Jun 26, 2017

POWERFUL tool to connect to a wide range of government databases.

Today, all around cool internet thing IFTTT is hooking all kinds of useful public data into its powerful platform. With the launch of its new Data Access Project, IFTTT will add support for a broad selection of government agencies, organizations and research and cultural groups. That includes public data from federal and state government feeds on down to municipal transit information.

The new data streams have the potential to be all kinds of useful. In practice, that means every time there's a relevant new SEC filing, your Hue lights can flash green (or red, depending). Or you can get a text every time the State Department posts a travel warning. Or a Slack notification each time the Department of Defense posts an update. Or lots of things — infinitely configurable things, really.

Put simply, IFTTT lets you connect things to other things. It does this through easy to set up custom formulas, like "every time @techcrunch tweets, call my phone." These logic statements, all take the form of "if x happens, do y," hence the name If This Then That (IFTTT). IFTTT used to call these formulas Recipes but now they're calling them Applets, which is more confusing in our book but the functionality remains the same.

IFTTT's more than 40 new sources include:

  • Department of Labor
  • Bureau of Economic Analysis
  • Federal Communications Commission
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Library of Congress
  • National Science Foundation
  • Energy Information Association
  • USA.gov
  • Pew Research Center
  • Department of Defense
  • Centers for Disease Control
  • Amtrak
  • Caltrain
  • Texas Legislature
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation
  • American Civil Liberties Union

For IFTTT, the public data initiative stands to breathe some new life into a platform that in recent years is perhaps best known for letting you automate quirky things in your smart home. As a (really) long time IFTTT user, I have to say that it's an exciting and potentially very useful new direction. I fully expect to lose hours configuring my own public data streams in the coming days.

According to IFTTT CEO Linden Tibbets, the beauty of the service's new direction is that it can help users organize yet another kind of information that might otherwise be overwhelming and put it to good use.

"It's not that the information isn't out there — companies, governments, and institutions are releasing information all the time. But for the average person, it's overwhelming," said Tibbets.

"We've built out services whose data impacts people in very real ways: governments, agencies, non-profits, transits, and other institutions. Now people can easily find, and use, that information in brand new ways. We're excited to see the response, and plan to expand the Data Access Project with more services in the near future."

Apparently, this could be the tip of the iceberg for IFTTT's foray into helping people harness the power of public information that's already floating around.

"People are hungry for public data, especially when it comes to staying on top of the news and government," said Anne Mercogliano, IFTTT Vice President of Business Operations and Marketing. "Our IFTTT team kept seeing more and more amazing data resources out there and realized it was something we wanted to invest in and help build and bring onto the platform. We hope the Data Access Project is helpful for the average person, researcher, official and more."

Mercogliano notes that ProPublica's IFTTT channel saw a significant boost in interest after November 8, 2016. And in March of this year, IFTTT launched a collection of "Applets for activism" that sought to tap into that same phenomenon.

"Customizing your experience is at the heart of IFTTT and we want to ensure you're getting all of the data you need but in a way that works for your lifestyle," Mercogliano said. "The Data Access Project is an ongoing initiative for us and we're looking for any government, local agency or nonprofit to be a part of our project."

Interested groups can contact IFTTT at dap@ifttt.com to get started.

DHHS (NIOSH) Publication: The Myths of Respiratory Protection in Healthcare

Evidence from surveillance studies indicates gaps in hospitals' respiratory protection programmatic operations and healthcare workers' (HCWs) marginal compliance with respiratory protection recommended practices. Improper use of respiratory protective devices (RPDs) may expose HCWs to infectious respiratory illnesses. In this document, NIOSH addresses common myths related to respiratory protection and provides information to reinforce respiratory protection program administrator responsibilities and HCW knowledge concerning the proper use of these devices so that they can be prepared for the next public health emergency and best protect themselves in daily practice.

Preparedness through Daily Practice: The Myths of Respiratory Protection in Healthcare

Jun 22, 2017

Information about Laboratory Chemical Safety from the National Library of Medicine (NLM)

NLM Toxicology and Environmental Health Info
Chemicals accidents in academic and industrial labs are too common. Some of these accidents result from hazardous chemical reactions.The National Library of Medicine (NLM) has information about laboratory chemical safety.

The NLM National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) PubChem provides a new feature, the Laboratory Chemical Safety Summary (LCSS). These summaries have stability and reactivity information taken from the NLM Hazardous Substances Databank (HSDB). An LCSS offers easily accessible, helpful information for directors and instructors of research and teaching laboratories to help in the development and implementation of safe laboratory practices.

The NCBI Minute Webinar PubChem, a Source of Laboratory Chemical Safety Information shows how to access the LCSS to find the most relevant chemical safety information including flammability, toxicity, exposure limits, exposure symptoms, first aid, handling, and clean up. It can be viewed at

The NLM also provides selected links to information about lab safety.

CA-OSHA: Disinfectants Can Cause Asthma

Disinfectants are readily available and frequently used in many work settings, including schools, offices, health care, and manufacturing. However, disinfectants are pesticides, and many contain ingredients that can cause or trigger work-related asthma. People may not realize that products they commonly use, such as disposable wipes and common cleaners, often contain disinfectant ingredients. Disinfecting is often unnecessary, for example, for cleaning up a drink spill, a dusty workstation, or a muddy floor. Usually, cleaning with asthma-safer cleaners and microfiber is enough to keep a workplace clean and healthy.

May is Asthma Awareness Month, and employers and workers can read about how to prevent work-related asthma caused by disinfectants in new fact sheetspublished by the Work-Related Asthma Prevention Program (WRAPP) of the California Department of Public Health. WRAPP has found over 275 people in a variety of work settings who, when interviewed, linked their work-related asthma to disinfectants. One fact sheet was created for employers, and a second fact sheet for workers is available in English, Spanish, and Chinese. They explain work-related asthma, how to prevent asthma from disinfectants, what to do if a worker experiences symptoms, and new requirements for disinfectant use in California schools and childcare.

Work-related injuries and illnesses are costly but preventable

Every year, thousands of California workers are injured on the job or become ill as a result of health hazards at work. These injuries and illnesses result in substantial costs. California's workers' compensation benefits paid in 2013 alone totaled $12.1 billion.

Worker injuries and illnesses are preventable; having the necessary data to understand them is the first step to helping workers stay safe and healthy. The California Department of Public Health's Occupational Health Branch calculates Occupational Health Indicators for California each year and has recently released a reportwith data from 2008 to 2013.

Important findings from the report:

  • In 2013, 396 workers died from injuries sustained on the job, and Hispanics accounted for 49% of the deaths.
  • Each year more than 100,000 workers lose work time from job injuries, and about 20,000 are hospitalized.
  • Over 1.7 million workers are employed in high-risk occupations where the rate of work-related injuries is more than twice the overall rate for U.S. industries.
  • Nearly 950,000 working adults report that their asthma was caused or made worse by their exposures at work, representing a significant opportunity to reduce the overall burden of asthma.

Please download the full report and share it widely with your networks to join our effort of making the workplace a safer and healthier place for all Californians.

Jun 15, 2017

The murky waters surrounding glyphosate - another view on Reuters 'Cancer agency left in the dark over glyphosate evidence'

The Reuters piece on glyphosate may shed light on one part of the current debate about glyphosate and the role of WHO's IARC. However, the lack of company transparency, problems with accessing raw data and the lobbying of industry groups to undermine independent agencies forms by far the biggest part of the problem facing public health researchers investigating pesticides and other chemicals. The chemical industry assault on IARCs wider monograph work has been well documented in the last couple of years and would appear to be pretty crude. This is very much 'Doubt is their Product' territory.
Below are 4 examples of how this may be happening and why researchers like Portier for example challenge the evidence base for glyphosate safety used by ECHA and EFSA. It is very much the other side of the 'transparency' coin.
(1)"EU declared Monsanto weedkiller safe after intervention from controversial US official. Exclusive: European Food Safety Authority dismissed a study linking glyphosate to cancer following counsel with an EPA official allegedly linked to the company and who figures in more than 20 lawsuits…"
(2)Inconvenient data buried as 'confidential business information.'
"The key ingredient in the most widely used herbicide in the world, Roundup, is stirring up controversy again.
A new analysis of previously confidential data has revealed serious errors in the supposedly scientific justification that glyphosate is safe.
The analysis comes from a real silverback in the environmental health field: Dr. Chris Portier, retired Director of the US National Center for Environmental Health and formerly the director of the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. He finds that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Chemical Agency (EChA) missed eight instances where statistically significant increases in tumors occurred in animals exposed to glyphosate.
Portier was only able to obtain access to these data, which had been submitted for review by Monsanto, because in 2016 members of the European Parliament requested that the data be made available for public scrutiny. This request—and the delayed release of the data in the first place—was necessary because the data had been considered confidential information by EFSA and EChA.

From Portier's letter:
In these additional analyses, I found eight significant increases in tumor incidence that do not appear in any of the publications or government evaluations presented by both EFSA and EChA.

He also observes:
Transparency is an important aspect of the scientific process and I applaud EFSA for allowing limited access to the raw data from the animal studies of glyphosate. However, scientific rigor is required and the tumors identified in Table 1 may be interpreted as a failure by the agencies involved in these assessments to carefully review and analyze all of the available data before rendering a decision that there is no evidence that glyphosate is carcinogenic to humans".
(3)WHO agency targeted by Monsanto lobby group over glyphosate cancer link.
(4)"The American Chemistry Council is a trade group representing a long list of corporations that produce and work with synthetic chemicals, from ExxonMobil to Eli Lilly to Monsanto. The trade group has a history of enthusiastically defending the safety of various chemicals and lobbying health agencies to do the same.
On Wednesday, the American Chemistry Council announced the launch of its new campaign, one that it claims will promote "Credibility in Public Health Research," or CAPHR for short. The target of the CAPHR campaign is the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer, the same agency that had listed glyphosate as a carcinogen".

"In particular, CAPHR will seek reform of the International Agency for Research on Cancer's (IARC) Monographs Program, which evaluates the carcinogenic hazard of substances and behaviors," writes the American Chemistry Council in a press release. "IARC's Monographs Program suffers from persistent scientific and process deficiencies that result in public confusion and misinformed policy-making."

Jun 13, 2017

EPA Honors Winners of the 2017 Green Chemistry Challenge Awards

Innovative Technologies Spur Economic Growth, Reduce Costs, and Decrease Waste
Contact Information:
EPA Press Office (press@epa.gov )
WASHINGTON (June 8, 2017) - The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is recognizing landmark green chemistry technologies developed by industrial pioneers and leading scientists that turn potential environmental issues into business opportunities, spurring innovation and economic development.
"We congratulate those who bring innovative solutions that will help solve problems and help American businesses," said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. "These innovations encourage smart and safe practices, while cutting manufacturing costs and sparking investments. Ultimately, these manufacturing processes and products spur economic growth and are safer for health and the environment."
The Green Chemistry Challenge Award winners will be honored on June 12 at a ceremony in Washington, DC. The winners and their innovative technologies are:
Professor Eric Schelter, University of Pennsylvania, for developing a simple, fast, and low-cost technology to help recycle mixtures of rare earth elements. Reducing the costs to recover these materials creates economic opportunity by turning a waste stream, currently only recycled at a rate of 1%, into a potential revenue stream. About 17,000 metric tons of rare earth oxides are used in the US annually in materials such as wind turbines, catalysts, lighting phosphors, electric motors, batteries, cell phones, and many others. Mining, refining, and purification of rare earths are extraordinarily energy and waste intensive and carry a significant environmental burden.
Dow Chemical Company, Collegeville, Pennsylvania, in partnership with Papierfabrik August Koehler SE, Germany, for developing a thermal printing paper that eliminates the need for chemicals used to create an image, such as bisphenol A (BPA) or bisphenol S (BPS). Thermal paper is used broadly throughout the world for cash register receipts, tickets, tags, and labels. This technology reduces costs by creating records that do not fade, even under severe sunlight, allowing the original document to be preserved for long term storage. The paper is compatible with thermal printers currently in commercial use around the world.
Merck Research Laboratories, Rahway, New Jersey, for successfully applying green chemistry design principles to Letermovir, an antiviral drug candidate, that is currently in phase III clinical trials. The improvements to the way the drug is made, including use of a better chemical catalyst, increases the overall yield by more than 60%, reduces raw material costs by 93%, and reduces water usage by 90%.
Amgen Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, in partnership with Bachem, Switzerland, for improving the process used to manufacture the active ingredient in ParsabivTM, a drug for the treatment of secondary hyperparathyroidism in adult patients with chronic kidney disease. This improved peptide manufacturing process reduces chemical solvent use by 71%, manufacturing operating time by 56%, and manufacturing cost by 76%. These innovations could increase profits and eliminate 1,440 cubic meters of waste or more, including over 750 cubic meters of aqueous waste annually.
UniEnergy Technologies, LLC (UET), Mukilteo, Washington, in partnership with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), for an advanced vanadium redox flow battery, originally developed at the PNNL and commercialized by UET. The battery, when used by utility, commercial and industrial customers, allows cities and businesses more access to stored energy. It also lasts longer and works in a broad temperature range with one-fifth the footprint of previous flow battery technologies. The electrolyte is water-based and does not degrade, and the batteries are non-flammable and recyclable, thus helping meet the increasing demand of electrical energy storage in the electrical power market, from generation, transmission, and distribution to the end users of electricity.
During the 22 years of the program, EPA has received more than 1600 nominations and presented awards to 114 technologies that spur economic growth, reduce costs, and decrease waste. The agency estimates winning technologies are responsible for annually reducing the use or generation of more than 826 million pounds of hazardous chemicals, saving 21 billion gallons of water, and eliminating 7.8 billion pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent releases to air.
An independent panel of technical experts convened by the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute formally judged the 2017 submissions from among scores of nominated technologies and made recommendations to EPA for the 2017 winners. The 2017 awards event will be held in conjunction with the 21st Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference.
More information: www.epa.gov/greenchemistry

Jun 12, 2017

Energy Department Announces $3 Million for High Performance Computing to Advance Clean Energy Manufacturing

The Energy Department announced up to $3 million in available support for manufacturers to use supercomputers at the department's national laboratories to tackle major manufacturing challenges. The High Performance Computing for Manufacturing (HPC4Mfg) Program enables the use of high performance computing (HPC) expertise and resources for the manufacturing sector to address research and development challenges with HPC and investigate its use to support advanced energy and manufacturing issues.

Full Story

Jun 8, 2017

DEA and NIOSH Guidance Documents on Fentanyl

DEA has just published a new guidance document for first responders to protect against exposure to  fentanyl or one of the analogues:
NIOSH has a document first posted last year :
Of note in the NIOSH document is recommended use of a 5 mil glove and a P-100 mask.

Jun 7, 2017

EPA Further Delays Implementation of Final Rule for Wood Composite Formaldehyde Emissions

(PAINT.ORG) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has once again pushed back the implementation date for its final rule that limits formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products. In a direct final rule, the compliance dates for the rule set the emission limits, recordkeeping, and labeling requirements for March 22, 2018, instead of Dec. 12, 2017; importers of articles made with composite wood products, such as furniture or kitchen cabinets, must certify the articles comply by March 22, 2019; and laminated products producers have one additional year, until March 22, 2024, to comply with the emissions.

Prior to this delay, implementation had been pushed back following the White House "regulatory freeze" memo.

EPA on Dec. 12, 2016 published in the Federal Register its final rule that limits formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products and establishes a process by which companies will use third parties to certify compliance with the formaldehyde emission standards. EPA's announcement followed a four-month long delay since its pre-publication notice on July 27. The pre-publication notice was mostly consistent with 2009 limits that California's Air Resources Board began to phase in. California's limits range from 0.05 part per million (ppm) to 0.13 ppm, depending on the product covered.

The final rule addresses formaldehyde, which the agency says can irritate the skin, eyes, nose, and throat following short-term, relatively low exposures. EPA says elevated exposures may cause some cancers.

The final rule mandates composite wood products that are sold, supplied, offered for sale, manufactured, or imported into the United States to be labeled as Title VI compliant under the Toxic Substances Act (TSCA). These products include hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard, particleboard as well as household and other finished goods containing these products.

The Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products Act of 2010 established emission standards for formaldehyde from composite wood products and directed EPA to finalize a rule on implementing and enforcing many provisions covering composite wood products.

Formaldehyde may be released from adhesives that are used in a wide range of wood products, such as some furniture, flooring, cabinets, bookcases, and building materials including plywood and wood panels. Exposure to formaldehyde can cause adverse health effects including eye, nose and throat irritation, other respiratory symptoms, and cancer.

EPA is setting testing requirements to ensure that products comply with those standards, establishing eligibility requirements for third-party certifiers, and establishing eligibility requirements for accreditation bodies to be recognized by EPA that will accredit the third-party certifiers. The final rule includes certain exemptions for products made with ultra-low formaldehyde or no-added formaldehyde resins and new requirements for product labeling, recordkeeping, and enforcement provisions.

Additional provisions, including recordkeeping requirements, apply to importers, distributors, and retailers, which includes dealers selling recreational vehicles, mobile homes, and building materials.

There is, however, some variation between the national rule and California's, one of which is that EPA requires recordkeeping for three years compared to California's two-year requirement. EPA is also requiring importers to provide certification of their compliance with the rule within two years, and the agency requires manufacturers to disclose emissions test results to their direct purchasers upon request.

Additionally, companies that make or import laminated hardwood plywood products are not automatically exempt, as they are from California's requirement. Under EPA's final rule, while some laminators will qualify for exemptions, others must comply within seven years.

Jun 6, 2017

Free digital edition of “Occupational Safety and Health Online. How to find reliable information”.

The book is an introduction on how to find the highest quality occupational safety and health (OSH) information online, and is a useful tool for education and training, research and evidence-based practice. It is recommended he book for PhD and Master's students as well as for postgraduate education of OSH professionals: occupational physicians, safety experts, occupational health nurses, hygienists, psychologists and ergonomists. The book is appropriate for continuing medical education (CME) and continuous professional development (CPD). See  https://shop.ldoh.net/shop/occupational-safety-health-online-e-book/

The book can be downloaded as a common working tool by course participants, a group of OSH professionals-in-training or researchers. Authors and co-authors are Frank van Dijk, Yohama Caraballo-Arias, Jos Verbeek, Carel Hulshof and Paul Smits, all international experts in the field.

Jun 1, 2017

Initial Release of the 2016 Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) Data

EPA is releasing initial data collected under EPA's Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) rule from the 2016 CDR reporting period. This initial release of the 2016 CDR data includes national production volume, other manufacturing information, and processing and use information, but does not include information that was claimed by the submitter to be confidential business information (CBI) or information that is being withheld to protect CBI.
EPA anticipates releasing additional data in FY 2018 after the completion of an ongoing CBI substantiation process required by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which amended TSCA.
There are a number of changes since the 2012 CDR, including new information as a result of new lower threshold for reporting chemicals subject to certain TSCA actions and changes to processing and use reporting. CDR data is collected every four years, with the latest submission period ending on October 31, 2016. 
The CDR information collection is carried out pursuant to section 8 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Under the CDR rule, EPA collects basic exposure-related information on the types, quantities and uses of chemical substances produced domestically and imported into the United States. This information constitutes a comprehensive source of basic screening-level, exposure-related information on chemicals available to EPA, and is used by the Agency to help assess potential health or environmental effects of chemicals in commerce.
The 2016 CDR data is available via ChemView: https://java.epa.gov/chemview