Friday, November 29, 2013

Hashtag health: Using social media to track flu outbreaks

Monitoring tweets can help experts
identify flu patterns, researcher says.
A social media–monitoring program led by San Diego State University geography professor Ming-Hsiang Tsou could help physicians and health officials learn when and where severe outbreaks are occurring in real time.

In results published last month in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, Tsou demonstrated that his technique might allow officials to more quickly and efficiently direct resources to outbreak zones and better contain the spread of the disease.

"There is the potential to use social media to really improve the way we monitor the flu and other public health concerns,"Tsou said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines flu season as the period from October through May, usually peaking around February.

But the unpredictability in exactly when and where outbreaks occur makes it difficult for hospitals and regional health agencies to prepare for where and when to deploy physicians and nurses armed with vaccines and medicines.

There's about a two-week lag in the time between hospitals first noticing an uptick in flu patients and the CDC issuing a regional warning. Tsou and his colleagues, funded by a $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation, wanted to find a quicker, more efficient way to identify these patterns.

They selected 11 U.S. cities and monitored tweets originating from within a 17-mile radius of those cities. Whenever people tweeted the keywords "flu" or "influenza," the program would record characteristics about those tweets, including username, location, whether they were original tweets or retweets, and whether they linked to a Web site.

From June 2012 to the beginning of December, the algorithm recorded 161,821 tweets containing the word "flu," 6,174 containing "influenza."

Tsou compared his team's findings to regional data based on the CDC's definition of influenza-like illnesses (ILI). Nine of the 11 cities showed a statistically significant correlation between an increase in the number of tweets mentioning those keywords and regionally reported outbreaks.

Method picked up on outbreaks earlier

In five of those cities, Tsou's algorithm picked up on the outbreaks earlier than the regional reports. The cities with the strongest correlations were San Diego, Denver, Jacksonville, Seattle and Fort Worth.

"Traditional procedures take at least two weeks to detect an outbreak," Tsou said. "With our method, we're detecting daily."

Original tweets and tweets without Web site links also proved more predictive than retweets or those that did include links, possibly because original and non-linking tweets are more likely to reflect individuals posting about their own symptoms, Tsou said.

The next step in Tsou's ongoing research will be hunting for even finer-grained correlations between ILI data and specific symptomatic keywords like "cough," "sneeze," "congestion," and "sore throat."

Tsou envisions this kind of "infoveillance" applying to a range of public health, such as monitoring regional incidences of heart attack or diabetes. The project is connected to a larger SDSU initiative, Human Dynamics in the Mobile Age, one of the university's four recently selected Areas of Excellence. Tsou is a core faculty member for the initiative.

"In social media, there's a lot of noise in the data," Tsou said. "But if we can filter that noise out and focus on what's relevant, we can find all kinds of useful connections between real life and cyberspace."

Source: San Diego State University

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Healthy schools: HVAC tips for winter

Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning system keeps schools comfortable in colder months
Poor indoor air quality in schools may affect health and
well-being of students, teachers and staff.

Quality HVAC system design, operation and maintenance are critical for providing healthy IAQ in schools.

Properly functioning HVAC systems provide adequate ventilation, control odors and reduce the pollutants that cause most IAQ problems inside school buildings. In addition to improving occupant health and performance, regular HVAC maintenance saves energy.

In anticipation of the colder months, schools should pay special attention to their HAVC units, including:
  • Be aware of indoor humidity levels as the outside temperature drops. To protect health, comfort, the school building and its contents, it is important that indoor relative humidity be maintained below 60%, ideally between 30% and 50%.

Did You Know?

In colder climates, there can be operating conditions which will cause freezing within the energy recovery heat exchanger and it is often necessary to equip ERV systems with a frost control option.

  • Ensure that facilities and maintenance staff change filters on a regular basis. Air filters should have a dust-spot rating between 35% and 80% or a Minimum Efficiency Rating Value (MERV) between 8 and 13 depending on the compatibility of your air handling unit. The higher the MERV rating, the more particulates will be filtered.
  • Ensure proper ventilation as there are significant spatial and seasonal variations in the volume of air delivered by most HVAC systems. Learn more by checking out the ASHRAE Standard 62-2013.
  • Have a plan to ensure HVAC systems are functioning property over winter and holiday breaks. With intermittent building occupancy over breaks, outdoor air ventilation rates may need to be adjusted. Check all air registers to ensure that they are not obstructed by furniture or large objects that may have been moved inadvertently.

HVAC Resources

Checklist: Download and use the ventilation checklist. Tailor it to fit the needs of your individual school or district.

Software: The School Advanced Ventilation Engineering Software (SAVES) package is a tool to help school designers assess the potential financial payback and indoor humidity control benefits of Energy Recovery Ventilation (ERV) systems for school applications. Both SAVES software tools (the Energy Recovery Ventilation Financial Assessment Software Tool (EFAST) and the Indoor Humidity Assessment Tool (IHAT)) can be downloaded here.

Standards: School HVAC systems should be designed and operated to provide a minimum outdoor air ventilation rate consistent with current ASHRAE Standards 62.1. For classrooms, this standard is about 15 cubic feet per minute (cfm) of outdoor air per person.

Webinars: Poorly maintained HVAC units can lead to IAQ problems, such as mold issues. For additional information on how to create healthy learning environments in the winter, download the two webinars, Mold and Moisture: Double Trouble for Schools and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in Schools - Basics for Winter.
Source: EPA

Protect school's IAQ with air cleaners

While the HVAC system plays a major role in keeping a school's indoor air environment healthy and comfortable, many educational facilities are plagued by poor indoor air quality, which can negatively affect students, teachers and staff.
Electrocorp's RAP series
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Health, well-being and productivity may suffer when the air contains high levels of VOCs, mold, bacteria, viruses, allergens, particles and chemical fumes.

Apart from source control and ventilation, schools can improve their indoor air quality with a few well-placed indoor air cleaners. Electrocorp has designed a variety of indoor air purifiers for schools and universities that provide cleaner and more breathable air all day long.

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Optional UV germicidal filtration helps neutralize biological contaminants such as bacteria, viruses and mold.

For more information, contact Electrocorp and speak to an IAQ expert.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hospital health threat: Experts warn of post-anitbiotics era

Doctors issue new warning of devastating effect of over-prescribing antibiotics for trivial ailments

Hospital stays could become
too risky for many patients.
Routine operations could become deadly "in the very near future" as bacteria evolve to resist the drugs we use to combat them. This process could erase a century of medical advances, say government doctors in a special editorial in The Lancet health journal.

Although the looming threat of antibiotic, or anti-microbial, resistance has been known about for years, the new warning reflects growing concern that the NHS and other national health systems, already under pressure from ageing populations, will struggle to cope with the rising cost of caring for people in the "post-antibiotic era".

In a stark reflection of the seriousness of the threat, England's deputy chief medical officer, Professor John Watson, said: "I am concerned that in 20 years, if I go into hospital for a hip replacement, I could get an infection leading to major complications and possible death, simply because antibiotics no longer work as they do now."

About 35 million antibiotics are prescribed by GPs in England every year. The more the drugs circulate, the more bacteria are able to evolve to resist them.

In the past, drug development kept pace with evolving microbes, with a constant production line of new classes of antibiotics. But the drugs have ceased to be profitable and a new class has not been created since 1987.

Writing in The Lancet, experts, including England's chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, warn that death rates from bacterial infections "might return to those of the early 20th century". They write: "Rarely has modern medicine faced such a grave threat. Without antibiotics, treatments from minor surgery to major transplants could become impossible, and health-care costs are likely to spiral as we resort to newer, more expensive antibiotics and sustain longer hospital admissions."

Strategies to combat the rise in resistance include cutting the amount of antibiotics prescribed, improving hospital hygiene and incentivising the pharmaceutical industry to work on novel antibiotics and antibiotic alternatives.

Doctors pressured by patients to prescribe antibiotics

However, a leading GP told The Independent on Sunday that the time had come for the general public to take responsibility. "The change needs to come in patient expectation. We need public education: that not every ill needs a pill," said Dr Peter Swinyard, chairman of the Family Doctor Association.

"We try hard not to prescribe, but it's difficult in practice. The patient will be dissatisfied with your consultation, and is likely to vote with their feet, register somewhere else or go to the walk-in centre and get antibiotics from the nurse.

"But if we go into a post-antibiotic phase, we may find that people with pneumonia will not be treatable with an antibiotic, and will die, whereas at the moment they would live.

"People need to realise the link. If you treat little Johnny's ear infection with antibiotics, his mummy may end up dying of pneumonia. It's stark and it's, of course, not direct, but on a population-wide level, that's the kind of link we're talking about."

There are no reliable estimates of what resistance could cost health systems in the future, but the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control believes that €1.5bn (£1.2bn) a year is already being spent on health problems associated with antibiotic resistance in Europe.

Joanna Coast, professor of health economics at the University of Birmingham, said that the problem of resistance had the potential to "affect how entire health systems work".

Antibiotic resistance may be costly

Professor Coast added: "We don't know how big this is going to be. It's like the problems with planning for global warming. We know what the costs are now but we don't know what the costs will be into the future.

"Much of what we do in modern health system relies on us having antibiotics. We need them for prophylaxis for surgery, for people having chemotherapy for cancer. The worry is that it might make big changes to how we run our health system."

Antibiotics are also used in vast quantities in agriculture, fisheries and by vets, the resulting environmental exposure adding to bacterial resistance, with further consequences for human health.

Experts say that to meet demand without increasing resistance, drug companies will need to find new ways of financing antibiotic development that are not linked to expectations of large volume sales. Global health authorities such as the World Health Organisation have also warned that global drives to reduce antibiotic use must not harm access to life-saving drugs in poorer countries.

Writing in The Lancet, Professor Otto Cars of Uppsala University in Sweden, and one of the world's leading experts on antibiotic resistance, said: "Antibiotic resistance is a complex ecological problem which doesn't just affect people, but is also intimately connected with agriculture and the environment.

"We need to move on from 'blaming and shaming' among the many stakeholders who have all contributed to the problem, towards concrete political action and commitment to address this threat."

Clinics and hospitals benefit from cleaner air

Airborne bacteria, viruses are not the only threat in healthcare indoor environments - patients and staff are also breathing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), mold spores, particles and odors, among others.

Risks can be greatly reduced with source control, ventilation and air cleaning.

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Recommended air cleaners include Electrocorp's RAP series as well as the I-6500 series.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Asbestos registry law in effect in Canadian province

Saskatchewan first province to enact asbestos reporting legislation
Asbestos exposure can lead to life-threatening
illness and is a public health hazard, authorities say.
Nearly a year after the death of an advocate from cancer caused by asbestos exposure, the Saskatchewan government has officially enacted a law named after him — a law making it mandatory for public buildings containing the notorious mineral to report it.

The Public Health Amendment Act, also known as Howard’s Law, went into effect on Nov. 7. The law makes Saskatchewan the first Canadian province to enact legislation requiring a public registry of buildings known to contain asbestos.

Crown corporations, schools, health facilities and provincial government organizations must now report any asbestos content in their facilities to the Saskatchewan Asbestos Registry.

“At the present time, it’s mandatory for public buildings,” explained Don Morgan, Saskatchewan’s minister of labour relations and workplace safety. “That will include buildings owned by public sector entities, and it will be optional for building owners beyond that point. So if you are a large commercial landlord and you wish to list your buildings, you could, but we require it for hospitals, schools and that type of thing.”

The provincial government passed the act in the legislature after its third reading on April 18, five months after Saskatchewan launched a voluntary registry and an online information guide about buildings with asbestos.

Morgan anticipates that the new law will benefit the public in two ways: providing specific information about asbestos content in the province’s buildings, and raising public awareness of the general existence of the material.

The risk occurs if asbestos is accidentally disturbed
and asbestos fibers become airborne.

“It exists in a lot of buildings that were constructed before 1980,” he said. “In most of them, it’s encased and it’s not a factor. The problem arises when somebody will go in to change plumbing pipes or do electrical work and then will inadvertently disturb the asbestos, and it becomes airborne. The risk occurs if it’s accidentally disturbed or moved into the air,” Morgan said.

Howard’s Law is, in part, the legacy of the late Howard Willems, an asbestos awareness activist who worked for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency while co-chairing local oh&s committees (COHSN, Nov. 19, 2012). In 2010, Willems was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer linked to asbestos. He passed away on Nov. 8, 2012.

“We’ve accomplished everything that Howard set out to do,” said Jesse Todd, a health and safety officer in Saskatchewan and the chairman of the Saskatchewan Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (SADAO). “We’ve carried on in his name, in his honour, so it’s very gratifying to see this become law.”

Willems co-founded SADAO with fellow activist Bob Sass in 2010, out of the former Saskatchewan Ban Asbestos Committee.

Todd suggests that the other provinces — and the federal government, which has jurisdiction over a lot of buildings and facilities under the Canada Labour Code — need to consider adopting similar asbestos registries. “I believe that a registry would benefit those workers as well,” he said.

“There are some good regulations out there that do refer to how to deal with asbestos once it’s been identified. But the problem is, people do not have the tools available to them to identify where asbestos is prior to beginning a renovation of a building.”

Source: OHS Canada

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Smokers impact productivity, study says

Companies benefit from smoke-cessation
programs, study authors say.
A recent report from the Conference Board of Canada claims that employees who smoke have a strongly detrimental effect on their companies’ bottom line.

Smoking Cessation and the Workplace: Benefits of Workplace Programs, which was released on Oct. 29, is the third and last in a series of briefings by the Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care (CASHC) — a program run by the Conference Board — on how smoking affects the work environment.

Among the report’s revelations: a combination of decreased productivity and increased absenteeism resulted in an average yearly loss of $4,256 per daily smoker in Canada in 2012, a figure that is way up from the calculated $3,396 in 2005.

“The research is mostly health-focused, but we also looked at productivity losses, because we were trying to argue that it is in the best interests of the employers to actually do something about this,” explained study co-author Fares Bounajm, an economist with CASHC.

“They do actually have a lot to benefit from this. But the other major goal is obviously to reduce smoking.”

The study analyzed four different categories of costs attributed to smoking employees, putting dollar values on the losses.

Daily smokers increase absenteeism rates

Productivity loss, attributed mostly to unsanctioned smoke breaks, accounted for an average cost of $3,842 per daily smoker in 2012, with an additional $414 lost per daily smoker due to absenteeism. Daily smokers also tend to take about two-and-a-half more sick days a year than nonsmokers do, the study added.

“In a typical Canadian firm with 100 employees, 14 daily smokers and 15 former daily smokers who recently quit, this represents an annual productivity loss of nearly $60,000,” the study said. “The figure can be significantly higher in industries where smoking rates are typically well above average.”

In terms of costs that have a more indirect effect on employers, the Canadian economy lost about $7.1 billion in productivity in 2010 due to people who could not work because of chronic conditions resulting from smoking, including lung and bladder cancer, leukemia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart disease.

An additional $4.3 billion in long-term economic losses was due to the calculated 26,681 premature deaths attributable to the habit that same year.

Bounajm said that while employers shouldn’t necessarily be seen as responsible for helping their employees quit smoking, they do have a strong financial motivation to establish workplace smoking-cessation programs.

“Smokers do cost their employers money, and we know that a lot of the employees would like to quit,” he said.

“This could be a win-win situation for both the employers and many of the smokers that do want to quit, because the employers can implement a workplace cessation program, and by doing so, they can get a good return on their investment, because they can lower their productivity losses due to smoking. At the same time, the employees benefit because they become healthier and they achieve their goal of quitting smoking.”

Bounajm added that employers could add cessation aids to their company benefits plans. “We know that there are two types of aids that do work. We know that counseling works. We know that certain cessation aids work. And we know that combining them together actually works the best.”

The report estimated that an effective workplace cessation program could cause the prevalence rate of daily smokers in an average Canadian company to decrease by 35 per cent by 2025.

Source: OHS Canada

Keep indoor air healthy to boost productivity

Even with a ban on indoor smoking, smokers bring carconogenic particles and odors back indoors. Workers are also exposed to other indoor air contaminants in most workplaces, including allergens and dust, chemicals, fumes and odors as well as viruses, bacteria and mold.

A well-placed industrial-strength air cleaner can help provide cleaner and more breathable air, while removing potentially toxic indoor air contaminants.

Electrocorp's air cleaners remove airborne chemicals, gases and odors with a deep-bed activated carbon air filter, particles, allergens and dust with the best HEPA filters and biological contaminants with optional UV germicidal filtration.

Contact Electrocorp for more information and a free IAQ consultation.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Failure to disclose health risks dogs chemical company

Judge rules in favor of EPA and orders penalty

WASHINGTON – In an administrative decision issued earlier this week, Elementis Chromium, Inc., one of the largest manufacturers of chromium chemicals in the world, was ordered to pay a penalty of $2,571,800 for failing to disclose information about substantial risk of injury to human health from exposure to hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen.
The Toxic Substances Control Act
requires companies to disclose
information about health risks.

The company was required to report the risks to workers in modern chemical production plants, as required by the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

“Our job is to protect all Americans from exposure to harmful chemicals at home, at work and in their daily lives,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

“This decision supports our commitment to public health and reinforces the importance of companies providing key information about the risks their chemicals pose.”

TSCA requires chemical manufacturers, processors, or distributors that obtain information demonstrating that a substance or mixture presents a substantial risk of injury to human health or the environment immediately inform the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

This information allows EPA to understand and limit, when necessary, potential hazards associated with the manufacturing, use, and disposal of chemical substances.

In September 2010, EPA filed a complaint against Elementis with the Office of Administrative Law Judges, alleging TSCA violations for failing to report the results of an industry-commissioned study that documented significant occupational impacts to workers in modern chemical plants.

According to EPA, the study filled a gap in scientific literature regarding the relationship between hexavalent chromium exposure and respiratory cancer in modern chromium production facilities.

Chief Administrative Law Judge Susan Biro held an administrative hearing in December 2011, where both sides presented expert witnesses and additional evidence. On November 12, 2013, Judge Biro issued a decision and assessed a penalty, concluding that Elementis had violated TSCA.

This decision will become a final order 45 days following issuance unless the company chooses to appeal the decision to EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board.

Elementis, which is based in East Windsor, N.J., is a global specialty chemical company with operations worldwide.

Elementis has been manufacturing and distributing chromium-based chemical substances and mixtures for more than 35 years and has two main manufacturing plants in Castle Hayne, N.C., and Corpus Christi, Texas.

Source: EPA News release

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Chemical companies turn to new specialties for growth

A buy-sell strategy doesn't always work,
but it looks promising, experts say.
Triggered by the recession that began in 2008, major chemical companies are aggressively re-inventing themselves through multi-billion dollar overhauls, reports Chemical & Engineering News, the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society.

Rather than growing through the expansion of existing operations into emerging economies, which continue to suffer from the downturn, large chemical firms are now shedding some of those operations and investing in specialty areas with higher growth.

Marc S. Reisch, senior correspondent at C&EN, explains that in the past five years, three of the world's chemical giants — DuPont, Dow and Clariant — and others have acquired specialty companies positioned in areas where they see market potential.

The three companies are currently reorganizing by selling older chunks of their businesses.

The article points out that this buy-sell strategy doesn't always work, but so far, the approach is promising.

DuPont's 2011 purchase of industrial enzyme maker Danisco has been "a game changer" as it sheds its performance chemicals businesses.

Dow has forged its way into the advanced materials market in one fell swoop with the purchase of Rohm and Haas in 2009.

And Clariant, through its acquisition of the German company Süd Chemie in 2011, has added to its portfolio specialty chemicals, such as catalysts and battery materials, meanwhile selling off less desirable assets, such as their textile chemicals unit.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Grad student sues for toxic mold in housing

Toxic mold exposure can lead to
ill health and respiratory disease.
A UC Santa Cruz graduate student has filed a lawsuit against UCSC, seeking an excess of $25,000.

Matthew Richert and his wife, Lori George, are suing because they think the toxic mold in their campus apartment caused their daughter's severe respiratory problems.

The couple's daughter Libby, then 1, began to have breathing problems in October 2011, four months after the family arrived.

Santa Cruz doctors couldn't stabilize her, and transferred her to Stanford's pediatric intensive care unit. She spent the next three days in critical condition.

Libby, who was eventually diagnosed with asthma and allergic rhinitis, was hospitalized at Stanford three more times.

At first, the couple was unsure what triggered Libby's attacks, and took their older daughter out of preschool to minimize germ exposure.

The family started noticing mold on their walls in fall of 2011, around the same time Libby first got sick. They tried to manage it, but it returned.

In June 2012, Libby's doctor wrote a letter to UCSC housing requesting the family be transferred if the mold couldn't be removed. Richert and George filed five transfer requests in the following year.

In May, the family conducted an independent mold inspection, which showed five types of toxic mold known to cause severe asthma and allergic rhinitis growing in their apartment.

The university also conducted its own inspection around the same time, which showed damage to the walls. The university transferred the family to a hotel a few days later. The apartment remains unoccupied.

"It's very frustrating, it's very scary and we're not the only ones," George said.

In March 2009, more than 100 residents gathered at Family Student Housing to protest rising rent and substandard living conditions. Many complained that mold was growing in their apartments and allergy attacks kept their children up coughing at night.In April, then-resident Orville Canter collected 142 signatures from residents who said their units were infested with mold, despite cleaning and common-sense prevention methods.

Editor's note: This article has been edited for length.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Gymnasts face high exposure to flame retardants: Study

The foam used in gym equipment may
expose users to chemicals, study says.
Photo by Idea Go/
Competitive gymnasts have a higher exposure to potentially harmful flame-retardants than the general population, likely because such contaminants are present in foam used in gym equipment, a study led by Boston University School of Public Health researchers has found.

The study, published online in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, found that the average concentration of a flame-retardant known as PentaBDE in gymnasts' blood sera was 4 to 6.5 times higher than in general U.S. population groups.

Median concentrations of PentaBDE and related contaminants in hand-wipe samples from the gymnasts were 2 to 3 times higher after their practice, compared to before, indicating that the gymnasts contacted the flame-retardants during practice.

Concentrations of the flame-retardants were much higher in gym air and dust than in comparison residences where they are used in foam-containing furniture. Flame-retardants escape from polyurethane foam over time and accumulate in the air and dust of indoor environments.

"Despite the U.S. phase-out of PentaBDE production nearly a decade ago, large amounts are still in use," the research team said.

Further, replacement flame-retardants are being used in newly manufactured foam pit cubes and landing mats, "suggesting the potential for increasing exposure to these compounds, as older gym equipment is replaced. Additional research is needed to confirm these findings and improve our understanding of gymnast exposures."

The researchers suggested that the risks of ingesting flame-retardants, through dust and contact, could be reduced by hand-washing after practice and before eating.

Study focused on exposure, not health effects

While the study did not examine health effects, previous research has suggested that PentaBDE may affect brain development in children and fertility in women, although results are preliminary and warrant further study.

Almost all Americans have detectable levels of PentaBDE in their bodies, due to both exposure in the indoor environment and diet.

PentaBDE congeners are endocrine disruptors that have been associated with changes in thyroid hormones in several epidemiologic studies.

Due to concerns about its persistence and toxicity, PentaBDE was banned in the European Union in 2004 and phased-out of production in the U.S in 2005, although foam products containing it are still in use.

Restrictions on the use of PentaBDEs have resulted in the increased use of other flame-retardants, such as tris (1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate (TDCPP) and Firemaster 550.

The research team recruited 11 collegiate female gymnasts, ages 18−22, from one gym and collected hand-wipe and blood samples from them after a gymnastics practice, which lasted about 2 ½ hours. They also measured concentrations of bromine in the foam of landing mats, pit cubes and other materials. They collected samples of dust and foam from a second gym.

PentaBDE was the dominant flame-retardant in dust collected from all locations in both gyms. Most of the pit cubes, in use for years, contained PentaBDE. Local fire codes may require gyms to use flame-retardant foam.

The researchers said personal exposure to PentaBDE and other flame-retardants may vary between gymnasts, depending on the contaminants present and personal factors, such as training duration and activities, hand-washing and bathing frequency, diet and exposure to sources in other environments.

They noted that the study findings were not generalizable to all gymnasts, many who may train less frequently.

The team said future research on gymnasts should include a larger sample size and seek to identify the primary exposure pathways, to inform recommendations for reducing exposure.

Keep dust and air contaminants in check with air cleaners

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Monday, November 18, 2013

OSHA announces programmed inspections of toxic chemical industries

OSHA aims to reduce occupational
illnesses and deaths.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration is launching a local emphasis program in Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri for programmed health inspections of industries known to use hazardous chemicals and who have reported release of such chemicals to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The goal is to reduce occupational illnesses and deaths,

"This local emphasis program will make efficient use of OSHA's industrial hygiene resources by focusing on industrial sites that are known to have released EPA-monitored hazardous chemicals," said Marcia Drumm, acting regional administrator for OSHA in Kansas City.

"Through this program, OSHA will improve education for company management and strengthen protections for workers exposed to these chemicals."

Chemicals reported to the EPA that have been released into the environment include ammonia; barium, chromium and copper compounds; hydrochloric acid; hydrogen fluoride; lead and manganese compounds; N-hexane; styrene; sulfuric acid; and nitrate, vanadium and zinc compounds.

Industries will be selected for inspection based on site-specific chemical release data from the EPA's TRI Explorer database, which lists industry establishments that have released chemical quantities equal to or exceeding 100,000 pounds.

OSHA has created a toolkit to identify safer chemicals that can be used in place of more hazardous ones. The toolkit is available here.

Local emphasis programs are enforcement strategies designed and implemented at the regional and/or area office levels.

These programs are intended to address hazards in industries that pose a particular risk to workers in the office's jurisdiction.

Often times, these local emphasis programs are accompanied by outreach intended to make employers in the area aware of the program, as well as the hazards that the programs are designed to reduce or eliminate.

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.

Source: OSHA

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Friday, November 15, 2013

BC Sawmills inspected for explosive dust buildup

Third inspection since Babine Forest Products worker fatalities

Sawmill workers can be exposed to high levels of dust
and occupational health and safety risks.
Inspectors are heading back to 150 British Columbia sawmills over the next three months to ensure the operations are doing everything possible to reduce the buildup of potentially explosive wood dust.

WorkSafeBC said that a team of 10 officers will inspect the mills between Nov. 1 and Jan. 31, as part of a drive to reduce dust levels aggravated by the processing of pine beetle-killed timber.

"We've been into these mills before a number of times and we just want to ensure that the progress we've seen in the mills to address dust continues, and the compliance with wood-dust management really is being sustained,'' said Al Johnson, vice-president of prevention services at WorkSafeBC.

This is the third white-glove inspection for the mills since dust accumulation was implicated in an explosion and fire that killed 45-year-old Robert Luggie and 42-year-old Carl Charlie at the Babine Forest Products operation in Burns Lake on Jan. 20, 2012. The blast leveled the mill and injured 20 other people.

An investigation conducted by WorkSafeBC concluded that dry wood dust, which had accumulated from pine beetle-killed wood, fueled an explosion ignited by machine parts.

A second fatal mill explosion occurred in April 2012 at the Lakeland Mills in Prince George. Two workers, Alan Little and Glenn Roche, died in the fiery blast.

The cause of that disaster hasn't been revealed by investigators, as WorkSafeBC has asked the Crown to review whether the companies or any individuals could be charged for violations of the Workers Compensation Act.

The organization's officers have carried out more than 1,000 inspections of sawmills and other wood processing operations since the combustible dust safety initiative began in late April 2012.

Johnson noted all sawmills in B.C. complied with an order to cut buildup, and he said the upcoming round of checks will also focus on preventative maintenance of equipment and machinery, and dust control.

"We want to make sure that those dust collection systems, where they're removing dust mechanically and then transferring it through piping into a collection system, we want to make sure that those systems are working as they should,'' he said.

The inspection protocol will also be slightly different this time, as the inspection period is shorter and the team is smaller, said Johnson.

Oregon-based Hampton Affiliates Ltd. is rebuilding the Burns Lake sawmill, which is expected to reopen in 2014. Reconstruction of Lakeland Mills began in the summer.

Source: OHS Canada

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

TCE soil vapor intrusion fears in Como

Soil vapor intrusion allows contaminants
to enter homes and businesses.
Minnesota health and pollution officials are holding community forums to discuss efforts to discuss efforts to handle TCE, a degreasing solvent that may be invading homes in the Como area of southeast Minneapolis.

TCE, which stands for trichloroethylene, had been dumped from 1947 to 1962 in a pit behind a now-defunct General Mills plant.

The state is asking some 200 property owners near Van Cleve Park to allow testing in their basements to determine whether TCE vapors in the soil below their foundations are finding a way into their homes.

Prolonged, substantial exposure to TCE has been linked to certain cancers such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as well as birth defects.

While there is no evidence that cancer or other health problems are more prevalent in the neighborhood, state officials said they are acting out of caution as science has revealed more about the way TCE can evaporate from groundwater and rise through soils.

The neighborhood’s TCE problem has been known since the early 1980s, when the old General Mills property at 2010 E. Hennepin Av. was declared a federal Superfund cleanup site.

General Mills agreed to pay for the pumping and treatment of groundwater to remove traces of the chemical.

Groundwater treatment continued until 2010, when the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency declared it was safe to halt the cleanup — but monitoring since that time found TCE in the soil gas below the surface.

Forty tests were conducted on the soil under sidewalks and streets in a wide section of the Como neighborhood near the old General Mills site. Thirteen sites showed TCE rates above residential air safety standards, allowing health officials to pinpoint a 16-block area trailing southwest from the plant to Van Cleve.

Tests and remedies

General Mills has agreed to arrange and pay for testing for TCE, at a cost of about $1,000 per property, as well as the $2,000-per-property cost of fixing homes or businesses if TCE is found. In most cases, the solution will be a ventilation system similar to the ones used in homes to remove radon.

The company previously paid to remove contaminated soil from the site of its former food and chemical research plant, which has since been sold and redeveloped into small-business offices.

To assess any potential health problems, the Health Department has reviewed data from its registries of all birth defects and cancer cases in the state. The 55414 ZIP code, which includes the Como neighborhood, does not have a higher rate of birth defects.

A review of the cancer database is ongoing.

Editor's note: This article has been edited.
Source: Star Tribune

Battle soil vapor intrusion with carbon air cleaners

Many homes and businesses may suffer from soil vapor intrusion, which can expose residents and workers to contaminated air.

Electrocorp has designed a variety of industrial-strength air cleaners with many pounds of activated carbon and HEPA to remove such contaminants as TCE and varius other chemicals, gases, odors, fumes, particles and more.

Electrocorp works with environmental consultants and government experts to provide cleaner and healthier air where it's needed.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Recycling plant fined for lack of respiratory protection

Companies may have to pay large fines
if they fail to protect workers.
EAST TROY, Wis. – Strategic Materials Inc., a glass and plastic recycling company, has been cited for 11 health violations carrying proposed fines of $82,000.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration found a repeat violation involving the company's failure to develop and implement a respiratory protection program following a May complaint inspection of the East Troy facility.

"Strategic Materials must protect the respiratory health of its workers and maintain a workplace free of known hazards," said Kim Stille, OSHA's area director in Madison. "As one of the nation's leading recycling companies, it should know the hazards unique to the industry."

A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

Similar violations were cited in August 2012 at the company's Sarasota, Fla., facility.

Nine serious violations include failing to prevent workplace exposure to airborne concentrations of dust and lead above the eight-hour time-weighted average limit; prevent excessive accumulation of combustible dust; provide respiratory protection; have a hearing conservation program; implement engineering controls for dust accumulation; and have training on the bloodborne pathogen standards and hazardous chemicals in use 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.

One other-than-serious violation involves failing to train forklift operators. 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.

The Houston-based company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Previously inspected by OSHA at several of its 40 locations nationwide, this was the first at the company's East Troy facility.

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

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Class action lawsuit over fumes from paper mill

The Georgia Court of Appeals found that a group of property owners claiming hydrogen sulfide gas emissions from a paper mill had damaged their property had demonstrated sufficient commonality to warrant class certification.

The certified class included the owners of 34 residential properties and 33 parcels zoned for industrial, agricultural and other uses in an area around the mill, who brought nuisance, negligence, and trespass claims alleging injuries from hydrogen sulfide fumes released by the mill.

Lower property values and health issues because of fumes
were cited at the class certification hearing
At the class certification hearing, plaintiffs presented testimony from the mill’s environmental manager that the noxious fumes could be detected within a four-mile radius of the mill. G

In addition, plaintiffs also offered the affidavit of a real estate appraiser who testified that the fumes would decrease the market value of the residents’ properties. The trial court issued an order certifying the class, and the Defendants appealed.

Among other arguments, defendants claimed that plaintiffs failed to establish the “commonality” element necessary for class certification because individual landowners were affected in different ways and sustained varying amounts of harm.

In affirming the lower court’s decision, the Georgia high court ruled 4-3 that a number of issues were common to the class, including issues surrounding defendant Georgia-Pacific’s operation of the mill, its implementation of safety programs, as well as the overall effects of the noxious emissions on landowners.

Three dissenting judges raised common injury and damages concerns, noting that the plaintiffs had alleged a variety of medical issues and property damages.

Also, the dissenters warned “significant trial time would be devoted to determining separate issues of liability,” because the plaintiffs had not presented sufficient evidence that the fumes actually affected a majority of the homes in the class area or adequate proof that the fumes were the proximate cause of the alleged property damage.

Battle indoor air pollution and fumes with industrial-strength air cleaners

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Monday, November 11, 2013

EPA helps keep schools green and healthy

Students and staff can suffer from
poor indoor air quality in schools.
PHILADELPHIA – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is encouraging healthy school environments in a new exhibit "Lessons for a Green and Healthy School," a walk-through classroom exhibit that demonstrates techniques to create a green and healthy school environment.

The exhibit is on display at EPA's Public Information Center at 1650 Arch Street.

"This display showcases EPA’s strategies, programs, and resources that protect the health of children and staff when they are in school, where they spend about 25 percent of their time every year," said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin. "The exhibit contains practical advice and techniques that school administrators can put in place."

Green school buildings and education are vital to the development and learning of every student. And a green schools benefits teachers and other staff as well because they, too, work better when the indoor air and other conditions are healthy.

The exhibit focuses on five central lessons: energy efficiency, integrated pest management, air quality, storm water management, and green cleaning materials. The lessons cover a number of EPA programs that are showcased in the exhibit including: Tools for Schools; Energy Star; Integrated Pest Management; and Design for the Environment.

Running through January 2014, the exhibit is free and open to the public. EPA’s Public Information Center is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. All visitors who are 18 and older must show a valid photo ID and go through security before entering the exhibit area.

For more information, visit EPA’s Public Information Center website.
Source: EPA

Protect children and staff from poor IAQ at school

Young children and teachers spend a lot of time inside school buildings - it's too bad, then, that so many schools and universities suffer from poor indoor air quality that can impact students and staff alike in terms of their health, productivity and well-being.

Many schools expose children and adults to airborne contaminants such as mold spores, chemicals, particles, allergens and fumes. Better ventilation, source control and air cleaning can help provide cleaner and healthier air.

Electrocorp's air cleaners for schools and universities feature a wall of granular activated carbon for the removal of airborne chemicals, odors and fumes, a HEPA filter for particles and dust and optional UV germicidal filtration for the neutralization of bacteria, viruses and mold.

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Friday, November 8, 2013

Laser cutting market poised to grow

The laser cutting and engraving market is
experiencing a positive growth trend.
Dallas, TX -- According to a new market research report "Laser Cutting, Drilling, Marking and Engraving Market by Technology (Co2 Laser, Excimer Laser, ND: YAG Laser, Fiber Laser); Base Material (Metals, Polymers); Application (Electronics, Machine Part Marking, Medical, Signage) & Geography- (2013 – 2018)" , the value of laser processing market was $2.08 billion in 2012 and is expected to reach $3.77 billion in 2018, at an estimated CAGR of 9.71% from 2013 to 2018.

The material processing tasks both micro-processing and macro-processing were earlier done with the help of mechanical tools such as saw cutters, drill bits and so on.

However, the technological developments and rapid adoption of lasers for the material processing purpose in previous decade changed the market scenario vastly.

Apart from outclassing mechanical tools in every comparison, the laser processing market is experiencing a positive growth trend because of the boost from the government bodies, regulatory bodies, and associations of various kinds.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) making it compulsory to have wires and parts to laser marked or Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pushing manufacturers to mark equipments and drug packages are just few examples of the growing usage of laser material processing techniques.

Along with such drivers, the report analyses restraints and opportunities pertaining to the laser material processing.

The entire market is divided in to various segments and micro-markets. The segments discussed in the report are: technology, process types, machine configuration types, verticals, applications, and geographical market distribution.

Each of the above mentioned segments is further broken down into sub-categories. Apart from the quantitative datasets, the report also analyses the parameters such as; value chain analysis, porters five force analysis, and impact analysis of market dynamics (drivers, restraints, and opportunities).

Source: MarketsandMarkets

Protect your IAQ during laser cutting

Electrocorp's RSU series:
Powerful air cleaners for
laser cutting and engraving.
The process of laser engraving and laser cutting can emit dangerous fumes and chemicals. Prolonged exposure to these indoor air pollutants can affect worker health, well-being and productivity as well as the machine's lifespan.

Electrocorp has designed a range of indoor air purifiers for laser engravers and laser cutters that can remove airborne chemicals, particles and other contaminants.

The air cleaners feature a wall of activated carbon as well as a HEPA and various pre-filters for best results. Negative and positive air configurations are available.

Recommended air cleaners for laser cutting and engraving:

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Hotel owner settles for asbestos violations

Materials containing asbestos need to be disposed of properly.
Image by Michelle Meiklejohn/
BBA Winchester LLC, the owner of a former hotel located in Winchester, Idaho has settled with EPA and agreed to pay a $21,000 fine for asbestos safety and environmental violations from improper demolition of the hotel.

“This is an unfortunate example that when asbestos is not properly removed before demolition, the entire debris pile becomes contaminated, putting people at risk, and greatly increasing disposal costs,” said Scott Downey, Manager of the Air and Hazardous Waste Compliance Unit at the EPA Seattle office.

“Because this owner failed to check for asbestos before demolition, their $2,000 demolition project ballooned into a $55,000 asbestos waste cleanup and disposal problem.”

In response to public complaints, EPA inspected the demolition site of the former hotel in 2012. BBA Winchester LLC demolished the 100-year-old hotel in late 2011 or early 2012, without first inspecting the building for asbestos, removing asbestos materials, or notifying EPA, as required by law.

Unsecured debris prompts health concerns

The demolition was in a residential neighborhood and the contaminated debris was unsecured for more than a year, prompting community concerns about asbestos health risks.

EPA inspectors collected samples from the site that showed the demolition debris contained regulated asbestos waste. After confirming the debris was contaminated, EPA worked with BBA Winchester LLC to clean up the contaminated debris and ensure proper disposal.

Follow-up testing after the cleanup showed that the soil and remaining concrete and glass did not contain asbestos and could be disposed of as normal demolition debris.

Asbestos is a hazardous air pollutant regulated by EPA to protect public health. Building owners and contractors are required to check for asbestos and then remove it before demolition to protect workers and the public from exposure to asbestos fibers.

When inhaled, asbestos fibers can lodge in a person’s lungs and lead to respiratory illness including lung cancer, mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer, and asbestosis, a serious progressive lung disease.

More information about asbestos and safe demolition can be found here.

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Update: Study on effects of welding fumes on women

Welding fumes can affect workers'
health and well-being.
An ongoing study focusing on female workers' exposure to welding fumes and metal dust in metalworking and electrical trades has published some preliminary findings.

The researchers report that the study is now recruiting women from all provinces and territories across Canada, who can complete the questionnaires either in French or English by telephone.

Originally, the study focused on female workers in the province of Alberta. Participants can also complete the questionnaires online.

Up until this point, 531 women have completed the baseline questionnaire and 415 women have completed the first of the questionnaire about exposures at work.

The earliest participants are now nearing their 30 month follow-up questionnaire online or by telephone, having been enrolled for over two years.

Preliminary results focus on metal levels

At the time of their first exposure questionnaire early participants were asked to send in a urine sample so that we could examine the relationship between work and the level of metals inside the body.

There were 107 women who were working in their trade and provided a urine sample at the time of their first exposure questionnaire. This group included 56 welders and 51 electricians. Each urine sample was analyzed for a series of metals possibly related to work in the trades.

The result suggested that welders had higher levels of metals than the electricians, but the differences were small in most cases.

The researchers next looked at whether the metal levels differed depending on the tasks that were carried out on the last day at work before giving the sample.

Among electricians there were no differences in the metal levels, regardless of the tasks on that day. However, among welders, there were differences: those who reported stick welding had higher metal levels than women who did not do stick welding.

In addition, welders who reported TIG welding had lower metal levels than those who did not do TIG welding. We are continuing to analyze these metal levels and will have more results to share in future updates.

For those interested in participating can join the WHAT-ME study at or write to or call 1-866-492-6093.

Blog posts of interest:

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Mold in nose leads to sick building lawsuit and settlement

Plaintiff settled after becoming sick
from toxic mold exposure.
A former prosecutor in Florida has settled a “sick building” suit that claimed the mold in her sinuses was caused by the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale.

Stefanie Krathen Ginnis will receive $166,500 in a settlement approved by county commissioners on Tuesday, the Sun Sentinel reports.

She was among 19 current and former courthouse employees who sued and was the first to settle.

The plaintiffs claimed they became sick as a result of toxic mold and asbestos fibers at the courthouse.

Ginnis’ husband, Eric Ginnis, was also a plaintiff. He told the Sun Sentinel his wife had “strong evidence” of cause because the mold found in her nose during complex sinus surgery matched the mold in the courthouse.

Stefanie Krathen Ginnis worked at the courthouse from 2003 to 2010.

Assistant County Attorney Tony Rodriguez said the settlement doesn’t signal that the county is willing to settle all the cases.

"We have to look at all of these on a case-by-case basis,” he told the Sun Sentinel.

Construction has begun on a new courthouse and could be completed in about two years.

Source: ABA Journal

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Monday, November 4, 2013

Renewable chemicals industry booming

Companies use renewable chemicals derived from rosemary, potato, spearmint, marigold and many other plants

WASHINGTON — Nearly two decades ago, Kemin Industries began toiling in its labs with rosemary, convinced the perennial herb had a future beyond its traditional use as a fragrance or flavoring additive in popular food dishes.

Today, the Des Moines-based nutritional ingredients company produces extract from rosemary that is used by Fortune 500 companies to extend the shelf life in pet food, cereal, meats, salad dressings, skin creams and other products — replacing chemicals produced synthetically in the lab.

The growth of renewable chemicals such as rosemary extract has been spurred by a volatile marketplace for petroleum, a common ingredient used to make packaging.
Marigold plant is used in dietary supplements,
food, personal care and cosmetic products.
Photo by Keattikorn/

Consumers also are demanding more natural ingredients in their favorite products without having to pay more for them.

Major companies such as Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart and Procter & Gamble are among the business giants that have taken notice, using renewable chemicals to replace those made with petroleum in packaging, cleaning products and cosmetics.

Food companies have joined in the move by spending millions of dollars on research to develop new ingredients produced by Mother Nature for their packaged goods.

Kemin’s work extends beyond rosemary to include the marigold, which contains a molecule, lutein, that helps protect and maintain eye and skin health. The company also has done work with a potato that has a protein used by dietary supplement makers in weight management products. The protein signals to a person’s brain that his stomach is full.

A decade ago, less than 5 percent of what Kemin sold came from plants; now it’s 35 percent — totaling $200 million in sales annually. It’s expected to hit 50 percent by 2016.

The overall renewable chemical ingredient market is expected to top $83 billion by 2018, compared with $57 billion this year, according to the research firm Markets and Markets. In the United States alone, the Agriculture Department estimates more than 3,000 companies currently manufacture or distribute biobased products.

To be sure, renewable chemicals face their own series of obstacles before they can be widely used in the marketplace. Researchers and manufacturers must prove to their buyers that the replacement chemical performs as well as or better than its traditional counterpart and can be made for at least the same price.

Similar to many new technologies, the initial cost can be prohibitive and restrict broader use of the technology. But over time, changes and improvements help foster wider use.

Editor's note: This article has been edited for length.

Remove airborne chemicals with the right air cleaner

Whether it's synthetic or natural chemicals, the odors and fumes may be affecting workers' health and well-being.

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Friday, November 1, 2013

Poor IAQ affects Jamaican workers

Sick building syndrome is affecting
workers worldwide.
Scores of Jamaicans are getting sick at work because of the poor quality of the air inside the buildings.

Employees who have experienced symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, trouble concentrating, and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and lungs at work could all be facing poor indoor air quality.

However, the Jamaica Occupational Health Professionals' Association (JOHPA) notes that this is not unique to Jamaica.

"A growing body of scientific evidence has indicated that the air within buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air, even the largest and most industrialized cities," JOHPA said in a release last week.

"Other research indicates that people spend approximately 90 per cent of their time indoors. Thus, for many people, the risks to health may be greater due to exposure to air pollution indoors than outdoors," added JOHPA.

Paradigm shift

It noted that as the world focuses on occupational health and safety, the paradigm is shifting towards air quality and the severe health effects that result from breathing poor-quality air.

"This begs the question: if the ambient air is polluted, what about the indoor environment?"

There are several factors that contribute to poor indoor air quality. These include inadequate ventilation, problems controlling temperature, too high or too low humidity, recent remodeling, and other activities in or near a building that can affect the adequacy and quality of fresh air into the building.

Contaminants such as dust from construction or renovation, mold, cleaning supplies, pesticides, or other airborne contaminants may also contribute to poor indoor air quality.

The issue is close to the heart of Opposition Senator Kavan Gayle, who heads the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU).

The BITU represents thousands of Jamaican workers.

Gayle has tabled questions in the Senate about the outstanding occupational safety legislation to amend the 73-year-old Factories Act.

He has also tabled a motion that the issue be debated and that the Government bring a bill to Parliament to enact new legislation.

According to Gayle, Jamaica must move quickly away from the 1940s Factories Act, "to a more comprehensive Occupational Safety and Health Act".

Justice Minister Mark Golding has said he expects the chief parliamentary counsel to deliver a draft of the Occupational Safety and Health Act to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security this week.

Gayle, meanwhile, said the OSHA should include equitable global health and safety standards, as Jamaica competes in a global environment.

'Allergies and sinusitis'

"You go into a building and the minute you enter you start coughing or sneezing. It means the air quality in that room is compromised, because of simple things, among them dirty air-conditioning ducts," argued Gayle.

He noted that the exposure to poor air quality in buildings could cause employees to develop "allergies and sinusitis".

The president general of the BITU suggested that employers could improve the quality of air inside a building by doing the simple things, such as removing a dirty carpet.

"Take up the carpet and you will see how health is improved," he said.

Gayle further argued that employees' health is compromised when a building is painted while they are at work, or a desk varnished a day before usage.

"Both employee and clients are exposed to the poisonous fumes," stated Gayle.

"What should be in place are the checks and balances to ensure that companies provide the proper working conditions for all workers, and to protect workers, for their own safety, in a way that goes outside of just checking a building," Gayle said.

Poisonous internal air quality and the effects on the health of employees over the long term will be the main focus of a JOHPA seminar this Wednesday.

This seminar will provide in-depth, up-to-date and relevant information and research on the present paradigm in building design operation and maintenance.

It will also focus on the alarming potential number of workers exposed to sick building syndrome (SBS), the economic impact of SBS for Jamaica, the spread of diseases in the working environment, and practical guidance for improving and maintaining the indoor environment.

Concerned about the indoor air quality at your workplace? Remove airborne chemicals, particles, allergens, mold spores, odors, fumes and other contaminants with industrial and commercial air cleaners by Electrocorp. For more information, contact Electrocorp directly.