Jul 31, 2020

Department of Energy Announces $97 Million for Bioenergy Research and Development

Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced more than $97 million in funding for 33 projects that will support high-impact technology research and development to accelerate the bioeconomy. These projects will improve the performance and lower the cost and risk of technologies that can be used to produce biofuels, biopower, and bioproducts from biomass and waste resources.

"Advancements made in bioenergy technologies will help expand America's energy supply, grow our economy, and enhance our energy security," said Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes. "These projects will ensure the United States' leadership across all segments of the growing global bioeconomy, and allow us to provide U.S. consumers and businesses more homegrown energy choices for their fuels and products."

Read more
https://www.energy.gov/articles/department-energy-announces-97-million-bioenergy-research-and-development

Webinar Workplace Outbreak Investigation, Contact Tracing and Testing: Intersection between Occupational & Public Health

Register now for the next webinar in the NIEHS WTP COVID-19 Summer Webinar Series. This webinar, being held Aug. 5 at 2:00 p.m. ET is co-sponsored by the American Industrial Hygiene Association. It will explore considerations for performing COVID-19 outbreak investigations, SARS-CoV-2 contact tracing, serum testing, and infection screening. The panelists will provide unique perspectives on the opportunities and challenges with conducting these important public health functions and how they apply today in the workplace. Hear from leaders that are doing it and the experiences, frustrations, and successes they have had.

Webinar Registration


Tentative Speakers:

- Letitia Davis, ScD, Massachusetts Department of Health

- Amy Liebman, MPA, MA, Migrant Clinicians Network

- George DiFerdinando, Jr., MD, MPH, FACP, Chair, Princeton New Jersey Board of Health, Steering Committee; New Jersey Climate Change Alliance; Executive Committee, New Jersey Local Boards of Health Association

- Robert Harrison, MD, MPH, University of California, San Francisco, and the California Department of Health

- Christina Armatas, MD, MPH, University of California, San Francisco, and the California Department of Health

This webinar is sponsored by the NIEHS Worker Training Program (WTP) and AIHA.

Webinar: Understanding COVID-19 Data - What Decision Makers Need to Know

Join this webinar for a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of COVID-19 data and their applications for state and local decision making.

The Societal Experts Action Network (SEAN) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recently released a data guide for decision makers at all levels to make sense of COVID-19 data, such as hospitalizations, emergency department visits, and number of confirmed cases, among others. By understanding the characteristics of these data types, decision makers can work with the data type best-suited to the question at hand, and use the data available to inform effective decision making.


Date and Time
Thu, August 6, 2020
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM EDT


Speakers:

Mary Bassett, MD, MPH, Co-Chair of the Societal Experts Action Network and director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University

Janet Currie, Ph.D., Co-Author of the guide and Henry Putnam Professor of Economics and Public Affairs, Princeton University 

Adrian Raftery, Ph.D., Co-Author of the guide and Boeing International Professor of Statistics and Sociology, University of Washington 

Linda Langston, Former Linn County (Iowa) Supervisor

LEARN MORE

A Guide for Decision Makers using Data to Understand the Extent and Spread of COVID-19 (2020)

Contributors

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

Description

This rapid expert consultation provides insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the data on the COVID-19 pandemic by applying five criteria to seven types of data available to support decision making. It was produced through the Societal Experts Action Network (SEAN), an activity of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that is sponsored by the National Science Foundation. SEAN links researchers in the social, behavioral, and economic sciences with decision makers to respond to policy questions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.


Download here

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on individual risk assessment for the workplace

(gov.scot) have developed this guidance to help staff and managers consider the specific risk of COVID-19 in the workplace. It is relevant to all staff, but will be particularly relevant to those who are returning to work after shielding, those who are returning to normal duties after COVID-19 related restrictions, those who are returning to the workplace after working from home or anyone who has a concern about a particular vulnerability to COVID-19.

The guidance was developed using the latest clinical evidence that sets out best practice on risk assessment for COVID-19 as an easy to follow tool. We will keep the tool under review as we learn more about COVID-19 in Scotland. Employers should continue to follow public health and sector-specific advice, and where possible, home working should continue.

Employers have a legal responsibility to keep their staff safe and promote their wellbeing. They also have important duties under equalities legislation, and should make reasonable adjustments to support workers with disabilities. We encourage employers to use this tool with their staff to help them to return to work safely.

Read full at

Jul 21, 2020

Study concludes that PFAS disposal increases contamination

The three standard practices for waste management outlined in the review, such as landfilling, wastewater treatment and incineration, have been found to not effectively contain or destroy PFAS.

According to a study published in Chemosphere, scientists at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), Washington, D.C., have concluded that burning, discarding and flushing waste containing the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS all contribute to environmental contamination.

The three standard practices for waste management outlined in the review, such as landfilling, wastewater treatment and incineration, have been found to not effectively contain or destroy PFAS.

"The three common 'disposal' options for getting rid of PFAS do not eliminate these contaminants but rather end up just returning either the same chemicals or their byproducts back into the environment," said Tasha Stoiber, EWG senior scientist and primary author of the study, in a release. "PFAS disposal is really just another step in the contamination cycle."

Jul 16, 2020

Business owners forced to throw recycling into landfill, or face fine

Commercial producers of recycling waste are now being asked to put the once recyclable material into the landfill or face a monetary fine if they try to recycle in existing residential bins.

New changes to the way recycling is being handled in the province have resulted in commercial recycling being deemed too expensive to process, with the new Recycle BC program being rolled out not supporting industrial, commercial and institutional material.

In the Regional District of Central Kootenay, changes to the management of the local recycling program — from regional district control to Recycle BC — means business owners and commercial producers are being told to put once accepted recyclables into the landfill.

According to the regional district, global recycling markets have dropped out, meaning there is no value in recyclables — in the past the value of the material often paid for the collection, hauling, processing, and marketing.

And since producers of commercial recyclables do not contribute financially to the Recycle BC program, industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) material is not accepted and is seen as contamination, said Amy Wilson, resource recovery manager for the RDCK.

"Basically ICI left at a Recycle BC depot is seen as illegal dumping, and may also be in contravention of a number of our "site regulations" in Resource Recovery Bylaw No. 2694," she said, adding that the move could fall under the fines (up to $10,000) or bans applied through the bylaw.

"In cases of illegal dumping we pass on the full cost of clean-up, and repeat offenders may be banned from using RDCK waste facilities (including depots)."

Read full from:

Jul 9, 2020

The best (and worst) materials for masks = People making homemade masks might want to reach for a vacuum cleaner filter

Amanda Wilson, an environmental health sciences doctoral candidate in the Department of Community, Environment and Policy in the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, is lead author on a recent study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection that assessed the ability of a variety of nontraditional mask materials to protect a person from infection after 30 seconds and after 20 minutes of exposure in a highly contaminated environment.

When the researchers compared wearing masks to wearing no protection during 20-minute and 30-second exposures to the virus, they found that infection risks were reduced by 24-94% or by 44-99% depending on the mask and exposure duration. Risk reduction decreased as exposure duration increased, they found.

"N99 masks, which are even more efficient at filtering airborne particles than N95 masks, are obviously one of the best options for blocking the virus, as they can reduce average risk by 94-99% for 20-minute and 30-second exposures, but they can be hard to come by, and there are ethical considerations such as leaving those available for medical professionals," Wilson said.

The next best options, according to the research, are N95 and surgical masks and, perhaps surprisingly, vacuum cleaner filters, which can be inserted into filter pockets in cloth masks. The vacuum filters reduced infection risk by 83% for a 30-second exposure and 58% for a 20-minute exposure. Of the other nontraditional materials evaluated by the researchers, tea towels, cotton-blend fabrics and antimicrobial pillowcases were the next best for protection.

Scarves, which reduced infection risk by 44% after 30 seconds and 24% after 20 minutes, and similarly effective cotton t-shirts are only slightly better than wearing no mask at all, they found.

"We knew that masks work, but we wanted to know how well and compare different materials' effects on health outcomes," said Wilson, who specializes in quantitative microbial risk assessment.


Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Arizona. Original written by Mikayla Mace. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Amanda M. Wilson, Sarah E. Abney, Marco-Felipe King, Mark H. Weir, Martín López-García, Jonathan D. Sexton, Stephanie J. Dancer, Jessica Proctor, Catherine J. Noakes, Kelly A. Reynolds. COVID-19 and non-traditional mask use: How do various materials compare in reducing the infection risk for mask wearers? Journal of Hospital Infection, 2020; DOI: 10.1016/j.jhin.2020.05.036

Jul 7, 2020

Military Firefighters Say DoD Isn’t Moving Fast Enough to Protect Them from Toxic Chemicals

An amendment to the House and Senate defense policy bills would require the Pentagon to provide blood tests for any service member suspected to have been exposed to chemicals used in most firefighting foams, as well as non-stick industrial coatings and stain repellent.

But the Department of Defense has yet to begin testing firefighters for these substances, which fall under the class of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. They are required to do so by Oct. 1 under last year's National Defense Authorization Act.

Read Next: General, Colonel Rebuked After Marine Corps Finds Serious Flaws in Crash Investigation

Military firefighters say they are glad lawmakers are now considering the dangers of the chemicals, which have been linked to certain types of cancer, birth defects and other health issues. But they don't feel that the Pentagon is moving fast enough to monitor their exposure levels.

"Being a DoD firefighter for 14 years, I know I've been covered in that stuff ... what has been done for all us firefighters?" said a service member, who requested that his name not be used because he remains on active duty and fears retaliation.

The fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act called for DoD to begin blood testing on military firefighters to determine their exposure levels to PFOS and PFOA.

A Defense Health Agency spokesman said DoD is currently developing the procedures for testing the thousands of current firefighters serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

"We are actively developing policy and procedures to provide blood testing to determine and document potential occupational exposure to perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances for each firefighter of the Department of Defense during the annual occupational medical examination conducted by the department for each firefighter," a DHA official said on background, because he was not authorized to speak for the agency.

The House and Senate versions of the national defense policy bill contain at least 10 different measures to regulate PFAS, from providing funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to improving research on the chemicals and prohibiting DoD from buying certain products containing PFAS, and barring DoD from incinerating PFAS products.

Read on:
https://www.military.com/daily-news/2020/07/02/military-firefighters-say-dod-isnt-moving-fast-enough-protect-them-toxic-chemicals.html

Protective gear could expose firefighters to PFAS

Fluorinated compounds in water-resistant textiles break down over time, contacting the skin and shedding into the environment

Firefighters face dangers beyond the blaze itself. Their work subjects them to carcinogens from burning materials, as well as toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from flame-suppressing foams. A new study finds that firefighters can also be exposed to PFAS over time through another source: their protective clothing (Environ. Sci. Technol. Lett. 2020, DOI: 10.1021/acs.estlett.0c00410).

Firefighters suffer from disproportionately high rates of cancer, including types that have been linked to PFAS exposure such as testicular cancer, prostate cancer, mesothelioma, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The clothing worn by firefighters, known as turnout gear, is made with fluoropolymer textiles and treated with PFAS for water resistance so that the material does not become soaked and heavy during use.

Graham F. Peaslee, a chemical physicist at the University of Notre Dame, began the study in 2017 when he was contacted by Diane Cotter. Her husband, a 28-year veteran of the Worcester (Massachusetts) Fire Department, had been diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. Cotter had examined her husband's gear and found that, while it appeared outwardly intact, there was serious fabric decay on the inside. Cotter wondered whether the uniform could be shedding toxic chemicals and asked Peaslee to take a look.

Read on:
https://cen.acs.org/environment/persistent-pollutants/Protective-gear-expose-firefighters-PFAS/98/i26?PageSpeed=noscript

OSHA Instruction establishes inspection procedures and enforcement policies for the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standards

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a memorandum on June 29, 2020, announcing an "addendum on termination" to its March 26, 2020, COVID-19 temporary enforcement policy.  The memorandum notes that as states and businesses begin to re-open, there will be a period of adjustment as regulated entities plan how to comply with environmental legal obligations and with public health guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other agencies regarding actions intended to stem the transmission and spread of COVID-19.  The memorandum states that "it is now appropriate to expressly include a provision in the temporary policy that covers termination of the temporary policy, and to make such changes to the policy as are needed to reflect the impact of the changing circumstances on facility operations, worker shortages, and other constraints caused by the public health emergency."  For more information, please read the full memorandum.

Read more > https://www.lawbc.com/regulatory-developments/entry/epas-temporary-enforcement-policy-will-end-august-31

Jul 2, 2020

Free Webinar - Anaerobic Digestion Resource for Farms


July 16, 1:30 p.m. - 3 p.m. (eastern)
 
The Northeast Waste Management Official's Association and the Northeast Recycling Council are hosting the AgSTAR—Anaerobic Digestion Project Development Handbook webinar on July 16 at 1:30 p.m. (eastern). The webinar will feature EPA AgSTAR's Handbook as a resource for setting up and operating an on-farm anaerobic digestion (AD) system, Bar-Way Farm's experience with implementing AD, and Vanguard Renewables AD project process.
 
Register Here
http://go2.mailengine1.com/click/f8qq-23twjp-otki0c-98amz1g5/
 
Webinar Presenters
Vanessa McKinney, Program Manager of EPA's AgSTAR Program - Ms. McKinney works with U.S. livestock, biogas, and government stakeholders to advance the deployment of digesters and biogas systems. She has over a decade of experience in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and air emissions regulation and policy.
Peter Melnik, co-owner of Bar-Way Farm—a family-owned dairy farm for more than 100 years in Deerfield, Massachusetts. Mr. Melnik will present a farmers' perspective in running a farm with an Anaerobic Digester for managing manure and producing electricity.

John Hanselman, Chairman and CEO of Vanguard Renewables - John has thirty years of experience in leading renewable energy, environmental, and mission-based companies. Mr. Hanselman will present about the anaerobic digester project development process and their experience with working with Bar-Way Farm.






Jun 18, 2020

A Briggs & Stratton employee who pushed for more coronavirus restrictions in the workplace died from the virus

(JSONLINE) In response to his death, Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of the immigrant and workers rights advocacy group Voces de la Frontera, said the group sent a public letter to the company and filed a complaint with the regional Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The letter and complaint list specific requests, including greater access to testing for employees, a mandatory mask wearing policy and ensuring there is 6 feet of distance in all departments and production lines. 

Neumann-Ortiz is also asking the company to implement or strengthen the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards at the factory.

"His precious life and premature death are a reminder to all of us, that time is of the essence," Neumann-Ortiz said. 

Neumann-Ortiz said the communications staff at Briggs & Stratton reached out to her on the day of the news conference. However, since that time, Neumann-Ortiz said she has not heard back from the company after sending two emails about a follow-up phone call. 

"We are trying again because we are taking them at their word that they do want to respond to these issues," she said.

Rick Carpenter, the vice president of corporate marketing and communications at the Wauwatosa-based Briggs & Stratton, said the company has been doing its best to fight the coronavirus. 

"Know that we are working hard to remain vigilant against this virus," Carpenter said in an email.


Read full at

https://www.jsonline.com/story/communities/west/news/wauwatosa/2020/06/16/coronavirus-briggs-stratton-worker-dies-covid-19/3199127001/

Jun 15, 2020

America fails the Covid-19 pandemic marshmallow test for society.

( ) One way to think about the Covid-19 pandemic is that it poses a kind of marshmallow test for society.

At this point, there have been enough international success stories in dealing with the coronavirus to leave us with a clear sense of what beating the pandemic takes. First, you have to impose strict social distancing long enough to reduce the number of infected people to a small fraction of the population. Then you have to implement a regime of testing, tracing and isolating: quickly identifying any new outbreak, finding everyone exposed, and quarantining them until the danger is past.

This strategy is workable. South Korea has done it. New Zealand has done it.

But you have to be strict and you have to be patient, staying the course until the pandemic is over, not giving in to the temptation to return to normal life while the virus is still widespread. So it is, as I said, a kind of marshmallow test.

And America is failing that test.

Read full at:

Jun 14, 2020

Review of 16 cohorts found 40-45% of people who tested positive with RT-PCR using nasopharyngeal swabs are asymptomatic

Review published in Annals of Internal Medicine https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/M20-3012 and covered by Time  https://time.com/5848949/covid-19-asymptomatic-spread/

This can profoundly impact the utility of COVID-19 screening for symptoms before clinical procedures such as pulmonary function testing since, even though the asymptomatic people appear to shed virus at the same rate as symptomatic people, they will pass the symptom screening.

EPA Adds More Indoor Air Quality Questions and Answers to our COVID-19 FAQ Webpage

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is on everyone's mind as we spend more time inside our homes. EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have guidance for states & territories, tribes, and local governments (including public health agencies), homeowners, business owners, schools, and others to address questions about risks, exposures and protection from COVID-19.

Examples of Frequent Questions about Indoor Air and Coronavirus (COVID-19):

Answers to these questions and more about indoor air and COVID-19 can be found here. Each FAQ includes links to additional information for managing IAQ in your home and relevant CDC guidance to help protect yourself and your family from COVID-19. 

If you have additional questions about indoor air, disinfectants, drinking water or other topics, please visit EPA's Coronavirus (COVID-19) website and Frequent Questions Related to Coronavirus (COVID-19) for more information. For more multilingual web content on the Coronavirus, indoor air quality and other environmental health issues, visit: www.epa.gov/lep. EPA is continuing to add multilingual content and updating this FAQ list frequently, so please consider checking it routinely.

Free ACOEM Webinar on Prevention of COVID-19 in Construction Workers

The ACOEM Webinar "Prevention of COVID-19 in Construction Workers" is posted at the link below.  It will be next Wednesday, June 17 at 12 noon Eastern. It is free, but those interested must register here:

https://connect.acoem.org/s/lt-event?id=a1U3m00000L1UgQEAV&_ga=2.135510833.1093704035.1591976357-1419543086.1591729216

Jun 12, 2020

First Reported Cases of SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Companion Animals

What are the implications for public health practice?

Human-to-animal transmission of SARS-CoV-2 can occasionally occur. Animals ar

The figure shows an image of a cat with text overlay describing that there is currently no evidence that pets play a significant role in spreading COVID-19 to people.

e not known to play a substantial role in spreading COVID-19, but persons with COVID-19 should avoid contact with animals. Companion animals that test positive for SARS-CoV-2 should be monitored and separated from persons and other animals until they recover.


 

On April 22, CDC and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported cases of two domestic cats with confirmed infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). These are the first reported companion animals (including pets and service animals) with SARS-CoV-2 infection in the United States, and among the first findings of SARS-CoV-2 symptomatic companion animals reported worldwide. These feline cases originated from separate households and were epidemiologically linked to suspected or confirmed human COVID-19 cases in their respective households. Notification of presumptive positive animal test results triggered a One Health* investigation by state and federal partners, who determined that no further transmission events to other animals or persons had occurred. Both cats fully recovered. Although there is currently no evidence that animals play a substantial role in spreading COVID-19, CDC advises persons with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 to restrict contact with animals during their illness and to monitor any animals with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection and separate them from other persons and animals at home (1).


SARS-CoV-2 is a zoonotic coronavirus that likely originated in bats (2). A small number of animals worldwide, including dogs, cats, zoo tigers and lions, and farmed mink, have been infected naturally with SARS-CoV-2, mostly through suspected human-to-animal transmission (3). In addition, experimental studies in ferrets, golden Syrian hamsters, Egyptian fruit bats, and cats show that these species can transmit infection to cohoused animals of the same species (47).


Read full from CDC:

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6923e3.htm


Trends in Pneumoconiosis Deaths — United States, 1999–2018

What is already known about this topic?

Pneumoconioses are a group of occupational lung diseases caused by inhaling organic dust and inorganic mineral dust particles. From 1968 to 2000, death rates for all pneumoconioses decreased with the exception of those for asbestosis. Although preventable, deaths continue to occur.

What is added by this report?

Pneumoconiosis deaths decreased from 2,738 deaths in 1999 to 1,632 in 2018, and age-adjusted death rates decreased from 12.8 to 5.3 per million population. All pneumoconioses decreased with the exception of pneumoconiosis attributed to other inorganic dusts.

What are the implications for public health practice?

Pneumoconiosis-associated deaths continue to occur, underscoring the importance of occupational dust exposure reduction, early case detection, and continued surveillance to monitor trends, with an increased focus on pneumoconiosis attributable to other inorganic dusts.

Pneumoconioses are preventable occupational lung diseases caused by inhaling dust particles such as coal dust or different types of mineral dusts (1). To assess recent trends in deaths associated with pneumoconiosis, CDC analyzed multiple cause-of-death data*,† for decedents aged ≥15 years for the years 1999–2018, and industry and occupation data collected from 26 states§ for the years 1999, 2003, 2004, and 2007–2013. During 1999–2018, pneumoconiosis deaths decreased by 40.4%, with the exception of pneumoconiosis attributed to other inorganic dusts (e.g., aluminum, bauxite, beryllium, iron, and tin oxide), which increased significantly (p-value for time trend <0.05). The largest observed decreases in pneumoconiosis deaths were for those associated with coal workers' pneumoconiosis (69.6%) and silicosis (53.0%). Asbestosis was the most frequently reported pneumoconiosis and was associated with working in the construction industry. The ongoing occurrence of deaths associated with pneumoconiosis underscores the importance of occupational dust exposure reduction, early case detection, and continued surveillance to monitor trends.

Read full from:
https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6923a1.htm

Jun 8, 2020

Respiratory protection for health care workers: A 2020 COVID‐19 perspective

Abstract: As the US health care system began to respond to the coronavirus disease‐2019 pandemic, demand for respiratory personal protective equipment (PPE) increased precipitously, as did the number of users. This commentary discusses ensuing deviations from accepted respiratory PPE program practices, which potentially increased risk to health care workers. Such lapses included omitting user training and fit testing, provision of unapproved devices, and application of devices in settings and ways for which they were not intended. The temporary compromise of professionally accepted standards due to exigencies must not become the new normal. Rather, the current attention to PPE should be leveraged to enhance practice, motivate vital research, and strengthen professional, governmental, and institutional capabilities to control health care worker exposures to infectious hazards.

Read full here
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ajim.23144

Jun 5, 2020

Subject: US EPA Announces Anaerobic Digestion Funding Opportunity

US EPA has announced a competitive grant funding opportunity with an estimated $3 million available to increase anaerobic digester (AD) capacity in the United States. US EPA anticipates awarding 10 to 40 projects, with each individual project eligible to receive between $50,000 - $300,000.
 
Applications must achieve one or more of the following objectives:
  •  Support State, Tribal, and/or local government programs that seek to use AD to increase their organic waste diversion rates;
  • Demonstrate solutions and/or approaches for increasing AD utilization that can be replicated by other communities, governments, or other entities; and/or Establish new or expand existing partnerships that result in the development of AD capacity.
The following entities are eligible to apply:
* State, local, Tribal, interstate, and intrastate government agencies and instrumentalities; and
* Non-profit organizations (as defined by 2 CFR Part 200) that are not 501(c)(4) organizations that lobby, including non-profit educational institutions and non-profit hospitals.
 
Individuals and for-profit organizations are not eligible.
 
Application must be submitted electronically through Grants.gov <http://www.grants.gov/> by 11:59 p.m. ET on July 14, 2020 to receive consideration for funding. More information is available at the EPA Anaerobic Digestion Funding Opportunity's website <http://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/sustainable-materials-management-2020-anaerobic-digestion-funding> and on Grants.gov <http://www.grants.gov/> under Funding Opportunity Announcement EPA-OLEM-ORCR-20-02.
 

Jun 1, 2020

OSHA Releases Summary List of Guidance Documents Taken to Protect Workers During COVID-19

On May 28, 2020 OSHA released a comprehensive list of guidance documents, statements, and actions they've taken to help protect workers during the coronavirus pandemic.  The list is categorized into the following primary topic areas.  

They are:
  • Respirator Guidance
  • Protecting Workers in High-Risk Industries
  • Enforcing Safety in the Workplace
  • Offering Clear Direction for Employers

The list is a great way to see if you've missed anything.

 Source:

CDC - Sobering statistics on COVID among Healthcare Personnels

CDC released new statistics yesterday.  
One of the more sobering for the health care community are the number of cases and the number of fatalities within the health care community. This is made even more significant by the fact that CDC only has the mortality status for only 56.4% of the cases among health care personnel.
 
Cases & Deaths among Healthcare Personnel
Data were collected from 1,417,310 people, but healthcare personnel status was only available for 304,479 (21.5%) people. For the 66,447 cases of COVID-19 among healthcare personnel, death status was only available for 37,485 (56.4%).

CASES AMONG HCP 66,447

DEATHS AMONG HCP 318

See full from CDC :

May 26, 2020

OSHA Will Examine if Employers Determined Whether Employee COVID-19 Cases are Work Related for Purposes of Recording Workplace Injury and Illnesses

On May 19, 2019, OSHA issued another enforcement guidance memorandum
regarding recording COVID-19 cases that rescinds the prior guidance and obligates employers to make at least some work-related determinations regarding employees who contract COVID-19. The new memorandum goes into effect May 26, 2020, and will remain in effect until further notice.

By way of background, OSHA has explained that a COVID-19 case is a recordable illness if (1) an employee is positive or presumptively positive for COVID-19; (2) the case is work-related; and (3) the case results in medical treatment beyond first aid or days away from work. For employers, the "million-dollar" question remains: How does an employer determine whether an employee's COVID-19 case is work-related such that it is recordable on the employer's Injury and Illness logs?

OSHA's May 19 memorandum seeks to help employers address this question.

To start, OSHA will exercise its enforcement discretion to assess employers' efforts in making work-related determinations. This means that employers, at a minimum, must undertake an investigation to determine whether the COVID-19 case is work-related.

To this end, when an employer learns of an employee's COVID-19 illness, the employer should, at a minimum:

Ask the employee how he believes he contracted the COVID-19 illness;
 
While respecting employee privacy, discuss with the employee his work and out-of-work activities that may have led to the COVID-19 illness; and
 
Review the employee's work environment for potential COVID-19 exposure.

The employer should base its work-related determination should be based on the information reasonably available it at the time; however, if the employer later learns more information related to an employee's COVID-19 illness, the employer should then take that information into account and revisit whether the illness is work-related.

The memorandum explains that after a reasonable and good faith inquiry, if the employer cannot determine whether it is more likely than not that exposure in the workplace played a causal role with respect to a particular case of COVID-19, the employer does not need to record that COVID-19 illness.

The memorandum instructs Compliance Officers to consider the questions below when determining whether an employer has complied with its recording obligation. That is, evidence and information regarding answers to these questions may weigh in favor of or against work-relatedness.

Read memorandum at:

May 21, 2020

Department of Energy Announces $67 Million to Enhance Manufacturing Competitiveness Through Innovation

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) announced a $67 million funding opportunity to stimulate technology innovation, improve the energy productivity of American manufacturing, and enable the manufacturing of cutting-edge products in the United States.

"As we move into the future, energy competitiveness is becoming increasingly critical to manufacturing competitiveness, and the Trump Administration is fully committed to securing U.S. leadership in manufacturing," said Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes. "To create and sustain American leadership in advanced manufacturing, DOE is investing in new industrial technologies, materials, and processes that will help bolster American manufacturing."

In its report, "Strategy for American Leadership in Advanced Manufacturing," the White House identified advanced manufacturing as one of the vital industries of the future, stating, "Federal, State, and local governments must work together to support advanced manufacturing through collective actions that support research and development, develop the workforce, promote free and fair trade, and create a regulatory and tax system that unleashes the private sector."

Read on at

May 20, 2020

News Release from OSHA: Revised Enforcement Policies For Coronavirus

OSHA Department of Labor, United States of America  
News Release

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has adopted revised policies for enforcing OSHA's requirements with respect to coronavirus as economies reopen in states throughout the country.

Throughout the course of the pandemic, understanding about the transmission and prevention of infection has improved. The government and the private sector have taken rapid and evolving measures to slow the virus's spread, protect employees, and adapt to new ways of doing business.

Now, as states begin reopening their economies, OSHA has issued two revised enforcement policies to ensure employers are taking action to protect their employees.

First, OSHA is increasing in-person inspections at all types of workplaces. The new enforcement guidance reflects changing circumstances in which many non-critical businesses have begun to reopen in areas of lower community spread. The risk of transmission is lower in specific categories of workplaces, and personal protective equipment potentially needed for inspections is more widely available. OSHA staff will continue to prioritize COVID-19 inspections, and will utilize all enforcement tools as OSHA has historically done.

Second, OSHA is revising its previous enforcement policy for recording cases of coronavirus. Under OSHA's recordkeeping requirements, coronavirus is a recordable illness, and employers are responsible for recording cases of the coronavirus, if the case:

- Is confirmed as a coronavirus illness;
- Is work-related as defined by 29 CFR 1904.5; and
- Involves one or more of the general recording criteria in 29 CFR 1904.7, such as medical treatment beyond first aid or days away from work.

Under the new policy issued today, OSHA will enforce the recordkeeping requirements of 29 CFR 1904 for employee coronavirus illnesses for all employers. Given the nature of the disease and community spread, however, in many instances it remains difficult to determine whether a coronavirus illness is work-related, especially when an employee has experienced potential exposure both in and out of the workplace. OSHA's guidance emphasizes that employers must make reasonable efforts, based on the evidence available to the employer, to ascertain whether a particular case of coronavirus is work-related.

Recording a coronavirus illness does not mean that the employer has violated any OSHA standard. Following existing regulations, employers with 10 or fewer employees and certain employers in low hazard industries have no recording obligations; they need only report work-related coronavirus illnesses that result in a fatality or an employee's in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye.[1]

For further information and resources about the coronavirus disease, please visit OSHA's coronavirus webpage.

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.

[1] See 29 C.F.R. §§ 1904.1(a)(1), 1904.2.

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May 15, 2020

Wisconsin Washington/Ozaukee Public Health Department “Blueprint for Reopening Washington and Ozaukee Counties”

The Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department (WOPHD) released the "Blueprint for Reopening Washington and Ozaukee Counties"

The Blueprint provides broad guidance for reopening the economy safely and incrementally after Governor Evers' Safer at Home order is lifted.

May 11, 2020

New Chemical Accident Reporting Requirements

This Operating Experience Level 3 (OE-3) document provides information on a new requirement imposed by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) to report certain accidental releases of chemicals. The CSB requires reporting of any accidental release into the ambient air that results in a fatality, serious injury, or substantial property damage. This new reporting requirement is distinct and separate from other release reporting requirements from other governmental agencies. This OE-3 document includes the applicability criteria for reporting an accidental release, steps to report the release, and a recommendation to update protocols and procedures.

New Chemical Accident Reporting Requirements here;

May 8, 2020

Complimentary Webinar Employer Workplace Prevention of COVID-19 Airborne Transmission

Employer Workplace Prevention of COVID-19 Airborne Transmission:
Applying OSHA's Hierarchy of Controls

Maintain a safe work environment by learning about personal protection for infectious diseases, COVID-19 airborne prevention and recommendations for engineering work-practice. Provide a safe and healthful work environment to your employees as required by OSHA's General Duty Clause law.

Complimentary Webinar presented by Waubonsee Community College

Presenter: Michael Serpe, CSP, BSEM
Tuesday, May 12,  9 - 11 a.m. CT

RSVP for Webinar
https://www.waubonsee.edu/education-and-workforce-development-webinar-sign

35 years later, Bhopal gas leak failures resurface in Vizag

In Vizag, the 11 deaths so far and hundreds of affected people in hospital indicate that styrene must have escaped in extremely high concentrations and affected the nearby population.


Thirty six years after the Bhopal disaster, it is distressing to see accidents from hazardous industries. The fields of occupational and environmental medicine, toxicology, and epidemiology which study and prevent industrial accidents have still not been developed adequately to cater for the amount of industrial development that has occurred in India. After the Bhopal disaster, I was frustrated that this field was not available in India and I had to go overseas to study these subjects. In 2020, I'm not sure very much has changed.

Please read on from source
https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/35-years-later-bhopal-gas-leak-failures-resurface-in-vizag/story-blOMncph2Az8RJO4yKTvUO.html

May 4, 2020

Solar and Wind Cheapest Sources of Power in Most of the World

(BloomBerg) A decade ago, solar was more than $300 a megawatt-hour and onshore wind exceeded $100 per megawatt-hour. Today, onshore wind is $37 in the U.S. and $30 in Brazil, while solar is $38 in China, the cheapest sources of new electricity in those countries.

Battery storage is also getting more competitive. The levelized cost of electricity for batteries has fallen to $150 a megawatt-hour, about half of what it was two years ago. That's made it the cheapest new peaking-power technology in places that import gas, including Europe, China and Japan.

Apr 29, 2020

Dr Michael Osterholm, head of CIDRAP, weekly podcasts on covid-19

In case you haven't heard these, Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director of CIDRAP (Univ of MN Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy), has spent his life working with epidemics and he's been giving weekly podcasts on covid-19 for 5 weeks. They are listed here:
  •         Episode 1: How We Got Here (March 24, 2020)
  •         Episode 2: The Global Coronavirus Response (March 31, 2020)
  •         Episode 3: Preparing For What's To Come (April 8, 2020)
  •         Episode 4: The Reality of Testing (April 14, 2020)
  •         Episode 5: Living with the Virus (April 22, 2020)

And you can find them here https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/covid-19/podcasts-webinars They are very interesting and informative.

Apr 24, 2020

WEBINAR | COVID-19 and Your Workplace: Getting Back to Work Safely

COVID-19 and Your Workplace: Getting Back to Work Safely

Here are three simple questions:
  1. Does your organization have an updated infectious disease control program?
  2. Does your organization have training modules for supervisors and employees to understand COVID-19 exposures and best practices?
  3. Do you know the recordkeeping requirements for COVID-19?

If you answered "no" to any of these questions, join us next Wednesday April 29th at 1pm CST for a live webinar. Attendees will leave with:

  • Knowledge from a front-line occupational medicine doctor
  • Insights on supply chain constraints for PPE
  • Action steps for implementing an exposure control plan
  • Opportunity to purchase COVID-19 program documents and training modules

Register for the Webinar Today
https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/1938373435447790351

Apr 22, 2020

EPA Publishes Scope Documents for 20 Risk Evaluation Chemicals

(PAINT.ORG) This month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published 20 draft scope documents for high-priority chemicals undergoing Risk Evaluation under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). These are the 20 high priority chemicals that EPA designated for TSCA Risk Evaluation in December 2019.

EPA is accepting comments on the first 13 scoping documents, made available on April 6, through May 26. By statute, EPA must finalize scoping documents by June 20, 2020. Stakeholders must submit comment on the second batch of seven chemicals within 45 days of publication in the Federal Register. At this writing, EPA had not published in the Federal Register.

The scope documents include the proposed conditions of use, hazards, exposures, and the potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations that EPA expects to consider in the TSCA risk evaluations. The documents also include: a description of the reasonably available information and the science approaches that EPA plans to use, a conceptual model that outlines the potential hazards and exposures throughout the life cycle of the chemical, an analysis plan to identify the approaches and methods EPA plans to use to assess health and environmental factors, and a potential plan for peer review.

Notably, EPA has not proposed exclusions for de minimis amounts. EPA may consider exclusions for de minimis amounts on a case-by-case basis, with supporting data. Information related to amounts in products or used in processes, exposures or controls/personal protective equipment (PPE) may be useful in seeking such an exemption.

EPA also generally includes disposal as a condition of use where it did not in the first 10 chemicals it evaluated. This is likely due to the 9th Circuit's opinion in Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, et. al. v. EPA (No. 17-72260), where the 9th Circuit evaluated scope of EPA risk evaluations as required by EPA's risk evaluation framework rule.

The 20 Scoping Documents are as follows: