Health
Environmental Protection | 6 December 2016

Elemental Analysis of Airborne Particles

Air pollution is a continuous concern worldwide. The harmful health effects of human exposure to heavy metals (e.g., lead, arsenic, or cadmium) absorbed into particulate matter and carried through the air is of particular interest.

ICP mass spectrometer.

These particles are principally generated by processes such as combustion. The health and safety monitoring and analysis of the elements present in these airborne particles are performed by industry and environmental protection agencies, as well as research institutes and testing laboratories.

Over time, several spectrometric technologies have been employed. Each has its own pluses and minuses, and the technologies have evolved and improved over the years.

Atomic absorption spectrometry (AAS) was once commonly used for air filter analysis. While often still the most affordable solution per initial purchase price, AAS may suffer from limitations including low dynamic range, chemical interferences, sequential operation (and associated relatively low throughput), safety risks when left unattended, recurring lamp replacement expenses, and the need for frequent recalibration. Thus, other technologies have increasingly replaced it.

Photometers also were used fairly frequently. But these suffer several disadvantages, such as low accuracy for high concentrations, the necessity of more extensive sample preparation, and the lack of simultaneous screening for all targeted elements. With the advent of better technologies shown, photometric analyzers are probably more suitable for measuring alkali metals than the toxic heavy metals most of interest in air particle analysis.

Today, the most commonly used technology for analysis of airborne particles involving inductively coupled plasma (ICP). Depending on desired detection limits—and whether local regulations demand a specific choice—these are inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) and inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES) instruments.

Occupational & Environmental Medicine | 30 November 2016

Working Hours and the Onset of Depressive Disorder: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to examine whether working beyond the standard working hours was associated with a greater risk of depressive disorder among workers included in published prospective studies.

The eligibility criteria were as follows:

  • Participants were adult workers
  • Exposure was defined as overtime work
  • Outcome were depressive disorders clinically diagnosed or assessed by a structured interview
  • The study design was prospective or cohort

Seven studies were identified in the systematic review and meta-analysis. Overtime work was associated with a small, nonsignificant, elevated risk of depressive disorder in a random effects model. The association tended to be greater for women. The risk of working 50 or more hours per week was slightly but not significantly increased . The effect of overtime work on depressive disorder remains inconclusive and may be small if not negligible. Sex differences and the effect of longer working hours on depressive disorder should be addressed in the future.

BMC Public Health | 10 November 2016

Occupational Exposure to Silica Dust and Risk of Lung Cancer: An Updated Meta-Analysis of Epidemiological Studies

Crystalline silica is considered as one of the most common and serious occupational hazards to workers’ health. Although its association with lung cancer has been studied for many decades, the conclusion remains somewhat controversial. The objectives of this study are to review and summarize the epidemiological evidence on the relationship between occupational silica exposure and risk of lung cancer and to provide an update on this major occupational health concern.

The results of the meta-analysis supported the carcinogenic role of silica on the lungs, which was more pronounced at higher levels of exposure, in the presence of silicosis and in the mining industry. Further research is needed to evaluate whether nonsilicotics are truly at risk, whether a predisposing factor would explain this potential risk, and to determine the mechanism of carcinogenicity of silica in humans.

Offshore Energy Today | 20 October 2016

Exxon Mobil Set To Start Drilling as Liberia Breaks Free From Ebola

US oil giant Exxon Mobil is reportedly set to begin drilling operations in its license offshore Liberia.

According to Reuters, which cited the company’s spokesperson, the drilling operation in Exxon Mobil’s Liberia-13 deepwater block, is expected to start in November 2016.

Exxon Mobil acquired an 80% stake in LB-13 back in 2013 from Canadian Overseas Petroleum, with drilling originally slated for 2014. Exxon later increased interest to 83%.

However, Exxon Mobil was forced to postpone its drilling plans because of the outbreak of Ebola, which led to deaths of thousands since the first cases discovered back in 2014.

The virus, often fatal, is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the recent outbreak in west Africa, with first cases notified in March 2014 and later spreading to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, was the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976. There have been more cases and deaths in that outbreak than all others combined. More than 11.000 people died.

Liberia first declared the end of Ebola human-to-human transmission on May 2015, but the virus has re-emerged three times in the country since then, a WHO statement from June 2016 said.

OSHA | 20 October 2016

OSHA Updates Guidelines for Health and Safety Programs

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on 18 October released its Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs to help employers establish a methodical approach to improving safety and health in their workplaces.

The recommendations update OSHA’s 1989 guidelines to reflect changes in the economy, workplaces, and evolving safety and health issues. The recommendations feature a new, easier-to-use format and should be particularly helpful to small- and medium-sized businesses. Also new is a section on multiemployer workplaces and a greater emphasis on continuous improvement. Supporting tools and resources are included.

The programs are not prescriptive; they are built around a core set of business processes that can be implemented to suit a particular workplace in any industry. OSHA has seen them successfully implemented in manufacturing, construction, health care, technology, retail, services, higher education, and government.

Key principles include: leadership from the top to send a message that safety and health is critical to the business operations; worker participation in finding solutions; and a systematic approach to find and fix hazards.

“Since OSHA’s original guidelines were published more than 25 years ago, employers and employees have gained a lot of experience in how to use safety and health programs to systematically prevent injuries and illnesses in the workplace,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels. “We know that working together to implement these programs will help prevent injuries and illnesses, and also make businesses more sustainable.”

Petroleum Connection | 11 October 2016

The New OSHA Standard for Industrial Silica Exposure

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a final rule that provides stronger protection for workers against the harmful effects of respirable crystalline silica dust. Silica is a common mineral found in products and materials used in many industries. If your processes produce dust, you may have a respirable silica dust hazard and you need to determine if your facility is at risk.

The New OSHA Standard: What You Need to Know
The percentage of silica in the product will affect the OSHA exposure limit that you need to maintain.

Significant aspects of the new rule include a reduced exposure limit. The new OSHA permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica has been reduced to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) work shift. This limit is two to five times stricter than the previous threshold limits of 100 micrograms per cubic meter of air for general industry and 250 micrograms for construction. The new, more-stringent PEL is expected to enhance worker protection by sharply reducing both short-term and long-term exposure to respirable silica dust.

OSHA requires employers to use engineering controls such as water to keep the dust down or dust collection (ventilation) to capture airborne particulate and keep worker exposure below the 50 microgram PEL. While engineering controls are the preferred approach, employers are required to provide personal respiratory protection when engineering controls are not able to limit exposures to the permissible level.

Employers are required to develop a written exposure control plan (hazard plan) to show how compliance will be achieved. The plan should also limit access to high-exposure areas and incorporate training of workers on silica risks and basic safety practices so they can recognize how to limit their own exposure.

Medical exams, lung health monitoring, and record-keeping are required for employees who have been identified as “highly exposed workers.” Exposures above 25 micrograms per cubic meter in an 8-hour TWA over 30 days per year represents an action level where the medical surveillance is required. Effective engineering controls are often capable of maintaining silica dust concentrations below this action level.

International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health | 19 September 2016

Personal Exposure to Benzene and 1,3-Butadiene During Petroleum Refinery Turnarounds and Work in the Oil Harbor

Petroleum refinery workers’ exposure to the carcinogens benzene and 1,3-butadiene has decreased during normal operations. However, certain occupational groups or events at the refineries still involve a risk of higher exposures. The aim of this study was to examine the personal exposure to benzene and 1,3-butadiene at refinery turnarounds and during work in the oil harbor.

Work within the petroleum refinery industry, with potential exposure to open product streams containing higher fractions of benzene, pose a risk of personal benzene exposures exceeding the occupational exposure limits. Refinery workers performing these work tasks frequently, such as contractors, sewage tanker drivers, and oil harbor workers, need to be identified and protected.

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine | 19 September 2016

Is Obesity Associated With Adverse Workers’ Compensation Claims Outcomes?

A number of studies suggested the association between obesity and elevated incidences of workplace injuries and longer lost time from work. Although the association of obesity with injury rates has been reported by many studies, the association of obesity with the adverse development of workers’ compensation claims after injury is not so clear.

In a previous study, the authors found that an elevated body mass index was associated with delayed return to work and increased workers’ compensation costs. The study followed 1,107 claimants for 3 years. All individuals sustained a serious injury and lost time from work.

Controlling for gender, age, marital status, and attorney involvement, the logistic regression odds ratio for return to work by the end of the follow-up period for an overweight or obese individual vs. a normal-weight individual was 2.95 and 3.58, respectively. This study includes an additional year of claimant data, thereby increasing the sample size. the authors also controlled for two additional factors, spinal surgeries and spinal injections, which were found in previous studies to be associated with high workers’ compensation cost and claim duration.

The increased time span and addition of two variables would allow for better characterization of the role of obesity with relation to lost time and costs in workers’ compensation claims.

 

University of Missouri | 8 September 2016

Study Finds Potential Harm to Fertility From Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals

More than 15 million Americans live within a 1-mile radius of unconventional oil and gas (UOG) operations. UOG operations combine directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing to release natural gas from underground rock. Scientific studies, while ongoing, are still inconclusive on the potential long-term effects fracturing has on human development. Researchers at the University of Missouri released a study that is the first of its kind to link exposure to chemicals released during hydraulic fracturing to adverse reproductive and developmental outcomes in mice. Scientists believe that exposure to these chemicals also could pose a threat to human development.

Nagel

“Researchers have previously found that endocrine-disrupting chemicals mimic or block hormones—the chemical messengers that regulate respiration, reproduction, metabolism, growth, and other biological functions,” said Susan C. Nagel, an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and women’s health in the School of Medicine. “Evidence from this study indicates that developmental exposure to fracking and drilling chemicals may pose a threat to fertility in animals and potentially people. Negative outcomes were observed even in mice exposed to the lowest dose of chemicals, which was lower than the concentrations found in groundwater at some locations with past oil and gas wastewater spills.”

Read the full story here.

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Health Security | 30 August 2016

Public Health Surveillance: At the Core of the Global Health Security Agenda

Global health security involves developing the infrastructure and capacity to protect the health of people and societies worldwide. The acceleration of global travel and trade poses greater opportunities for infectious diseases to emerge and spread. The International Health Regulations (IHR) were adopted in 2005 with the intent of proactively developing public health systems that could react to the spread of infectious disease and provide better containment. Various challenges delayed adherence to the IHR. The Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) came about as an international collaborative effort, working multilaterally among governments and across sectors, seeking to implement the IHR and develop the capacities to prevent, detect, and respond to public health emergencies of international concern. When examining the recent West African Ebola epidemic as a case study for global health security, both strengths and weaknesses in the public health response are evident. The central role of public health surveillance is a lesson reiterated by Ebola. Through further implementation of the Global Health Security Agenda, identified gaps in surveillance can be filled and global health security strengthened.

As the world becomes more interconnected through globalized travel and trade, the international spread of infectious diseases has become an increasing threat. To address these ever-evolving risks to health, dependence on public health surveillance has become more significant. Effective surveillance can respond not only to emergent infectious disease threats, but also to longer term public health concerns, including drug-resistant organisms and potential bioterrorism. In the wake of the recent West African Ebola epidemic, it is clear that, in the pursuit of global health security, all nations must support each other in developing basic public health infrastructure and shoring up their surveillance capacity.

The GHSA seeks to enhance surveillance worldwide, directly support responses to infectious disease outbreaks, and ultimately improve global health security. The emergence of novel infectious diseases is inevitable, but, through participation in the GHSA, the resulting consequences can be minimized. Surveillance is fundamental to global health security, and the West African Ebola outbreak showed both the devastating consequences of surveillance gaps and how effective surveillance could serve as a firewall against further geographic spread of deadly viruses. The GHSA seeks to fill the gaps in surveillance exposed by Ebola, thereby improving global health security.

SHP | 30 August 2016

Effective Health, Safety, and Wellbeing Processes: Maturity Assessment

Within every health, safety, and wellbeing (HSW) process, there has to be an effective culture, driven by individual behaviors (at all levels), and underpinned by an effective management system/framework with clear expectations and goals to ensure effective HSW performance. Achieving this requires a level of HSW maturity within the organization to accept its limitations, solve its problems, and celebrate its success.

Fig. 1

This is expressed diagrammatically in Fig. 1.

  • Policy—Goals and expectations, an effective roadmap and common understanding of where the organization is headed
  • Process and Systems—An effective set of processes to deliver excellence in HSW performance, right first time, every time
  • Behavioral Safety—Correct individual behaviors with everyone looking after themselves and others to keep healthy and safe
  • Cultural HSW—The organization operating as one, with a clear cultural belief and caring for wellbeing of employees and others

To assure this in an organization is difficult because data is not always available and, when it is, extensive verification and validation is required.