Welding Fumes Listed as Carcinogens

August 06, 2018
According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, substantial new evidence has led to the classification of welding fumes and UV radiation from welding to be classified as “carcinogenic to humans” (IARC Group 1). The Agency estimated that 11 million workers worldwide have a job title of welder, and around 110 million additional workers probably incur welding-related exposures. Welding can involve exposures to fumes, gases, ultraviolet radiation and electromagnetic fields, and co-exposures to asbestos and solvents. The extent and type of exposure can depend on the process used, the material welded, ventilation, degree of enclosure, and use of personal protection.
IARC classified Molybdenum trioxide as a chemical that is “possibly carcinogenic to humans” (IARC Group 2B). Exposures to molybdenum trioxide can occur in mining and metallurgy, steel foundries, welding, and high-temperature processes using steel.
Indium tin oxide was also classified into Group 2B. This material, which does not occur naturally, is a chemical with a low production volume that is a mixture of indium oxide and stannic oxide. It is mainly used in producing transparent conductive films on glass or plastic panels used in electronic devices. Workplace exposure to indium tin oxide occurs mainly during production and processing, or during recycling of elemental indium. As the use, recycling, and disposal of electronics increases worldwide, exposures to indium in low- and middle-income countries where informal e-recycling occurs are also expected to increase.
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Sunscreen Chemicals May Harm Fish Embryos
For most people, a trip to the beach involves slathering on a thick layer of sunscreen to protect against sunburn and skin cancer. However, savvy beachgoers know to reapply sunscreen every few hours because it eventually washes off. Now researchers, reporting in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology, have detected high levels of sunscreen chemicals in the waters of Shenzhen, China, and they also show that the products can affect zebrafish embryo development.
A painful sunburn can ruin a vacation, and too much sun can also lead to more serious problems like premature skin aging and melanoma. Therefore, manufacturers have added ultraviolet (UV) filters to many personal care products, including sunscreens, moisturizers and makeup. Scientists have detected these substances in the environment, but most studies have concluded that individual sunscreen chemicals are not present at high-enough levels to harm people or animals. Kelvin Sze-Yin Leung wondered if combinations of UV filters may be more harmful than individual compounds, and whether these chemicals could have long-term effects that previous studies hadn’t considered.
Leung and his team began by analyzing the levels of nine common UV filters in surface waters of Shenzhen, China—a rapidly growing city with more than 20 popular recreational beaches. They found seven of the nine chemicals in Shenzhen waters, including public beaches, a harbor and, surprisingly, a reservoir and tap water. Next, the researchers moved to the lab where they fed zebrafish, a common model organism, brine shrimp that had been exposed to three of the most prevalent chemicals, alone or in mixtures. Although the adult fish had no visible problems, their offspring showed abnormalities. These outcomes were mostly observed for longer-term exposures (47 days) and elevated levels of the chemicals (higher than what is likely to occur in the environment). The effects of different UV filters and mixtures of these substances varied in often-unpredictable ways, suggesting that further studies are needed to determine how these chemicals impact living systems.
Good News for Coffee Drinkers
California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has proposed to add a new section to Article 7 of Title 27 of the California Code of Regulations, section 25704, stating that exposures to Proposition 65 listed chemicals in coffee that are produced as part of, and inherent in, the processes of roasting coffee beans and brewing coffee pose no significant risk of cancer.
Tea drinkers are invited to protest this decision at a public hearing that will be held on August 16, 2018, at which time you may make comments orally or in writing on the proposal. The hearing will commence at 10:00 AM in the Sierra Hearing Room, California Environmental Protection Agency Building, 1001 I Street, 2nd Floor, Sacramento, California and will last until all business has been conducted or 2:00 PM.
Over 1 Million Printer Power Supplies Recalled Due to Fire Hazard
This recall involves power supply units that serve as the power source for models of Zebra manufactured thermal industrial printers (sold under the Zebra brand, including co-branded or re-branded) used to make bar codes and other commercial labels. The recall was originally announced in December 2016 and is now being expanded to include power supply units manufactured by the FSP Group between October 1, 2006 and December 31, 2012. The Zebra logo or FSP North America logo, date code and part number are printed on the power supply unit. The power supply units were either sold as after-market kits or included with the sale of several dozen models of printers manufactured by Zebra. For a complete list, see this link.
Hidden Hazards of Antibiotic Resistance Genes in Air
People are often notified about poor air quality by weather apps, and this happens frequently in urban areas, where levels of outdoor pollution containing particulates and soot are high. But now scientists are reporting in ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology that there is another type of air contaminant that they say isn’t receiving enough attention: antibiotic-resistance genes.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 2 million people in the U.S. become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria every year. Research has shown that antibiotic resistant genes (ARGs) can move from bacteria to bacteria, or even from bacteria to the environment. For example, tetracycline-resistance genes have been found near animal feed operations, and β-lactam-resistance genes have been found in urban parks in California. These studies indicated that airborne transmission could be a factor in the spreading and exposure of ARGs. But current air pollution investigations typically don’t take ARGs into account. So, Maosheng Yao and colleagues wanted to examine airborne ARGs on a global scale.
The team performed a survey of 30 ARGs across 19 cities around the world, including San Francisco, Beijing and Paris. The group studied ARGs resistant to seven common classes of antibiotics: quinolones, β-lactams, macrolides, tetracyclines, sulfonamides, aminoglycosides and vancomycins. Beijing had the most diverse group of airborne ARGs, with 18 different subtypes detected, while San Francisco had the highest overall level of airborne ARGs. Genes resistant to β-lactams and quinolones were the two most abundant types of ARGs in all the cities studied. Low levels of ARGs resistant to vancomycin, an antibiotic of last resort for MRSA treatment, were found in the air of six cities.
Air Pollution Linked to Heart Changes in the Heart
A team of scientists, led from Queen Mary University of London by Professor Steffen Petersen, studied data from around 4,000 participants in the UK Biobank study. Volunteers provided a range of personal information, including their lifestyles, health record and details on where they have lived. Participants also had blood tests and health scans.
Even though most participants lived outside major UK cities, there was a clear association between those who lived near loud, busy roads, and were exposed to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) or PM2.5—small particles of air pollution—and the development of larger right and left ventricles in the heart. The ventricles are important pumping chambers in the heart and, although these participants were healthy and had no symptoms, similar heart remodeling is seen in the early stages of heart failure.
Higher exposures to the pollutants were linked to more significant changes in the structure of the heart. For every 1 extra µg per cubic meter of PM2.5 and for every 10 extra µg per cubic of NO2, the heart enlarges by approximately 1%.
Air pollution is now the largest environmental risk factor linked to deaths in England. Globally, coronary heart disease and stroke account for approximately six in ten (58%) deaths related to outdoor air pollution. This research could help explain exactly how and why air pollution affects the heart.
In the study, average annual exposures to PM2.5 (8–12µg per cubic meter) were well within UK guidelines (25µg per cubic meter), although they were approaching or past World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines (10µg per cubic meter). The WHO has said that there are no safe limits of PM2.5. The participants’ average exposure to NO2 (10–50µg per cubic meter) was approaching and above the equal WHO and UK annual average guidelines (40µg per cubic meter).
Ahead of the Government’s consultation on their draft Clean Air Strategy closing on August 14, 2018, the scientists wanted to ensure the public’s heart and circulatory health is at the center of discussions.
The Strategy commits to halving the number of people in the UK living in areas where PM2.5 levels exceed WHO guidelines (10 µg per cubic meter) by 2025, but ultimately they wanted to see this action go further to reduce the health impacts of toxic air as quickly as possible.
Dr Nay Aung who led the data analysis from Queen Mary University of London said, “Although our study was observational and hasn’t yet shown a causal link, we saw significant changes in the heart, even at relatively low levels of air pollution exposure. Our future studies will include data from those living in inner cities like Central Manchester and London, using more in-depth measurements of heart function, and we would expect the findings to be even more pronounced and clinically important.”
Mya Steer, 19, lives just outside Bristol, she was diagnosed with an inherited heart condition, arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) just after her 18th birthday. Ms. Steer says, “My heart condition means that I often struggle to breathe anyway and air pollution makes me feel much worse—it’s pretty instant. This research just goes to show that pollution is affecting us all, whether we live in busy cities or more rural areas where we might feel protected from pollution.”
“There is no safe limit for air pollution for me, or for anyone who is concerned about their heart health—we all need the Government to do more.”
Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director, stated, ”We can’t expect people to move home to avoid air pollution—Government and public bodies must be acting right now to make all areas safe and protect the population from these harms. What is particularly worrying is that the levels of air pollution, particularly PM2.5, at which this study saw people with heart remodeling are not even deemed particularly high by the UK Government—this is why we are calling for the WHO guidelines to be adopted. They are less than half of UK legal limits and while we know there are no safe limits for some forms of air pollution, we believe this is a crucial step in protecting the nation’s heart health. “Having these targets in law will also help to improve the lives of those currently living with heart and circulatory diseases, as we know they are particularly affected by air pollution.”
This research was a collaboration between Queen Mary University of London and the University of Oxford.
What is the Safe Following Distance?
Confusion over what is a safe following distance has QUT road safety researchers calling for a standardized definition to prevent tailgating. Dr Sebastien Demmel, from QUT’s Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety—Queensland (CARRS-Q), said the results of the study which found 50% of drivers tailgate, was being presented at the 2017 Australasian Road Safety Conference in Perth.
“This study, for the first time conclusively linked tailgating with rear-end crashes, but we also identified confusion among drivers over what is deemed to be a safe following distance,” he said.
“Despite drivers perceiving they are following at a safe distance, our on-road data showed that in reality most don’t leave the recommended two to three second gap,” he said.
“At some locations 55% of drivers were found to leave less than a two second gap between them and the vehicle in front, and 44% less than a one second.” The study used Queensland state road crash data to pinpoint rear-end crash blackspots, and on-road monitoring to determine driving conditions, speed and tailgating. More than 500 drivers were also surveyed on their perceptions of driving behavior and their knowledge of safe following distances.
Dr. Demmel said it was concerning that most drivers reported keeping the same gap regardless of traffic flow or road type. “One of the reasons drivers may not be leaving a safe following distance is because 60% used meters or another unit of distance rather than the recommended seconds to assess a safe following distance.
“When using meters compared to seconds, the gap between vehicles changes, however most drivers said they kept the same gap length regardless of traffic flow or travelling speed.”
Dr Demmel said rear-end collisions account for around one in five crashes on Queensland roads and contribute to 25% of the total cost of claims to the Queensland compulsory third party (CTP) scheme. 
“If we can reduce rear-end crashes, we will see a reduction in crashes and the number of people being injured, which will lead to a corresponding reduction in CTP premiums,” he said.
This project was funded by the Motor Accident Insurance Commission (MAIC), the regulator of the Queensland CTP scheme. CARRS- Q acknowledges in-kind support from MAIC and staff from the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads and Queensland Police Service.
California to Modify Proposition 65 Listing for Alcoholic Beverages
The California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) intends to modify the listing of “ethanol in alcoholic beverages” to “alcoholic beverages.” This amendment makes no change in the classification of the material as known to the state to cause cancer under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Proposition 65).
Ethanol in Alcoholic Beverages was listed as known to cause cancer in April 2011 based on a determination by IARC that ethanol in alcoholic beverages was classified in Group 1 (the agent is carcinogenic to humans).
In its online listing of classifications, IARC also lists alcoholic beverages as Group 1, carcinogenic to humans (IARC, 2018), also referencing Monograph 100E (IARC, 2012). Therefore, OEHHA has determined that the existing listing should be modified to reflect IARCs broader classification by striking the words ethanol in from the listing.
Dollar Tree Store Fined for Safety Hazards
OSHA has cited Dollar Tree Stores Inc. for exposing workers to fire, smoke, and other hazards at a Dallas, TX location. The national discount retailer faces $129,336 in proposed penalties.
OSHA inspected the store after receiving a referral from a whistleblower investigator claiming unsafe working conditions. OSHA cited the company for one willful violation for locking an emergency exit. In 2015, the Agency and the company reached a corporate-wide settlement agreement to address unsafe conditions found at numerous U.S. stores. This investigation addresses issues that fall outside the terms of the agreement.
“Locked emergency exits prevent quick evacuation in an emergency, needlessly placing employees at risk for serious harm,” said OSHA Dallas Area Director Basil Singh.
Polystar Inc. Cited for Exposing Employees to Excessive Noise and Other Hazards
OSHA has cited Polystar Inc.—doing business as Polystar Containment—for exposing employees to excessive noise after 12 employees’ audiograms indicated mild to moderate hearing loss at its manufacturing plant in Stow, Ohio. The company faces penalties totaling $331,490.
OSHA conducted an inspection of the facility in response to a complaint. Investigators determined that the company failed to implement an audiometric testing program to monitor employee hearing loss, and controls to reduce noise levels; use machine guards; provide adequate respiratory protection; remove damaged forklifts from use; train workers on hazardous communication; and store flammable materials properly.
“Failing to protect employees from excessive noise can lead to long-term and irreversible hearing loss,” said OSHA Cleveland Area Office Director Howard Eberts. “Employers are required to take appropriate precautions to keep employees safe from well-known hazards.”
Recycling Company Cited for Safety Violations
OSHA has cited Sewing Collection Inc.—a coat hanger recycling company—for serious and repeat safety violations. The Columbus, Ohio-based company faces proposed penalties totaling $190,247.
An inspection in April 2018 found that the company exposed employees to fall, machine guarding, and electrical hazards; failed to train forklift operators; and did not have proper emergency exit signage.
“Employers have a responsibility to conduct workplace hazard assessments regularly to determine appropriate measures at protecting workers’ safety and health,” said OSHA Columbus Area Office Director Larry Johnson. “This company’s failure to comply with federal safety requirements needlessly exposed employees to workplace injuries.”
Idaho Lumber Company Cited for Exposing Employees to Safety Hazards
OSHA has cited Merritt Bros. Lumber Company Inc. for exposing employees to multiple workplace safety hazards at its Athol, ID facility. The Athol, Idaho-based company is facing $189,221 in proposed penalties.
OSHA cited the company for failing to use machine guards on trim saws and conveyors, install handrails on stairways and walkways, use lockout/tagout procedures to control hazardous energy, and train employees on hazardous chemicals. OSHA also cited the company for allowing sawdust and other combustible materials to accumulate.
“This employer’s repeated failure to correct known safety hazards is putting their employees at risk for serious, and potentially fatal, injuries,” said OSHA Boise Area Office Director David Kearns.
Florida Paving Company Cited After Employee Sustains Fatal Injuries
OSHA cited Pavemax Corp. for safety violations after an employee suffered fatal injuries at an Orange City, FL worksite.
OSHA inspectors determined that a paver operator lacked proper training to use the equipment, was allowed to stand on the equipment while it was in motion, and subsequently fell and was pulled under the paver.
The Holly Hill, Florida-based paving company faces $16,814 in proposed fines, including the maximum penalty under the law, for failing to provide a place of employment free from recognized hazards.
“This tragedy could have been prevented if employees were trained properly on operating equipment safely,” said OSHA Jacksonville Area Office Acting Director Buddy Underwood.
Illinois Manufacturer Cited for Several Health and Safety Violations
OSHA has cited HB Fuller Company—operating as Adhesive Systems Inc.—for 18 health and safety violations at its facility in Frankfort, Illinois. OSHA proposed penalties totaling $587,564.
OSHA cited the adhesives manufacturer for failing to provide employees with respirator fit tests and respirators appropriate for hazardous atmospheres, require bonding and grounding when transferring flammable liquids, ensure that electrical equipment was approved for use in hazardous atmospheres, and conduct a personal protective equipment assessment.
Oregon Shipbuilder for Cited Serious and Willful Safety Violations
OSHA has cited Vigor Marine Inc. for 16 willful and serious violations following an inspection at the shipbuilder’s Portland, Oregon, facility. The company faces proposed penalties totaling $370,358.
OSHA investigated the facility after receiving employee complaints of workplace hazards while performing hot work in the engine room of a passenger ferry. Inspectors determined that the company allowed employees to work on energized circuit boxes, failed to conduct fit-testing and medical evaluations before providing respirators and implement an effective hearing conservation program, and failed to make sure employees wore seat belts when operating powered industrial trucks. Oregon and Alaska workplace safety and health agencies have also cited the company with similar violations at its facilities in those states.
“This employer’s failure to monitor work areas for the presence of hazards, and implement effective controls is putting their employees at risk for serious injuries,” said OSHA Seattle Area Office Director Cecil Tipton.
Kansas Grain Bin Operator Cited After Fatality
OSHA has cited Gavilon Grain LLC—operator of a grain bin based in Wichita, Kansas—after two workers were fatally engulfed in a soybean storage bin. The company faces proposed penalties of $507,374, and OSHA has placed Gavilon Grain LLC in the Agency’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
OSHA cited Gavilon Grain LLC for failing to provide employees with lifelines and fall protection, lockout equipment, provide rescue equipment, and allowing employees to enter a bin in which bridged and/or hung-up grain was present.
“Moving grain acts like quick sand, and can bury a worker in seconds,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Kimberly Stille. “This tragedy could have been prevented if the employer had provided workers with proper safety equipment and followed required safety procedures to protect workers from grain bin hazards.”
Three Companies Cited in Oklahoma After Five Employees Fatally Injured by Explosion and Fire
OSHA has cited Patterson-UTI Drilling, Crescent Consulting LLC, and Skyline Directional Drilling LLC for exposing employees to fire and explosion hazards after five employees suffered fatal injuries.
The explosion and fire occurred on a Patterson-UTI drilling rig near Quinton, Oklahoma. OSHA cited Patterson-UTI and Crescent Consulting for failing to maintain proper controls while drilling a well, inspect slow descent devices, and implement emergency response plans. OSHA cited all three companies for failing to ensure that heat lamps in use were approved for hazardous locations. The three companies face penalties totaling $118,643, the maximum allowed for violation of the OSHA standards.
“These employers failed to properly control hazards involved in oil and gas extraction activities, and the result was tragic,” said OSHA Oklahoma City Area Office Director David Bates. “Employers are required to monitor their operations to ensure workplace health and safety procedures are adequate and effective.”
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