the car, drowsiness has already begun to take hold. In half an hour, it’s making a significant impact on your ability to stay concentrated and alert.
“To improve road safety, we hope that future car seat designs can build in features that disrupt this lulling effect and fight vibration-induced sleepiness.”
The tiredness induced by vibration makes it psychologically and physiologically harder to perform mental tasks, so the body’s nervous system activates to compensate, leading to changes in the heartbeat.
By looking at the volunteers’ heart rate variability (HRV), researchers were able to gain an objective measure of how drowsy they were feeling as the 60-minute test progressed. Within 15 minutes of starting the vibrating test, volunteers were showing signs of drowsiness. Within 30 minutes, the drowsiness was significant, requiring substantial effort to maintain alertness and cognitive performance.
The drowsiness increased progressively over the test, peaking at 60 minutes.
Associate Professor Mohammad Fard said more work was needed to build on the findings and examine how vibrations affected people across different demographics.
"We want to study a larger cohort, particularly to investigate how age may affect someone's vulnerability to vibration-induced drowsiness as well as the impact of health problems such as sleep apnea," he said.
"Our research also suggests that vibrations at some frequencies may have the opposite effect and help keep people awake.
"So we also want to examine a wider range of frequencies, to inform car designs that could potentially harness those 'good vibrations'."
The cross-disciplinary RMIT research team brought together expertise in human body vibration and automotive engineering, sleep physiology and virtual reality from the schools of Engineering, Health and Biomedical Sciences, and Media and Communication.
It's Official—Spending Time Outside Is Good for You
Living close to nature and spending time outside has significant and wide-ranging health benefits, according to new research from the University of East Anglia. A new report shows how exposure to greenspace reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure.
Populations with higher levels of greenspace exposure are also more likely to report good overall health, according to global data involving more than 290 million people. Lead author Caoimhe Twohig-Bennett, from UEA's Norwich Medical School, said: "Spending time in nature certainly makes us feel healthier, but until now the impact on our long-term wellbeing hasn't been fully understood. "We gathered evidence from over 140 studies involving more than 290 million people to see whether nature really does provide a health boost."
The research team studied data from 20 countries including the UK, the US, Spain, France, Germany, Australia and Japan—where Shinrin yoku or 'forest bathing' is already a popular practice. 'Green space' was defined as open, undeveloped land with natural vegetation as well as urban greenspaces, which included urban parks and street greenery.
The team analyzed how the health of people with little access to green spaces compared to that of people with the highest amounts of exposure. "We found that spending time in, or living close to, natural green spaces is associated with diverse and significant health benefits. It reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, and preterm birth, and increases sleep duration.
"People living closer to nature also had reduced diastolic blood pressure, heart rate and stress. In fact, one of the really interesting things we found is that exposure to greenspace significantly reduces people's levels of salivary cortisol—a physiological marker of stress. "This is really important because in the UK, 11.7 million working days are lost annually due to stress, depression or anxiety."
"Forest bathing is already really popular as a therapy in Japan—with participants spending time in the forest either sitting or lying down, or just walking around. Our study shows that perhaps they have the right idea!
"Although we have looked at a large body of research on the relationship between greenspace and health, we don't know exactly what it is that causes this relationship. "People living near greenspace likely have more opportunities for physical activity and socializing. Meanwhile, exposure to a diverse variety of bacteria present in natural areas may also have benefits for the immune system and reduce inflammation. "Much of the research from Japan suggests that phytoncides - organic compounds with antibacterial properties—released by trees could explain the health-boosting properties of forest bathing."
Study co-author Prof Andy Jones, also from UEA, said: "We often reach for medication when we're unwell but exposure to health-promoting environments is increasingly recognized as both preventing and helping treat disease. Our study shows that the size of these benefits can be enough to have a meaningful clinical impact."
The research team hope that their findings will prompt doctors and other healthcare professionals to recommend that patients spend more time in greenspace and natural areas. Twohig-Bennett said:, "we hope that this research will inspire people to get outside more and feel the health benefits for themselves. Hopefully our results will encourage policymakers and town planners to invest in the creation, regeneration, and maintenance of parks and greenspaces, particularly in urban residential areas and deprived communities that could benefit the most."
'The health benefits of the great outdoors: A systematic review and meta-analysis of greenspace exposure and health outcomes' was published in the journal Environmental Research on 6 July.
Expecting a Stressful Day May Lower Cognitive Abilities Throughout the Day
There may be some truth to the saying “getting up on the wrong side of the bed,” according to Penn State researchers
who say starting your morning by focusing on how stressful your day will be may be harmful to your mindset throughout the day.
The researchers found that when participants woke up feeling like the day ahead would be stressful, their working memory—which helps people learn and retain information even when they’re distracted—was lower later in the day.
Anticipating something stressful had a great effect on working memory regardless of actual stressful events.
Jinshil Hyun, a doctoral student in human development and family studies, said the findings suggest that the stress process begins long before a stressful event occurs.
“Humans can think about and anticipate things before they happen, which can help us prepare for and even prevent certain events,” Hyun said. “But this study suggests that this ability can also be harmful to your daily memory function, independent of whether the stressful events actually happen or not.”
Martin Sliwinski, director of Penn State’s Center for Healthy Aging, said working memory can affect many aspects of a person’s day, and lower working memory can have a negative impact on individuals’ daily lives, especially among older adults who already experience cognitive decline.
“A reduced working memory can make you more likely to make a mistake at work or maybe less able to focus,” Sliwinski said. “Also, looking at this research in the context of healthy aging, there are certain high stakes cognitive errors that older adults can make. Taking the wrong pill or making a mistake while driving can all have catastrophic impacts.”
While previous research has examined how stressful events can affect emotion, cognition and physiology, not as much has been done on the effects of anticipating stressful events that haven’t yet happened in the context of everyday life.
The researchers recruited 240 racially and economically diverse adults to participate in the study. For two weeks, the participants responded seven times a day to questions prompted from a smartphone app: once in the morning about whether they expected their day to be stressful, five times throughout the day about current stress levels, and once at night about whether they expected the following day to be stressful. The participants also completed a working memory task five times a day.
Hyun said that while laboratory studies have the benefit of controlling the participants’ experience during the study, the use of smartphones to collect data as the participants went about their daily lives had benefits, as well.
“Having the participants log their stress and cognition as they went about their day let us get a snapshot of how these processes work in the context of real, everyday life,” Hyun said. “We were able to gather data throughout the day over a longer period of time, instead of just a few points in time in a lab.”
The researchers found that more stress anticipation in the morning was associated with poorer working memory later in the day. Stress anticipation from the previous evening was not associated with poorer working memory.
Sliwinski said the findings—recently published in the Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences—show the importance of a person’s mindset first thing in the morning, before anything stressful has happened yet.
“When you wake up in the morning with a certain outlook for the day, in some sense the die is already cast,” Sliwinski said. “If you think your day is going to be stressful, you’re going to feel those effects even if nothing stressful ends up happening. That hadn’t really been shown in the research until now, and it shows the impact of how we think about the world.”
The researchers said the results open the door for possible interventions that can help people predict when their cognition may not be optimal. “If you wake up and feel like the day is going to be stressful, maybe your phone can remind you to do some deep breathing relaxation before you start your day,” Sliwinski said. “Or if your cognition is at a place where you might make a mistake, maybe you can get a message that says now might not be the best time to go for a drive.”
Sliwinski said they’re working on additional studies that will use wearable sensors to gather even more in-depth data on the effect of stress on participants’ physiological states. Hyun added that she’s also interested in future studies that can help uncover possible psychological or biological mechanisms behind how stress affects cognition.
Oregon OSHA New Protections Against Risk of Pesticide Drift
Oregon OSHA has adopted rules
that increase protections against the risk of pesticides drifting off their mark when spraying occurs outdoors. The rules, which exceed federal requirements, will take effect January 1, 2019.
The rules expand a protective zone; extend the evacuation period; require doors, windows, and air intakes to be closed during pesticide applications; and require storage for shoes and boots to prevent tracking of pesticides into worker housing.
Pesticide drift outside a treated area is already illegal. However, Oregon OSHA’s rules further address the risk by adding safeguards for workers and their families who rely on farm housing. The rules are part of a broader and ongoing effort to reduce incidents of unsafe pesticide exposure among agricultural workers and pesticide handlers.
“Putting these rules into action means workers and their families are better protected in Oregon than they are in the vast majority of the country,” said Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon OSHA. “These rules are the result of a lot of hard work by stakeholders and plenty of thoughtful public comments about the right approach to a challenging issue.”
At issue is the EPA’s Application Exclusion Zone (AEZ). The zone is adjacent to—but outside of—the pesticide-treated area. It provides an added level of protection beyond the safeguards enforced with respect to the treated area itself. The AEZ surrounds and moves with spray equipment and must be free of all people other than appropriately trained and equipped pesticide handlers.
The EPA’s rule requires people to move 100 feet away from an area being treated with pesticides. However, it was designed for workers in the field. It did not account for the interaction of the AEZ with worker housing and other agricultural structures. The EPA rule also allows people to return to the zone immediately after the spray equipment has passed by.
By contrast, Oregon OSHA’s rules require a 100-foot AEZ when the pesticide applicator is not required to use a respirator. Moreover, people must stay out of the zone for an additional 15 minutes, either by staying indoors or remaining evacuated. This recognizes that illegal drift may occur and allows any pesticide drift to settle.
Oregon OSHA’s rules exceed those of the EPA in other ways, including:
- For pesticides that require applicators to use respirators, the AEZ expands to 150 feet—50 feet more than the EPA rule. People must stay out of the zone for an additional 15 minutes. There is no option to stay indoors.
- For all pesticide applications, doors and windows must be shut, and air intakes must be turned off before people evacuate or remain inside an enclosed agricultural structure. During evacuation, the EPA rule does not include such requirements.
- Closeable storage areas for shoes or boots must be provided to prevent tracking of pesticides into worker housing. The EPA rule includes no such requirements.
- Employers must adhere to notification and instruction requirements, including informing people of the start and stop times of pesticide spray, and providing them with instructions to close windows, doors, and air intakes. The EPA rule includes no such provisions.
Oregon OSHA’s newly adopted rules complement—and complete—revisions the agency made last year to the EPA Worker Protection Standard. Last year’s changes affected areas such as worker notifications, frequency of training, and trainer qualifications. Changes made by the EPA that were already in effect in Oregon include respiratory protection, hazard communication, and emergency eye-washing requirements.
Oregon OSHA’s updates to the Worker Protection Standard grew out of a transparent decision-making process. That process included public hearings, an examination of all written and verbal comments, an advisory committee, and a financial impact analysis conducted by a committee of both grower and worker representatives.
MSHA Wants Input on Retrospective Study of Respirable Coal Mine Dust Rule
The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) announced a Request for Information
(RFI) on a Retrospective Study of the final rule entitled "Lowering Miners' Exposure to Respirable Coal Mine Dust, Including Continuous Personal Dust Monitors" in the Federal Register.
The purpose of this RFI is to solicit comments, data, and information from industry, labor, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and other stakeholders to assist MSHA in developing the framework for a study to assess the health effects of the dust rule.
MSHA also seeks information and data on engineering controls and best practices that mine operators find effective to achieve and maintain required respirable coal mine dust levels, particularly those practices that can be replicated throughout coal mines nationwide to achieve similar results.
Due to the significant latency period between exposure and disease, MSHA anticipates the Agency will not likely be able to fully evaluate the health effects of the rule for a decade or more.
"To be clear, MSHA is initiating the study referenced in the preamble to the final rule to determine if the rule is meeting its intended result," said MSHA Assistant Secretary David G. Zatezalo. "MSHA has no intention of rolling back the protections afforded to coal miners under the final dust rule."
Pallet Manufacturer Cited After Employees Were Sickened from Unsafe Carbon Monoxide Levels
OSHA has cited Cleary Pallet Sales Inc., a Genoa, Illinois-based pallet manufacturer, after 10 employees required emergency medical treatment for carbon monoxide exposure. The company faces proposed penalties totaling $216,253.
OSHA investigators inspected the facility in January 2018 and found that employees were exposed to carbon monoxide levels nearly 10 times the permissible exposure limit. OSHA has cited Cleary Pallet Sales Inc. for failing to address high carbon monoxide level warnings; allowing employees to operate defective forklifts; failing to ensure adequate machine guarding; and failing to train workers on hazardous communications and forklift safety. A subsequent inspection conducted one month later found further machine safety violations at the facility.
"Employers are required to regularly conduct workplace hazard assessments to determine appropriate measures to protect workers’ safety and health," said OSHA Aurora Area Office Director Jake Scott. "This employer risked the health of several workers, and disregarded basic safety standards."
Robotray Cited for Exposing Employees to Safety Hazards
OSHA has cited BC Direct Corp., doing business as Robotray, for exposing employees to struck-by, electrical shock, fire, and explosion hazards. The company faces $42,682 in proposed penalties.
“Employers are required to assess the hazards in their workplaces and implement procedures to protect workers from serious or fatal injuries,” said OSHA Fort Lauderdale Area Office Director Condell Eastmond.
Miami Commercial Bakery Cited for Exposing Employees to Electrical and Fall Hazards
OSHA has cited Bakery Management Corp., doing business as Bakery Corp., for exposing employees to caught-in, fall, and electrical hazards. The Miami-based commercial bakery faces proposed penalties of $67,261.
OSHA has cited
the company for allowing employees to use improperly grounded portable fans, for failing to train employees to operate a powered industrial truck, for not taking defective ladders out of service, and for failing to provide eyewash equipment for employees working with corrosive chemicals.
“Employers must monitor work areas for the presence of hazards, and put effective controls in place to protect employees,” said OSHA Fort Lauderdale Area Office Director Condell Eastmond. “This employer’s disregard for safety and health standards is putting employees at risk for serious injuries.”
Bluewater Construction Solutions Cited for Exposing Employees to Falls at Two Florida Worksites
OSHA cited Bluewater Construction Solutions Inc., for exposing employees to dangerous falls at two south Florida worksites. The Melbourne, Florida-based residential framing contractor faces proposed penalties of $48,778.
“Employers are required to install fall protection systems when employees work at heights of 6 feet or above,” said OSHA Fort Lauderdale Area Office Director Condell Eastmond. “This employer is putting workers at risk of serious injury by failing to comply with these standards.”
Evaluation of Occupational Exposure Limits for Heat Stress in Outdoor Workers — United States, 2011–2016
This Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
(MMWR) looks at recommended heat stress occupational exposure limits based primarily on wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT), workload, and acclimatization status. The authors conclude that whenever heat stress exceeds occupational exposure limits, workers should be protected by acclimatization programs, training about symptom recognition and first aid, and provision of rest breaks, shade, and water.
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