Monday, December 31, 2012

OSHA cites chemical manufacturer following worker fatality

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited AC&S Inc. with 12 serious violations at the chemical manufacturer's Nitro facility following the death of a worker.

During sandblasting activities, the air line for a supplied air hood was hooked up to a nitrogen gas line and the worker became unconscious. Nitrogen gas presents several risks, including displacing available oxygen. The serious violations related to the fatality included failing to label nitrogen lines at connection points and not ensuring that breathing air couplings were incompatible with other gas systems.

"ACS has a responsibility to ensure that its workers are safeguarded from workplace hazards and by not properly labeling its gas systems failed to protect a worker who ended up losing his life. That is intolerable," said Prentice Cline, director of OSHA's Charleston Area Office. "OSHA's standards are designed to prevent this kind of tragic incident."

Other serious violations included failing to provide training on hazardous chemicals, ensure stairways wider than 44 inches have handrails on each side, provide process safety information and process hazard analysis, use approved electrical chain hosts, develop a mechanical integrity program, and document that equipment complied with recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer know or should have known.

Proposed penalties against AC&S Inc. total $42,700.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Coast Guard medevacs 2 after chemical exposure

HOUSTON — Two crewmembers of a tankship in the Galveston Fairway Anchorage were medevaced by a Coast Guard boat crew after the crewmembers suffered chemical exposure Sunday.

The crew of the 478-foot Panamanian flagged Siva Rotterdam contacted the Coast Guard and reported exposure of two Crewmembers by contact and inhalation to phenol.

They reported that the crewmen were attempting to repair or fix a frozen line containing the phenol. The line broke and sprayed one of the men, the other man had inhalation exposure and was vomiting.

Hazardous Materials and EMS crews met the men at shore for possible decontamination and transfer to the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Texas City is investigating the incident.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Govn't to Evaluate Occupational Health Risks of Silver Nanoparticles


The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is looking into the potential risk to employee health posed by silver nanoparticles, or AgNPs, and also to identify gaps in the technical knowledge so lab and field studies can be done. 

The agency's request for information was published in the Dec. 19 edition of the Federal Register, and it says comments will be accepted for 60 days at www.regulations.gov by visiting Docket No. CDC-2012-0014.

AgNPs are used in products such as sensors, filters, inks, and in antimicrobial coatings. Some textiles, keyboards, wound dressings, and biomedical devices contain them.
 
Published reports on workers' AgNP exposure are limited but indicate exposure can occur through airborne release during the production of silver nanoparticles or can result from exposure during electro-refining of silver.

The agency is requesting published and unpublished reports on in vitro and in vivo toxicity studies of AgNPs, information on possible health effects in workers exposed to them, descriptions of work tasks with the potential for exposures, measurement methods and workplace exposure data, and information about control measures.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Study: Insurers May Face an Additional $11 Billion in Asbestos Claims

Source: Mesothelioma & Asbestos Awareness Center.

A new report issued by ratings firm A.M. Best indicates that U.S. insurers can expect to pay an additional $11 billion in asbestos-related insurance claims above and beyond the $23 billion already set aside for future expenses. The same report shows that the industry has already paid out some $53 billion for such claims during the last quarter-century.

According to a Wall Street Journal article, A.M. Best indicated in their report that the rise in costs can be attributed to the increasing cost of each claim, the success rate of experienced mesothelioma attorneys, and the long latency period of diseases such as malignant mesothelioma. All of this means that “sizable losses are likely to continue for years,” according to the study results released last week.

Some of the insurers who have seen significant asbestos claims throughout the last few decades include Travelers, Hartford Financial Services Group, Berkshire Hathaway, CNA Financial Group, and Lloyd’s of London. Dozens of others have been hit with smaller claims.

Many asbestos diseases, including both asbestosis and mesothelioma, can take anywhere from two to five decades to develop and become evident. Hence, asbestos lawsuits are still being filed more than 30 years after the government imposed rules about the use of the toxic material. Therefore, insurers are still paying out on policies they sold as much as 50 years ago, when asbestos was widely used in all sorts of products and in many industries. Mechanics, machinists, insulators, plumbers, electricians, and a wide variety of other tradesmen may have suffered asbestos exposure on the job during those years.

A.M. Best analyst Gerard Altonji said: “Given the long latency period between exposure to asbestos and the manifestation of mesothelioma, as well as the very large number of people exposed over a great many years…it is likely that asbestos losses will continue to develop for many years to come.”

Though the additional $11 billion is not enough to cripple the industry, Altonji and his colleagues add, investors with the various insurance companies involved have reacted negatively when an insurer announces additions to its asbestos reserves.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

OSHA Demanding SeaWorld Comply with Subpoenas for Employee's Testimony; Follow-up to 2010 Trainer Drowning

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has filed a petition against SeaWorld of Florida to comply with administrative subpoenas that require SeaWorld to provide three managers to be interviewed during OSHA's follow-up abatement inspection.

SeaWorld has declined to provide personnel to answer questions regarding what's been done to correct prior violations related to trainers' exposure to struck-by and drowning hazards when engaged in performances with killer whales.

"The employee testimony for the follow-up abatement inspection, required by a subpoena, allows OSHA inspectors to determine if SeaWorld employees continue to be exposed to unsafe and unhealthy working conditions," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. 

"Abating safety and health hazards in the workplace needs to be as important to an employer as recognizing the hazards in the first place."

The follow-up inspection is being conducted as a result of previous violations that OSHA identified after a February 2010 drowning of a trainer who was grabbed and pulled under the water by a six-ton killer whale during what SeaWorld described as a "relationship session." In August 2010, OSHA issued SeaWorld citations related to the incident. SeaWorld contested OSHA's proposed violations and penalties.

A trial was held by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, and in June an administrative law judge upheld OSHA's citations against SeaWorld. Subsequently, SeaWorld was required to abate cited hazards, including those specifically related to trainers working in proximity to the killer whales. However, since the order went into effect, SeaWorld has filed a petition with the review commission seeking additional time to abate the violation regarding trainers' interaction with killer whales. SeaWorld maintains that the petition, which is pending resolution, should restrict the scope of OSHA's follow-up inspection.

The enforcement action has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle of Florida, Orlando Division by the department's Atlanta Regional Solicitor's Office.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ozone levels have sizeable impact on worker productivity


Ozone pollution is a pervasive global issue with a wide range of opinion on acceptable levels. While policy makers agree that regulating ozone smog reduces hospitalizations and mortality rates, researchers at Columbia wanted to know if it also affects job performance.

They studied the impact of pollution on agricultural workers using daily variations in ozone levels. Their results show that the pollution had significant negative impacts on their productivity, even at levels below current air-quality standards in most parts of the world.

The researchers found that a 10 ppb (parts per billion) change in average ozone exposure results in a significant 5.5 percent change in agricultural worker productivity.

"These estimates are particularly noteworthy as the U.S. EPA is currently moving in the direction of reducing federal ground-level ozone standards," said study author Dr. Matthew Neidell, PhD.

President Obama has said he would not support a proposal by the EPA to tighten the federal ozone standard because it would pose too heavy a burden on businesses.

The study findings suggest that environmental protection is important for promoting economic growth and investing in human capital. This is the first study to examine the direct impact of pollution on worker productivity. It's published in the American Economic Review.

Photo: freedigitalphotos.net

Monday, December 17, 2012

Researchers developing bacteria to turn methane waste into diesel fuel

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded a group led by the University of Washington $4 million to develop bacteria that can turn the methane in natural gas into diesel fuel for transportation.

"The product that we’re shooting for will have the same fuel characteristics as diesel," said principal investigator Mary Lidstrom, a UW professor of chemical engineering and microbiology. "It can be used in trucks, boats, buses, cars, tractors – anything that diesel does now."

They will target the natural gas associated with oil fields, which is often flared off as waste, as well as so-called "stranded" natural gas reserves that are too small for a pipeline to be economically viable.

The team aims to capture that natural gas and use bacteria to turn its main component, methane, into a liquid fuel for transportation.

"The goal at the end of three years is to have an integrated process that will be ready for pre-commercialization pilot testing," Lidstrom said.

Friday, December 14, 2012

7 states want to sue for fracking-related air quality

The Washington Times is reporting that seven Atlantic states are threatening to sue the Environmental Protection Agency, seeking harsher air quality rules on the oil and gas industry and its most effective drilling method Hydraulic fracturing or "fracking".  The process involves pumping water-based solutions deep into the ground to force rocks to break apart and allow oil or natural gas to be removed.

It's a hot debate, with some saying that fracking could set the U.S. up for energy independence. On the other side are opponents like New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, the leader of the seven-state coalition that includes Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode Island. He tells the Times:

“Regulators have failed to require the industry to use available and cost-effective measures to control emissions from drilling sites...Our coalition is putting EPA on notice that we are prepared to sue to force action on curbing climate-change pollution from the oil and gas industry."

Opponents of fracking are concerned about air pollution, chemical exposure, water contamination even an increase in earthquakes. Health officials say that more research is needed before the U.S. boosts oil exploration.

“The question here is very simple,' said Seth B. Shonkoff, executive director of Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy. "Why would the United States dramatically increase the use of an energy extraction method without first ensuring that the trade-off is not the health of Americans in exchange for the energy demands of foreign nations?”

The industry meanwhile, touts the economic benefits insisting that U.S. oil and gas supplies can help the nation become energy independent in less than 20 years.

Photo: freedigitalphotos.net

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Screening tool helps identify health and safety impacts of shift work on individual workers

An international team of sleep researchers has developed the world’s first screening tool to help reduce workplace accidents and illnesses, including cardiovascular disease and cancer, caused by shift work.

Published in the journal Sleep, the new tool will enable health professionals and industry to better understand individual vulnerability to the health and safety impacts of shift work.

This screening questionnaire for a condition known as shift work disorder (SWD) has been developed by researchers from Monash University, and US partners, Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and the Henry Ford Hospital.

At least 15 per cent of workers in Australia, the US, and the United Kingdom, and around 23 per cent of workers in Japan are estimated to work outside normal hours, causing significant disruption to their natural sleep-wake schedules. SWD, characterised by extreme sleepiness and/or insomnia, is thought to affect around 10 per cent of shift workers.

Associate Professor Shantha Rajaratnam, of Monash and Harvard University, said the prevalence of shift work has been unknown due to the lack of accurate assessment tools.

"Shift work is a reality of modern economies, but research has shown that there are very real health risks associated with working outside regular hours," Associate Professor Rajaratnam said.

"Aside from associated health problems, shift workers are significantly more at risk of workplace injuries. The workers most affected by sleep disruption - those with SWD - account for a significant proportion of this risk and need to be identified."

Shift work, especially overnight, is associated with a higher rate of car crashes, industrial accidents, actual and near-miss injuries and quality-control errors on the job.

Secondary health problems linked with shift work include cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal diseases and mood disorders, including depression.

"This questionnaire is an important step in better understanding causes of vulnerability to shift work, and targeting interventions to those who most need them," Associate Professor Rajaratnam said.

"However, this is only a first step and further tests of actual impairment from lack of sleep must be developed for implementation in occupational settings."

"More collaboration between researchers, industry and government partners is needed to tackle these significant challenges and make shift work as safe and productive as possible."

Photo: freedigitalphotos.net

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

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Study: Smaller Companies Bearing the Financial Burden of Employees with Cancer



Disability in Workers with Cancer Equals 20 Percent of Healthcare Spending

Each year, more than three million American workers are diagnosed with cancer, leading to high productivity losses that mainly affect smaller companies, reports a study in the December Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 

Analyzing a national survey of medical spending, the researchers found that cancer in U.S. workers leads to productivity losses of more than 33 million disability days per year, amounting to $7.5 billion in lost productivity. Based on the average wages of the workers surveyed, disability costs due to cancer were equal to 20 percent of total healthcare spending.

Nearly 85 percent of the workers with cancer worked for smaller companies with fewer than 500 employees. These small-business employees had higher rates of other health problems as well, including high blood pressure, depression, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. They were also more likely to be uninsured.

Certain types of cancers, including women's cancers and melanoma, were associated with higher burdens of illness. For breast cancer, health care costs and hospitalizations were twice as high and disability days 55 percent higher than for other cancers.

The study is one of the first to document the economic impact of cancer in the U.S. workforce. The true cost in terms of lost productivity is likely even higher than the disability days measured in the study. The authors call for further efforts to reduce the burden of illness associated with cancer and its treatment—perhaps including supportive care interventions to reduce cancer-related disability.

Photo: freedigitalphotos.net

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Former Power Plant Worker Says "Liquid Wrench" Gave Him Cancer

A former power utility plant worker has filed a benzene complaint against Radiator Specialty of North Carolina. Homer A. Lindsay says the defendant’s "Liquid Wrench" product caused his multiple myeloma, a cancer that forms in the plasma cells and collects in the bone marrow.

The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Lindsay, says that as an employee of the New Orleans Public Services Inc., a power utility plant, he was exposed to benzene-containing products, specifically, Radiator Specialty’s Liquid Wrench. He used the product to perform maintenance, repairs, and the installation of instruments, controls and piping.

Benzene, a known carcinogen, enters the body through the skin, lungs, or digestive tract. 

A number of medical studies have indicated that long-term exposure to benzene and other industrial solvents may increase the risk of developing multiple myeloma.

(Source: www.harrismartin.com)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Chemical exposure at work is putting plastic workers at risk of breast cancer

A new study published in the journal New Solutions presents strong evidence that women employed in the plastics industry are exposed to workplace chemicals that can increase their risk of breast cancer and reproductive abnormalities.

The study, by the University of Stirling, Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers and the National Network on Environments and Women’s Health, supports recent research led by the University of Stirling which reported a five-fold increased risk of developing breast cancer in premenopausal women who work in the plastics industry. Together these studies reveal the need for swift regulatory action on carcinogenic and endocrine disrupting chemicals on a global scale.

One Canadian worker taking part in the study explained the way chemical exposures affect her at work: “I don’t know if it’s from the smoke or if it’s from the fumes. You smell fumes, you taste [it] in your mouth, and then you get—it’s like a light-headedness, dizziness.”

Scottish plastics workers have reported similar experiences when interviewed by researchers:
“My concern was that the chemicals were openly used. Some people would be using different chemicals at more or less every bench. And when some of the ovens were on with no extraction…that was another complaint. I felt my eyes with the heat and the fumes building up – it was almost unbearable. It was really horrendous. F. didn’t bother about PTFE [flu] and he didn’t tell us when he was putting parts in the oven to cure them. It was only when we smelt the fumes and shouted, ‘F, have you put something in the curing?’ and he would go ‘Aye’. I would go like, ‘Get out of the road until it’s cured’. When the oven cools down it means that the fumes are going to stop.”

“Round the fabrication, and you would maybe be doing a job, maybe cementing like the clear acrylics, you would actually go to start work and you could actually see the dust landing on it and you would have to tell him to stop sweeping up because all they were doing was agitating all the dirt in the place and you had to tell him to stop while you got your job done. Because of them having no windows and no extraction, there was nowhere for it to go”.

"Sometimes you would go into the coating shop and when you opened the door, you would get a ‘yuuugh’ and you were gasping to get out of the place [because] you couldn’t breathe…They were spraying stuff and they were coating. What they used to have was these big tubs of powder, they attached a blower to it so that there was air getting blown through it. As soon as you attached the blower it was all over the place…also they used to take parts out of the [back door] and burn the plastic off with a blow torch and all the fumes would blow in.”

The study’s synthesis of scientific findings on carcinogens and endocrine disruptors is one of its most important contributions. Workers in the plastics industry are reported to have high body burdens of hormone disrupting chemicals such as acrylonitrile, styrene, BPA and phthalates.

Professor Andrew Watterson of the University of Stirling said: “In Europe a number of countries have banned bisphenol A (BPA) and took action to ban baby bottles that were manufactured using the known hormone disruptor.

“But often there are still limited or no effective safeguards in place to protect workers who are directly exposed to BPA (and several other carcinogenic and endocrine disrupting chemicals used as additives in plastics manufacturing) on a daily basis.

“In the UK there are some 200,000 workers in the plastics industry in around 6000 workplaces and well over 90% of the workplaces are in small and medium enterprises. Yet the HSE, the UK enforcement agency, has recently floated proposals to remove active inspection of the plastics industry and only engage in reactive visits.

“Our research indicates the need for more not less oversight and investigation of health hazards facing workers in the plastics industry. Endocrine disruptors may also affect men’s health in potentially serious ways and merit serious surveillance.”

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Sharp Spike in Computer-Related Injuries Predicted for Medical Workers, Find Studies

As U.S. health care goes high tech, spurred by $20 billion in federal stimulus incentives, the widespread adoption of electronic medical records and related digital technologies is predicted to reduce errors and lower costs – but it is also likely to significantly boost musculoskeletal injuries among doctors and nurses, concludes a Cornell University ergonomics professor in two new papers.

The repetitive strain injuries, he said, will stem from poor office layouts and improper use of computer devices.

"Many hospitals are investing heavily in new technology with almost no consideration for principles of ergonomics design for computer workplaces," said Alan Hedge, professor of human factors and ergonomics in Cornell’s College of Human Ecology's Department of Design and Environmental Analysis. "We saw a similar pattern starting in the 1980s when commercial workplaces computerized, and there was an explosion of musculoskeletal injuries for more than a decade afterward."

For a paper published in the Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 56th Annual Meeting, held Oct. 22-26 in Boston, Hedge and James asked 179 physicians about the frequency and severity of their musculoskeletal discomfort, computer use in their clinic, knowledge of ergonomics and typing skills. The most commonly reported repetitive strain injuries were neck, shoulder and upper and lower back pain -- with a majority of female doctors and more than 40 percent of male doctors reporting such ailments on at least a weekly basis. About 40 percent of women and 30 percent of men reported right wrist injuries at a similar frequency.

"These rates are alarming. When more than 40 percent of employees are complaining about regular problems, that's a sign something needs to be done to address it," said Hedge. "In a lot of hospitals and medical offices, workplace safety focuses on preventing slips, trips and falls and on patient handling, but the effects of computer use on the human body are neglected."

The gender differences, the authors write, appear to be in part because women reported spending about an hour longer on the computer per day than men.

In a second study of 180 physicians and 63 nurse practitioners and physician assistants in the same health system, published in a new volume, "Advances in Human Aspects of Healthcare" (CRC Press), more than 90 percent of respondents reported using a desktop computer at work. On average, they spent more than five hours per day using computers.

Fifty-six percent of doctors and 71 percent of nurse practitioners and physician assistants said their computer use at work had increased in the past year; 22 percent of doctors and 19 percent of nurse practitioners and physician assistants reported less time in face-to-face interactions with patients. Only about 5 percent of participants reported an "expert knowledge" of ergonomics, and more than two-thirds said they had no input in the planning or design of their computer or clinical workstation.

"We can't assume that just because people are doctors or work in health care that they know about ergonomics," Hedge said. "With so many potential negative effects for doctors and patients, it is critical that the implementation of new technology is considered from a design and ergonomics perspective.”

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

EPA to clean up chemical laden property of a former owner of a pyrotechnic company

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week will begin excavating areas of perchlorate-contaminated soil on and around a residential property  in Barstow, CA. The residence had been occupied by the former owner of Mojave Pyrotechnics, Inc., a defunct pyrotechnics manufacturing company that operated in the 1980’s.

Perchlorate is both a naturally occurring and man-made chemical that is used to produce rocket fuel, fireworks, flares and explosives.

EPA will remove approximately 1100 tons the  contaminated soil, down three feet into the ground—the equivalent of 50 truckloads. The soil will be disposed of at the U.S. Ecology landfill. The excavated areas will be capped with a layer of plastic and then backfilled with clean soil. Removal action may take up to three weeks to complete.

EPA has collected a total of 340 soil samples from 70 locations to determine the areas of contamination. Data from these samples shows two areas, the garden and trash pile areas, within the northwestern parcel of the site with perchlorate levels in the soil that exceed the EPA’s Regional Screening Levels of 55 mg/kg. Because these areas with elevated levels are readily accessible to on-site residents, future workers and the casual trespasser and are a potential source of further groundwater contamination, the agency determined that the contaminated soil needed to be removed to ensure the protection of public health.

Research indicates that this contaminant can disrupt the thyroid’s ability to produce hormones needed for normal growth and development.  



Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Glass container manufacturer will have to spend $37 million to reduce pollution from plants

Electrocorp pollution control equipment. 


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice announced that Ohio-based Owens-Brockway Glass Container Inc., the nation’s largest glass container manufacturer, has agreed to install pollution control equipment to reduce harmful emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and particulate matter (PM) by nearly 2,500 tons per year and pay a $1.45 million penalty to resolve alleged Clean Air Act violations at five of the company’s manufacturing plants.

"The pollution controls required by today’s settlement will significantly reduce emissions that can impact residents’ health and local environment in communities located near glass manufacturing plants,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “These new pollution controls will improve air quality and protect communities from Georgia to Texas from emissions that can lead to respiratory illnesses, smog and acid rain.”

“This agreement will significantly reduce the amount of air pollution, known to cause a variety of environmental and health problems, from the nation’s largest manufacturer of glass containers,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. “The settlement, the latest in a series of agreements with the glass manufacturing sector, addresses major sources of pollution at facilities located in four states and will mean cleaner air for the people living in those communities.”

The pollution controls required as part of the settlement to reduce NOx, SO2, and PM will cost an estimated cost of $37.5 million. Owens-Brockway will also spend an additional $200,000 to mitigate excess emissions at its plant in Atlanta by working with the Georgia Retrofit Program to retrofit diesel school buses and fleet vehicles with controls to reduce emissions, or it will assist with the purchase of new natural gas, propane, or hybrid vehicles.

Reducing air pollution from the largest sources of emissions, including glass manufacturing plants, is one of the EPA’s National Enforcement Initiatives for 2011-2013. This is the fourth settlement in EPA’s National Glass Manufacturing Plant Initiative.

NOx, SO2, and PM, three key pollutants emitted from glass plants, have numerous adverse effects on human health and the environment. NOx and SO2 contribute to ground-level ozone, or smog, acid rain, and the destruction of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. NOx and SO2 can also irritate the lungs and aggravate of pre-existing heart or lung conditions. PM contains microscopic particles that can travel deep into the lungs and cause difficulty breathing, coughing, decreased lung function, and even death.

The facilities covered by the settlement are located in Atlanta, Ga.; Clarion, Penn.; Crenshaw, Penn.; Muskogee, Okla.; and Waco, Texas.

Monday, December 3, 2012

VIDEO: Work crews evacuated as test reveals elevated chemical levels at train derailment site in New Jersey

Responders, work crews and officials were pulled from the site of Friday's train derailment in New Jersey this morning after elevated chemical levels were detected in the air. Officials say they hope to resume the offloading sometime this afternoon. One of the train cars involved in the derailment was carrying vinyl chloride and ruptured on impact.

Electrocorp air quality experts are currently assessing the best air quality solution for local businesses and homeowners. We carry over 40 custom blends of activated carbon for heavy chemicals and toxic gases such as the vinyl chloride.

Watch the news conference here:

Friday, November 30, 2012

Study: Use of dispersants made Deep Water Horizon spill 52- times more toxic

If the 4.9 million barrels of oil that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico during the 2010 Deep Water Horizon spill was a ecological disaster, the two million gallons of dispersant used to clean it up apparently made it even worse – 52-times more toxic. That’s according to new research from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Universidad Autonoma de Aguascalientes (UAA), Mexico.

The study found that mixing the dispersant with oil increased toxicity of the mixture up to 52-fold over the oil alone. In toxicity tests in the lab, the mixture’s effects increased mortality of rotifers, a microscopic grazing animal at the base of the Gulf’s food web. The findings are published online by the journal Environmental Pollution and will appear in the February 2013 print edition.

Using oil from the Deep Water Horizon spill and Corexit, the dispersant required by the Environmental Protection Agency for clean up, the researchers tested toxicity of oil, dispersant and mixtures on five strains of rotifers. Rotifers have long been used by ecotoxicologists to assess toxicity in marine waters because of their fast response time, ease of use in tests and sensitivity to toxicants. In addition to causing mortality in adult rotifers, as little as 2.6 percent of the oil-dispersant mixture inhibited rotifer egg hatching by 50 percent. Inhibition of rotifer egg hatching from the sediments is important because these eggs hatch into rotifers each spring, reproduce in the water column, and provide food for baby fish, shrimp and crabs in estuaries.

“Dispersants are preapproved to help clean up oil spills and are widely used during disasters,” said UAA’s Roberto-Rico Martinez, who led the study. “But we have a poor understanding of their toxicity. Our study indicates the increase in toxicity may have been greatly underestimated following the Macondo well explosion.”

Martinez performed the research while he was a Fulbright Fellow at Georgia Tech in the lab of School of Biology Professor Terry Snell. They hope that the study will encourage more scientists to investigate how oil and dispersants impact marine food webs and lead to improved management of future oil spills.

“What remains to be determined is whether the benefits of dispersing the oil by using Corexit are outweighed by the substantial increase in toxicity of the mixture,” said Snell, chair of the School of Biology. “Perhaps we should allow the oil to naturally disperse. It might take longer, but it would have less toxic impact on marine ecosystems.”

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Asbestos lawsuit targets Honeywell, 3M, Black & Decker, Ford, Georgia-Pacific + 23 other companies

Source: The West Virginia Record

A West Virginia couple are suing more than two dozen of the country's most prominent companies over asbestos exposure.

Allen Johnson says he was exposed to large quantities of asbestos-containing products during his career which lead to his lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases.

 Johnson and his wife, Janet Canterbury Johnson, claim the defendants required him to handle products containing asbestos and exposed him to other asbestos products present in the workplace.

They also say the defendants failed to timely and adequately warn him of the dangers of asbestos and failed to provide him with information on safety and proper protective equipment.

The Johnsons are seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

The 28 companies named as defendants in the suit are 3M Corporation; A.O. Smith; Black & Decker (U.S.) Inc.; Blue Bird Corporation; Blue Bird Motor Company; Borg Warner Morse Tec, Inc.; CBS Corp.; Certainteed Corporation; Eaton Electrical, Inc.; Ford Motor Company; Genuine Auto Parts; Georgia-Pacific Corporation; Honeywell International, Inc.; Industrial Holdings Corporation; Ingersoll-Rand Company; Kelsey-Hayes Company; Maremont Corporation; Metropolitan Life Insurance Company; Ohio Valley Insulating Company, Inc.; Pneumo-Abex Corporation; Rockwell Automations, Inc.; Schneider Electric USA, Inc.; State Electric Supply Company; Thomas Built Buses, Inc.; UB West Virginia, Inc.; Union Carbide Chemical & Plastics Company; Vimasco Corporation; and West Virginia Electric Supply Company.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Worker files suits against Refineries in PA, NJ, OH, DE for benzene exposure

Source:HarrisMartin.com
A former independent laborer has filed a lawsuit in Pennsylvania state court, claiming that his exposure to benzene-containing products lead to his acute myelogenous leukemia.

The suit contends that Andre Harvey’s work as an independently contracted laborer and boiler maker at several refineries in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Ohio exposed him to the chemical.

Benzene is a colorless, flammable liquid with a sweet odor. It is among the top 20 most widely used chemicals in the U.S. The EPA has classified benzene as a Group A, know.n human carcinogen and says people occupationally exposed to benzene have an increased incidence of leukemia




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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

VIDEO: Dangers of Formaldehyde in Indoor Air

Formaldehyde is a chemical widely used by industry, in laboratories, as embalming fluid, and as a sterilizer.

Are your employees protected? Contact an Electrocorp air quality expert to customize an air cleaning solution for your business.

Video uploaded to YouTube by Paul Cochrane:

Monday, November 26, 2012

N.J. mortician says embalming fluid gave him cancer; sues employer, manufacturers

A mortician in New Jersey has filed a lawsuit against his employer and a number of manufacturers of the chemicals he used in embalming.

William Moore, 38, was diagnosed two years ago with acute promyelocytic leukemia. In the suit, Moore says manufacturers of the embalming fluid either knew or should have known their products raised the cancer risk for those with higher levels of formaldehyde exposure. Formaldehyde was officially listed as a known human carcinogen in 2011 after the release of  The Report on Carcinogens, a congressionally mandated document.

Funeral workers in particular are at risk of high formaldehyde exposure as it is commonly used in mortuaries. Exposure occurs primarily by inhaling formaldehyde gas or vapor from the air or by absorbing liquids containing formaldehyde through the skin. Formaldehyde is also used in building materials and to produce many household products.

The suit alleges Moore’s employer failed to provide him with "accommodations" such as improving the ventilation or transferring him to a newer facility in the company.

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday Industrial Air Cleaner Deals: Free shipping. Multiple unit order accepted!

Last chance for free shipping!* Great deal for multiple unit orders.

Get industrial strength air cleaning for smaller spaces with AllerAir's heavy-duty chemical, odor and particle scrubbers.

Great for:
  • Offices
  • Workshops
  • Laboratories
  • Evidence rooms
  • Dental labs and exam rooms
  • Salons

Use code BKBE2012 until 5pm eastern!

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*Contiguous US/CAN. End users only. Orders must be placed by 5pm (Eastern) on November 23, 2012.

HVAC installers find $300k in gold dust

If only we can all have a work day like this...the downside is they didn't get to keep it.



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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Black Friday Equipment Deals: Compact Industrial Strength Air Cleaners Free Shipping Until No. 23rd

AllerAir is offering free shipping on all black units until November 23rd, 2012.*

These rugged units use industrial-grade filtration and are ideal for offices, labs, evidence lockers and other small spaces where tough air cleaning is required.

Offer applies to AllerAir's general air purifiers and exclusive models including:

Air purifiers for odors and chemicals 
Air purifiers for tobacco smoke
Air purifiers for allergies and asthma

Multiple unit orders included!

Mention promo code: BKBE2012


*Contiguous US/CAN. End users only. Orders must be placed by 5pm (Eastern) on November 23, 2012.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

New study says you can save $100 per employee on healthcare just be doing this

Encourage your employees to make a few healthier lifestyle choices and you'll see almost immediate cost savings says a new study. 

"The bottom line for employers is that if you start to change employee behaviors, you will start seeing health care cost savings very quickly. In fact, an employer can save an average of $100 in health care costs per employee per health risk eliminated in the year of the change, and $105 per risk reduced in the year following the reduction," said said Steven Nyce, senior economist at Towers Watson and lead author of the study.

"But if you don't keep healthy people healthy and employees start accumulating new health risks, you not only negate this savings but stand to add health care costs of $145 per employee per health risk added within just one year."

Specifically, the study authors suggest that employers can benefit from understanding the following key findings:
  • The financial implications for prevention may be even greater than for risk reduction. For every health risk added, costs increased by 45 percent above the cost savings that resulted from eliminating a risk. This means that if organizations prevent individuals from adding new health risks over time, their cost savings will be greater than if they focus on eliminating a health risk after it emerges. 

  • A long-term solution is better than a quick fix. In this study, a greater immediate savings was realized from reducing health risks for people with chronic conditions than for the average employee.  Cost savings were four times greater for those with chronic conditions compared to those without chronic conditions. The study authors stressed that although there always will be a highest-cost group, an ongoing focus on prevention can benefit the entire population by avoiding chronic disease altogether in some cases or slowing the progression and diminishing the severity of chronic disease. All of these potential outcomes from prevention will improve the company's total health care spend.

The study, "Association Between Changes in Health Risk Status and Changes in Future Health Care Costs: A Multi-employer Study," was published in the November 2012 issue of Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM) and is available on the JOEM website.


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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Black Friday Equipment Deals: Free shipping on compact industrial strength air cleaners

AllerAir is offering free shipping on all black units from November 19 - 23rd, 2012.*

These rugged units use industrial-grade filtration and are ideal for offices and smaller spaces where tough air cleaning is required.

Offer applies to AllerAir's general air purifiers and exclusive models including:

Air purifiers for odors and chemicals 
Air purifiers for tobacco smoke
Air purifiers for allergies and asthma

Multiple unit orders included!

Mention promo code: BKBE2012


*Contiguous US/CAN. End users only. Orders must be placed by 5pm (Eastern) on November 23, 2012.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Study finds breast cancer risk higher in some jobs


A study published in BioMed Central's Environmental Health confirms that certain occupations do pose a higher risk of breast cancer than others, particularly those that expose the worker to potential carcinogens and endocrine disrupters.


 In their study, James T Brophy and his colleagues set out to characterize the possible links between breast cancer and occupation, particularly in manufacturing and farming.

The study was conducted in Southern Ontario, Canada, and included 1006 breast cancer cases with 1147 randomly selected and matched community controls. Using interviews and surveys, the team collected data on participants' occupational and reproductive histories. All jobs were coded for their likelihood of exposure to carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, and patients' tumor pathology regarding endocrine receptor status was assessed.

The authors found in this group of participants that, across all sectors, women in jobs with potentially high exposures to carcinogens and endocrine disrupters had an elevated breast cancer risk. Sectors with increased risk included:
  • Agriculture
  • Bar/gambling
  • Automotive plastics manufacturing
  • Food canning and metal-working
Importantly, pre-menopausal breast cancer risk was highest in the automotive plastics and food canning industries.

The findings also suggested that women with lower socioeconomic status had an elevated risk of breast cancer, which may result from higher exposures to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the lower-income manufacturing and agricultural industries of the study area.

"Our results highlight the importance of occupational studies in identifying and quantifying environmental risk factors and illustrates the value of taking detailed occupational histories of cancer patients. Mounting evidence suggests that we need to re-evaluate occupational exposure limits in regulatory protection," said Brophy.

Breast cancer is the most frequent cancer diagnosis among women in industrialized countries, and North American rates are among the highest in the world.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Chemicals used as coolants and lubricants in electrical equipment may affect couple's ability to conceive

Couples with high levels of PCBs and similar environmental pollutants take longer to get pregnant than couples with lower levels say researchers at the National Institutes of Health.

PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) used as coolants and lubricants in electrical equipment are part of a category of chemicals known as persistent organochlorine pollutants and include industrial chemicals and chemical byproducts as well as pesticides.

Some, known as persistent lipophilic organochlorine pollutants, accumulate in fatty tissues. Another type, called perfluorochemicals, are used in clothing, furniture, adhesives, food packaging, heat-resistant non-stick cooking surfaces, and the insulation of electrical wire.

Exposure to these pollutants is known to have a number of effects on human health, but their effects on human fertility-- and the likelihood of couples achieving pregnancy-- have not been extensively studied.

"Our findings suggest that persistent organochlorine pollutants may play a role in pregnancy delay," said the study's first author, Germain Buck Louis, Ph.D., director of the Division of Epidemiology, Statistics, and Prevention Research at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at NIH.

For each standardized increase in chemical concentration the researchers measured in the test couples, the odds of pregnancy declined by 18 to 21 percent for females exposed to PCB congeners 118, 167, 209, and the perfluorchemical, perfluorooctane sulfonamide. Perfluorooctane sulfonamide is one of a broad class of compounds known as perfluoroalkyls, which have been used in fire fighting foams.

With increasing exposure, the odds for pregnancy declined by 17 to 29 percent for couples in which males were exposed to PCB congeners 138, 156, 157, 167, 170, 172, and 209 and to DDE, produced when the pesticide DDT degrades in the environment. DDT is banned for use in the United States, but is still used in some countries.

The investigators noted that they cannot rule out that some of the delays they observed may have been due to exposure to multiple chemicals. They added that these associations would need to be confirmed by other researchers.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Flame Retardant ‘Firemaster 550’ Is an Endocrine Disruptor

The flame-retardant mixture known as “Firemaster 550” is an endocrine disruptor that causes extreme weight gain, early onset of puberty and cardiovascular health effects in lab animals, according to a new study spearheaded by researchers from North Carolina State University and Duke University.

Firemaster 550 is made up of four principal component chemicals and is used in polyurethane foam in a wide variety of products, ranging from mattresses to infant nursing pillows. The flame-retardant mixture was developed by Chemtura Corp., and was first identified by the research community in 2008. It was developed to replace a class of fire retardants being phased out of use because of concerns regarding their safety. This new study represents the first public data on whether Firemaster 550 has potential health effects.

In this pilot study, pregnant lab rats were assigned to three groups: a control group, which was not exposed to Firemaster 550; a “low-dose” group, which ingested 100 micrograms of Firemaster 550 once per day throughout pregnancy and nursing; and a “high-dose” group, which ingested 1,000 micrograms on the same schedule. These environmentally relevant doses are lower than the doses used in industry-funded studies. Researchers then evaluated the physiological outcomes of the exposure in both the mothers (called dams) and the offspring (called pups).

Importantly, the researchers detected TBB, one of Firemaster 550’s component chemicals, in the fat of all the exposed dams and offspring, but none of the unexposed animals. This means the flame retardant is capable of crossing the placenta during pregnancy, reaching infants via breast milk, or both.

Because flame retardants that have been phased out are known to disrupt thyroid function, and Firemaster 550 includes chemicals with structural similarities, the researchers looked at circulating thyroid hormone levels in dams at the end of the nursing period. The high-dose dams had much higher thyroid hormone levels than the control group, while low-dose dams had marginally higher thyroid hormone levels. This is significant because thyroid hormones influence brain development during pregnancy, as well as a host of other biological functions, such as metabolism.

Researchers also found extremely rapid weight gain in the offspring. By the time they were weaned from nursing, high-dose male pups were 60 percent heavier than the control group – and high-dose female pups were 31 percent heavier than the control group.

The increased weight in female pups contributed to the early onset of puberty. The control group hit puberty at 33 days old, while the high-dose group hit puberty at 29 days.

High-dose female pups also had difficulty regulating their glucose levels as adults. High-dose males had thickened walls in the left ventricle of the heart, suggestive of cardiovascular disease.

“This study indicates that Firemaster 550 is an endocrine disruptor, and that raises a lot of important questions,” says Dr. Heather Patisaul, an assistant professor of biology at NC State and lead author of a paper describing the work. “This was a small-scale study. We need to continue this work with a larger sample size and look at a broader range of potential effects related to obesity, thyroid hormone function and metabolic syndrome. We also want to determine which of the component chemicals in Firemaster 550 are responsible for the various effects.”

Photo: freedigitalphotos.net

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Study: Exposure to Even Low-Level Radioactivity Is Damaging

Even the very lowest levels of radiation are harmful to life say scientists. Reporting the results of a wide-ranging analysis of 46 peer-reviewed studies published over the past 40 years, researchers from the University of South Carolina and the University of Paris-Sud found that variation in low-level, natural background radiation had small, but highly statistically significant, negative effects on DNA as well as several measures of health.

The review is a meta-analysis of studies of locations around the globe that have very high natural background radiation as a result of the minerals in the ground there, including Ramsar, Iran, Mombasa, Kenya, Lodeve, France, and Yangjiang, China. These, and a few other geographic locations with natural background radiation that greatly exceeds normal amounts, have long drawn scientists intent on understanding the effects of radiation on life. Individual studies by themselves, however, have often only shown small effects on small populations from which conclusive statistical conclusions were difficult to draw.

“When you’re looking at such small effect sizes, the size of the population you need to study is huge,” said co-author Timothy Mousseau, a biologist in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of South Carolina. “Pooling across multiple studies, in multiple areas, and in a rigorous statistical manner provides a tool to really get at these questions about low-level radiation.”

Mousseau and co-author Anders Møller of the University of Paris-Sud combed the scientific literature, examining more than 5,000 papers involving natural background radiation that were narrowed to 46 for quantitative comparison. The selected studies all examined both a control group and a more highly irradiated population and quantified the size of the radiation levels for each. Each paper also reported test statistics that allowed direct comparison between the studies.

The organisms studied included plants and animals, but had a large preponderance of human subjects. Each study examined one or more possible effects of radiation, such as DNA damage measured in the lab, prevalence of a disease such as Down’s Syndrome, or the sex ratio produced in offspring. For each effect, a statistical algorithm was used to generate a single value, the effect size, which could be compared across all the studies.

The scientists reported significant negative effects in a range of categories, including immunology, physiology, mutation and disease occurrence. The frequency of negative effects was beyond that of random chance.

“There’s been a sentiment in the community that because we don’t see obvious effects in some of these places, or that what we see tends to be small and localized, that maybe there aren’t any negative effects from low levels of radiation,” said Mousseau. “But when you do the meta-analysis, you do see significant negative effects.”

“It also provides evidence that there is no threshold below which there are no effects of radiation,” he added. “A theory that has been batted around a lot over the last couple of decades is the idea that is there a threshold of exposure below which there are no negative consequences. These data provide fairly strong evidence that there is no threshold – radiation effects are measurable as far down as you can go, given the statistical power you have at hand.”

Mousseau hopes their results, which are consistent with the “linear-no-threshold” model for radiation effects, will better inform the debate about exposure risks. “With the levels of contamination that we have seen as a result of nuclear power plants, especially in the past, and even as a result of Chernobyl and Fukushima and related accidents, there’s an attempt in the industry to downplay the doses that the populations are getting, because maybe it’s only one or two times beyond what is thought to be the natural background level,” he said. “But they’re assuming the natural background levels are fine.”

“And the truth is, if we see effects at these low levels, then we have to be thinking differently about how we develop regulations for exposures, and especially intentional exposures to populations, like the emissions from nuclear power plants, medical procedures, and even some x-ray machines at airports.”

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Manufacturer of asbestos containing joint compounds to pay $1,979,228 to retired L.A. brickmason

A Los Angeles jury has found against Kaiser Gypsum Company, Inc., a manufacturer of asbestos containing joint compounds, in the case of a 63 year old cancer patient and former brickmason.

Vincent Monaco worked as a brickmason at Kaiser Steel, Fontana, California, and at numerous residential sites and commercial buildings throughout Southern California between 1968 and the 1990s.  He was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a debilitating and fatal cancer of the lining between the lungs and chest wall, in August 2011.

The jury found that the defendant's asbestos-containing joint compounds were defectively designed and
 assessed $479,228 in economic damages and $1,500,000 in non-economic damages.
At trial, plaintiffs presented evidence showing that the knowledge of hazards of exposure to asbestos dates back to 1898. Indeed, Kaiser Gypsum’s own internal documents starting in 1965 acknowledge that inhalation of asbestos dust from any source can cause mesothelioma decades later.

"Mr. Monaco can live out his last few months knowing that Kaiser Gypsum was held accountable today for contributing to cause his mesothelioma," stated his lawyers.

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Friday, November 9, 2012

Study Examines Financial Pain of Workers' Heart Attacks

  • $8,100+ found in worker expenses
  • $52,000+ in employer long-term disability costs
The economic impact of a heart attack goes beyond the hospital to the home and workplace, according to research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2012.
 
Men and women with acute coronary syndrome face additional economic burdens in lost time and income from work and possible inability to return to work, researchers said.
 
Using data from Integrated Benefits Institutes’ Health and Productivity Benchmarking Databases and IMS Lifelink, researchers analyzed medical, pharmacy and short- and long-term disability claims to calculate direct and indirect costs for more than 37,000 employees and their dependents from 2007 to 2010. Of the total, 77 percent were men and 95 percent were younger than 65.
 
They found:
  • Annual healthcare cost for each worker, including out-of-pocket expenses, was $8,170. Of that, $7,545 was for hospitalizations and other medical care and $625 for pharmacy costs.
  • Workers lost 60.2 days of work in the short term and 397 days in the long term.
  • For employers, disability costs outweighed direct costs. The estimated per claim productivity loss for short-term disability was $7,943 and $52,473 for long-term disability.
  • Hospitalizations accounted for 75 percent of total annual costs
The study is unique because 95 percent of participants were under age 65.
 
“About 47 percent of all acute coronary syndrome patients  (ACS) are younger than 65, so we were looking at a working class population,” said Page, an associate professor of clinical pharmacy and physical medicine and a clinical specialist in the Division of Cardiology at the University of Colorado School of Pharmacy in Aurora, Colo. 
 
ACS has non-cardiac and cardiac complications such as possible structural heart damage or depression.
 
“We want to target individuals early on in terms of risk factor modification for ACS, including smoking cessation, weight loss, appropriate diet, pharmacotherapy for high cholesterol and high blood pressure,” Page said. 
 
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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Massachusetts Town Files Class Action Lawsuit Against PCB Makers

Source: www.sokolovelaw.com



A Massachusetts town has filed a class-action chemical exposure lawsuit against three companies over potential harm caused by high levels of PCBs.


The lawsuit seeks damages on behalf of Lexington and other school districts of Massachusetts that have school buildings affected by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) made by Pharmacia Corp., Solutia Inc., and Monsanto Co., according to Boston.com.

The suit alleges that the makers of PCBs were aware of the risks that the chemical posed to public health and the environment when it was being used in the construction of schools spanning almost three decades, starting from the 1950s. The class action seeks to represent Massachusetts schools that were built between the 1950s and the 1970s. Monsanto says that the suit lacks merit.

The manufacturing and use of PCBs was banned by Congress in 1976.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Minnesota company fined for selling gun care product with high VOC chemical levels

A Minnesota-based distributor of gun-care products will pay the state of California half a million dollars after one of their products was found to exceed VOC levels.
The product, Casey Gun Scrubber Solvent/ Degreaser exceeded the state’s limits for chemicals known as volatile organic compounds which contribute to the formation of smog. The product was also found to contained trichloroethylene, a toxic air contaminant that is strictly prohibited from use in ‘General Purpose Degreasers’.

The Air Resources Board "...is vigilant about ensuring that products sold to consumers in California meet the standards for smog-causing chemicals,” said ARB Enforcement Chief Jim Ryden. “It is equally important that the General Purpose Degreasers do not contain toxic chemicals.”
 As part of the settlement, Birchwood also agreed that it would not sell, supply, offer for sale or manufacture for sale in California any items in violation of state standards for consumer products.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

U.S. jury awards troops $85 million over Iraq chemical exposure

(Reuters) - An Oregon jury awarded 12 Army National Guardsmen $85 million in damages from defense contractor KBR Inc. on Friday after finding that the company failed to protect them from exposure to cancer-causing chemicals when they served in Iraq.

Each Guard soldier was awarded $850,000 in non-economic damages and another $6.25 million in punitive damages for "reckless and outrageous indifference" to their health in the trial in U.S. District Court in Portland.

"Justice was definitely served for the 12 of us," Guardsman Rocky Bixby said, adding that two of his children were about to enter the military. "It wasn't about the money, it was about them never doing this again to another soldier."

The Oregon Guardsmen were providing security for civilian workers restoring an oil industry water plant in 2003 in southern Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein. The plant water was used to push oil to the surface.

The plant was contaminated with sodium dichromate, a chemical used to fight corrosion. Sodium dichromate contains hexavalent chromium, the toxic chemical made famous in the film "Erin Brockovich" starring Julia Roberts.

The chemical was blowing around the plant known as Qarmat Ali, the soldiers' lawyers told the court.

Geoffrey Harrison, lead trial attorney for KBR, said the contractor would appeal.

"We believe the trial court should have dismissed the case before trial," he said. "KBR did safe and exceptional work in Iraq under difficult circumstances, and we believe the facts and law ultimately will provide vindication."

The soldiers had also claimed that KBR committed fraud, but jurors rejected that claim.

The 12 Guardsmen in the suit have suffered various illnesses and disabilities and are at risk for various kinds of cancer, their lawyers said. Hexavalent chromium is "a highly potent carcinogen," they said.

Another 22 Oregon soldiers or their widows have sued KBR Inc. in Portland. More than 100 soldiers from other states have sued the company in Houston, where the company is based.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Landowner and Waste Management Company Convicted of Dumping Asbestos into Wetlands in Upstate New York

The owner of a 28-acre piece of property on the Mohawk River and the owner of a New Jersey solid waste management company were found guilty by a federal jury in Utica, N.Y.,  of charges that they conspired to defraud the United States and violate the Clean Water Act by illegally dumping thousands of tons of asbestos-contaminated construction debris on the property in upstate New York.
 
“Mazza and his co-conspirators flouted numerous federal laws designed to protect Americans from exposure to toxic materials when they dumped asbestos contaminated waste into an area that included sensitive wetlands. They also committed fraud and lied to federal investigators in the process,” said Assistant Attorney General Ignacia S. Moreno. “This conviction is a just result because these men have been held accountable for egregious environmental crimes that harm human health and the environment.”

The defendants, Cross Nicastro, owner of the property in Frankfort, N.Y., along with Mazza & Sons Inc., and its owner, Dominick Mazza, were found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the United States, as well as violate the Clean Water Act and Superfund laws. In addition, Nicastro, Dominick Mazza and Mazza & Sons Inc. were convicted of violating the Superfund law’s requirement to report the release of toxic materials and obstructing justice. Dominick Mazza was also convicted of making false statements to EPA special agents.

According to evidence presented during the 10-day trial, the defendants engaged in the illegal dumping of thousands of tons of construction and demolition debris, much of which was contaminated with asbestos, at Nicastro’s property, which contained federally-regulated wetlands. The dumping occurred without a permit.

Evidence demonstrated that the defendants, along with co-conspirators, concealed the illegal dumping by fabricating a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) permit and forging the name of a DEC official on the fraudulent permit. In addition, the evidence demonstrated that Mazza & Sons, Inc. obstructed justice by destroying and concealing documents responsive to a grand jury subpoena.

The conspiracy, substantive Superfund and false statement counts each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of either $250,000, twice the gross gain to the defendants, or twice the gross loss to a victim, whichever is determined to be greater. The obstruction of justice count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and similar fines.

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Friday, November 2, 2012

Company that restores windows for historical buildings cited for exposing workers to airborne leads

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited History Construction Management LLC of Odell, Illinois for 22 alleged serious health violations. OSHA opened an inspection in May in response to a complaint and found that some workers were exposed to airborne lead at more than 40 times the permissible limit. Proposed fines total more than $59,000.

"Employers such as History Construction Management have a responsibility to ensure that operations are conducted in a way that eliminates or minimizes lead hazards, including exposure," said Tom Bielema, director of OSHA's Peoria Area Office. "Training workers to recognize lead hazards and take necessary precautions to prevent exposure is necessary to protect their health."

Fifteen of the violations relate to OSHA's lead standard, including failing to implement engineering and work practice controls to reduce exposure, collect full shift personal samples for monitoring, provide clean protective clothing, provide clean changing rooms or separate storage facilities for protective work clothing to prevent cross-contamination with street clothes, keep surface and eating areas free from lead dust accumulation, properly sweep up lead dust, provide training to employees about lead and post lead hazard warning signs.

Five violations of OSHA's respiratory protection standard involve failing to implement a respirator protection program that includes proper respirator selection, medical evaluation, fit testing and training. The remaining two violations are using flexible electrical cords as a substitute for fixed wiring and improperly altering electrical cords. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

History Construction Management, which specializes in restoring windows for historical buildings, previously was cited by OSHA in 2009 for failing to provide a hazard communications program and require the use of personal protective equipment.