March 04, 2019
The California Department of Public Health’s Occupational Health Branch published a new Occupational Health Watch
that focuses on preventing illness from silica dust. Workers in construction and manufacturing jobs are often exposed to respirable crystalline silica, which is released when cutting or drilling into stone and concrete. The resources provide guidance for how employers can protect workers from hazardous exposures to silica dust.
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Detecting Cyanide Exposure
Cyanide exposure can happen occupationally or in low levels from inhaling cigarette smoke — or from being poisoned by someone out to get you. The effects are fast and can be deadly. But because cyanide is metabolized quickly, it can be difficult to detect in time for an antidote to be administered. Now, in an animal study in ACS’ Chemical Research in Toxicology
, researchers report a new precise and accurate biomarker of cyanide exposure.
To treat cyanide poisoning, physicians first have to properly diagnose the condition. But symptoms such as dizziness, headaches and low blood pressure could indicate many different illnesses. And current tests for the condition have disadvantages. Directly measuring cyanide levels in samples is not possible in many cases, since it is rapidly cleared from the body. Some indirect markers of the compound are almost as short-lived, while others are also present in foods, such as broccoli, which can confound the analysis. Cyanide is known to react with thiols, which contain sulfur. In addition, evidence suggests that glutathione, an abundant sulfur-containing molecule in the body, could be a first-line of defense against cyanide poisoning. So, Brian Logue and colleagues wondered if a metabolite of glutathione could be a good indication that someone has been around cyanide.
The researchers reacted glutathione with cyanide and found that 2-aminothiazoline-4-oxoaminoethanioc acid (ATOEA) was produced. They then developed a rapid mass spectrometry method to analyze ATOEA in plasma, and saw that they could accurately detect the compound within minutes of exposure in animals. As the level of cyanide increased, so did the level of ATOEA. And when an antidote was given, ATOEA levels decreased. The researchers say that ATOEA also lasts longer in the body than cyanide, allowing more time for detection of this marker following exposure.
The authors acknowledged funding from the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense.
New Tool and Updated Guidance on Mass Chemical Decontamination
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has developed a science-based chemical decontamination decision tool
and updated guidance
on how best to decontaminate a massive number of people after chemical exposure. These resources can help more than a million first responders and emergency managers in take specific preparedness actions. The decision-support tool and guidance, as well as the scientific studies on which they are based, were completed under a contract between the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR).
New Warning Proposed for Rental Cars in California
California’s Proposition 65 requires businesses to provide a clear and reasonable warning before they cause an exposure to a chemical listed as known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. New proposed amendments
to the Prop 65 regulations will provide safe harbor guidance to businesses concerning how to comply with the warning requirements under the rule for exposures to listed chemicals associated with the use of rental vehicles. At the same time, the proposed amendments would help ensure that rental vehicle warnings are provided to vehicle renters prior to exposure to listed chemicals from the use of rental vehicles.
Under the proposal, the following warning would be provided using one or more of the methods identified in the proposal: in the rental agreement, on a hang tag in the vehicle, posted at the rental car counter, in an electronic rental agreement, and/or in a confirmation email:
WARNING: Operating a motor vehicle can expose you to chemicals including engine exhaust, carbon monoxide, phthalates, and lead, which are known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm. To minimize exposure, avoid breathing exhaust, do not idle the engine except as necessary, and assure adequate ventilation inside the car. For more information go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov/passenger-vehicle.
Florida Pet Food Manufacturer Cited for Amputation, Fall and Other Safety Hazards
OSHA has cited The Higgins Group Corp. – operating as Higgins Premium Pet Foods – for exposing employees to amputation, fall, and other safety hazards at its facility in Miami, Florida. The company faces $95,472 in penalties.
the pet food manufacturer for exposing employees to crushed-by hazards from damaged or overloaded storage racks; lack of machine guarding on gears, sprockets, and chains; failing to develop and implement a hazardous energy control program; exposing employees to falls from an uncovered floor hole; and failing to ensure employees wore protective gloves when handling corrosive cleaners.
“The violations identified put employees at risk for serious or fatal injuries,” said OSHA Fort Lauderdale Area Director Condell Eastmond. “Employers must assess their workplace for potential safety and health hazards and are encouraged to contact the local OSHA office for assistance with establishing and improving safety and health programs.”
Florida Landscaping Company Cited After Employee Suffers Fatal Heat-Related Injury
OSHA has cited Olin Landscaping – based in Venice, Florida – for failing to protect employees working in excessive heat after an employee succumbed to fatal heat-related symptoms while performing lawn maintenance at a residence in Nokomis, Florida.
The heat index reached between 97 and 103 degrees on August 25, 2018. OSHA cited
Olin Landscaping for exposing employees to outdoor heat hazards, failing to protect employees from heat-related illnesses and injuries, and failing to report the workplace fatality to OSHA within 8 hours, as required. The company faces $16,102 in penalties.
“This preventable tragedy underscores the requirement that employers take precautions – such as ensuring access to water, rest, and shade – to keep workers safe while working in extreme heat,” said OSHA Tampa Area Office Director Les Grove.
The company has 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
OSHA conducts training and outreach on heat-related workplace hazards every spring and summer. Information on establishing a heat illness prevention program, a video
on protecting workers from heat illness, and other suggested best practices, are available on OSHA's heat illness prevention page
Workplaces Prone to Infectious Diseases Identified by NIOSH
It may be obvious when people get injured at work, but it may not always be apparent when people acquire infections resulting from exposures at work. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently published a study
conducting a review of infectious disease investigations in workplaces across the U.S. to better understand the range of cases, the risk factors for workers, and the ways to prevent infectious disease transmission on the job.
Experiences with anthrax, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), influenza A (H1N1), the Ebola virus, and several other clusters of infectious diseases in the workplace have highlighted the importance of focusing on workplaces not only to identify at-risk populations but also to understand how diseases spread and how they can be prevented. To further understand the scope, NIOSH researchers reviewed published scientific literature describing 66 U.S. workplaces from 2006 to 2015.
“The cases we reviewed allowed us to identify a range of diseases, specific settings and activities that are at an increased risk for certain infectious diseases, and employee and workplace factors that often facilitate transmission of the disease,” said Marie A. de Perio, MD, one of the lead authors of the study. “We then used this information to highlight effective prevention and control measures that should be taken into account at worksites in order to prevent the spread of disease.”
Researchers illustrate several specific cases by providing examples of the different ways a worker can get infected and found that reported cases appear to be concentrated in specific industries and occupations, especially the healthcare industry and among laboratory workers, animal workers, and public service workers. These include those who come in contact with ill persons or with livestock, poultry, or other animals as part of their job. In addition to becoming infected themselves, some workers may also serve as vectors that spread the disease to others; for example, workers in food preparation and serving-related occupations have been identified as sources of transmission in foodborne outbreaks.
Considering the occupational risk factors, strengthening biosafety programs in those industries and involving epidemiologists, physicians, industrial hygienists, and engineers could help prevent spread of occupationally acquired infectious diseases to co-workers and the general public.
“What is important to realize is that effective prevention and control measures begin with using the occupational health and safety hierarchy of controls
as a framework, with the elimination of hazards being the most preferred occupational health and safety measure,” said Dr. de Perio. “Following the elimination of the hazard, the next best things are isolating workers from the hazard, changing the way people work, and personal protective equipment.”
Such measures include improved ventilation systems in workplaces, vaccination of workers, and personal protective equipment appropriate to the pathogen.
“Although it is clear from the literature review that many groups of workers are at risk for infectious diseases, we may be missing some clusters in workplaces, given that surveillance of work-related infectious diseases is not done systematically,” said Sara Luckhaupt, MD, MPH, co-author of the study. “We also may be missing exposures, industries, and occupations not readily identified as at risk.”
The NIOSH surveillance program is working on strategies to change this, based in part on the findings in this review. For information on NIOSH surveillance activity, please visit this page
. For more information about NIOSH’s Health Hazard Evaluation Program, please visit this page
The study, Case Investigations of Infectious Diseases Occurring in Workplaces, United States, 2006-2015
, was published last week in the Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal and can be accessed here
New CPSC Recall App
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has launched a new CPSC Recall App
to make recall information currently on its website more accessible to consumers on their mobile devices. Consumers can use the app to search quickly and find out whether a specific product has been recalled.
“At CPSC we are looking for ways to improve how consumers can access information about recalls,” said CPSC Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle. “I encourage consumers to download CPSC’s Recall App today, and let us know how we can make it better.”
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