New NIOSH Resources on Respiratory Protection

January 11, 2021
Two new webpages on respiratory protection published by NIOSH’s National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL) outline resources related to elastomeric half-mask respirators (EHMRs) and respirator exhalation valve research.
An EHMR is a type of reusable air-purifying respirator that uses replaceable cartridges or filters. NPPTL’s EHMR resources page compiles information about these respirators and describes challenges and benefits related to the devices’ use. The page also collects links to and summaries of studies related to EHMRs as well as other resources such as infographics, NIOSH documents, NIOSH blog posts, and other relevant publications and journal articles.
The other new NIOSH/NPPTL webpage summarizes research on respirator exhalation valves, which are found on some types of respirators, including EHMRs and filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs). According to NPPTL, respirators with exhalation valves are believed to be more comfortable for wearers and better suited for longer periods of use. However, because an exhalation valve can introduce unfiltered exhaled air into the surrounding area, CDC does not recommend the use of respirators with exhalation valves in certain healthcare settings, such as operating rooms. NIOSH is conducting research into these respirators’ ability to prevent disease transmission from wearers to others. A technical report published in December describes a NIOSH study examining the potential for source control of FFRs with an exhalation valve.
More information about respiratory protection is available from NPPTL’s website.
2020 Injury and Illness Data Must be Submitted by March 2
OSHA reminded employers that the agency began collecting calendar year 2020 Form 300A data on Jan. 2, 2021. Employers must submit the form electronically by March 2, 2021.
Electronic submissions are required by establishments with 250 or more employees currently required to keep OSHA injury and illness records, and establishments with 20-249 employees classified in specific industries with historically high rates of occupational injuries and illnesses.
2021 Fuel Economy Guide Available from ORNL
Fuel economy can take a tumble when temperatures plummet, according to the Department of Energy’s 2021 Fuel Economy Guide. Compiled by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the guide includes several tips to improve a vehicle’s fuel performance.
Parking your car in a warmer place, combining trips so that the vehicle is driven with a warm engine, and checking tire pressure regularly can all improve fuel economy. Driving sensibly, observing the speed limit and limiting idling can also save money year-round.
“Many people think idling to warm up a car will improve fuel economy in cold weather,” ORNL’s Stacy Davis said. “However, cars warm up faster when driven, and idling gets zero miles per gallon. So, idle your vehicle as little as possible.”
The guide also helps consumers select the most fuel-efficient vehicle to save fuel and money in any weather.
DOT to Relax Regulations for Gas Pipelines
The DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) transmitted to the Federal Register for publication a final rule that eases regulatory burdens for gas transmission, distribution, and gathering pipeline system operators.
“Safety is always the Department’s top priority,” said PHMSA Administrator Howard “Skip” Elliott. “It is our responsibility to ensure that we do not overburden the industry with unnecessary operating costs.”
The final rule provides flexibility in the inspection requirements for farm taps, and revises the inspection interval for monitoring atmospheric corrosion for gas distribution service pipelines. The rule provides operators with an estimated annual cost savings of $132 million, mainly from these two provisions.
The final rule also increases the damage threshold for reporting incidents to $122,000, the first increase for inflation since 1984. Going forward, the monetary threshold will be adjusted for inflation.
The final rule has been transmitted to the Federal Register.
Upcoming Revisions to Prop 65 Warnings
California’s Proposition 65 requires businesses to provide a clear and reasonable warning before they knowingly and intentionally cause an exposure to a chemical listed as known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. In August 2016, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) adopted major changes to the “Clear and Reasonable” safe harbor warning regulations (Title 27 of the California Code of Regulations, Article 6), originally adopted more than 30 years ago. The primary purpose of the rulemaking was to provide consumers with more specific information about the chemicals they are exposed to, and to point them to a newly constructed OEHHA warnings website for further to those concerns, OEHHA included the option to provide a “short-form” warning on a product label. An example of a short-form warning is the following:
WARNING: Cancer and Reproductive Harm -
Implementation of the warning regulations has revealed the need for express limits on the use of the short-form warning for consumer products. The regulation did not limit application of the short-form warning to a maximum label surface area. While OEHHA intended for this warning option to only be used for small products or containers with insufficient space for the longer warning, businesses have used the short form warning on a wide range of consumer products that have more than enough label space for the longer warning. Just as concerning, the short-form warning is also being placed on some products even when thebusiness has no knowledge of an exposure to a listed chemical requiring a Proposition 65 warning.
This rulemaking would amend the safe harbor warning regulations to improve the short-form warnings by communicating additional information about chemical exposures to consumers including the chemical name, so the consumer can obtain more specific information about it on the OEHHA website. The rulemaking would expressly modify the existing short-form warning provisions as follows:
  • Only allow use of the short-form warning on products with 5 square inches or less of label space.
  • Eliminate use of short-form warnings for internet and catalog warnings.
  • Clarify how short-form warnings can be used for food products.
  • Require that the name of at least one chemical be included in the short-form warning.
For businesses that choose to use the modified short-form warning, the proposed regulation provides a one-year phase-in period for existing products to allow a smooth transition to the modified warning. Further, the proposed regulation provides an unlimited sell-through period for products that had compliant warnings when they were manufactured, thus allowing businesses to avoid recalling items in the stream of commerce to apply the modified short-form warning.
An example of the proposed short-form warning is the following:
WARNING: Cancer Risk From Formaldehyde and Reproductive Risk From Toluene Exposure -
Without these changes, use of the short-form warning will continue to be inconsistent with the intent of the Act and OEHHA’s intent in adopting the 2016 regulations — that warnings communicate meaningful information about chemical exposures to consumers, and that short-form warnings be used only on labels for small products that cannot accommodate the full-length warning content described in Section 25603(a)
Public comments concerning this proposed action will be received by OEHHA by March 8, 2021.
O’Reilly Auto Parts Store Cited for Endangering Workers During Pandemic
The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) entered into a settlement agreement with O’Reilly Auto Parts for alleged violations of the state’s public health order and the Occupational Health and Safety Act that resulted in an unsafe workplace at a Santa Fe store. Under the settlement agreement, O’Reilly Auto Parts will pay $79,200 in penalties.
NMED inspected the O’Reilly Auto Parts store located at 4715 Airport Road in Santa Fe on July 4, 2020 in response to several citizen complaints. During that inspection, NMED observed that management did not require employees to wear face coverings – a violation of state law, public health orders and COVID- Safe Practices – thereby exposing staff and customers to the imminent danger of COVID-19. The store was also cited for failing to post signage requiring customers to wear face coverings while inside the store, further endangering employees. During subsequent inspections, NMED observed store management corrected the violations.
“Failure by employers to protect staff from COVID-19 – a known workplace hazard – is unacceptable,” said NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney. “Employers must take their worker protection responsibility seriously or they will face robust enforcement action by the State of New Mexico.”
Recommendations on How EGLE Can Improve Compliance and Environmental Enforcement
A review of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s (EGLE) compliance monitoring and enforcement procedures released provides a framework to ensure that enforcement actions taken by EGLE more effectively correct violations of Michigan’s environmental laws.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered the review in December 2019 after extensive contamination at Electro-Plating Services in Madison Heights leaked onto the shoulder of I-696. She directed EGLE to “conduct a formal review of its pollution inspection procedures to strengthen enforcement and accountability.”
In addition to 11 high-level recommendations to improve procedures, the report notes that EGLE has strong internal policies, education, outreach and compliance assistance to regulated businesses and other entities.
The report’s recommendations include: providing field staff the tools and authority to resolve cases; formalizing and clarifying the policy governance structure; improving management of multimedia cases by defining staff roles, responsibilities and expectations; increasing and improving cross-divisional communication, coordination and collaboration; enhancing collaboration with other state, federal and local agencies; maintaining sufficient and appropriate staffing, resources and training; and using retroactive analysis and case studies to promote best practices and mitigate future risks.
“The changes suggested in this report will help EGLE more quickly identify and address violations that can cause public health and environmental risks. It is important that EGLE accomplishes this critical role in a timely, transparent and consistent manner,” EGLE Director Liesl Clark said. “The public and those we regulate should expect EGLE to make reasonable decisions that restore compliance with the law as quickly as possible.”
While enforcement improvements will not solve every environmental problem, prevent every release or speed up a sometimes-cumbersome legal process, EGLE officials say changes guided by the report should help the department more quickly identify compliance problems, conduct preventative actions and help violators return to compliance if they are willing to cooperate with the agency. The report indicates that when violators are unwilling to cooperate and return to compliance in a timely manner, then the agency should intensify the enforcement action and, if needed, initiate legal action.
Appropriate staffing levels and related training is critical to fulfilling EGLE’s compliance and enforcement mission and required to fully implement many of the proposed recommendations, the report states.
An improved IT system as directed by the report would greatly improve EGLE’s ability to prioritize, categorize and track contaminated sites. Enhanced technology would align EGLE’s programs, which currently have varied electronic capabilities that are not fully compatible with each other. Some program areas have access to robust databases and reporting capabilities, while others rely on paper records. Technology upgrades also would provide greater transparency of agency operations and access to agency records.
The report said the agency has a solid foundation to build on, noting that EGLE’s compliance and enforcement program “is mature and guided by strong department leadership and internal policies” and a staff that “are skilled, experienced and dedicated to fulfilling EGLE’s mission.”
But, “there are opportunities to improve the program through the implementation of objective criteria and standardization, an increase in staffing and technology resources, enhanced training and inter-division collaboration, and a greater use of data.”
Including Unhealthy Foods May Diminish Positive Effects of an Otherwise Healthy Diet
Eating a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, has a positive impact on health, but little is known about the effects of including unhealthy foods in an otherwise healthy diet. Now researchers at Rush University Medical Center have reported diminished benefits of a Mediterranean diet among those with high frequency of eating unhealthy foods. The results of their study were published in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association on Jan. 7.
“Eating a diet that emphasizes vegetables, fruit, fish and whole grains may positively affects a person’s health,” said Puja Agarwal, PhD, a nutritional epidemiologist and assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at Rush Medical College. “But when it is combined with fried food, sweets, refined grains, red meat and processed meat, we observed that the benefits of eating the Mediterranean part of the diet seems to be diminished.”
A Mediterranean diet is associated with slower rates of cognitive decline in older adults.
The observational study included 5,001 older adults living in Chicago who were part of the Chicago Health and Aging Project, an evaluation of cognitive health in adults over the age of 65 conducted from 1993 to 2012. Every three years, the study participants completed a cognitive assessment questionnaire that tested basic information processing skills and memory, and they filled out a questionnaire about the frequency with which they consumed 144 food items.
The researchers analyzed how closely each of the study participants adhered to a Mediterranean diet, which includes daily consumption of fruit, vegetables, legumes, olive oil, fish, potatoes and unrefined cereals, plus moderate wine consumption. They also assessed how much each participant followed a Western diet, which included fried foods, refined grains, sweets, red and processed meats, full-fat dairy products and pizza. They assigned scores of zero to five for each food item to compile a total Mediterranean diet score for each participant along a range from zero to 55.
The researchers then examined the association between Mediterranean diet scores and changes in participants’ global cognitive function, episodic memory and perceptual speed. Participants with slower cognitive decline over the years of follow up were those who adhered closest to the Mediterranean diet, along with limiting foods that are part of Western diet, whereas participants who ate more of the Western diet had no beneficial effect of healthy food components in slowing cognitive decline.
There was no significant interaction between age, gender, race or education and the association with cognitive decline in either high or low levels of Western diet foods. The study also included models for smoking status, body mass index and other potential variables such as cardiovascular conditions and findings remained the same.
“Western diets may adversely affect cognitive health,” Agarwal said. “Individuals who had a high Mediterranean diet score compared to those who had the lowest score were equivalent to being 5.8 years younger in age cognitively.”
Agarwal said that the results complement other studies showing that a Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes and also support previous studies on Mediterranean diet and cognition. The study also notes that most of the dietary patterns that have shown improvement in cognitive function among older adults, including the Mediterranean, MIND, and DASH diets, have a unique scoring matrix based on the amount of servings consumed for each diet component.
“The more we can incorporate green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, berries, olive oil, and fish into our diets, the better it is for our aging brains and bodies. Other studies show that red and processed meat, fried food and low whole grains intake are associated with higher inflammation and faster cognitive decline in older ages,” Agarwal said. “To benefit from diets such as the Mediterranean diet, or MIND diet, we would have to limit our consumption of processed foods and other unhealthy foods such as fried foods and sweets.”
The study and its findings cannot be readily generalized. Future longitudinal studies on diet and cognition among the middle-aged population are needed to extend these findings.
Other researchers at Rush involved in the study at Rush were Klodian Dhana, PhD; Lisa Barnes, PhD; Thomas Holland, MD; Yanyu Zhang, MS; Denis Evans, MD; Martha Morris, ScD. The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Aging.
Renewable Energy Waste Management
EPA posted a briefing paper outlining difficulties the U.S. will face recycling and safely disposing of the materials used for green energy technologies. Renewable Energy Waste Streams: Prepainring for the Future examines the waste produced once solar panels, lithium-ion batteries and windmills reach the end of their useful life. This briefing paper identifies key challenges that America will soon face as the growing use of renewable energy technologies creates a new generation of materials that need to be recycled or properly disposed of in order to protect human health and the environment.
“Recycling is a critical piece of our future for not only consumer commodities like paper and plastic, but also the ever-expanding renewable energy sector,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Without a strategy for their end-of-life management, so-called green technologies like solar panels, electric vehicle batteries, and windmills will ultimately place the same unintended burdens on our planet and economy as traditional commodities.”
“It is vital that we adequately plan, prepare, and design renewable energy systems for reuse, recycling, and proper end-of-life material management in the present, or we risk creating new environmental and economic burdens in the future,” said Assistant Administrator for the Office of Land and Emergency Management Peter Wright. “Appropriate and effective preparations need to occur along with the expanded use of renewable energy so that recycling systems and appropriate waste management infrastructures are in place when they are needed.”
Inadequate solid waste management systems present serious risks to human health, the environment, and the economy and loss of economic opportunity associated with the recovery of valuable materials. Increasing U.S. investment in renewable energy systems will create new kinds and new volumes of waste. Not only are there byproducts and energy demands associated with the production of so-called green technologies, but these systems also produce materials requiring careful end-of-life management to avoid creating unexpected burdens on individuals and communities and the risk of causing new Superfund sites and wasting of scarce and valuable resources.
Small Business Input on Risk Management Rules for Perchloroethylene and n-Methylpyrrolidone Wanted
EPA has invited small businesses, governments, and not-for-profits to participate as Small Entity Representatives (SERs) to provide advice and recommendations to two Small Business Advocacy Review (SBAR) panels. There will be one panel for perchloroethylene (PCE) and one panel for n-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP). Each will focus on the agency’s development of proposed rules to address unreasonable risks identified in EPA’s recently completed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) risk evaluations for these chemicals.
Under TSCA, EPA is required to evaluate the risk associated with existing chemicals in commerce using the best available science before taking action to address any unreasonable risk. The agency issued the PCE final risk evaluation in December 2020, showing unreasonable risk to workers and consumers under certain conditions of use. The agency also issued the final risk evaluation for NMP in December 2020, showing unreasonable risks to workers and consumers under certain conditions of use. EPA is now moving to the risk management step in the TSCA process by working to draft regulations to protect public health from the unreasonable risks identified in the final risk evaluation.
The Regulatory Flexibility Act requires agencies to establish a SBAR Panel for rules that may have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The SBAR panels will include federal representatives from the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and EPA.
SERs will be selected by the SBAR Panels to provide comments on behalf of their company, community, or organization and advise the panel on the potential impacts of the proposed rule on small entities. EPA is seeking self-nominations directly from the small entities that may be subject to the rule requirements. Other representatives, such as trade associations that exclusively or at least primarily represent potentially regulated small entities, may also serve as SERs.
SERs provide advice and recommendations to the panel. The SERs participate in consultations with the SBAR Panel via telephone, webinar, or in person in one or two meetings and are given an opportunity to submit written comments to the Panel. Self-nominations may be submitted through the link below and must be received by January 19, 2021.
In addition to engaging with small businesses, EPA is executing a robust outreach effort on risk management that includes formal consultations with state and local governments, tribes, and environmental justice communities. There will also be an open public comment on any draft risk management regulations.
You can nominate yourself as a Small Entity Representative to the PCE SBAR Panel here.
Renewable Diesel Producer Fined for Low Carbon Fuel Standard Violations
The California Air Resources Board announced a settlement with AltAir-Paramount, LLC addressing reporting violations under the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). The settlement is valued at $132,500.
“The Low Carbon Fuel Standard is a critical part of California’s effort to attack climate change by displacing fossil fuels,” said CARB Executive Officer Richard Corey. “Accurate reporting is basic to its success and filing inaccurate information threatens the integrity of the program.”
AltAir produces renewable diesel and renewable jet fuel from tallow at its facility in Paramount, CA.
CARB staff determined that Altair made unauthorized changes to quarterly and annual reports, reclassifying certain fuel volumes and adding previously unreported gasoline sales.
AltAir admits the violations, cooperated with CARB’s investigation and is now in full compliance with the LCFS regulation.
AltAir paid a penalty amounting to $132,500, calculated in keeping with CARB’s enforcement policy. Of that total, $66,500 goes into California’s Air Pollution Control Fund. The additional $66,000 will fund a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) developed by Tree Fresno to evaluate the effectiveness of using vegetative barriers to reduce near-road pollution exposure.
The LCFS encourages the production and use of cleaner, low-carbon transportation fuels in California to reduce GHG emissions and decrease petroleum dependence in the transportation sector. The program provides more clean fuel choices for Californians and drives innovation for further clean fuel development.
Draft Reference Exposure Levels for Chromium (Trivalent) and Inorganic Water-Soluble Trivalent Chromium Compounds
California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) released a draft document for public review, summarizing the toxicity and derivation of proposed Reference Exposure Levels (RELs) for Chromium (Trivalent) and Inorganic Water-Soluble Trivalent Chromium Compounds (Cr(III)). RELs are airborne concentrations of a chemical that are not anticipated to result in adverse non–cancer health effects for specified exposure durations in the general population, including sensitive subpopulations.
OEHHA is required to develop guidelines for conducting health risk assessments under the Air Toxics Hot Spots Program (Health and Safety Code Section 44360(b)(2)). In response to this statutory requirement, OEHHA develops RELs for many air pollutants.
Comments on the document will be accepted through February 22, 2021. Due to the continuing COVID-19 emergency, you are encouraged to submit written information via OEHHA’s website, rather than in paper form. Comments may be submitted electronically through the following link:
After the close of the public comment period, the documents will be revised as appropriate by OEHHA, and peer reviewed by the state’s Scientific Review Panel on Toxic Air Contaminants. Information about dates and agenda for meetings of the Scientific Review Panel can be obtained from the California Air Resources Board website at
Free Amazon HD 10 Tablet with RCRA and DOT Training
Annual training is required by 40 CFR 262.17(a)(7). Learn how to complete EPA’s new electronic hazardous waste manifest, and the more than 60 changes in EPA’s new Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule. Environmental Resource Center’s Hazardous Waste Training is available via live webcasts. If you plan to also attend DOT Hazardous Materials Training, call 800-537-2372 to find out how you can get your course materials on an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet at no extra charge.
Job Openings at Environmental Resource Center
Environmental Resource Center has openings for EHS consultants and trainers. If you are looking for a new challenge, send your resume and salary requirements to Brian Karnofsky at
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