Thursday, January 31, 2013

Research Shows Rude Behavior at Work Is Increasing and Affects the Bottom Line

Rudeness at work is rampant, and it’s on the rise. In 2011, half of the workers surveyed by Professors Christine Porath of Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and Christine Pearson of Thunderbird School of Global Management said they were treated rudely at least once a week - up from a quarter in 1998. New research from Porath and Pearson shows the tangible cost of this bad behavior.Through a poll of 800 managers and employees in 17 industries, Porath and Pearson discovered just how people’s reactions play out. Among workers who’ve been on the receiving end of incivility:

• 48% intentionally decreased their work effort
• 47% intentionally decreased the time spent at work
• 38% intentionally decreased the quality of their work
• 80% lost work time worrying about the incident
• 63% lost work time avoiding the offender
• 66% said that their performance declined
• 78% said that their commitment to the organization declined
• 12% said that they left their job because of the uncivil treatment
• 25% admitted to taking their frustration out on customers

Experiments and other reports offer additional insights about the effects of incivility. Here are some examples of what can happen.

1) Creativity suffers - In an experiment conducted with Amir Erez, a professor of management at the University of Florida, participants who were treated rudely by other subjects were 30% less creative than others in the study.

2) Performance and team spirit deteriorate - Survey results and interviews indicate that simply witnessing incivility has negative consequences. In one experiment, witnesses to incivility were less likely than others to help out, even when the person they’d be helping had no apparent connection to the uncivil person.

3) Customers turn away - According to a survey of 244 consumers, disrespectful behavior by employees makes people uncomfortable, and they’re quick to walk out without making a purchase.

4) Managing incidents is expensive - According to a study conducted by Accountemps and reported in Fortune, managers and executives at Fortune 1,000 firms spend 13% percent of their work time—the equivalent of seven weeks a year—mending employee relationships and otherwise dealing with the aftermath of incivility.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

EPA to ban company's rodent control products after they refuse to adopt EPA safety standards

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is moving to ban the sale of 12 D-Con mouse and rat poison products produced by Reckitt Benckiser Inc. because these products fail to comply with current EPA safety standards. Approximately 10,000 children a year are accidentally exposed to mouse and rat baits putting them at risk for chemical exposure. The EPA has worked cooperatively with companies to ensure that products are both safe to use around children and effective for consumers. Reckitt Benckiser Inc., maker of D-Con brand products, is the only rodenticide producer that has refused to adopt EPA’s safety standards for all of its consumer use products.

"Moving forward to ban these products will prevent completely avoidable risks to children, said James Jones, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. "With this action, EPA is ensuring that the products on the market are both safe and effective for consumers."

The agency has worked with a number of companies during the last five years to develop safer rodent control products that are effective, affordable, and widely available to meet the needs of consumers. Examples of products meeting EPA safety standards include Bell Laboratories’ Tomcat products, PM Resources’ Assault brand products and Chemsico’s products.

The EPA requires rodenticide products for consumer use to be contained in protective tamper-resistant bait stations and prohibits pellets and other bait forms that cannot be secured in bait stations. In addition, the EPA prohibits the sale to residential consumers of products containing brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone, and difenacoum because of their toxicity to wildlife.

For companies that have complied with the new standards in 2011, EPA has received no reports of children being exposed to bait contained in bait stations. EPA expects to see a substantial reduction in exposures to children when the 12 D-Con products that do not comply with current standards are removed from the consumer market as millions of households use these products each year.


Railroad workers sue for asbestos and silica exposure injuries

Occupational exposure claims -- for injuries or illnesses caused by repeated or prolonged exposure to hazardous substances -- are common  actions under the Federal Employers Liability Act. Railroad workers who are injured by occupational exposures can recover compensation under FELA if it can be shown that the railroad company's negligence played a role in causing the hazardous exposure.

A recent FELA case from Texas serves as an illustrative example of how occupational exposure claims work. The plaintiffs in the case are seven former employees of BNSF Railway, who claim that they developed serious lung injuries as a result of occupational exposure to asbestos and silica-containing dust. These substances are well-known to cause illnesses including asbestosis, silicosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer.

The plaintiffs claim that the railroad was aware of the dangers posed by exposure to asbestos and silica dust, but failed to take steps to protect employees from harm. Specifically, they point to evidence showing that the railroad had been informed of serious risks as early as 1935. At that time, the Association of American Railroads recommended that railroads take steps to prevent employees from becoming injured by hazardous dust, including removing dust from working areas, having employees wear respirators, analyzing air samples from working areas and educating employees about the risks of exposure.

The Texas railroad workers further claim that BNSF was negligent in continuing to use products that contained asbestos and silica even though it knew of the dangers it could cause. They argue that, at the very least, BNSF should have taken more steps to protect its employees from harm. In particular, they claim that BNSF failed to provide appropriate respirators, failed to conduct sufficient air monitoring and failed to educate employees about the risks of asbestos and silica exposure and the fact that those risks could be magnified by smoking cigarettes.

Source: O'Brien Chod, LLC

Monday, January 28, 2013

EPA settles with Kemira Chemicals for violations of chemical and pesticide laws

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it reached settlements with two subsidiaries of the Kemira Group for violations of chemical and pesticide laws.
The settlement with Kemira Chemicals resolves alleged violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, including the sale and distribution of an unregistered pesticide, the sale and distribution of misbranded pesticides, and pesticide production reporting violations. The sale and distribution of unregistered or misbranded pesticides can cause serious illness in humans and be harmful to the environment. Under the terms of the agreement, Kemira Chemicals has corrected the alleged violations and will pay a civil penalty of $301,600.

EPA also reached an agreement with Kemira Water Solutions after an EPA inspection identified 27 violations of the Toxic Substance Control Act’s Inventory Update Reporting (IUR) rule for the 2006 reporting period. The IUR rule requires manufacturers and importers of certain chemical substances to report the production volume and location of each facility producing these chemical substances. The information collected is used to support risk screening and assessment and makes up the most comprehensive source of basic screening-level, exposure-related information on chemicals available to EPA. Kemira Water Solutions has since submitted the required information to EPA and will pay a civil penalty of $503,110.

Kemira Chemicals, Inc. and Kemira Water Solutions, Inc. are both subsidiaries of Kemira Group, a global chemical company with U.S. headquarters in Atlanta, Ga.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Pasta Manufacturer Cited for Ammonia Hazards

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Rana Meal Solutions LLC in Bartlett with 12 safety violations following a complaint inspection alleging workers were exposed to ammonia hazards in July 2012 at the Bartlett plant, which was being retrofitted for use as a pasta production facility. Proposed fines total $54,000.

Eight serious violations of OSHA's process safety management standards were cited for deficiencies in the company's ammonia refrigeration process. These included a lack of written standard operating procedures for the ammonia refrigeration process; no emergency action plan; failing to perform inspections and tests on process equipment; not addressing the hazards of the ammonia refrigeration process; and failing to address the findings and recommendations of the process hazard analysis team.

"OSHA provides guidelines for employers to manage the safety and health of workers associated with processes involving hazardous chemicals. Failing to properly address these issues puts workers at risk for exposure," said Diane Turek, area director for OSHA's Chicago North office. "OSHA is committed to protecting workers on the job, especially when employers fail to do so."

Three additional serious violations involve failing to develop, implement and train employees in hazard communication, provide an emergency eyewash station and provide material data safety sheets for hazardous chemicals present in the workplace. 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.

Additionally, one other-than-serious violation was issued for a slip and trip hazard after water was found on the floor of the engine room. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

OSHA Updates Guidance on Hazardous Chemical Exposures in Labs

From OHSOnline:

"OSHA is issuing a technical amendment to the non-mandatory appendix in its standard on occupational exposure to hazardous chemicals in laboratories, 1910.1450, which is known as the OSHA Laboratory Standard. Published Jan. 22 in the Federal Register, the amendment takes effect upon publication. It was made in order to include contents from a 2011 National Academy of Sciences publication.

Adhering to the hierarchy of controls is the third general principle listed in the technical amendment, following minimization of chemical exposures/risks and making an accurate assessment of the risks.

The hierarchy of controls principle discusses engineering controls, administrative controls, and various types of eye, face, hand, and foot PPE, along with protective apparel.

The Laboratory Standard requires laboratories to have Chemical Hygiene Plans, which the standard defines as "a written program developed and implemented by the employer which sets forth procedures, equipment, personal protective equipment and work practices that are capable of protecting employees from the health hazards presented by hazardous chemicals used in that particular workplace."

  • The amendment says a lab's plan must be readily available to workers and should include these topics:
  • Individual chemical hygiene responsibilities
  • Standard operating procedures
  • Personal protective equipment, engineering controls and apparel
  • Laboratory equipment
  • Safety equipment/
  • Chemical management
  • Housekeeping
  • Emergency procedures for accidents and spills
  • Chemical waste
  • Training
  • Safety rules and regulations
  • Laboratory design and ventilation
  • Exposure monitoring
  • Compressed gas safety
  • Medical consultation and examination

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Workplace Wellness Programs Can Cut Costs by 18 Percent; Higher for Older Workers

Workplace health promotion programs have the potential to reduce average worker health costs by 18 percent — and even more for older workers, reports a study in the January Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).

Jonathan P. Dugas, PhD, and colleagues of The Vitality Group, Chicago, combined data from two major studies to estimate the possible savings in medical costs from reductions in key health risk factors. The study focused on seven risk factors or medical conditions typically addressed by workplace wellness programs: physical inactivity, low fruit and vegetable intake, smoking, overweight/obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and alcohol abuse.

The results suggested that — if all heightened risk factors could be reduced to their "theoretical minimums" — total medical care expenses per person for all working age adults would be reduced by about $650, or approximately 18 percent. The possible savings increased with age: up to 28 percent for older working adults and retirees.

Employers are very interested in workplace wellness programs to improve the health and well-being of the workforce — with resulting savings in medical costs, among other benefits. But there are conflicting reports on the potential for long-term savings.

One widely repeated figure, attributed to former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, is that preventable illness makes up about 70 percent of the burden and costs of illness. While the cost reductions estimated in the new study are more modest, Dr. Dugas and coauthors write, "The potential savings from workplace wellness programs are still quite large and supportive of widespread interest by employers."

While the maximum savings estimated are unlikely to be achieved immediately, Dr. Dugas and colleagues add, "Medical care savings from workplace wellness programs will increase with time given that more eligible wellness program members participate, effective control of heightened risk factors improves, and greater risk reversal can be achieved."

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cleaning jobs linked to asthma risk

A new study has found strong evidence for a link between cleaning jobs and risk of developing asthma.

Researchers at Imperial College London tracked the occurrence of asthma in a group of 9,488 people born in Britain in 1958. Not including those who had asthma as children, nine per cent developed asthma by age 42. Risks in the workplace were responsible for one in six cases of adult onset asthma – even more than the one in nine cases attributed to smoking, according to the analysis.

There are many occupations that are thought to cause asthma. In this study, 18 occupations were clearly linked with asthma risk, four of which were cleaning jobs and a further three of which were likely to involve exposure to cleaning products.

Farmers, hairdressers, and printing workers were also found to have increased risk, as previous studies have reported. Farmers were approximately four times more likely to develop asthma as an adult than office workers.

Besides cleaning products, flour, enzymes, metals, and textiles were among materials in the workplace identified in the study as being linked to asthma risk.

The study was led by Dr Rebecca Ghosh at the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London. Dr Ghosh said: “This study identified 18 occupations that are clearly linked with asthma risk, but there are others that did not show up in our analysis, mainly because they are relatively uncommon. Occupational asthma is widely under-recognised by employers, employees and healthcare professionals. Raising awareness that this is an almost entirely preventable disease would be a major step in reducing its incidence.”

The study, published in the journal Thorax, was funded by Asthma UK and the Colt Foundation.

Malayka Rahman, Research Analysis and Communications Officer at Asthma UK, said: "This research has highlighted a new group of people, specifically those working in occupations related to cleaning, such as cleaners or home-based personal care workers, who may have developed adult onset asthma due to exposure to chemicals they work with on a daily basis. We advise anyone who works in the industries highlighted in this study and who have experienced breathing problems to discuss this with their GP, and we urge healthcare professionals to make sure they consider possible occupational causes in adult onset asthma and tailor their advice to people with asthma accordingly."

Monday, January 21, 2013

Satellite dish installation disturbed asbestos

(The Australian) More than half of all contractors installing satellite dishes under the federal government's digital TV rollout are unaware of how to report major problems such as asbestos disturbance, an investigation has found.

The study, by Ernst & Young, also found that at one-third of the installation sites it visited, contractors were unable to adequately manage risks such as wearing required protective clothing.

The federal Department of Communications commissioned the review into the Satellite Subsidy Scheme in Queensland in late 2011, after revelations poorly trained contractors had disturbed asbestos in more than 20 government-owned homes in that state.

Ernst & Young visited 169 "live sites" - sites where installations were currently occurring across Queensland. The two contractors completing the work were Skybridge and Hills Industries subsidiary Techlife.

"The results show significant non-compliance in the management of risks, awareness of the incident reporting process and demonstrating the appropriate (safety) culture," the report found.

"A number of non-compliances were also noted for (safety) training and risk assessment."

Despite the problems, the study noted a "significant decrease" in the number of serious concerns in Queensland compared with rollouts in Victoria.

In one incident in Queensland, Ernst & Young found a contractor had drilled though plaster without knowing whether or not it was asbestos and did not wear protective attire such as a mask.

It said the contractor had subsequently been suspended.

The Ernst & Young report was handed to the government in May. The department has not explained why it has taken so long to release it, except to say it had been conducting "follow-up work".

It also inspected 1103 private homes in regional Queensland where installations occurred. That inspection revealed 20 possible cases of asbestos disturbance.

"Of these, nine were found to contain asbestos and full remediation has occurred," the Department of Communications said.

Concerns have been raised that asbestos may have been disturbed in areas where inspections have not occurred, with residents unaware of the problem.

In late 2011, the government cracked down on contractors and ordered retraining in asbestos handling.

By that time, Skybridge and Techlife had installed satellite dishes in 5149 households in regional areas in Victoria, South Australia and Queensland.

A spokesman for Skybridge declined to comment while Techlife could not be contacted.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Honda recalls 750000 vehicles for airbag defects
Honda will voluntarily recall approximately 748,000 model-year 2009-2013 Pilot and 2011-2013 Odyssey vehicles in the United States to inspect and, if necessary, replace the driver's-side airbag.

Driver's-side airbags in these vehicles potentially were assembled without some of the rivets that secure the airbag's plastic cover. If the rivets are missing, the airbag may not deploy properly, increasing the risk of injury in a crash. No crashes or injuries have been reported related to this issue.

Honda is announcing this recall to encourage owners of all affected vehicles to take their vehicles to an authorized dealer as soon as they receive notification of this recall from Honda. Mailed notification to customers will begin in mid-Feb., 2013. In addition to contacting customers by mail, in mid-Feb., owners of these vehicles will be able to determine if their vehicles require repair by going to or by calling (800) 999-1009, and selecting option 4.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Cleaners, plumbers and spray painters high-risk occupations for asthma

Despite known risks and recommendations for protective equipment, many people are still at risk of getting asthma after chemical exposure at work. This is the finding of an international study of 13,000 people carried out at Sahlgrenska Academy.

Asthma is among the most common adult diseases in the world. Despite the fact that the risks of chemical exposure have long been known and that there are well-established recommendations for handling chemicals and protective equipment, many cases of asthma are still caused by exposure to harmful substances at work.

This latest study analyzed asthma cases among 13,000 randomly selected adults in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Estonia from 1980 to 2000. According to the study, 429 people had new-onset asthma during this period. Seven percent of the cases among women were linked to workplace exposure—and among men, the number was as high as 14 percent.

The study found that total incidence of new-onset asthma was 24 cases per 1,000 men and 44 cases per 1,000 women.

“To be able to work with primary prevention, it is essential to know which agents at work increase the risk of asthma and which occupations are at high-risk,” says Linnea Lillienberg, researcher at Sahlgrenska Academy.

According to the study, high-risk occupations include:
• spray painters, who are exposed to diisocyanates in paint
• plumbers, who handle adhesives and foam insulation
• cleaners, who handle detergents
• health care and social services personnel, who are exposed to detergents and latex in latex gloves, especially if the gloves contain powder
• food and tobacco industry workers, who are exposed to proteins from plants
• hairdressers, who handle chemicals in bleach and nail beauticians, who use fast-acting glues

“Some people are more susceptible than others. For example, people with hay fever (atopic) are at higher risk of occupational asthma if they’re exposed to proteins from plants and animals. But if we look at individuals with no increased susceptibility (nonatopic), the risk was higher among those compared to atopics if exposed to epoxy and diisocyanates, which are found in glues, varnishes and insulation foams. Among nonatopic women , the risk was particularly elevated among those who handled detergents,” says Linnea Lillienberg.

The study Occupational Exposure and New-onset Asthma in a Population-based Study in Northern Europe (RHINE) was published in The Annals of Occupational Hygiene.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Fetal exposure to PVC plastic chemical linked to obesity in offspring

Exposing pregnant mice to low doses of the chemical tributyltin – which is used in marine hull paint and PVC plastic – can lead to obesity for multiple generations without subsequent exposure, a UC Irvine study has found.

After exposing pregnant mice to TBT in concentrations similar to those found in the environment, researchers saw increased body fat, liver fat and fat-specific gene expression in their “children,” “grandchildren” and “great-grandchildren” – none of which had been exposed to the chemical.

These findings suggest that early-life exposure to endocrine-disrupting compounds such as TBT can have permanent effects of fat accumulation without further exposure, said study leader Bruce Blumberg, UC Irvine professor of pharmaceutical sciences and developmental & cell biology. These effects appear to be inherited without DNA mutations occurring.

The study appears online today in Environmental Health Perspectives, a publication of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences.

Human exposure to TBT can occur through PVC plastic particles in dust and via leaching of the chemical and other related organotin compounds from PVC pipes and containers.

Significant levels of TBT have been reported in house dust – which is particularly relevant for young children who may spend significant time on floors and carpets. Some people are exposed by ingesting seafood contaminated with TBT, which has been used in marine hull paint and is pervasive in the environment.

Blumberg categorizes TBT as an obesogen, a class of chemicals that promote obesity by increasing the number of fat cells or the storage of fat in existing cells. He and his colleagues first identified the role of obesogens in a 2006 publication and showed in 2010 that TBT acts in part by modifying the fate of mesenchymal stem cells during development, predisposing them to become fat cells.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

OSHA posts results of first Sandy industrial hygiene tests and reminds employers to be vigilant about exposure risks

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has posted results of its initial industrial hygiene sampling of locations in New York and New Jersey where recovery work in connection with Hurricane Sandy is being performed. The results are posted on OSHA's website at:

The purpose of the sampling is to measure potential or actual employee exposure to potential health hazards during recovery operations. Sampling was conducted in a variety of locations throughout the storm affected areas. The results of this first round of sampling show that while some contaminants were present, such as carbon monoxide, asbestos and silica, they have so far not exceeded any of OSHA's Permissible Exposure Limits, which can be found at:

"These initial results should not be taken by employers as an "all clear" signal regarding potential exposure to health hazards," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York. "It is important that each employer continually ensure that workers are not overexposed. Employers can accomplish this by performing site assessments to determine potential hazards and institute effective measures to protect workers against exposure to toxic substances such as asbestos, lead and mold."

OSHA will continue to conduct industrial hygiene monitoring on a rotating basis at various locations where recovery work is being performed. The results will be posted on OSHA's website. The monitoring is one element of OSHA's ongoing efforts to protect the safety and health of workers cleaning up after Sandy.

Monday, January 14, 2013

EPA pushing home radon testing for 2013: Elevated levels found in 1 of every 15 homes in the U.S.

As part of National Radon Action Month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is encouraging Americans to test and fix radon problems to help prevent lung cancer and potentially save lives.

“Testing for radon is one of the easiest and smartest things people can do to protect their homes and families from this serious health risk,” said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation. “Addressing high radon levels greatly reduces exposure to the second leading cause of lung cancer.”

Radon occurs naturally from the decay of uranium in the soil and can accumulate to dangerous levels inside the home. Elevated levels of the colorless, odorless gas are the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.

Elevated levels of this health hazard in workplaces, homes, schools, and other buildings can be prevented through these simple steps:

  • Test: All buildings with or without basements should be tested for radon. Affordable Do-It-Yourself radon test kits are available online and at home improvement and hardware stores, or a qualified radon tester can be hired.
  • Fix: EPA recommends taking action to fix radon levels at or above 4 picoCuries per Liter (pCi/L) and contacting a qualified radon-reduction contractor.
  • Save a Life: 21,000 Americans die from radon related lung cancer each year, but by addressing elevated levels, you can help prevent lung cancer while creating a healthier home and community.

More on how to test, find a qualified radon professional, obtain a test kit or contact your state radon office: or call 1-800-SOS-RADON

Friday, January 11, 2013

Company faces 200K EPA penalty for not following chemical accident prevention procedures

A cold storage and ice manufacturing company in Sandwich, Mass. and E. Providence, R.I. has agreed to pay penalties of $225,000 to settle claims by EPA that the company violated federal Clean Air Act requirements meant to prevent chemical releases of ammonia at facilities located in East Providence, R.I., and Sandwich, Mass.

According to EPA’s complaint, JP Lillis Enterprises, which does business under the trade name Cape Cod Ice, failed to put in place a required “Risk Management Plan” for ammonia used in the refrigeration system at its East Providence facility, in violation of the federal Clean Air Act. EPA also alleged that the company violated the Clean Air Act’s General Duty Clause, which applies to facilities where extremely hazardous substances such as ammonia are present, at its Sandwich location.

Under the General Duty Clause, owners and operators of these facilities are required to identify hazards, design and maintain the facility in a safe manner, taking steps to prevent accidental releases of the extremely hazardous substance, and take steps to minimize the consequences of any accidental releases that occur.

The company had not taken required steps to design and maintain a safe facility or taken precautions that would minimize the consequences of an accidental release of ammonia, if one were to occur, at its Sandwich facility. For example, they failed to provide mechanical ventilation; working ammonia detectors and an emergency shutdown switch for the machinery room; develop operating procedures and a comprehensive mechanical integrity program; and train employees in the proper operation of the system at the Sandwich facility.

Ammonia presents a significant health hazard because it is corrosive to the skin, eyes and lungs. Exposure to 300 parts per million is immediately dangerous to life and health. Ammonia is also flammable at concentrations of about 15 to 28 percent by volume in air. It can explode if it is released in an enclosed space with a source of ignition present, or if a vessel containing anhydrous ammonia is exposed to fire.

Risk Management Plans required under the Clean Air Act, and steps required under the General Duty Clause, help prevent accidental releases of substances that can cause serious harm to the public and the environment from short-term exposures and reduces the severity of releases that do occur. A company that fails to take these steps can leave the public and environment at risk from accidental releases.

Both Cape Cod Ice facilities are located less than a fifth of a mile from residential homes, and less than a quarter of a mile from retail and office areas.

This case stems from information learned about JP’s facilities following an inspection of the Sandwich facility by EPA in November 2011. After EPA’s inspection, JP developed and submitted a risk management plan for its East Providence facility, and the company is currently working to fix problems identified at the Sandwich facility. For example, the company has installed an ammonia detector at the Sandwich Facility and investigated and corrected pipe corrosion and vibration problems noted by EPA inspectors. JP also plans to install a ventilation fan and an emergency shutdown switch and to prepare and implement an improved maintenance program for the system.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Housing Authority to pay for workers' asbestos-poisoning tests

(Article from the

(Massachusetts) Several months after questions were raised about the Lowell Housing Authority's possible improper handling of asbestos during a major renovation project, the agency has agreed to pay for and promote the opportunity for its maintenance employees to get tested for asbestos poisoning.

LHA Executive Director Gary Wallace said Wednesday he has consented to the request put forth by the union representing the maintenance employees because he wants to allay any concerns LHA workers may have about exposure to asbestos.

"It makes sense for some of the older people who might have worries," Wallace told The Sun. "We also want to put the issue to rest."

Angelo Karabatsos, president of the union representing the LHA's maintenance workers, said the idea of employees receiving asbestos testing first emerged last year after the LHA decided to bring on a environmental consultant to determine how much asbestos is present at all of its major developments.

The decision to hire a consultant came in the months following the City Council's call for an investigation into whether asbestos was handled improperly during the LHA's renovations at North Common Village from 2008 to 2011. The Inspector General's Office released a report in October saying there was no evidence asbestos was removed during the project, but two other state agencies determined that proper testing was not done prior to the work.

Also, the LHA's consultant found asbestos in the second layer of floor tile and associated mastic of the only North Common unit it tested over the summer.

Karabatsos said Wednesday he put forward the testing proposal so his members who want the testing because of concerns have access to it. He is strongly encouraging his members who have been at the LHA the longest to get tested because many of the old buildings at the LHA used to be full of asbestos and some still remains.

"The guys who have been there many years would be wise to get tested to put their minds at ease," Karabatsos said. "There is no doubt in my mind some of them were interacting with asbestos for years."

Karabatsos praised the LHA for agreeing to set a specific date, time and place for the testing and make sure LHA employees are aware of it.

Workers can also get tested for unhealthy exposure to lead, added Karabatsos. He estimates close to 50 LHA employees would be eligible to receive the testing.

"The housing authority is living up to their responsibility to their workers," Karabatsos said.

Both Wallace and Karabatsos said they expect the testing to be scheduled for some time in the coming weeks.

The health consequences for exposure to asbestos fibers and lead paint can be very severe.

Exposure to asbestos fibers can lead to tissue scarring, lung diseases and mesothelioma.

Meanwhile, unhealthy exposure to lead can cause lead poisoning, which has a variety of symptoms, including a decline in mental functioning.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Perma-Siding and Window Co to pay Omaha couple for failing to tell them about lead paint risks before reno work

Albracht Perma-Siding and Window Co., of Omaha, Neb., has agreed to pay a $6,188 civil penalty to the United States to settle allegations that it failed to notify an Omaha couple about lead-based paint risks before the company or its subcontractors performed renovation work at their pre-1978 home. 

It also failed to keep records of lead safe work practices it stated it performed at 10 pre-1978 homes in Lincoln, Bellevue, and Omaha, Neb.

According to an administrative consent agreement filed by EPA Region 7 in Lenexa, Kan., Albracht or its subcontractors were legally required to provide owners and occupants of the properties with an EPA-approved lead hazard information pamphlet before starting renovations at the properties. It is also required to maintain records of required lead safe work practices performed at the properties.

Provision of the lead hazard information pamphlet to property owners and occupants is one requirement of the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act, which Congress passed in 1992 as an amendment of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

The regulation is intended to protect owners and occupants of residential properties, child care facilities and schools built before 1978 from health risks associated with lead-based paint. Lead-based paint was banned for residential use in the United States in 1978. Most homes built before 1978 contain some amount of lead-based paint, and subsequent renovation activity of such properties can cause occupants to be exposed to dust, chips and debris that contain lead.

The Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act requires renovators of such properties to obtain certified training, follow safe work practices and record-keeping requirements, and take specific steps to make owners and occupants aware of health risks associated with lead exposure before renovation work occurs.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Formula one experts gather to discuss advances and cutting emissions

Motorsport engineers from around the world are among the specialists gathering at Birmingham City University’s city centre campus today to look at how elite auto engineering can help in the race to make road cars become even more efficient ahead of strict EU regulations.
McLaren and Caterham Formula One racing teams, plus Audi Sport and Drayson racing will be among the big names who will be providing an insight into some of the current challenges and opportunities that the motorsports industry is embracing.

The 2013 Race Tech World Motorsport Symposium aims to explore how pioneering engineering that helps racing cars reach their maximum potential can also be adopted by the mainstream auto industry.
To allow a free exchange of ideas competitive rivalries have been put aside will be put aside for the two-day event sponsored and hosted for the first time by Birmingham City University’s Faculty of Technology, Engineering and the Environment.

Developments in aerodynamics, tyre technology, fuel efficiency, engine management systems, new lightweight materials like carbon fibre, and powertrain systems will all be put under the spotlight to see how they can help the auto-makers meet strict the new European carbon reduction standards.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Lawsuit Blames Shell Oil for Death of an Illinois Man

The estate of Illinois man Derrick Dean Coffman is blaming Shell Oil Co. and its subsidiaries for his death from blood cancer associated with industrial chemical exposure.

Coffman is from Roxana, Illnois a town that has had issues with benzene and elevated levels of methane. 

According to news reports, several homes had to be demolished near the Wood River refinery, formerly operated by Shell after tests showed benzene contamination in the area.

The Village of Roxana also filed a lawsuit last March citing incidents over several years in which officials claim benzene and other pollutants contaminated the air, water and soil.

“Shell’s own testing and reports show that benzene and other toxic chemicals have spilled or leaked from the refinery onto the property of the Village of Roxana, contaminating the streets, alleys, rights-of-way, the ground water and, in particular, the Village’s Public Works Yard,” said Derek Brandt, of The Simmons Firm who is handling the case for the village. 

Benzene is among the 20 most widely used chemicals in the United States. The main route of human exposure to benzene is by inhaling contaminated air.

(Sources:, Press Release, The Simmons Firm)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Work has positive impact on mental health of young people, report reveals

The positive contribution that work makes to the mental health of young people is outlined in a new report published in the UK this week.

A survey of more than 2,000 16-to-25 year olds reveals that young people not working or in education or training program (NEETs) are significantly more vulnerable to mental ill-health than their peers who are in work.

While an estimated 27% of young people in employment say they 'always' or 'often' feel depressed or down, that figure rises to 48% across the NEET population.

The survey, carried out for the Prince's Trust charity, shows a "worrying" discrepancy, according to Richard Parish, chief executive of the Royal Society of Public Health.

Parish said: "These unemployed young people need support to regain their self-worth and, ultimately, get them back in the workplace."

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Study links low wages with hypertension, especially for women and younger workers
Workers earning the lowest wages have a higher risk of hypertension than workers with the highest wages, according to new research from UC Davis.

The correlation between wages and hypertension was especially strong among women and persons between the ages of 25 to 44.

“We were surprised that low wages were such a strong risk factor for two populations not typically associated with hypertension, which is more often linked with being older and male,” said J. Paul Leigh, senior author of the study and professor of public health sciences at UC Davis. “Our outcome shows that women and younger employees working at the lowest pay scales should be screened regularly for hypertension as well.”

The study, published in the December issue of the European Journal of Public Health, is believed to be the first to isolate the role of wages in hypertension, which occurs when the force of circulating blood against artery walls is too high. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hypertension affects approximately 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. and costs more than $90 billion each year in health-care services, medications and missed work days. It also is a major contributor to heart disease and stroke, both of which are leading causes of death and disability.

While there is a known association between lower socioeconomic status (SES) and hypertension, determining the specific reason for that association has been difficult, according to Leigh. Other researchers have focused on factors such as occupation, job strain, education and insurance coverage, with unclear results. Leigh’s study was the first to focus on wages and hypertension.

“By isolating a direct and fundamental aspect of work that people greatly value, we were able to shed light on the relationship between SES and circulatory health,” said Leigh. “Wages are also a part of the employment environment that easily can be changed. Policymakers can raise the minimum wage, which tends to increase wages overall and could have significant public-health benefits.”

In conducting the study, the team used data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, a highly regarded database in social science. This longitudinal, representative study of families in the United States includes information on wages, employment and health, including hypertension status. The team used information from a total of 5,651 household heads and their spouses for three time periods: 1999-2001, 2001-03 and 2003-05. The sample was limited to working adults between 25 and 65 years of age. Anyone with hypertension during the first year (e.g., 1999) of each time period was eliminated from the final sample.

Wages were calculated as annual income from all sources divided by work hours and ranged from about $2.38 to $77 per hour in 1999 dollars. Hypertension was determined by respondents’ self-reports of a hypertension diagnosis from their physicians.

The team used logistic regressions for the statistical analysis, and found that doubling the wage was associated with a 16 percent decrease in the risk of a hypertension diagnosis. Doubling the wage reduced the risk of a hypertension diagnosis by 1.2 percent over two years and 0.6 percent for one year.

“That means that if there were 110 million persons employed in the U.S. between the ages of 25 and 65 per year during the entire timeframe of the study – from 1999 until 2005 – then a 10 percent increase in everyone’s wages would have resulted in 132,000 fewer cases of hypertension each year,” said Leigh.

Additional logistic regression analyses by demographics such as age, gender, race and co-morbidities such as obesity, diabetes and alcohol consumption revealed two standout outcomes. Being in the youngest age group – between 25 and 44 years old – or being female were strong predictors of hypertension. In fact, doubling the wages of younger workers was associated with a 25 to 30 percent decrease in the risk of a hypertension diagnosis, and doubling the wages of women was associated with a 30 to 35 percent decrease in the risk of a hypertension diagnosis.

Leigh said that a potential limitation of the study regarding the gender disparity was its reliance on respondents’ self-reports of hypertension diagnoses.

“Other research has shown that women are more likely than men to report a health diagnosis,” said Leigh. “However, the longitudinal nature of the data used in our study helps mitigate that natural bias, and self-reports of health do typically correlate with clinical data.”

Leigh recommends additional research using different national data sets to investigate the potential relationship between low wages and hypertension.

“If the outcomes are the same, we could have identified a way to help reduce the costs and personal impact of a major health crisis,” said Leigh.

Occupational air pollution is also a major contributor to heart disease and stroke, both of which are leading causes of death and disability. Contact an Electrocorp air quality expert to learn more about the benefits of improving the air quality at your workplace.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

General Biodiesel settles with EPA for hazardous chemical and emergency planning violations

General Biodiesel, in south Seattle, will pay a penalty for failing to report their hazardous chemicals in violation of federal emergency planning laws, according to a consent agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

General Biodiesel converts used cooking oils, fish oil, vegetable oil, and animal fats into biodiesel fuel and glycerol in a process that uses hazardous chemicals including methanol, sodium methoxide, and sulfuric acid. In 2009 and 2010, General Biodiesel failed to submit Emergency and Hazardous Chemical Inventory forms to the Seattle fire department, King County emergency management, and Washington's Emergency Response Commission.

"When a company fails to report their hazardous chemicals to emergency planners and responders, they put their employees and the community at risk," said Kelly McFadden, EPA's Pesticides and Toxics Unit Manager in Seattle. "This information is critical to alert federal, state, and local officials to prevent injuries or deaths to emergency responders, workers, and the local community."

Failure to report large amounts of hazardous chemicals to appropriate agencies is a violation of the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.

General Biodiesel agreed to pay a $62,985 penalty and fully comply with federal emergency planning rules to protect their workers, emergency responders, and the local community.