2009-08-01 12:00 - Messages

Occupational Health Issues Associated with H1N1 Influenza Virus (Swine Flu)

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is coordinating with other parts of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to address national health needs associated with preventing the spread of H1N1 flu virus and providing information to workers and employers. NIOSH provides technical guidance for workers, including health-care and transportation workers, for whom job-related questions about exposure or infection may be an occupational concern.


Buncefield Explosion Mechanism Phase 1

The Buncefield explosion (11 December 2005) resulted in tremendous damage to the outlying area and huge fires involving 23 large oil fuel tanks. One important aspect of the incident was the severity of the explosion, which would not have been anticipated in any major hazard assessment of the oil storage depot before the incident. The Buncefield Major Incident Investigation Board (MIIB) invited explosion experts from academia and industry to form an Advisory Group to advise on the work that would be required to explain the severity of the Buncefield explosion. This MIIB Advisory Group carried out a preliminary assessment of the forensic evidence obtained following the incident and of the results of experiments carried out by the Health and Safety Laboratory – HSL.


Projection of mesothelioma mortality in Great Britain

There has been an increase in mesothelioma mortality in Great Britain, with 1705 deaths recorded in 2006. In 2005, a statistical model was developed based on a simple birth-cohort model, which assumes that the risk of mesothelioma depends on age and years of exposure and that an individual's asbestos exposure depends on the year of exposure. An optimisation technique was used to fit the model and a profile of the population exposure was estimated. Projections of the future burden of mesothelioma mortality were calculated, however statistical uncertainties in the formulation of the model could not be taken into account. In this report, the model has been refined and refitted using the MATLAB's fminsearch function and the Metropolis-Hastings algorithm, a Markov Chain Monte Carlo technique. Credible intervals for model parameters as well as prediction intervals for future cases of mortality amongst males are presented. Mortality amongst all males is expected to keep increasing, reaching a peak at around 2,040 deaths in the year 2016, with a rapid decline following the peak year. Around 91,000 deaths are predicted to occur by 2050 with around 61,000 of these occurring from 2007 onwards.


H1N1: Protecting Healthcare Workers

As we brace for the flu season, concerns are rising about the full impact of Novel H1N1 Influenza Virus (H1N1) also known as "Swine Flu." As of July 31, 2009, there were 162,380 documented cases of human infection with H1N1 throughout the world, including the United States. As of August 6, 2009, there were 6,506 hospitalized cases and 436 deaths in the U.S. From the time of its emergence earlier this year, H1N1 has prompted a concerted response from health agencies here and abroad for the following reasons:

  • It is a never-before seen combination of human, swine, and avian influenza viruses.
  • It is being spread from human to human.
  • The age group most affected is healthy, young adults (unlike seasonal flu).
  • Like other influenza viruses, it continues to evolve.


Occupational Disease and Nanoparticles

NIOSH research has shown that some nanoparticles, including certain types of carbon nanotubes and metal oxides, can be toxic to the heart and lung in mice and rats in laboratory experiments. Other research has demonstrated various other adverse effects of nanoparticles. Through its Approaches to Safe Nanotechnology, NIOSH recommends that specific precautions be taken to protect workers who might be exposed to any level of nanoparticles or nanoparticle-containing materials. A big question left unanswered is, can nanoparticles cause the same types of disease in humans?


Chinese researchers link nanoparticle exposure to pulmonary fibrosis in female workers

An article that will be published in the September issue of the European Respiratory Journal (ERJ) is the first study to claim a concrete link between exposure to nanoparticles in adhesive paint and development of severe pulmonary fibrosis. In the group of young female workers reported on, two of them went on to suffer fatal lung failure.


Qualitative Risk Characterization and Management of Occupational Hazards: Control Banding (CB)

The majority of chemical substances in commerce have no established occupational exposure limits (OELs). In the absence of established OELs, employers and workers often lack the necessary guidance on the extent to which occupational exposures should be controlled. A strategy to control occupational exposures that may have value when there are no relevant OELs is known as control banding (CB). CB is a qualitative strategy for assessing and managing hazards associated with chemical exposures in the workplace. The question about the utility of the CB strategy for workplaces in the United States has been raised, warranting a critical review of its concepts and applications. This report is the result of a review of the published literature and related proceedings on CB.


Best Practice Guidelines for Ground-spread Fertiliser in New Zealand

Working within the ground-spread fertiliser industry exposes workers to a number of potentially very serious hazards. Not only are high volumes of potentially harmful fertilisers involved, workers are often working alone and in a vast range of environmental conditions. These and other factors heighten the need for comprehensive operator training and job planning.


Occupational Asthma-Targeting the Chemical Culprits

More than 330 substances are known or suspected to cause or exacerbate asthma, according to a recent report from the Massachusetts Toxic Use Reduction Institute (TURI). The report highlighted the fact "Much of the evidence (for identifying these substances) comes from workers exposed in the workplace."


Publication of the Report of Workshop on the Regulation of Biopesticides

Registration and Communication Issues

This document is a report of an OECD Workshop on science and risk assessment issues related to the registration of biopesticides, which took place on 15-17 April 2008, in Arlington, United States.


Storing hazardous wastes at household waste recycling centres

The Health and Safety Executive has produced guidance on the storage of hazardous substances, primarily aimed at specialised manufacturing and bulk storage facilities.1 As household waste recycling centres often receive a wide range of materials, and in relatively small quantities, this document has been drafted to provide practical guidance, using the principles set out in existing substance-specific guidance.
The following guidance follows those principles and specifically addresses the storage of hazardous waste at household waste recycling centres (HWRCs), also called civic amenity sites. Waste received at HWRCs is usually domestic, varied and in small quantities. So this guidance has been drawn up to give pragmatic advice. This guidance considers the specific implications of household hazardous wastes at HWRC sites; it does not cover generic hazards such as manual handling, workplace transport and slips and trips.



MALDI/TOF/MS analysis of isocyanates and other hazardous workplace chemicals

Mass spectrometry has long been used to analyse samples taken in the workplace, and can be combined with other techniques to increase sensitivity, selectivity and accuracy. The work summarised in this report examines the application of the recently developed Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization/ time-of-flight/ mass spectrometry (MALDI/TOF/MS) technique to the analysis of isocyanates and biocides. Isocyanates were measured on filters (to represent air monitoring) and as isocyanate/protein conjugates (representing biological monitoring). Selected biocides bound to soil samples were analysed by MALDI/TOF/MS as examples of chemicals linked to more complex matrices: this use of MALDI/TOF/MS as an extraction process is a novel application of the technique.


Drilling Fluids and Health Risk Management

A Guide for Drilling Personnel, Managers and Health Professionals in the Oil and Gas Industry

This document provides some general background on drilling fluids and the various categories of base fluids and additives currently in use. It outlines potential health hazards associated with these substances, looks at opportunities for human exposure presented by drilling operations, and introduces risk management methods and monitoring processes aimed at reducing the risk of harmful health effects.


A review of human carcinogens—Part D: radiation

In June 2009, 20 scientists from nine countries met at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to reassess the carcinogenicity of the types of radiation previously classified as “carcinogenic to humans” (Group 1) and to identify additional tumour sites and mechanisms of carcinogenesis. These assessments will be published as part D of Volume 100 of the IARC Monographs.


OECD released three reports in a series of papers and studies on the safety of engineered nanomaterials

The reports are:

Reflections on the 2004 Royal Society/Royal Academy of Engineering 2004 report into nanotechnologies

On 29th July 2004, the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering released their seminal report Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies: opportunities and uncertainties. 5 years on, to mark this milestone The Responsible Nano Forum invited opinion formers from science, risk, investment, ngos, unions, business and consumer groups to reflect on the legacy of the report and what still remains to be done. The report: A beacon or just a landmark?, features 28 contributions from a range of individuals and organisations in the UK and internationally. The Foreword is written by Dr Andrew Maynard Chief Science Advisor to the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and features contributions from two members of the original working group.


WHO publishes first indoor air quality guidelines on dampness and mould

WHO publishes its first guidelines on indoor air quality, addressing dampness and mould. (1) They are the result of a rigorous two-year review of the currently available science by 36 leading experts worldwide, coordinated by the WHO Regional Office for Europe. The authors conclude that occupants of damp or mouldy buildings, both private and public, have up to a 75% greater risk of respiratory symptoms and asthma. The guidelines recommend the prevention or remediation of dampness- and mould-related problems to significantly reduce harm to health.


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