Mom Was Right When She Said Don’t Mix Bleach with Other Chemicals

October 07, 2019
For generations, people have used chlorine bleach to clean and disinfect their homes. However, researchers have now discovered that bleach fumes, in combination with light and a citrus compound found in many household products, can form airborne particles that might be harmful when inhaled by pets or people. They report their results in ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology.
Bleach cleaning products emit chlorine-containing compounds, such as hypochlorous acid (HOCl) and chlorine gas (Cl2), that can accumulate to relatively high levels in poorly ventilated indoor environments. These gases can react with other chemicals commonly found in homes, such as limonene –– an orange- or lemon-scented compound added to many personal care products, cleaners and air fresheners. In addition, indoor lighting or sunshine through windows might split HOCl and Cl2 into a hydroxyl radical and a chlorine atom, which can react with other compounds to form air particles called secondary organic aerosols (SOAs). These pollutants have been linked to respiratory problems and other adverse health effects. Chen Wang and colleagues wanted to see whether limonene and bleach fumes, at concentrations likely to occur in indoor environments, could react to produce SOAs under light and dark conditions.
The researchers added limonene, HOCl and Cl2 to air in an environmental chamber and then measured the reaction products using mass spectrometry. In the dark, limonene and HOCl/Cl2 quickly reacted to produce a variety of volatile compounds. When the team turned on fluorescent lights or exposed the chamber to sunlight, these volatile compounds interacted with the light-generated hydroxyl radicals and chlorine atoms to form SOAs. Although the composition and possible health effects of these particles need to be studied further, they could be occupational hazards for people involved in cleaning activities, the researchers say.
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New Illicit Drug Tool-Kit for First Responders
First Responders are often on the frontlines after calls for help where illicit drugs may be present. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) this month released a new virtual Tool-Kit and provides resources to help keep these workers safe when arriving on scene where illicit drugs, including fentanyl, are present or suspected to be present.
First responders are at risk of inhalation; mucous membrane contact through nose, eye, and mouth; ingestion; dermal and needlestick exposure to these drugs. To help understand these risks and be better prepared for response, the new Tool-Kit includes two training videos, perfect for roll call, developed in collaboration with the Fredericksburg, VA Police and Fire Departments, and the FBI Laboratory. Resources also include infographics and postcards based on NIOSH recommendations for how First Responders can protect themselves from exposure to illicit drugs.
Videos, infographics and postcards are shareable and available for disseminating via print, social media, text and more. Among other recommendations, the resources highlight how to best assess the scene for hazards that may indicate the presence of illicit drugs. They also illustrate what personal protective equipment to wear and how first responders should decontaminate themselves and their equipment. The materials also provide guidance on how to prevent take-home exposure in order to protect the families of first responders who may have been exposed.
To access the new Tool-Kit, please visit this website. Safety and health information included in these new resources is also available on the NIOSH website.
OSHA Cited Missouri Food Flavoring Manufacturer for Workplace Safety Violations After Fatality
OSHA has cited Kerry Inc. for failing to provide fall protection to employees working in the company's facility in Greenville, Missouri. The food flavoring company faces $223,525 in penalties for one willful and eight serious safety violations.
An employee fatally fell while trying to extinguish a fire at the plant. After an April 2019 inspection, OSHA determined that the company failed to designate, train and educate a fire brigade properly on how to respond to such emergencies; evaluate hazards to determine the need for personal protective equipment; provide approved self-contained breathing apparatus; complete required safety data sheets; and repair damaged parts. OSHA has placed the company in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
"This preventable tragedy should remind all employers of their obligation to evaluate their training programs and safety procedures continually, and to provide refresher training to ensure that workers are prepared for potential emergencies," said OSHA St. Louis Area Director Bill McDonald.
OSHA offers compliance assistance resources on preventing falls, personal protective equipment, and respiratory protection.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Petroleum Refiner and Contractor Cited After Fatality at Alabama Facility
OSHA has cited Turner Specialty Services LLC and Hunt Refining Co. for safety violations after an employee suffered a fatal injury at a refining facility in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The two companies collectively face $106,080 in penalties.
The employee asphyxiated when he lost air supply while working in a confined space. OSHA cited Turner Specialty Services LLC – an industrial contractor – for failing to ensure personnel outside the permit-required confined space were capable of providing effective rescue. OSHA also cited the contractor for allowing an employee to enter the permit-required confined space with insufficient lighting equipment, and for assigning members of the rescue team other duties that prevented them from responding to an emergency event.
OSHA cited Turner Specialty Services LLC and Hunt Refining Co. – a petroleum refiner –for failing to ensure that the confined space entry permits identified all hazards of the space, and document that all the steps required to ensure the employee's safety in a confined space were completed. OSHA also cited Hunt Refining Co. for failing to ensure, through periodic evaluations, that Turner Specialty Services fulfilled their obligations as specified in the Process Safety Management standard.
"Employers should never allow workers to enter a space without properly evaluating the hazards and following required safety standards associated with entry," said OSHA Area Director Ramona Morris, in Birmingham, Alabama.
The companies have 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Portland-Area General Contractor Cited for Repeated Safety Violations
In two related enforcement actions, Oregon OSHA has fined Colima Construction LLC more than $120,000 for violating job safety rules, including repeatedly failing to protect workers from potentially falling to their death. The citations are the result of two inspections of job sites at a new housing development in Eugene, where employees of the Canby-based construction company were doing roofing and framing work.
At both job sites, employees were exposed to falls greater than nine feet with no fall protection systems in place.
Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry. Oregon OSHA maintains rules for construction activities that specify the minimum height at which workers must be protected from falling. In the cases involving Colima Construction, the company failed to implement fall protection systems – such as a personal fall restraint system or other measures – where employees were exposed to falling six feet or more to a lower level.
In fact, those failings marked the third time the company has broken the same fall-protection requirement since 2018. Under Oregon OSHA rules, penalties multiply when employers commit repeat violations. As a result, the agency fined Colima Construction $60,000 for each fall-protection offense, for a total of $120,000.
“It is inexcusable to ignore fall protection rules that are specifically designed to prevent serious injury or death,” said Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood. “To ignore such rules repeatedly is to display a glaring lack of regard for worker safety.”
Yet, fall protection wasn’t the only safety practice neglected – again – by Colima Construction during the work in Eugene. Oregon OSHA’s inspections – which resulted in a total of $121,200 in penalties – also found:
  • The company exposed workers to fall hazards by allowing them to use the top and top steps of eight- and six-foot stepladders for access while inside the frame of one of the under-construction houses. This was a repeat violation carrying a $600 penalty.
  • The company exposed a worker to the potential for serious eye injuries by failing to ensure the use of appropriate eye protection. The employee was operating a pneumatic nail gun with no such protection. This was a repeat violation carrying a $600 penalty.
Mississippi Manufacturer Cited for Exposing Employees to Safety Hazards After Fatal Incident
OSHA has cited Howard Industries Inc. – a manufacturer and supplier of electrical transmission and distribution equipment – for exposing employees to struck-by and fall hazards after a fatality at the company’s Laurel, Mississippi, facility. The company faces $53,040 in penalties. 
The employee was performing a leak test on a transformer when a drive chain supporting the equipment failed.
OSHA cited the company for failing to ensure that employees used appropriate drive and safety chains; properly inspect, use, and maintain the chains; conduct a periodic inspection of the energy control procedures; ensure that procedures for using the leak test device explained how to isolate or control the release of hazardous energy; and provide fall protection.
“Employers have a duty to provide a workplace free from recognizable hazards,” said OSHA Jackson Area Director Courtney Bohannon. “Regularly inspecting equipment, training employees on the hazards they are exposed to and proper precautions are essential to their safety.”
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