Health
PubMed | 27 July 2016

Association Between Unconventional Natural Gas Development in the Marcellus Shale and Asthma Exacerbations

Asthma is common and can be exacerbated by air pollution and stress. Unconventional natural gas development (UNGD) has community and environmental impacts. In Pennsylvania, UNGD began in 2005, and, by 2012, 6,253 wells had been drilled. There are no prior studies of UNGD and objective respiratory outcomes.

A nested case-control study compared patients with asthma with and without exacerbations from 2005 through 2012 treated at the Geisinger Clinic, which provides primary care services to more than 400,000 patients in Pennsylvania. Patients with asthma aged 5 to 90 years (n = 35,508) were identified in electronic health records; those with exacerbations were frequency matched on age, sex, and year of event to those without.

The study identified 20,749 mild, 1,870 moderate, and 4,782 severe asthma exacerbations and frequency matched these to 18,693, 9,350, and 14 ,104 control index dates, respectively.

Residential UNGD activity metrics were statistically associated with increased risk of mild, moderate, and severe asthma exacerbations. Whether these associations are causal awaits further investigation, including more detailed exposure assessment.

National Center for Biotechnology Information, US National Library of Medicine | 12 July 2016

Occupational Health: Meeting the Challenges of the Next 20 Years

The industrial revolution that took place in the UK between 1760 and 1830 led to profound social change. Occupational medicine was concerned with the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of occupational diseases, that is, diseases directly caused by exposure to workplace hazards. A similar pattern of development has occurred globally.

The international conceptualization and development of occupational health occurred during the 20th century. A new paradigm for occupational health has emerged that extends the classical focus on what might be termed “health risk management,” that is, the focus on workplace hazards and risk to health to include the medical aspects of sickness absence and rehabilitation, the support and management of chronic noncommunicable diseases, and workplace health promotion.

The future strategic direction for occupational health will be informed by a needs analysis and a consideration of where it should be positioned within future healthcare provision. What are the occupational health workforce implications of the vision for occupational health provision? New challenges and new ways of working will necessitate a review of the competence and capacity of the occupational health workforce, with implications for future workforce planning.

This paper examines the evolution that has taken place in occupational medicine and occupational health (OH) from the second half of the 20th century and discusses the paradigm shift in practice that is now faced by OH practitioners. New challenges and new ways of working will necessitate a review of the competence and capacity of the OH workforce, with implications for future workforce planning.

Rigzone | 5 July 2016

Mental Health Awareness Increasing Within Oil, Gas Industry

Mindfulness-based stress management is growing in popularity across the oil and gas industry as the sector responds to a rise in mental health awareness, said Steve Smith, Robert Gordon University senior lecturer in mental health and wellbeing.

“Approaches involving mindfulness meditation are attracting increased attention as the benefits of this skills-based technique are becoming recognized,” he said.

The fall in oil price and its effect on the economic state of the industry, resulting in thousands of redundancies, has meant that stress-related conditions such as anxiety and depression have become important issues within the sector, Smith said.

“The economic uncertainty has resulted in a rise in stress-related problems, causing issues for organizations as they come to realize that the mental health of their workforce is a major asset to be protected,” he said.

“We already know that stress related illness is one of the major causes of sickness related absence in industry. Work related stress accounted for almost half (43 percent) of all days lost to the British economy in 2014/15, with 440,000 workers affected and a total of 9.9 million days lost…While every employer is aware of the need to protect employees from the effects of harmful and toxic work environments, some are coming to see the benefits of proactively protecting the mental wellbeing of their workforce too,” Smith added.

Smith is currently working with North Sea oil and gas companies as they seek new ways to proactively protect their workforce from the harmful effects of work-related stress. Mindfulness-based approaches are one of the more accessible mental health solutions used by organizations of all sizes and across all sectors, encouraging participants to focus on what is happening now as opposed to becoming engaged in thoughts of future or past events.

PubMed | 22 June 2016

Control of Occupational Exposure to Phenol in Industrial Wastewater Treatment Plant of a Petroleum Refinery in Alexandria, Egypt: An Intervention Application Case Study

Phenol exposure is one of the hazards in the industrial wastewater treatment basin of any refinery. It additively interacts with hydrogen sulfide emitted from the wastewater basin. Consequently, its concentration should be greatly lower than its threshold limit value.

The present study aimed at controlling occupational exposure to phenol in the work environment of wastewater treatment plant in a refinery by reducing phenolic compounds in the industrial wastewater basin. This study was conducted on both laboratory and refinery scales.

The first was completed by dividing each wastewater sample from the outlets of different refinery units into three portions; the first was analyzed for phenolic compounds, the second and third were for laboratory scale charcoal and bacterial treatments. The two methods were compared regarding their simplicity, design, and removal efficiency. Accordingly, bacterial treatment by continuous flow of sewage water containing Pseudomonas aeruginosa was used for refinery-scale treatment.

Laboratory scale treatment of phenolic compounds revealed higher removal efficiency of charcoal [100.0 (0.0) %] than of bacteria [99.9 (0.013) %]. The refinery-scale bacterial treatment was [99.8 (0.013) %] efficient. Consequently, level of phenol in the work environment after refinery scale treatment [0.069 (0.802) mg/m3] was much lower than that before [5.700 (26.050) mg/m3], with removal efficiency of [99.125 (2.335) %].

From the present study, we can conclude that bacterial treatment of phenolic compounds in industrial wastewater of the wastewater treatment plant using continuous flow of sewage water containing Pseudomonas aeruginosa reduces the workers’ exposure to phenol.

PubMed | 22 June 2016

Altered Executive Function in Welders: A Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study

Chronic exposure to manganese (Mn) can lead to impairments in motor and cognitive functions. Several recent studies reported Mn-induced executive dysfunction.

The present study compared the neural correlates of ongoing executive function of welders and healthy controls. Fifty-three welders and 44 healthy controls were enrolled. Participants were given functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans and performed two modified versions of the Wisconsin Card Sorting Task (WCST) that differed in cognitive demand, and a task that established a high-level baseline (HLB) condition. Card-sorting tests and word-color tests were also used to assess executive performance.

Neural activation of the bilateral superior-frontal cortex, right-inferior parietal cortex, and bilateral insula cortex were greater in healthy controls than in welders when contrasting the difficult version of the WCST with the HLB. There were also correlations between executive functions by the card-sorting test and word-color test and brain activation in the insula cortex using the WCST.

Results indicated that welders had altered neural processing related to executive function in the prefrontal cortex under conditions of high cognitive demand. Welders also had less activation of the insula cortex, a part of a larger network comprising the lateral prefrontal cortex and parietal cortex.

Coloradoan | 15 June 2016

Colorado To Assess Human Health Risks of Hydraulic Fracturing

The results of a 3-year Colorado State University (CSU) study on air emissions from natural gas extraction will fuel a state assessment of the human health risks posed by hydraulic fracturing.

Former CSU student Bradley Wells collects air samples downwind of a well pad as part of a CSU study on emissions from natural gas extraction. Photo courtesy of CSU.

A team of CSU researchers carried out the USD 1.7 million study in Garfield County in northwest Colorado, a major hub for oil and gas activity.

The team’s goal was to collect and quantify emissions of volatile organic compounds, a major player in smog development, and methane, a potent greenhouse gas that traps more heat than carbon dioxide. As explained in a CSU press release, the team examined emissions from three natural gas extraction activities: drilling, hydraulic fracturing, and flowback.

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health | 26 May 2016

Can the Workplace Be a Social Health Network?

With recent changes to health care and the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, many companies are implementing workplace health programs and initiatives. Although this is a positive step toward facilitating a healthy workforce, it remains to be seen whether simply having programs will result in better health.

In order to measure the success or progress toward achieving total worker health (TWH), organizations need to do more than just tally up the number of worker safety, health, and well-being programs they have in place. Equally important is workers’ perspective of the climate for health that exists within the organization. Social climate has an impact on the decisions (including health decisions) that individuals make as well as the resources that are available to make those decisions. To maximize the impact of workplace health and safety programs, support for initiatives needs to come from three levels: the organization, the supervisors, and fellow workers.

A new tool has been developed for organizations to identify possible shortcomings in any one of these three facets of health climate, the Multifaceted Organizational Heath Climate Assessment (MOHCA) scale. Research findings have shown that strength in all three facets of health climate are associated with improvements in health and well-being outcomes.

PubMed | 23 May 2016

Association Between Occupational Exposure to Benzene and Chromosomal Alterations in Lymphocytes of Brazilian Petrochemical Workers Removed From Exposure

This paper investigates the association between chronic exposure to benzene and genotoxicity in the lymphocytes of workers removed from exposure. The study included 20 workers with hematological disorders who had previously worked in the petrochemical industry of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil; 16 workers without occupational exposure to benzene served as the control group.

An association was observed between chromosomal gaps and breaks and occupational exposure to benzene. The study showed that, even when removed from exposure for several years, workers still demonstrated genotoxic damage. Studies are still needed to clarify the long-term genotoxic potential of benzene after removal from exposure.

Occupational & Environmental Medicine | 19 May 2016

Interventions To Increase the Reporting of Occupational Diseases by Physicians

Under-reporting of occupational diseases is an important issue in many countries. Timely and complete reporting is fundamental to a successful physician-based public health surveillance system and to plan intervention programs and allocation of resources.

For physicians, the main reasons for under-reporting consist of lack of awareness regarding reporting requirements, time and effort involved in reporting, and lack of benefit from reporting.

There are no systematic reviews of the effects of interventions for increasing the reporting (or reducing the under-reporting) of occupational diseases. Therefore, a Cochrane systematic review was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions aimed at increasing the reporting of occupational diseases by physicians.

Occupational & Environmental Medicine | 19 May 2016

International Perspective on Common Core Competencies for Occupational Physicians

The competencies required of occupational physicians (OPs) have been the subject of peer-reviewed research in Europe and individual countries around the world. In the European Union (EU), there has been development of guidance on training and common competencies, but little research has extended beyond this. The aim of this study was to obtain consensus on and identify the common core competencies required of OPs around the world.

A modified Delphi study was carried out among representative organizations and networks of OPs in a range of countries around the world. It was conducted in two rounds using a questionnaire based on the specialist training syllabus of a number of countries, expert panel reviews and conference discussions.

Responses were received from 51 countries around the world, with the majority from Europe (60%; 59%) and North and South America (24%; 32%) in Rounds 1 and 2, respectively. General principles of assessment and management of occupational hazards to health and good clinical care were jointly considered most important in ranking when compared with the other topic areas. Assessment of disability and fitness for work, communication skills, and legal and ethical issues completed the top five. In both rounds, research methods and teaching and educational supervision were considered least important.

These findings can serve as a platform for the development of common core competencies/qualifications within specific geographical regions or internationally. This is particularly pertinent with globalization of commerce and free movement within the EU.

OSHA | 16 May 2016

OSHA Plans To Make Public Data on Workplace Injuries and Illnesses

The US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on 11 May issued a final rule to modernize injury data collection to better inform workers, employers, the public, and OSHA about workplace hazards. With this new rule, OSHA is applying the insights of behavioral economics to improve workplace safety and prevent injuries and illnesses.

OSHA requires many employers to keep a record of injuries and illnesses to help these employers and their employees identify hazards, fix problems, and prevent additional injuries and illnesses. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports more than 3 million workers suffer a workplace injury or illness every year. Currently, little or no information about worker injuries and illnesses at individual employers is made public or available to OSHA. Under the new rule, employers in high-hazard industries will send OSHA injury and illness data that the employers are already required to collect, for posting on the agency’s website.

Just as public disclosure of their kitchens’ sanitary conditions encourages restaurant owners to improve food safety, OSHA expects that public disclosure of work injury data will encourage employers to increase their efforts to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses.

“Since high injury rates are a sign of poor management, no employer wants to be seen publicly as operating a dangerous workplace,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels. “Our new reporting requirements will nudge employers to prevent worker injuries and illnesses to demonstrate to investors, job seekers, customers, and the public that they operate safe and well-managed facilities. Access to injury data will also help OSHA better target our compliance assistance and enforcement resources at establishments where workers are at greatest risk, and enable big data researchers to apply their skills to making workplaces safer.”

 

The Huffington Post | 3 May 2016

Column: How the Private Sector Can Help End Malaria for Good