Dec 3, 2019

OSHA Enforcement and Compliance Increases in 2019 To Keep America’s Workforce Safe

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) fiscal year (FY) 2019 final statistics show a significant increase in the number of inspections and a record amount of compliance assistance to further the mission of ensuring that employers provide workplaces free of hazards.

OSHA's enforcement activities reflect the Department's continued focus on worker safety. Federal OSHA conducted 33,401 inspections—more inspections than the previous three years –addressing violations related to trenching, falls, chemical exposure, silica and other hazards.

In FY19, OSHA provided a record 1,392,611 workers with training on safety and health requirements through the Agency's various education programs, including the OSHA Training Institute Education Centers, Outreach Training Program and Susan Harwood Training Grant Program. OSHA's compliance assistance programs have helped small businesses address safety and health hazards in their workplaces. In FY19, OSHA's no-cost On-Site Consultation Program identified 137,885 workplace hazards, and protected 3.2 million workers from potential harm.

"OSHA's efforts – rulemaking, enforcement, compliance assistance and training – are tools to accomplish our mission of safety and health for every worker," said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt. "I am proud of the diligent, hard work of all OSHA personnel who contributed to a memorable year of protecting our nation's workers."

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 help 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 www.osha.gov.

The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.

# # #


Clearing the Air on Respiratory Hazards

CCOHS - For many workers, their jobs can take an unexpected toll on their physical health. An occupational disease can be disruptive, disabling, and even fatal. However, workplaces can take preventive action on respiratory hazards that can lead to mesothelioma, lung cancer, silicosis, asbestosis, and other serious occupational diseases.

Recognizing and preventing these work-related diseases can be more challenging than trying to prevent injuries. Many occupational diseases, including respiratory conditions, are connected to workplace exposures that occurred many years before. It's possible for a worker not to experience immediate health effects such as irritation and coughing and yet develop lung cancer decades later. As well, occupational diseases often result from repeated exposures to invisible gases or particles, rather than from a single event.

Workplaces can take action to identify and address breathing hazards from agents that can lead to lung cancer and other illnesses. Particulates, in a workplace context, most often refers to particles, dust, mist or fumes that are in the surrounding air that workers are at risk of inhaling. Breathing is the most common way by which they enter the lungs. How far the particle gets in the air passages of the respiratory system, and what it does when it is deposited, depends on the size, shape, and density of the material, as well as on its chemical and toxic properties.

The Canadian picture

According to national data from the Association of Workers' Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC), occupational diseases caused 64% (612) of deaths vs. 36% (339) traumatic fatalities in 2017. Keep in mind that these numbers do not include deaths in workplaces not covered by a compensation board (from diseases not accepted to be work-related), illness that are not acknowledged as being associated with a workplace exposure, nor those illnesses that are not reported. Plus, there are thousands more non-fatal illnesses and health impacts, including occupational deafness, dermatitis and asthma.

Cancer Care Ontario and the Occupational Cancer Research Centre estimate that approximately 1,300 cancer cases per year in Ontario are related to exposure to asbestos, diesel engine exhaust, crystalline silica and welding fumes. According to the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, long latency illnesses, emerging years after exposure to a disease-causing agent, accounted for the largest portion of compensation benefit costs between 2008 and 2017. To address these workplace hazards, the Ministry is conducting an inspection blitz focused on the dusts, vapours and fumes that can lead to the most common fatal occupational diseases: mesothelioma, lung and bronchial cancers, and asbestosis. Focus will be on the construction, industrial, health care, and mining sectors.

Respiratory hazards at construction and industrial sites can include lead dust and fumes; silica dust from cutting concrete or sandblasting; solvent vapours from adhesives, paints, and strippers; isocyanate vapours from spray form insulation and coatings; and carbon monoxide from gas-powered equipment as examples. In health care and community care workplaces, employers should focus on work processes that generate aerosols and the controls that should be in place. Working in a closed underground environment, miners can be exposed to airborne hazards such as diesel exhaust, silica, radon, and arsenic. Many of these exposures have been associated with lung cancer and chronic respiratory diseases (including pneumoconiosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

What employers can do

All employers, regardless of worksite or location, can take steps to improve worker safety:

  • Complete a hazard assessment to identify what respiratory agents are present in the workplace
  • Regularly review for opportunities to move control of hazards up the hierarchy of controls to minimize exposure. Can the hazard be eliminated, or prevented from entering the air in the first place?
  • Implement proper controls and work practices to prevent respiratory hazards and to ensure that worker exposure to agents is kept below legal limits
  • Make sure that work areas have proper ventilation
  • Provide information, instruction and supervision to workers
  • Train workers on respiratory hazards specific to their workplace. Employers, supervisors and trainers should encourage workers to communicate any concerns they may have about occupational disease.
  • Provide training on the correct use and fit testing of any necessary personal protective equipment, including respirators.
  • Properly maintain personal protective equipment.

About occupational exposure limits

Occupational exposure limits are the recommended maximum amount and length of time most workers can be exposed to a toxic substance without suffering any known harmful consequences. However, remember a legal limit or guideline (such as an occupational exposure limit) should never be viewed as a line between "safe" and "unsafe". It is important to strive for "as low as reasonably achievable" exposure where possible. Within Canada, the provinces, territories and the federal government list which occupational exposure limits are enforceable under their health and safety legislation. View the legislative references for exposure limits to chemical and biological agents for each jurisdiction. Please note that while you can see the list of legislation for free, you will need a subscription to view the actual documentation.

Workers have a right to be safe on the job. Employers must take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for workers' protection. By identifying solutions for eliminating or reducing respiratory hazards, workplaces can take action now to prevent future harm to workers.

Resources


Nov 25, 2019

Highly Radioactive Particles From Fukushima Mapped

A recent study published in the scientific journal "Chemosphere,"
involving scientists from Japan, Finland, France, and the United
States, addresses these issues.

The team, led by Dr. Satoshi Utsunomiya, Ryohei Ikehara, and Kazuya
Morooka of Kyushu University, a prestigious research school in
Fukuoka, Japan, developed a method in 2018 that allows scientists to
quantify the amount of cesium-rich microparticles in soil and sediment
samples.

They have now applied their method to a wide range of soil samples
taken from within, and outside, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear
exclusion zone, and this has allowed them to publish the first
quantitative map of cesium-rich microparticle distribution in parts of
Fukushima region.

The map shows three regions of interest within 60 kilometers from the
Fukushima Daiichi site

Dr. Utsunomiya said, "Using our method, we have determined the number
and amount of cesium-rich microparticles in surface soils from a wide
range of locations up to 60 km from the Fukushima Daiichi site. Our
work reveals three regions of particular interest."

"In two regions to the northwest of the damaged nuclear reactors, the
number of cesium-rich microparticles per gram of soil ranged between
22 and 101, and the amount of total soil cesium radioactivity
associated with the microparticles ranged from 15–37 percent," said
Dr. Utsunomiya.

"In another region to the southwest of the nuclear reactors, 1–8
cesium-rich microparticles were found per gram of soil, and these
microparticles accounted for 27–80 percent of the total soil cesium
radioactivity," he said.

Professor Gareth Law from the University of Helsinki, a co-author of
the study, said that the paper "reports regions where the cesium-rich
microparticles are surprisingly abundant and account for a large
amount of soil radioactivity."

"This data, and application of our technique to a wider range of
samples could help inform clean-up efforts," Law said.



Reference:
Abundance and distribution of radioactive cesium-rich microparticles
released from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the
environment, Ryohei Ikehara, Kazuya Morooka, Mizuki Suetake, Tatsuki
Komiya, Eitaro Kurihara, Masato Takehara, Ryu Takami, Chiaki Kino,
Kenji Horie, Mami Takehara, Shinya Yamasaki, Toshihiko Ohnuki, Gareth
Law, William Bower, Bernd Grambow, Rodney Ewing, Satoshi Utsunomiya.
2019. Chemosphere, Volume 241, February 2020, 125019

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2019.125019

Nov 20, 2019

This humidity digester breathes in atmospheric water and exhales energy

(ScienceDaily) Integrating a super moisture-absorbent gel with light-active materials, researchers in Singapore have developed a humidity digester to dry the ambient air while generating energy. The method, presented November 20 in the journal Joule, is a green alternative to air conditioners with a trick -- pulling water out of thin air.

Like plants, artificial photosynthetic devices, also known as photoelectrochemical (PEC) systems, feed on light and water to generate energy. This phenomenon inspired the researchers to integrate light-active materials and super-hygroscopic hydrogels. The hydrogels based on zinc and cobalt can harvest more than four times their weight of water from humid air. The humidity digester can reduce relative humidity by 12 percent and generate a low current under ambient light.


Read full:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/11/191120121149.htm

Nov 19, 2019

A secretive startup backed by Bill Gates has achieved a solar breakthrough aimed at saving the planet.

CNN -  Heliogen, a clean energy company that emerged from stealth mode on Tuesday, said it has discovered a way to use artificial intelligence and a field of mirrors to reflect so much sunlight that it generates extreme heat above 1,000 degrees Celsius.

Essentially, Heliogen created a solar oven — one capable of reaching temperatures that are roughly a quarter of what you'd find on the surface of the sun.

The breakthrough means that, for the first time, concentrated solar energy can be used to create the extreme heat required to make cement, steel, glass and other industrial processes. In other words, carbon-free sunlight can replace fossil fuels in a heavy carbon-emitting corner of the economy that has been untouched by the clean energy revolution.

"We are rolling out technology that can beat the price of fossil fuels and also not make the CO2 emissions," Bill Gross, Heliogen's founder and CEO, told CNN Business. "And that's really the holy grail."

Heliogen, which is also backed by billionaire Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong, believes the patented technology will be able to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from industry. Cement, for example, accounts for 7% of global CO2 emissions, according to the International Energy Agency.

"Bill and the team have truly now harnessed the sun," Soon-Shiong, who also sits on the Heliogen board, told CNN Business. "The potential to humankind is enormous. ... The potential to business is unfathomable."

Heliogen, backed by Bill Gates, has achieved a breakthrough that could allow cement makers to transition away from fossil fuels. The company uses artifical intelligence and an array of mirrors to create vast amounts of heat, essentially harnessing the power of the sun.

"You've ended up with technologies that can't really deliver super-heated systems," said Olav Junttila, a partner at Greentech Capital Advisors, a clean energy investment bank that has advised concentrated solar companies in the past.

Read full at:

Nov 18, 2019

Iowa wind farm sending many giant blades to landfills, will create over one million tons of fiberglass

"Landfills are really struggling to manage them, and they just decide they can't accept them...."
Bill Rowland, president of the Iowa Society of Solid Waste Operations, said he's unsure
"we as a society" considered what would happen to the blades as older turbines are repowered.

"There wasn't a plan in place to say, 'How are we going to recycle these?' 'How are we going to reduce the impact on landfills?'" said Rowland, director of the Landfill of North Iowa near Clear Lake...

According to the article, one U.S. Department of Energy researcher told the Des Moines Register that wind energy will create over one million tons of fiberglass and other composite waste,
adding that "The scale of the issue is quite large... And it's a larger sustainability issue."

Read full at:

Wisconsin Announces Multi-Agency Coordinating Council for PFAS, Begins Process for Additional PFAS Rulemaking

(Michael Best & Friedrich LLP) Today, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) began the process of implementing another priority in Governor Evers' Executive Order #40 by creating the Wisconsin Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Action Council or "WisPAC." The Council will be led by DNR and will coordinate PFAS-related activities among state agencies and develop a PFAS plan of action for the state. DNR Secretary Preston Cole began today's kick-off meeting by emphasizing that DNR has a "responsibility to the public to get this right" and, in order to do so, will be engaging in a public process to solicit input from all interested parties.

WisPAC's Charge

WisPAC's Coordinating Council is chaired by DNR Secretary Cole and includes a long list of additional state agencies and related affiliates members – fifteen of them as of now – including the Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA), Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), Children and Families (DCF), Commissioner of Insurance, Corrections (DOC), Health Services (DHS), Military Affairs (DMA), Public Institution (DPI), Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC), Revenue (DOR), Safety and Professional Services (DSPS), State Laboratory of Hygiene (WSLH), Transportation (DOT), Veteran Affairs (WDVA) and the UW System.

As announced, this group will:

  • Create a multi-agency PFAS action plan
  • Develop protocols to inform educate and engage the public
  • Identify likely sources and add to action plan
  • Find best practices for PFAS sources and add to action plan
  • Develop standard, cost-effective and effective testing & treatment protocols with stakeholders
  • Engage academic institutions and other experts
  • Explore funding avenues to assist state & local governments, private parties

Read full from (Michael Best & Friedrich LLP)

Nov 13, 2019

NASA finds that Californians’ TRASH emits far more methane into the atmosphere than cattle ranches… should we ban trash services to solve the global warming problem?

NASA scientists are helping California create a detailed, statewide inventory of methane point sources — highly concentrated methane releases from single sources — using a specialized airborne sensor. The new data, published this week in the journal Nature, can be used to target actions to reduce emissions of this potent greenhouse gas.

Like carbon dioxide, methane traps heat in the atmosphere, but it does so more efficiently and for a shorter period of time. Scientists estimate that most methane emissions in California are driven by industrial facilities, such as oil and gas fields, large dairies and landfills. To help reduce methane's impact on climate, the state has made cutting human-caused emissions a priority. But in order to cut these hard-to-detect emissions, they have to be measured and the sources identified.

NASA, through partnerships with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the California Energy Commission, set out to do just that. Over a two-year period, a research team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, flew a plane equipped with the Airborne Visible InfraRed Imaging Spectrometer - Next Generation (AVIRIS-NG) instrument over nearly 300,000 facilities and infrastructure components in those sectors. The instrument can detect plumes of methane in great detail. Each pixel covers an area of about 10 feet (3 meters) across, which allows scientists to see even small plumes that often go undetected.

The team identified more than 550 individual point sources emitting plumes of highly concentrated methane. Ten percent of these sources, considered super-emitters, contributed the majority of the emissions detected. The team estimates that statewide, super-emitters are responsible for about a third of California's total methane budget.

Emissions data like this can help facility operators identify and correct problems — and in turn, bring California closer to its emissions goals. For example, of the 270 surveyed landfills, only 30 were observed to emit large plumes of methane. However, those 30 were responsible for 40 percent of the total point-source emissions detected during the survey. This type of data could help these facilities to identify possible leaks or malfunctions in their gas-capture systems.

"These findings illustrate the importance of monitoring point sources across multiple sectors [of the economy] and broad regions, both for improved understanding of methane budgets and to support emission mitigation efforts," said the lead scientist on the study, Riley Duren, who conducted the work for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Read full at NASA:

22 million gallons of nuclear waste under a concrete dome on a Pacific Island sinking into the land and the ocean.

The Los Angeles Times has a harrowing new story about Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Japanese forces invaded the small Pacific nation and its residents during World War I, and the United States did the same during World War II under that classic guise of "liberation." But the US was hardly acting altruistically, at the time nor since then. The islands' location made it a prime strategic military base in the Pacific. It was also isolated enough to make it a convenient nuclear testing site—if you disregarded the 72,000 people who lived there, of course.

Between 1946 and 1962, US military experiments produced 108 megatons of nuclear yield in the Marshall Islands— about 80% of the country's total radioactive waste output from nuclear testing. That's the equivalent 1.6 atomic bombs dropped every day for 12 years. And after the US decided to gradually cede control of the land back to the Marshallese people, we just kind of … left it all behind.  We were kind enough to pour a bunch of concrete on top of the 22 million gallons of nuclear waste left behind on one specific island, creating the Runit Dome.

But that dome is still there. And the concrete is starting to crack. And sea levels are rising rapidly, particularly in the Pacific, further accelerating that erosion process. Now the Dome—affectionately and appropriately called "The Tomb" by the locals—is threatening to leach all of that nuclear waste into the land and the ocean.


Read full at:

https://boingboing.net/2019/11/12/theres-22-million-gallons-of.html

"We Have No Reason to Believe 5G Is Safe" - Scientific American

The telecommunications industry and their experts have accused many scientists who have researched the effects of cell phone radiation of "fear mongering" over the advent of wireless technology's 5G. Since much of our research is publicly-funded, we believe it is our ethical responsibility to inform the public about what the peer-reviewed scientific literature tells us about the health risks from wireless radiation.

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently announced through a press release that the commission will soon reaffirm the radio frequency radiation (RFR) exposure limits that the FCC adopted in the late 1990s. These limits are based upon a behavioral change in rats exposed to microwave radiation and were designed to protect us from short-term heating risks due to RFR exposure.  

Yet, since the FCC adopted these limits based largely on research from the 1980s, the preponderance of peer-reviewed research, more than 500 studies, have found harmful biologic or health effects from exposure to RFR at intensities too low to cause significant heating.

Citing this large body of research, more than 240 scientists who have published peer-reviewed research on the biologic and health effects of nonionizing electromagnetic fields (EMF) signed the International EMF Scientist Appeal, which calls for stronger exposure limits. The appeal makes the following assertions:

"Numerous recent scientific publications have shown that EMF affects living organisms at levels well below most international and national guidelines. Effects include increased cancer risk, cellular stress, increase in harmful free radicals, genetic damages, structural and functional changes of the reproductive system, learning and memory deficits, neurological disorders, and negative impacts on general well-being in humans. Damage goes well beyond the human race, as there is growing evidence of harmful effects to both plant and animal life."

The scientists who signed this appeal arguably constitute the majority of experts on the effects of nonionizing radiation. They have published more than 2,000 papers and letters on EMF in professional journals.

The FCC's RFR exposure limits regulate the intensity of exposure, taking into account the frequency of the carrier waves, but ignore the signaling properties of the RFR. Along with the patterning and duration of exposures, certain characteristics of the signal (e.g., pulsing, polarization) increase the biologic and health impacts of the exposure. New exposure limits are needed which account for these differential effects. Moreover, these limits should be based on a biological effect, not a change in a laboratory rat's behavior.

The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified RFR as "possibly carcinogenic to humans" in 2011. Last year, a $30 million study conducted by the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) found "clear evidence" that two years of exposure to cell phone RFR increased cancer in male rats and damaged DNA in rats and mice of both sexes. The Ramazzini Institute in Italy replicated the key finding of the NTP using a different carrier frequency and much weaker exposure to cell phone radiation over the life of the rats.

Based upon the research published since 2011, including human and animal studies and mechanistic data, the IARC has recently prioritized RFR to be reviewed again in the next five years. Since many EMF scientists believe we now have sufficient evidence to consider RFR as either a probable or known human carcinogen, the IARC will likely upgrade the carcinogenic potential of RFR in the near future.

Nonetheless, without conducting a formal risk assessment or a systematic review of the research on RFR health effects, the FDA recently reaffirmed the FCC's 1996 exposure limits in a letter to the FCC, stating that the agency had "concluded that no changes to the current standards are warranted at this time," and that "NTP's experimental findings should not be applied to human cell phone usage." The letter stated that "the available scientific evidence to date does not support adverse health effects in humans due to exposures at or under the current limits."

Read full at:

Nov 12, 2019

Severe lung disease characterized by lymphocytic bronchiolitis, alveolar ductitis, and emphysema (BADE) in industrial machine‐manufacturing workers

Previously healthy male never smokers, ages 27 to 50, developed chest symptoms from 1995 to 2012 while working in the facility's production areas. Patients had an insidious onset of cough, wheeze, and exertional dyspnea; airflow obstruction (mean FEV1 = 44% predicted) and reduced diffusing capacity (mean = 53% predicted); and radiologic centrilobular emphysema. Lung tissue demonstrated a unique pattern of bronchiolitis and alveolar ductitis with B‐cell follicles lacking germinal centers, and significant emphysema for never‐smokers. All had chronic dyspnea, three had a progressive functional decline, and one underwent lung transplantation. Patients reported no unusual nonoccupational exposures. No cases were identified among nonproduction workers or in the community. Endotoxin concentrations were elevated in two air samples; otherwise, exposures were below occupational limits. Air flowed from areas where machining occurred to other production areas. Metalworking fluid primarily grew Pseudomonas pseudoalcaligenes and lacked mycobacterial DNA, but 16S analysis revealed more complex bacterial communities.
Conclusion

This cluster indicates a previously unrecognized occupational lung disease of yet uncertain etiology that should be considered in manufacturing workers (particularly never‐smokers) with airflow obstruction and centrilobular emphysema. Investigation of additional cases in other settings could clarify the cause and guide prevention.

Artificial intelligence: Implications for the future of work and cognitive decision support systems (DSSs).

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a broad transdisciplinary field with roots in logic, statistics, cognitive psychology, decision theory, neuroscience, linguistics, cybernetics, and computer engineering. The modern field of AI began at a small summer workshop at Dartmouth College in 1956. Since then, AI applications made possible by machine learning (ML), an AI subdiscipline, include Internet searches, e‐commerce sites, goods and services recommender systems, image and speech recognition, sensor technologies, robotic devices, and cognitive decision support systems (DSSs). As more applications are integrated into everyday life, AI is predicted to have a globally transformative influence on economic and social structures similar to the effect that other general‐purpose technologies, such as steam engines, railroads, electricity, electronics, and the Internet, have had. Novel AI applications in the workplace of the future raise important issues for occupational safety and health. This commentary reviews the origins of AI, use of ML methods, and emerging AI applications embedded in physical objects like sensor technologies, robotic devices, or operationalized in intelligent DSSs. Selected implications on the future of work arising from the use of AI applications, including job displacement from automation and management of human‐machine interactions, are also reviewed. Engaging in strategic foresight about AI workplace applications will shift occupational research and practice from a reactive posture to a proactive one. Understanding the possibilities and challenges of AI for the future of work will help mitigate the unfavorable effects of AI on worker safety, health, and well‐being.

Read full at: https://doi.org/10.1002/ajim.23037

Draft Risk Evaluation for Methylene Chloride for TSCA

In the October 2019 draft risk evaluation for methylene chloride (MC), EPA reviewed a suite of potential MC exposures and made initial determinations on risk. These preliminary determinations may change as EPA's evaluation becomes more refined through the public comment and peer review processes. Below are the draft risk evaluation and supporting documents for MC

The public will have an opportunity to comment on the draft risk evaluation for 60 days until December 30, 2019, in docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2019-0437. EPA will also hold a peer review meeting of EPA's Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) on the draft risk evaluation for this chemical's conditions of use on December 3-4, 2019

Read about the steps EPA is taking in the risk evaluation process for MC.

Learn more about EPA's risk evaluation process.

Nov 6, 2019

DOE Announces $24.9 Million Funding Selections to Advance Hydropower and Water Technologies

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced selections for up to $24.9 million in funding to drive innovative, industry-led technology solutions to advance the marine and hydrokinetics industry and increase hydropower's ability to serve as a flexible grid resource. Innovative water power technologies have the potential to increase the affordability of hydropower and marine energy. Selected projects will also strengthen U.S. manufacturing competitiveness and build on department-wide initiatives to improve the capability of technologies to deliver value to the grid.

Projects were selected across four Areas of Interest (AOI)—Hydropower Operational Flexibility, Low-Head Hydropower and In-Stream Hydrokinetic Technologies, Advancing Wave Energy Device Design, and Marine Energy Centers Research Infrastructure Upgrades.

"Hydropower is a valuable national resource and these technologies will make it an even more competitive clean energy option to invest in the Blue Economy," said Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes. "These awards are another example of this Administration reaffirming its commitment to an 'all-of-the-above' energy policy to the benefit of the entire nation."


Read full at:

https://www.energy.gov/articles/doe-announces-249-million-funding-selections-advance-hydropower-and-water-technologies

Oct 31, 2019

Russian Scientists Reveal First Photos of Massive Arctic Methane Fountain


A group of Russian scientists has revealed the first pictures of a massive fountain of methane gas bubbling from the sea floor in the eastern Siberian Sea.

During the 35-day expedition that started Sept. 21, the scientific expedition organized by Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU)  noticed a spot of emerald-colored water which turned out to be a record methane gas emission. Concentrations of the greenhouse gas — which can significantly influence the planet's climate — were found to be up to nine times the global average.

"A new powerful region of massive methane discharge from bottom sediments has been formed in recent years," the members of the expedition said. "This indicates an abnormally high rate of permafrost degradation."

The fountain covers an area between 4 and 5 meters. According to the researchers, the methane discharge field's dimensions have grown several times since 2014 when the survey was last performed.

The water was boiling with methane bubbles so violently that the scientists had to use buckets to collect the gas instead of the special plastic cones normally used for sampling.

The expedition members said that the degradation of the underwater and coastal permafrost that surrounds the Arctic Ocean will lead to massive emissions of methane and carbon dioxide, the two biggest greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

During the expedition, researchers also studied the accumulation of various types of microplastics, one of the most dangerous pollutants for living organisms.

Read full at:
https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2019/10/29/russian-scientists-reveal-first-photos-of-massive-arctic-methane-fountain-a67956

Oct 30, 2019

BIG News! EPA Announces New 5-Year Plan to Accelerate Restoration of the Great Lakes

EPA Press Office (press@epa.gov) — Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler and Region 5 Administrator and Great Lakes National Program Manager Cathy Stepp unveiled an updated and aggressive action plan under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). The GLRI Action Plan III will guide the actions of federal agencies and their many partners over the next 5 years to protect and restore the Great Lakes — fueling local and regional economies and community revitalization efforts across the basin. The agency also announced $11 million in funding for grants to support GLRI projects in Michigan.

"The Trump Administration is taking action to improve water quality while boosting local economies across the country," said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. "More than $2.4 billion from the GLRI has funded over 4,000 restoration projects. The GLRI Action Plan III and the grant funding we are announcing today will continue to accelerate this great work to the benefit of millions of Americans living in and visiting the region."

"The Great Lakes are a regional, national and international treasure," said Regional Administrator and Great Lakes National Program Manager Cathy Stepp. "It will take ambitious, dedicated and collaborative efforts by federal, state, tribal, local and non-governmental partners to ensure that our magnificent Great Lakes not only endure — but thrive."

"President Trump's EPA has made tremendous environmental progress and their plan to accelerate the restoration of the Great Lakes is a win for conservationists and Hoosiers," said Senator Mike Braun (IN). "This decisive action will keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, reduce harmful algal blooms and protect fish, birds and other animals whose habit relies on the Great Lakes."

"The work done through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) ensures our most treasured natural resource remains vibrant. Through President Trump's support and Administrator Wheeler's strong commitment to the Great Lakes, this new 5 year plan will provide a strong focus for the critical mission of the GLRI. This vision is a key element to protecting the Great Lakes and preserving the health of our communities, our rich sportsman heritage, and the economy of northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula," said Congressman Jack Bergman (MI-01).

"The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has played an important and critical role in preserving and protecting the Great Lakes," said Congressman Bill Huizenga (MI-02), Co-Chair of the House Great Lakes Task Force. "The announcement of the GLRI Action Plan III will build on this success and strengthen the cleanup of legacy pollution, restore habitat, and combat invasive species across Michigan. I am glad to see Administrator Wheeler work to make the Great Lakes a national priority."

"I have worked alongside my colleagues in Congress to advocate to the administration about how important the Great Lakes are to everyone in Michigan and I welcome today's announcement for the next five years of the GLRI," said Congressman John Moolenaar (MI-04). "Working with partners including CMU and Ducks Unlimited, the GLRI has done incredible work to protect the Great Lakes for future generations and this new plan will continue that commitment in the years ahead."

"In Michigan, the Great Lakes impact every facet of our daily lives, from the significant economic benefits to all the recreational activities we enjoy," said Congressman Tim Walberg (MI-07). "The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has supported many successful projects and is critical to cleaning up pollutants, stopping the spread of invasive species like Asian Carp, and reducing algal blooms. I am pleased to see the EPA take important action to expand these efforts to help ensure the Great Lakes are in good health for future generations."

"The EPA's updated action plan sets an aggressive path forward to protect and restore the Great Lakes under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which has been a catalyst for unparalleled federal agency coordination to fund more than 4,800 projects that address the largest environmental issues facing the Great Lakes. I look forward to working with EPA to continue improving water quality, protecting and restoring native habitats and species, and preventing and controlling invasive species," said Congressman Paul Mitchell (MI-10).

"As someone who grew up on the shores of Lake Erie, I'm proud to be a champion of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in Congress," said Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14). "The Great Lakes provide more than 1.5 million jobs, supply 90% of our nation's fresh surface water, support over 3,500 species of plants and animals, and generate $62 billion in wages every year. I applaud the Administration for recognizing the importance of this vital program and look forward to continuing our work to protect and preserve the invaluable natural resource and economic powerhouse that is the Great Lakes System."

"The Great Lakes are critical to Northeast Wisconsin's economy and way of life," said Congressman Mike Gallagher (WI-08). "We've seen firsthand how GLRI dollars successfully reduced harmful algae in Green Bay, and I'm glad that GLRI Action Plan III will build upon this success and take action to ensure the Great Lakes are clean for generations to come."

"The partnership between the EPA and its Federal and State partners announced today on the GLRI Plan III is vitally important to the environmental quality of our Great Lakes. These efforts are crucial to our entire region's economy and quality of life for our residents and for those who visit and enjoy Michigan's lakes and streams," said Pat Williams, Township Supervisor, Canton, MI.

The GLRI has been a catalyst for unprecedented federal agency coordination, which has in turn produced unprecedented results. Under GLRI's former Action Plans I and II, GLRI accomplished the formal delisting of the Presque Isle Bay (Penn.), Deer Lake (Mich.), and White Lake (Mich.) Areas of Concern (AOCs) and moved a number of the remaining AOCs closer to delisting through the removal of numerous environmental impairments. GLRI resources have also been used for projects that have prevented more than one million pounds of phosphorus from entering the Great Lakes, reducing the excess phosphorus that contributes to harmful algal blooms in western Lake Erie, Saginaw Bay, and Green Bay. The GLRI produces economic benefits as well. A 2018 University of Michigan study shows that every dollar of federal spending on GLRI projects between 2010 and 2016 will produce $3.35 in additional economic activity in the Great Lakes region through 2036.

In addition to GLRI Action Plan III, the agency announced that it has recently awarded five GLRI grants for restoration work in Michigan, totaling nearly $11 million:

  • $2.2 million grant to Alliance for Rouge Communities (ARC) to restore Tamarack Creek and Johnson Creek habitat flood plains in Rouge River AOC.
  • $380,000 grant to Wayne County to design habitat restoration projects in Rouge River AOC.
  • $3.7 million grant to Michigan Department of Natural Resources to restore the natural surface water flow in flatwoods of Belle Isle in Detroit River AOC.
  • $815,500 grant to Alliance for Rouge Communities to restore wetlands in Seeley Creek in the Rouge River AOC.
  • $3.5 million to Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy to continue restoration work at 12 impacted sites on the Great Lakes and to coordinate the state's lake-wide management plans for Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie as part of a new 3-year grant for $10.5 million.

To read the GLRI Action Plan III and related information visit: https://g

Oct 23, 2019

National Safety Council Position paper on marijuana and safety sensitive positions.

The National Safety Council,  published a Position/Policy Statement on October 21, 2019 addressing cannabis (marijuana) impairment in safety-sensitive positions. NSC stated that "it is clear that cannabis impacts psychomotor skills and cognitive ability," and concluded that "there is no level of cannabis use that is safe or acceptable for employees who work in safety-sensitive positions." ("Safety-sensitive" refers to jobs that impact the safety of the employee and the safety of others as a result of performing that job).

NFPA 470: The “New” Old Hazardous Materials Response Standards

From Rick Edinger:

In April 2019 I published an article entitled "What Ever Happened to NFPA 472?" In that piece I examined the addition of two new National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) documents related to hazardous materials response, their relationship to each other and the existing hazmat standards, and the effects on the hazmat response community. The title of the article spoke to some confusion among hazmat responders about the need for several seemingly related standards and confirmed that the legacy hazmat standards, NFPA 472 and 473, would continued to be maintained. 

During that same time period the NFPA Standards Council approved a plan to consolidate 114 current emergency response and response safety (ERRS) standards and related documents into 38 overarching emergency response standards. Based on document revision cycles for the affected standards, the NFPA ERRS standards consolidation plan will occur over several years with the end result being less documents for emergency responders to track, comply with and maintain. As noted in the April 2019 article, the NFPA Hazardous Materials/WMD  Response Technical Committee maintained four documents (NFPA 472, 473, 475, and 1072) and assists with the preparation of the NFPA Hazardous Materials Handbook. As these standards are all classified as emergency response documents, the committee's documents became part of the ERRS consolidation process. 

The consolidation process for affected documents began in the spring of 2019. As a result of this effort, a "new" hazmat standards document was born: NFPA 470: Hazardous Materials Standards for Responders. NFPA 470 was released in early October 2019 and contains all of the current content of NFPA 472, NFPA 473, and NFPA 1072 in one standard. The fourth document maintained by the committee, NFPA 475, is a recommended practice for the management of hazardous materials response programs. The committee has elected to maintain NFPA 475 separately and will do so within the same revision cycle as NFPA 470. 

From this point forward the committee will maintain one standards document that contains the content of the original standards that existed prior to June 2019. Within this single document will be the content of NFPA 472: Standard for Competence of Responders to Hazardous Materials/Weapons of Mass Destruction Incidents which is an "organization-based" document and is written as a risk-based response text that identifies minimum core performance competencies for Awareness, Operations and Technician level hazardous materials responders. NFPA 472 language enhances the basic core hazmat competencies with mission-specific competencies that outline defined knowledge, skills, and abilities that a responder should have for a given hazard, container type, or needed tactical skill.

Also within the scope of the "new" NFPA 470, the committee will continue to maintain and develop new content for NFPA 473: Standard for Competencies for EMS Personnel Responding to Hazardous Materials/Weapons of Mass Destruction IncidentsAnd NFPA 1072: Standard for Hazardous Materials/Weapons of Mass Destruction Emergency Response Personnel Professional Qualifications which is classified as an individual-based document. NFPA 1072 is written as a Pro Qual standard outlining the minimum job performance requirements (JPRs) for Awareness, Operations and Technician level responders and includes Operations – Mission Specific and Hazmat Incident Commander criteria. Those organizations that have adopted NFPA 1072 as their certifying / accreditation standard should consult with their professional qualifications accrediting agency (ex. IFSAC or Pro Board) for guidance on how to adopt the new standard. 

Importantly, due to the ERRS consolidation process, the period to provide public input for the next revision cycle for these documents was suspended for a brief period while the document consolidation editing was occurring and has now reopened under NFPA 470. However, the input period closes on November 15. Feedback and suggestions from the hazmat response community are vital to the committee's work. All public inputs are considered and will guide the NFPA Hazardous Materials/WMD Response Technical Committee for the next revision of NFPA 470, which is scheduled to be published in Fall 2021. It is important that people who seek to propose changes or additions to the content of NFPA 470, get those submissions in prior to November 15, 2019. 

Regardless of the format or style of the NFPA hazardous materials response documents, the NFPA Hazardous Materials/WMD Response Technical Committee will continue to strive to produce the most up to date and exacting standards language to guide the training and responder competencies for safe and effective response to hazmat incidents. 

Read full here:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/nfpa-470-new-old-hazardous-materials-response-rick-edinger

Oct 1, 2019

Supporting Farmers' Mental Health

Farming is more than just work for many; it's a way of life that is rewarding despite the tough physical work. But now it's becoming increasingly apparent that the unique challenges faced daily by farmers - from the long hours to the isolation to the many uncertainties beyond their control - can also greatly impact their mental health and well-being.

On farms and ranches across the country, struggles are taking their toll, leading to anxiety, depression, post-traumatic disorder, and even suicide. Although there are no Canadian statistics to assess the extent of mental health issues among farmers, a survey of more than 1100 farmers in Canada conducted by Guelph University professor Andria Jones-Bitton found that 35% of respondents met the criteria for depression. 58% met the criteria for anxiety and 45% were highly stressed - far higher than the general population.

The same survey found that 40% of farmers were uneasy seeking professional help, largely out of fear for what others would think. The traditional image of the hardy farmer who overcomes adversity is indeed hard to shake.

In Canada, the agriculture and agri-food industries support 1 in 8 jobs (2.3 million workers) and contributes over $100 billion to the country's economy. It makes good sense to build resilience among farmers to help them thrive in times of uncertainty or stress.

Unique stressors

From June 2018 to January 2019, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food conducted a study on the mental health challenges facing Canadian producers. Their Mental Health: A Priority for our Farmers report identifies many stressors that make producers particularly vulnerable to mental health issues.

Farmers live with many uncertainties that put them under pressure. Weather can make or break their livelihood yet is completely out of their control. Financial challenges from running a business and economic volatility are major stressors. Uncertain crop yields, machinery breakdowns, handling dangerous goods, and concerns over the well-being of livestock are also ongoing stressors. Long hours working on the land, away from people and community supports, can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness which adds to their stress.

Supporting farmers

The Committee's report looked at existing initiatives across the country to support producers facing mental health challenges, including telephone help lines, consultations with mental health and agricultural professionals, and funding from the federal government and agricultural producers' associations.

Farm Credit Canada offers online resources and an assessment tool through their "Rooted in Strength" program. The Do More Agriculture Foundation is piloting a project that offers mental health first aid training for agricultural communities in Canada. The Union des producteurs agricoles, in partnership with the Association québécoise de prévention du suicide, created a network of "Sentinels" across Quebec, who regularly interact with farmers and are trained to identify people vulnerable to mental illness.

But existing resources can be difficult to access due to unpredictable working hours, remote locations, and lack of reliable Internet. And not all health professionals are experienced with the specific challenges faced by agricultural workers. The report calls for more to be done, listing ten recommendations. It suggests the federal government consider the impacts that regulatory changes, labour reviews and audits may have on farmers. As well, the report recommends help to combat the growing violence against agricultural workers through public awareness campaigns and strategies. The report also calls for education and capacity building, more help lines, e-mental health services, funding for recognized organizations to provide mental health assistance to farmers and their families, and national co-ordination of further research targeting the mental health of farmers.

View and download infographic


Resources

Sep 12, 2019

New England States Ammonia Safety Day, Friday October 25, 2019 (Free Tickets)

Keene State College will host the first New England States Ammonia Safety Day on Friday October 25, 2019. The event is being organized by Ammonia Safety & Training Institute (https://ammonia-safety.com/) and will cover topics such as ·  Strengthen the Tripod: Industry, Government, and Public Safety ·  Value of prevention, protection, and preparedness ·  Understand hazards, mitigate risks, and prepare for threats ·  Evacuation, decontamination, and medical care ·  Valve and pipeline problems that lead to emergency events ·  Engaging emergency shutdown procedures ·  Command and control plan ·  Integrating Industrial response with public safety command ·  Pre-entry hazard assessment ·  Terminating command, initiating recovery, and restart ·  Basic refrigeration cycle components ·  Lessons learned from accidents and emergency events

The principles discussed will apply to industrial chemical safety in general as well as ammonia safety in particular. There is no registration cost; a detailed agenda and information for registering will be available soon.

Let me know if you have any questions about this.

FREE SAFETY DAY TICKET link
Free Attendance Ticket, includes training materials, beverages, breakfast snack and lunch.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/new-england-states-ammonia-safety-day-tickets-62143380524?aff=website

First Human Case of West Nile Virus Reported in Wisconsin This Year

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) is advising residents to continue to protect themselves against mosquito bites as it announces this year's first confirmed human case of West Nile virus (WNV) in a resident of Northeastern Wisconsin.

West Nile virus is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito and is not spread person to person. Mosquitoes get the virus by feeding on infected birds.

The majority of human WNV cases occur during the months of August and September. However, the risk of contracting WNV and other mosquito-borne illnesses, such as Jamestown Canyon virus, La Crosse encephalitis virus, or eastern equine encephalitis virus, is present any time mosquitoes are active, so it is important for people to be vigilant about preventing mosquito bites throughout the rest of the summer and into early fall.

The chances of a person contracting WNV are very low, and most people infected with WNV will not get sick. Those who do become ill may develop a fever, headache, and rash that lasts a few days. Symptoms typically begin between three to 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. In rare cases, WNV can cause severe disease with symptoms such as disorientation, tremors, paralysis, inflammation of the brain, and coma. Older adults and people with weakened immune systems are at an increased risk of severe disease from the virus.

There is no specific treatment for WNV other than to treat symptoms. If you think you have a WNV infection or another illness spread by mosquitoes, contact your health care provider. Although few mosquitoes actually carry the virus, there are several things you can do to reduce contact with mosquitoes and to get rid of areas where they breed.

DHS recommends the following:

  • Limit time spent outside at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Apply an insect repellant with DEET, IR3535, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus to exposed skin and clothing.
  • Make sure window and door screens are intact to prevent mosquitoes from getting into your home.
  • Prevent mosquitoes from breeding by removing stagnant water from items around your property, such as tin cans, plastic containers, flower pots, discarded tires, roof gutters, and downspouts.
  • Turn over wheelbarrows, wading pools, boats, and canoes when not in use.
  • Change the water in bird baths and pet dishes at least every three days.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas, and hot tubs; drain water from pool covers.
  • Landscape to prevent water from pooling in low-lying areas, and trim tall grass, weeds, and vines since mosquitoes use these areas to rest during hot daylight hours.

Sep 10, 2019

Free 4 hour Machinery and Machine Guarding

Susan Harwood Training Grants provide training and education for workers and employers on workplace safety and health hazards, responsibilities and rights. Target audiences include underserved, low-literacy, and high-hazard industry workers and employers.

NIU is proud to be a recipient of the Susan Harwood Training Grant. This grant provides training and education for workers and employers on workplace safety and health hazards, responsibilities, and rights. NIU will provide two to eight hours of machinery and machine guarding training to approximately 350 workers in new and small businesses. The targeted audience includes youth, minorities, hard-to-reach, and limited English proficiency workers. Training will include machinery such as augers, conveyor, mixers, roll formers, robots, and other basic machinery in general industry.

As part of the grant program, NIU will be offering two, four or eight hours of machinery and machine guarding training, for free.

Register here:

Aug 21, 2019

The NIOSH Occupational Exposure Banding Process for Chemical Risk Management

Thumbnail image of NIOSH Publication 2019-132

Occupational exposure limits (OELs) play a critical role in protecting workers and emergency response personnel from exposure to dangerous concentrations of hazardous materials [Cook 1987; Deveau et al. 2015; Paustenbach 1998; Nikfar and Malekirad 2014; Schulte et al. 2010; Skowroń and Czerczak 2015]. In the absence of an OEL, determining the appropriate controls needed to protect workers from chemical exposures can be challenging. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Chemical Substance Inventory currently contains over 85,000 chemicals that are commercially available [US EPA 2015], yet only about 1,000 of these have been assigned an authoritative (government, consensus, or peer reviewed) OEL. Furthermore, the rate at which new chemical substances are being introduced into commerce significantly outpaces OEL development, creating a need for guidance on thousands of chemical substances that lack reliable exposure limits [OSHA 2014].

Occupational exposure banding, also known as hazard banding or health hazard banding, is a systematic process that uses qualitative and quantitative hazard information on selected health-effect endpoints to identify potential exposure ranges or categories. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) occupational exposure banding process seeks to create a consistent and documented process with a decision logic to characterize chemical hazards so that timely, well-informed risk management decisions can be made for chemical substances that lack OELs. Users can band a chemical manually or by using the occupational exposure banding e-Tool. Overall, this document provides the background, rationale, and instructions for the occupational exposure banding process and gives guidance for risk managers to identify control levels for chemicals without authoritative OELs.

The NIOSH Occupational Exposure Banding Process for Chemical Risk Management [PDF – 3 MB]

Aug 1, 2019

Russian Titanic released 100 times more radiation in Europe than 2011’s Fukushima disaster.

Mysterious radioactive leak that swept Europe came from Russia, study confirms despite Kremlin denial

The source of a mysterious radioactive leak that swept Europe in 2017 has been traced to a nuclear processing plant in the southern Ural mountains in Russia, a new study confirms. 

Scientists analysed more than 1,300 data points all over the world to find the source of the enormous leak, which released 100 times more radiation in Europe than 2011's Fukushima disaster. 

The source – which is believed to be the Russian Mayak facility – was not a reactor accident but an incident in a nuclear reprocessing plant, researchers found.  

Russia has always denied the facility was the source and no official statement has been released in response to this latest research. 

The alarm bell was raised in October 2017 by Italian scientists who noticed a spike of the radioactive ruthenium-106. It was then detected in many European countries as well as in Asia, the Arabian Peninsula and even in the Caribbean.

The fact that ruthenium was the only radioactive material detected strongly suggested the source was a nuclear reprocessing plant, as reactor accidents typically release a number of different elements. 

Scientists could pinpoint the release to between 6pm on 25 September 2017 to noon the following day. 



Jul 16, 2019

Scientists Have Discovered a Sea of Fresh Water Under the Ocean

Quartz: Thousands of years ago, glaciers covered much of the planet. Oceans receded as water froze in massive sheets of ice blanketing the North American continent. As the ice age ended, glaciers melted. Massive river deltas flowed out across the continental shelf. The oceans rose, and fresh water was trapped in sediments below the waves. Discovered while drilling for oil offshore in the 1970s, scientists thought these "isolated" pockets of fresh water were a curiosity. They may instead prove to be a parched world's newest source of fresh water.

As told in the latest issue of the peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports, scientists from Columbia University and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution spent 10 days on a research ship towing electromagnetic sensors from New Jersey to Massachusetts. By measuring the way electromagnetic waves traveled through fresh and saline water, researchers mapped out fresh-water reservoirs for the first time.

It turns out the subterranean pools stretch for at least 50 miles off the US Atlantic coast, containing vast stores of low-salinity groundwater, about twice the volume of Lake Ontario. The deposits begin about 600 ft (183 m) below the seafloor and stretch for hundreds of miles. That rivals the size of even the largest terrestrial aquifers.

Jul 15, 2019

Federal Black Lung program is failing to prevent new illnesses AND running out of money.

By Joe Davidson
https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/07/11/black-lung-disease-cases-grow-while-federal-programs-financing-suffers

Like the miners who work underground in dark and dangerous conditions, black lung disease is, for many, largely out of sight, out of mind.

But for folks such as Gary Hairston, who spent more than 27 years in the mines around his Beckley, W.Va., home, the ailment is ever-present. He lives with it. Many have died of it.

Now, the number of black lung cases is growing. At the same time, funding for a federal program to care for those with the disease has fallen sharply.

While the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund has been in debt regularly since 1979, its financial situation is increasingly bleak. Even with the debt, the fund provides medical and financial assistance to certain miners who are totally disabled by the disease. About 25,600 people, including dependents, received black lung benefits in fiscal 2018. The average annual cost for medical treatment was $9,667.

A Government Accountability Office report says the trust fund's penury is exacerbated by this year's 55 percent decrease in the coal tax rate, declining coal production and coal company bankruptcies. The tax is levied on coal produced and sold domestically. When coal companies go broke, their responsibility to fund the black lung program is transferred to taxpayers.

The GAO predicts that the fund's debt could grow from less than $5 billion last year to more than $15 billion by 2050.

What matters more than money is the coal miners' misery.

Hairston's doctor initially thought the mass on his lung was cancer. A biopsy showed the Fayette County Black Lung Association vice president had a complicated form of black lung.

"I was 48 years old when I had to quit work. I can't play with my grandkids," Hairston told a hearing of the House Education and Labor subcommittee on workforce protections. With his large gray goatee and broad shoulders, Hairston is a distinguished-looking man, but he nearly broke down while delivering passionate testimony.

"I never did think at a young age that I wouldn't be able to take care of my family," he said. He wiped away tears before subcommittee Chairwoman Alma Adams (D-N.C.) allowed Hairston, almost overcome with emotion, to cut his testimony short.

Recent research indicates "an unprecedented increase" in the most severe form of black lung disease, according to a July 2018 update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The update does not provide a reason for the increase.

A 2016 CDC document said the factors leading to an increase of black lung in Kentucky are unknown, but it did offer some suggestions. Among the possibilities are new or modified mining practices, including slope mining and continuous use of mining machines. More miners seeking X-rays to determine whether they are eligible for state or federal programs also could be a factor.

Please read full By Joe Davidson at:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/07/11/black-lung-disease-cases-grow-while-federal-programs-financing-suffers



550,000 Acres on Fire in Alaska

Two small communities near Anderson, Alaska were ordered to evacuate late Thursday due to a wildfire, as the state's summer of heat and smoke continues.

The Kobe Fire was reported at 6:45 p.m. Thursday and by 10:50 p.m. had grown to 600 acres, The Alaska Division of Forestry reported. There are no reports that anyone was burned, but multiple buildings were threatened, prompting the evacuation of the Kobe and Anderson subdivisions. The residents of the City of Anderson, around 10 miles northeast of the blaze, were told to be ready to leave at a moment's notice.

The fire is the latest to ignite in Alaska, where 1.2 million acres have burned so far this year, making 2019 one of the state's three biggest wildfire years.

https://akfireinfo.com/2019/07/11/evacuations-ordered-for-city-of-anderson-due-to-rapidly-growing-wildfire/

Jul 12, 2019

Updated Consolidated List of Lists under EPCRA/CERCLA/CAA 112(r)

EPA revised the consolidated list of chemicals subject to the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA); Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA); and Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act; also known as the List of Lists. The List of Lists is available as a PDF file and as an Excel spreadsheet.

Jun 26, 2019

Protecting pregnant employees who work with chemicals

Lists for pregnant employee chemicals to avoid.  

When reviewing (SDS) safety data sheet's, in addition to Section 11, Toxicology,
Also review the hazard statements in Section 2,
Hazards Identification, where you may see something like "H360 May damage fertility or the unborn child."

While there is not ONE definitive list of reproductive toxinS, here are some lists of reproductive toxins:
https://www.ehs.iastate.edu/publications/factsheets/CarcReproTerat.pdf
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5447413/
https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/reproductivehazards/additionalinformation.html
https://www.chemistry.ucla.edu/sites/default/files/safety/doc/REPRODUCTIVE_TOXINS.pdf
https://oehha.ca.gov/media/downloads/proposition-65/p65list112318.pdf
https://unc.policystat.com/policy/5812455/latest/#autoid-2gw4v


Japan has a list
https://www.jniosh.johas.go.jp/icpro/jicosh-old/english/topics/mutagenicchemicals/mutagenicchemicals.html

EU does too
https://oshwiki.eu/wiki/Carcinogenic,_mutagenic,_reprotoxic_(CMR)_substances


SDS NOTE: An issue with products used in the workplace is that they are often mixtures of chemicals. Maybe a chemical that is a reproductive toxin will be 10 percent of the contents of a mixture. The manufacturer needs to write a safety data sheet. That doesn't mean that they will write a good one. For example, at least in the past, many products that contained bis-phenol A did not include any information on endocrine disruption, although bis-phenol A was a well-known estrogen mimic. In the absence of time-consuming research, you can be at the mercy of the manufacturer.

Jun 25, 2019

Study: fertilizer is root cause for increased global methane emissions, not cows

While the cattle industry is repeatedly accused of being the main culprit for increased global methane emissions (and a leading cause for climate change), a new study shows that the fertilizer industry is the root cause.

The report by researchers from Cornell, published in Elementa, shows that emissions of methane from the industrial fertilizer industry have been ridiculously underestimated (and, it turns out, based on self-reporting) and the production of ammonia for fertilizer may result in up to 100 times more emissions than previously estimated for this sector. What's worse is that these newly calculated emission amounts from the industrial fertilizer industry are actually more than the total amount the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated for all industries to emit across the U.S.

Full study here:
https://www.elementascience.org/articles/10.1525/elementa.358/

Anesthetic Gas: A Risk for Veterinary Workers

There is increasing evidence that exposure to isoflurane, the anesthetic gas commonly used in veterinary practice, may pose health risks, including nervous or reproductive system harm.

A new Workplace Hazard Update, Isoflurane May Harm Veterinary Worker Health (PDF), details how staff are exposed. It also provides guidance for minimizing exposure.

A California Department of Public Health investigation found high levels of isoflurane in workers' breathing zones during common veterinary procedures. Staff at veterinary practices were often unaware of the dangers of isoflurane, Cal/OSHA requirements, and ways they can protect themselves from the hazard.

Did you know?

Cal/OSHA has set a legal limit on the maximum level of isoflurane that can be in the air workers breathe. This Permissible Exposure Limit, or PEL, for isoflurane is 2 parts per million (ppm). CDPH found that many veterinarians, clinic owners, and workers were unaware of this regulation.

Email Occupational Health Watch with feedback about this update or change of address.

Two veterinary workers wearing masks, surgical gloves, and hats operate on a dog in a clinic.

Veterinary staff may be unaware that anesthetic gas is getting in the air they breathe.


 

Resources

Isoflurane May Harm Veterinary Worker Health (PDF) – OHB workplace hazard update
 
Recommendations on Control of Waste Anesthetic Gases in the
Workplace (PDF) – American College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia
 
Guidelines for Workplace Exposures to Anesthetic Gases – OSHA

May 30, 2019

DOE Releases New Study Highlighting the Untapped Potential of Geothermal Energy in the United States

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Department of Energy released a
groundbreaking analysis detailing how the United States can benefit
from the vast potential of geothermal energy.

The analysis culminated in a report, GeoVision: Harnessing the Heat
Beneath Our Feet, which summarizes findings showing that geothermal
electricity generation could increase more than 26-fold from
today—reaching 60 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity by 2050. In
addition to describing electricity-generation opportunities, the
GeoVision analysis also shows how geothermal can enhance heating and
cooling solutions for American residential and commercial consumers
through direct-use and heat-pump technologies.

"There is enormous untapped potential for geothermal energy in the
United States," said U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. "Making
geothermal more affordable can increase our energy options for a more
diverse electricity generation mix and for innovative heating and
cooling solutions for all Americans."

The GeoVision analysis represents a multiyear collaboration among
industry, academia, the National Laboratories, and federal agencies to
evaluate the potential for different geothermal resources. The effort
assessed opportunities to expand nationwide geothermal energy
deployment through 2050 by improving technologies, reducing costs, and
addressing project development barriers such as long permitting
timelines.

In the electric sector, under business as usual, geothermal generation
capacity will grow to 6 GW by 2050. By accelerating geothermal
development timelines, geothermal capacity could more than double from
business as usual, to 13 GW. Geothermal capacity could increase even
further—to 60 GW—by combining faster development timelines with
technology improvements.

In the non-electric sector, technology improvements could enable more
than 17,500 geothermal district-heating installations nationwide, and
28 million U.S. households could realize cost-effective heating and
cooling solutions through the use of geothermal heat pumps.

The analysis also examined economic benefits to the U.S. geothermal
industry; investigated opportunities for desalination, mineral
recovery, and hybridization with other energy technologies for greater
efficiencies and lower costs; and quantified potential environmental
impacts of increased geothermal deployment.

In addition to summarizing opportunities for geothermal energy in the
United States, the GeoVision analysis includes a roadmap of actionable
items for stakeholders to reduce technology costs and speed up
project-development timelines.

For more information on the Energy Department's Office of Energy
Efficiency and Renewable Energy, or the Geothermal Technologies
Office, visit the EERE website. To learn more about the GeoVision
report, visit the Energy Department's GeoVisionanalysis webpage.

Source
https://www.energy.gov/articles/doe-releases-new-study-highlighting-untapped-potential-geothermal-energy-united-states