Toluene: New Reference Exposure Levels

August 24, 2020
California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has adopted new Reference Exposure Levels (RELs) for Toluene for use in the Air Toxics Hot Spots Program. RELs are airborne concentrations of a chemical that are not anticipated to result in adverse noncancer health effects for specified exposure durations in the general population, including sensitive subpopulations. The adopted RELs cover different types of exposure to toluene in air: infrequent 1-hour exposures, repeated 8-hour exposures, and continuous long-term exposures.
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, including Toluene. The Toluene RELs were developed using the most recent “Air Toxics Hot Spots Program Technical Support Document for the Derivation of Noncancer Reference Exposure Levels” (OEHHA, 2008). Toluene has been demonstrated to have neurotoxic effects. Children may be more sensitive to Toluene neurotoxicity than adults because of the sensitivity of their developing nervous systems to neurotoxicants. Therefore, this chemical will also be added to the list of Toxic Air Contaminants that may disproportionately impact children, pursuant to Health and Safety Code Section 39669.5(b)(1).
A draft document for the Toluene RELs was released by OEHHA on December 1, 2017, to solicit public comment and was discussed at OEHHA-conducted public workshops in Sacramento and Diamond Bar, CA during the subsequent 75-day public review period. The document was revised to reflect public comments, and peer reviewed by the State’s Scientific Review Panel on Toxic Air Contaminants (SRP) in June 2019, before being finalized.
The REL values are:
  • Acute REL (for a 1–hour exposure): 5,000 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3)
  • 8–Hour REL (for repeated 8–hour exposures): 830 µg/m3
  • Chronic REL (for long–term exposures): 420 µg/m3
Job Openings at Environmental Resource Center
Environmental Resource Center is looking for a senior project manager and customer service manager with EHS and marketing experience for our office in Cary, NC. And, as the pandemic subsides, we anticipate future openings for consultants and trainers. If you are looking for a new challenge, send your resume and salary requirements to Brian Karnofsky at
Maryland Department of the Environment to Reduce HFC and Methane Emissions
To help meet Maryland’s aggressive climate and environmental goals for reducing greenhouse gases, the Hogan administration today is taking important steps to phase out the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and reduce methane emissions. HFCs and methane are greenhouse gases that are significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.
The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has proposed regulations to phase out the use of certain HFCs in foam products, refrigeration, commercial air-conditioning, and aerosol propellants, recognizing the availability of environmentally preferable alternatives. MDE has also proposed regulations to reduce methane emissions from energy infrastructure and operations. These dual actions will help Maryland meet its requirements under the state’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act.
“This is an important and necessary step in our ongoing efforts to reach Maryland’s greenhouse gas reduction goals,” said Governor Larry Hogan. “Our administration is committed to climate leadership by preventing pollution and partnering with other states to make critical progress in protecting and preserving our environment.”
“These fast-acting super-pollutants are a major threat to our climate progress and deserve to be phased out at the state and federal level,” said Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles. “Our balanced approach continues to seek out market-based solutions that benefit our environment and complement – not compete with – industry-led initiatives.”
In moving to phase out HFCs, Maryland is acting in concert with commitments of the U. S. Climate Alliance and several other states to reduce climate-harming “super pollutants” such as HFCs. HFCs can be hundreds to thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide in contributing to climate change per unit of mass.
Governor Hogan signed into law the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act of 2016, which requires reductions of greenhouse gases in Maryland by 40% by 2030 – requirements that are among the most aggressive in the country and significantly more stringent than those in the Paris Climate Accord – while continuing to have a net positive effect on the economy and job creation. Maryland participates in the U.S. Climate Alliance and is a member of the multi-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
Traditionally, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulated the use of HFCs under a federal Clean Air Act program. However, after two HFC rules issued by the EPA stalled due to legal challenges, states began their own initiatives. MDE’s proposed regulations would reduce HFC emissions by adopting the stalled federal prohibitions for air conditioning and refrigeration equipment, aerosol propellants and foam uses.
The phase out of HFCs will encourage the use of widely available alternatives with lower greenhouse gas emissions. Under the proposed regulations, HFC emissions are estimated to be reduced annually by 25% by 2030, representing a total reduction of 4.95 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent over 10 years.
Methane is a prevalent greenhouse gas emitted by human activity.MDE’s proposed regulation will establish requirements to reduce vented and “fugitive” (or leaked) emissions of methane from both new and existing energy facilities.
MDE is also proposing detection, testing, repair, reporting and record keeping requirements for these gas facilities in the State. MDE estimates the proposed methane regulations will potentially prevent up to 5,000 metric tons of methane emissions per year through leak surveys, replacement of leaking equipment and components and inspections.
The proposed HFC and methane regulations were published in the Maryland Register July 17 and July 31, respectively. A public hearing that complies with COVID-19 physical distancing requirements is scheduled for 10 a.m. today on the proposed HFC regulations. A public hearing on the proposed methane regulations is scheduled for August 31. Information on the proposed regulations and the virtual public hearings is available at
Virtual Safety Summit: Sept 21 – 25
At the Workplace Learning Safety Summit, you can learn how to implement the WLS safety culture development system. The journey begins when safety is more than a goal or objective, but an unwavering value. Environmental Resource Center is partnering with WLS to provide environmental compliance training during the summit on the following topics:
  • EPCRA reporting
  • SPCC Tier I plans
  • Stormwater
  • Universal Waste
You can find the full agenda and registration details at this link.
Temporary Rule to Address COVID-19 in Oregon Workplaces
Oregon OSHA has proposed a temporary rule that would combat the spread of coronavirus in all workplaces by requiring employers to implement risk-reducing measures. Those measures include social distancing, barriers, face coverings, cleanings, and information sharing.
In addition to requirements that would apply to all workplaces, the rule encompasses further requirements for certain job duties involving close-in work activities, as well as health care activities involving direct patient care.
“This rule proposal reflects the need to provide both clearer and more stable guidance in the workplace than has been possible during the height of the COVID-19 emergency," said Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon OSHA. “We look forward to more review and feedback as we seek to further bolster on-the-job protections for workers against this disease."
Oregon OSHA is accepting public comments on the proposal through Monday, Aug. 31 Sept. 7. Send comments to The division is scheduling virtual public forums to discuss the rule. The full text of the draft standard – as well as background documents and other up-to-date information – is now available.
The temporary rule, which could take effect no later than Monday, Sept. 14, would remain in effect for 180 days. The rule contains multiple provisions that would apply to all workplaces.
For example, employers would have to ensure six-foot distancing between all people in the workplace. That would include designing work activities and the workplace to eliminate the need for any worker to be within six feet of another person.
If such separation is not practical, the employer would have to ensure that face coverings are worn and that as much distance as practical is maintained.
The distancing requirement could be met with an impermeable barrier that creates a “droplet buffer" of at least six feet in distance as measured between the mouths of the affected people.
Another example pertains to all high-contact surfaces used by multiple employees, such as door handles and cash registers. Employers would have to ensure that such surfaces are thoroughly cleaned at the beginning of each shift.
Meanwhile, the draft rule includes additional measures for jobs requiring an employee to be within six feet of another person for 15 minutes or longer if it includes direct contact. Examples of such activities include tattooing, massage, and hair dressing.
In those situations, employers would need to conduct a COVID-19 exposure risk assessment. Such an assessment would account for a variety of risk elements, including the anticipated or actual working distance between all employees and the frequency, duration, and variety of close-in work activities.
The draft rule contains an additional requirement for employers engaged in such health care activities as direct patient care, aerosol-generating procedures, and emergency first-responder work: developing and implementing an infection control plan.
The plan would need to include such steps as outlining worker tasks requiring the use of personal protective equipment, spelling out hazard control measures, and describing face-covering requirements.
Oregon OSHA announced on June 26 that it had begun work on a draft temporary rule addressing COVID-19. The division conducted the work in consultation with the Oregon Health Authority, technical advisors, and affected stakeholders. At the same time, the division continues to pursue permanent rulemaking that would provide a structure for addressing potential future disease outbreaks.
For more information about Oregon OSHA workplace guidance and resources related to the coronavirus outbreak, visit
Safely Get Your EHS Training at Home or in Your Office
To help you get the training you need, Environmental Resource Center has added a number of dates to our already popular live webcast training. Stay in compliance and learn the latest regulations from the comfort of your office or home. Webcast attendees receive the same benefits as our seminar attendees including expert instruction, comprehensive course materials, one year of access to our AnswerlineTM service, course certificate, and a personalized user portal on Environmental Resource Center’s website.
Upcoming hazardous waste and DOT hazardous materials webcasts:
Hazardous Waste Management: Annual Update – August 25, September 14, September 29 
DOT Hazardous Materials Update – August 26, September 15, September 30
Free Online Training for Fall Protection in Construction
Employers and workers who engage in construction activities in Oregon now have a free and flexible way to improve their understanding of fall protection, thanks to an online video training course produced by Oregon OSHA.
The course, “Fall Protection for Construction,” is designed to help employers and workers meet the requirements of Oregon OSHA’s fall protection standards. It is the fourth course in the division’s “Fall Protection Suite,” which tackles fall hazards across specific industries and different on-the-job situations.
“This new course reflects Oregon OSHA’s ongoing commitment to expand our educational offerings in a way that fits the busy schedules of employers and workers, and that helps them maintain safe workplaces,” said Roy Kroker, consultation and public education manager for Oregon OSHA.
The multimedia “Fall Protection for Construction” course features insights from industry leaders and practical demonstrations. It highlights the relevant requirements, and explains terms and processes. It covers a comprehensive set of fall protection topics in construction. They include the purposes of fall arrest and fall restraint systems; fall clearance calculations; scaffolding; guardrails; leading edge work; and holes and openings.
Falls are the leading cause of injury and death in construction work. In Oregon, from 2014 to 2018, there were 6,187 accepted disabling claims in construction because of falls to a lower level.
The death and broken lives are avoidable. As Dan Daley, owner of Daley Construction in Bend, puts it in one of the course’s videos: “Nobody should get hurt to make a buck.”
The “Fall Protection for Construction” course includes the opportunity to receive a certificate of completion. Oregon OSHA encourages the use of online training. Learn more about the division’s education and training services.
Environmental Resource Center Update
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have combined our Safety and Environmental Tips of the week.  This issue includes some of the latest recommendations for you to keep safe at work and at home in this evolving event.
The health and wellbeing of our employees, customers and our communities is what matters most to all of us. To continue to serve you, our seminars have been converted to live online webcasts. You can find a list of upcoming live webcasts at this link.
If you have enrolled in a seminar in August or September in many cases the seminar will be held on approximately the same dates and at the same times via online webcast. We will contact you by phone or email regarding the details on how to attend the class. On-site training and consulting services are proceeding as usual. If you wish to convert these to remote services, please call your Environmental Resource Center representative or customer service at 800-537-2372.
Because many of our live and on-site training sessions have been postponed or canceled, we have staff available to assist you in coping with COVID-19 as well as your routine EHS requirements. If you have EHS staff that have been quarantined, we can provide remote assistance to help you meet your ongoing environmental and safety compliance requirements.  For details, call 800-537-2372.
Cal/OSHA Reminds Employers to Protect Workers from Unhealthy Air Due to Wildfire Smoke
Cal/OSHA reminded employers that California’s protection from wildfire smoke standard is still in effect, and they must take steps to protect their workers from harmful exposure to unhealthy air due to wildfire smoke.
“Employers are obligated to protect their outdoor workers and must evaluate the health hazards posed by wildfire smoke,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Doug Parker. “If employers cannot move operations indoors where air is adequately filtered and they do not have access to respiratory protection, they may need to halt operations until the outdoor air quality improves.”
Smoke from wildfires contains chemicals, gases and fine particles that can harm health. The greatest hazard comes from breathing fine particles in the air (called PM2.5), which can reduce lung function, worsen asthma or other existing heart and lung conditions, and cause coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing. These types of respiratory conditions also make the effects of COVID-19 more severe.
If employers move operations indoors or into enclosed spaces, they should be sure to follow guidelines for prevention of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace.
When wildfire smoke affects a worksite, employers must monitor the air quality index (AQI) for PM2.5. Employers can monitor the AQI using the following websites:
If the AQI for PM2.5 is 151 or greater, employers must take the following steps to protect employees:
  • Communication – Inform employees of the AQI for PM2.5 and the protective measures available to them.
  • Training and Instruction – Provide effective training and instruction to all employees on the information contained in section 5141.1 Appendix B.
  • Modifications – Implement modifications to the workplace, if feasible, to reduce exposure. Examples include providing enclosed structures or vehicles for employees to work in, where the air is filtered.
  • Changes – Implement practicable changes to work procedures or schedules. Examples include changing the location where employees work or reducing the amount of time they work outdoors or exposed to unfiltered outdoor air.
  • Respiratory protection – Provide proper respiratory protection equipment, such as disposable respirators, for voluntary use.
    • To filter out fine particles, respirators must be labeled N-95, N-99, N-100, R-95, P-95, P-99, or P-100, and must be labeled as approved by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
“Cal/OSHA is working diligently to identify viable available temporary alternatives that would provide workers with an acceptable alternative to a compliant respirator such as an N-95 mask,” added Chief Parker. CalOES and the California Department of Food and Agriculture are working in partnership to provide approximately one million N-95 masks to help protect farmworkers from wildfire smoke. County Agricultural Commissioners in affected counties will distribute the masks.
If the AQI for PM2.5 exceeds 500, respirator use is required. Employers must ensure employees uses respirators and implement a respiratory protection program as required in California’s respiratory standard. For information or help on developing a respiratory protection program, see Cal/OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Fact Sheet.
Information on current wildfires is available from CalFire and the Incident Information System website.
Indiana Man Pleads Guilty to Distributing Pesticides
An Indiana man who distributed unregistered pesticides to the tenants and managers of an apartment building he owned has pleaded guilty to three counts of violating the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
Cai Feng Yang, aka Kevin Yang, 41, of La Porte, Indiana, pleaded guilty today before U.S. Magistrate Judge John E. Martin in the Northern District of Indiana. Sentencing has been scheduled for Oct. 27, 2020.
According to court records, during trips to China in September 2015 and January 2016, Yang purchased multiple boxes of unregistered pesticides labeled “cockroach killer bait” and “cockroach gum bait,” as well as several small unlabeled bottles of liquid pesticide containing the active ingredient dichlorvos. Yang transported these pesticides to the United States in his checked luggage with the intent to use them in his La Porte apartment buildings to exterminate cockroaches and bed bugs. None of these pesticides were registered with the EPA as required by FIFRA. For that reason, Yang was obligated to submit a Notice of Arrival (NoA) prior to importing these products into the United States, which he failed to do. He also failed to declare this merchandise to Customs upon his return to the United States.
After returning from China, Yang distributed the vials of granular cockroach killer bait and the syringes of gelatinous cockroach gum bait to tenants renting apartments at 701 Maple St. and 606 Tipton Street. Yang also provided his part-time assistant building managers at 701 Maple Street an unlabeled bottle of pesticide containing dichlorvos to be applied in apartments to kill bed bugs. On several occasions, Yang applied the liquid pesticide in tenants’ apartments himself.
This case was investigated by the EPA-Criminal Investigation Division with assistance from the Office of Indiana State Chemist.
Alert: Chlorine Dioxide Ingestion
The Georgia Department of Public Health has received reports people are using diluted chlorine dioxide to “treat” COVID-19. Chlorine dioxide is a bleach-like cleaning agent and, if ingested, can have severe, adverse health effects, including death.
Chlorine dioxide products have not been shown to be safe and effective for any use, including treatment of COVID-19. Products are being marketed under various names: MSS, Miracle Mineral Solution, Master Mineral Solution, Water Purification Solution, CDS, Aqueous Chlorine Dioxide and others.
Ingesting chlorine dioxide products can lead to:
  • Respiratory failure
  • Potentially fatal abnormal heart rhythms
  • Life-threatening low blood pressure caused by dehydration
  • Acute liver failure
  • Low blood cell counts
  • Severe vomiting
  • Severe diarrhea
Chlorine dioxide are the active ingredients in disinfectants and have additional industrial uses. They are not meant to be swallowed by people.
For more information or if you or someone you know has ingested chlorine dioxide, call the Georgia Poison Center Hotline: 1-800-222-1222.
Consumer Product Manufacturers Pay Nearly $2 Million for Air Quality Violations, Improving Air Quality Throughout California
The California Air Resources Board over the past 18 months settled 44 cases involving air quality violations by companies that manufactured consumer products that exceeded California’s limits for volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The products ranged from solvents to hair sprays and air fresheners. These settlements mitigated more than 172 tons of excess VOC emissions and 24 tons of toxic air contaminant emissions.
VOCs are gases released from solid or liquid products, which contribute to ozone formation. Ozone, an element of smog, causes respiratory health effects including lung irritation, shortness of breath and coughing, and can aggravate asthma and other lung diseases.
As the initial step in the supply chain, manufacturers serve a critical role in formulating products that are compliant with California standards. Manufacturers are expected to be familiar with CARB regulations, to take sufficient quality control measures, and to label their products’ uses for the applicable category. Manufacturers must also consistently inform distributors and retailers of the products’ compliance.
“These products are used daily in almost every California household. Manufacturers don’t normally sell directly to consumers, but they do control product formulations. Manufacturers need to notify their sales partners of their products’ compliance status so that consumers are protected before the product is even sold,” explains CARB Enforcement Division Chief Todd Sax.
Cases settled in the past 18 months totaled $1,824,385. Of this, violators funded Supplemental Environmental Projects totaling $198,000, including Coalition for Clean Air, Environmental Justice Network, and the Kettleman City Asthma Intervention Program. Five of the case settlements exceeded $100,000, including a $600,000 settlement with W.M. Barr & Company Inc., and a $220,000 settlement with The Sherwin-Williams Company. Among the air quality violations by W.M. Barr, the Memphis, Tenn.-based company sold, supplied and offered for sale paint thinners and multi-purpose solvents, which contained concentrations of VOCs and aromatic compound content that exceeded California standards. The company’s violations, in total, resulted in excess emissions of close to 82 tons of VOCs, 8.4 tons of aromatic compounds and 5.2 tons of ozone-forming compounds into the atmosphere. The company stopped sales of noncompliant products and modified other products to meet California’s regulatory requirements.
Settlements since January 2019 involved the following manufacturers:
3M Company, Automotive Aftermarket Division
A.C.C.S. Enterprises Inc.
Aervoe Industries Inc.
Arch Chemicals Inc.
Arrow Lighter Inc.
Asbury Carbons, Incorporated
Astral del Noroeste SA de CV
Benjamin Moore & Company
Cambridge Diagnosis Products Inc.
Clift Industries Inc.
Coghlan's Ltd.
Colart Americas Inc.
Drybar Products LLC
Empire Candle Company LLC
Enchante Accessories Inc.
Garcoa Incorporated
Hatchbeauty Products LLC
Heat Makes Sense Inc.
Henkel Corporation
I. Marketing Group LLC
Key Brands International Ltd.
Kleen Concepts LLC
Kleen Products Inc.
MAAS International Inc.
Marc Anthony Cosmetics Ltd.
Nails Inc.
National Chemical Company
NC Brands Limited Partnership
Niteo Products LLC
Permatex Inc.
Petruj Chemical Corporation
Rutland Fire Clay Company
Speedball Art Products LLC
Spencer Gifts LLC
Sunnyside Corporation
Synergy Labs LLC
The Kroger Company
The Sherwin-Williams Company
Titan Laboratories Inc.
Tri-Coastal Design Group Inc.
W.M. Barr & Company Inc.
Weiman Products LLC
Western Fragrant Products Corp.
Checklist to Protect Food Industry Employees Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic
OSHA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have developed a checklist for human and animal food manufacturers to consider when continuing, resuming or reevaluating operations due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The checklist is useful for persons growing, harvesting, packing, manufacturing, processing or holding human and animal food regulated by FDA. The checklist includes the following considerations:
  • Ensure employee health and a safe workplace;
  • Investigate exposure and determine when an employee should be tested for the coronavirus; and
  • Configure the work environment to help minimize the risk of spreading the coronavirus among workers.
In addition, the checklist provides examples of ways to align workstations to include social distancing practices.
Food manufacturers can use this checklist in conjunction with other sector-specific information, such as guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and OSHA for agriculture and meat and poultry processing workers and employers.
The checklist is OSHA’s latest effort to protect America’s workers and help employers provide healthy workplaces during the coronavirus pandemic. OSHA has published numerous alerts and advisories for various industries, including Guidance on Returning to Work, which assists employers as they reopen businesses and employees return to work.
Phillips 66 San Francisco Refinery Fined $285,000 for Discharge Violation
The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board fined the Phillips 66 Co. $285,000 for discharging more than 5 million gallons of partially treated wastewater from its San Francisco Refinery to San Pablo Bay.
The fine stems from a Feb. 14, 2019, discharge that exceeded the suspended solids load allowed by Phillips 66 Co.’s discharge permit. Suspended solids from petroleum refineries may contain toxic byproducts of refinery operations that can harm aquatic life. No harm was observed in San Pablo Bay from the discharge event. The settlement requires the refinery to pay $142,500 to the State Water Pollution Cleanup and Abatement Account and $142,500 on a supplemental environmental project to study how sediment moves through San Francisco Bay.
“This enforcement action deters the refinery from committing similar violations and sends the message that all petroleum refineries in the region need to manage their treatment systems properly and prepare for the inevitable storms we see from time to time,” said Thomas Mumley, assistant executive officer for the San Francisco Bay Water Board.
The violation might have been avoided had the refinery restored an onsite storage tank to service in a timely manner. Instead, when a series of big consecutive storms increased flows through the treatment process, the refinery could not store enough wastewater for later treatment and had to bypass the part of its treatment system that filters out suspended solids. The refinery returned the storage tank to service in January 2020.
Firefighters Exposed to More Potentially Harmful Chemicals than Previously Thought
A new Oregon State University study suggests that firefighters are more likely to be exposed to potentially harmful chemicals while on duty compared to off duty.
The on-duty firefighters in the Kansas City, Missouri, area experienced higher exposures of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, which are a family of chemicals that are known to have the potential to cause cancer. They were also exposed to 18 PAHs that have not been previously reported as firefighting exposures in earlier research.
The study, funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was published in the journal Environment International.
The results are important because previous studies have shown that firefighters have an increased risk of developing cancer and other damaging health effects, said study lead Kim Anderson, an environmental chemist and Extension specialist in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences.
PAHs are a large group of chemical compounds that contain carbon and other elements. They form naturally after almost any type of combustion, both natural and human-created. In addition to burning wood, plants and tobacco, PAHs are also in fossil fuels.
“We don’t have enough data to profile the source of the PAHs, but we know PAHs appear from combustion, and obviously combustion is their work,” Anderson said. “They are also putting on a heavy load of protective gear that has PAHs, and they use cleaning products that have PAHs.”
The firefighters in the study wore personal passive samplers in the shape of a military-style dog tag made of silicone on an elastic necklace. The tags are made of the same material as OSU’s patented silicone wristbands that Anderson’s lab has been using for several years to study chemical exposure in humans and cats.
This study demonstrates that the dog tags, which absorb chemicals from the air and skin, appear to be a reliable sampling technology necessary for assessing chemical exposures in firefighters, Anderson said.
“I’m quite confident those exposures existed but if you don’t have something to help you find them you don’t know for sure,” Anderson said. “Certainly, we found that it’s a lot more than what people had thought.”
For their study, the researchers sampled individual firefighters’ exposures at two departments – the Raytown Fire Protection District and Southern Platte Fire Protection District. They defined the Raytown department as a “high call volume” department, with a historic average of 12 fire calls per month, and the Southern Platte department as “low call volume,” with less than two calls per month historically.
After completing a survey on demographics, occupational history, and suspected current exposures, the recruited firefighters wore a dog tag during the next 30 on- and off-shift days. During fire calls, tags were worn over clothing but underneath their gear. The firefighters were instructed to wear the dog tags continuously during all regular activities, including eating, showering and sleeping. Sampling occurred from November 2018 to April 2019.
When they analyzed the dog tags that were returned to Anderson’s lab at Oregon State, 45 unique PAHs, of which 18 have not been previously reported as firefighting exposures, were detected. PAH exposures increased as the number of fires a participant responded to increased. PAH concentrations were not only higher when on-duty compared to off-duty, but also higher from the high call volume department compared to the low call volume department.
Each of the participating firefighters has been provided a report on their basic health information and chemical exposure, Anderson said. The participants also received a fact sheet about firefighters and cancer risk. The fact sheet includes some simple steps firefighters can take to reduce their exposure to harmful chemicals, such as always wearing their personal protective equipment, taking a shower after each fire and before ending their shift, and cleaning their gear after every fire.
Anderson directs the Food Safety and Environmental Stewardship Program in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences. She co-founded MyExposome Inc., a start-up company that is marketing the silicone wristbands.
Co-authors on the study were Carolyn Poutasse, Peter Hoffman, Christopher Haddock and Lane Tidwell – all members of Anderson’s lab – and Walker S. Carlos Poston and Sara Jahnke, both of the Center for Fire, Rescue and EMS Health Research in Leewood, Kansas.
Waste Used to Make More Healthful Milk Chocolate
Milk chocolate is a consumer favorite worldwide, prized for its sweet flavor and creamy texture. This confection can be found in all types of treats, but it isn’t exactly health food. In contrast, dark chocolate has high levels of phenolic compounds, which can provide antioxidant health benefits, but it is also a harder, more bitter chocolate. Today, researchers report a new way to combine milk chocolate with waste peanut skins and other wastes to boost its antioxidant properties.
“The idea for this project began with testing different types of agricultural waste for bioactivity, particularly peanut skins,” says Lisa Dean, Ph.D., the project’s principal investigator. “Our initial goal was to extract phenolics from the skins and find a way to mix them with food.”
When manufacturers roast and process peanuts to make peanut butter, candy and other products, they toss aside the papery red skins that encase the legume inside its shell. Thousands of tons of peanut skins are discarded each year, but since they contain 15% phenolic compounds by weight, they’re a potential goldmine of antioxidant bioactivity. Not only do antioxidants provide anti-inflammatory health benefits, they also help keep food products from spoiling.
“Phenolics are very bitter, so we had to find some way to mitigate that sensation,” Dean says. In fact, the natural presence of phenolic compounds is what gives dark chocolate its bitterness, along with less fat and sugar compared to its cousin milk chocolate. Dark varieties are also more expensive than milk ones because of their higher cocoa content, so the addition of a waste like peanut skins provides similar benefits for a fraction of the price. And peanut skins are not the only food waste that can enhance milk chocolate in this way; the researchers are also exploring the extraction and incorporation of phenolic compounds from used coffee grounds, discarded tea leaves and other food scraps.
To create their antioxidant-boosted milk chocolate, Dean and her team of researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Agricultural Research Service worked with peanut companies to obtain the peanut skins. From there, they ground the skins into a powder, and extracted the phenolic compounds with 70% ethanol. The lignin and cellulose left behind can be used in animal feed as roughage. They also worked with local coffee roasters and tea producers to obtain used coffee grounds and tea leaves, using a similar methodology to extract the antioxidants from those materials. The phenolic powder is then combined with maltodextrin, a common food additive, to make it easier to incorporate into the final milk chocolate product.
To make sure their new confection would pass gastronomic muster, the researchers created individual squares of chocolate with concentrations of phenolics ranging from 0.1% to 8.1% and had a trained sensory panel taste each one. The goal was to have the phenolic powder be undetectable in the flavor of the milk chocolate. The taste-testers found that concentrations over 0.9% were detectable, but incorporating the phenolics at 0.8% resulted in a good compromise of a high level of bioactivity without sacrificing flavor or texture. In fact, more than half of the taste testers preferred the 0.8% phenolic milk chocolate over the un-dosed control milk chocolate. This sample had higher chemical antioxidant activity than most dark chocolates.
While these results are very promising, Dean and team also acknowledge that peanuts are a major food allergy concern. They tested the phenolic powder made from the skins for presence of allergens, and while none were detected, they say that a product containing peanut skins should still be labeled as containing peanuts.
Next, the researchers plan to further explore the use of peanut skins, coffee grounds and other waste products into additional foods. In particular, Dean is hoping to test whether the antioxidants in peanut skins extend the shelf life of nut butters, which can go rancid quickly because of their high fat content. While commercial availability of their boosted chocolate is still a ways off and subject to corporate patents, they hope that their efforts will eventually lead to a better milk chocolate on supermarket shelves.
The researchers acknowledge support and funding from the USDA Agricultural Research Service.
Free Amazon HD 10 Tablet with RCRA and DOT Training
Annual hazardous waste training is required for anyone who generates, accumulates, stores, transports, or treats hazardous waste. Learn how to manage your hazardous waste in accordance with the latest state and federal regulations. 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.
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