Feb 26, 2018

Black Lung Disease Comes Storming Back in Coal Country

NY-Times:By NADJA POPOVICH  Federal investigators this month identified the largest cluster of advanced black lung cases ever officially recorded.

More than 400 coal miners frequenting three clinics in southwestern Virginia between 2013 and 2017 were found to have complicated black lung disease, an extreme form characterized by dense masses of scar tissue in the lungs.

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

The cluster, identified following an investigation by National Public Radio, adds to a growing body of evidence that a new black lung epidemic is emerging in central Appalachia, even as the Trump administration begins to review Obama-era coal dust limits.

The severity of the disease among miners at the Virginia clinics "knocked us back on our heels," said David J. Blackley, an epidemiologist at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, who led the research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It was equally troubling, he said, that nearly a quarter of the miners with complicated black lung disease had been on the job fewer than 20 years.

Across the coal belt in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia, "there's an unacceptably large number of younger miners who have end-stage disease and the only choice is to get a lung transplant or wait it out and die," Dr. Blackley said.
Scientists have linked the new wave of lung disease to miners breathing in more silica dust, the likely result of a decades-long shift toward mining thinner coal seams that require cutting into the surrounding rock. Silica dust from pulverized rock can damage lungs faster than coal dust alone.

Modern machinery, insufficient training for workers, and longer work hours may also contribute to increased dust exposure, experts say.

A Sharp Rise in Complicated
Black lung, a chronic disease caused by breathing in coal mine dust, declined precipitously between the early 1970s and late 1990s, following new health and safety rules put in place by the 1969 Coal Act. The legislation for the first time established airborne dust limits in coal mines and set up a health monitoring program for working miners, offering free chest x-rays every five years.
But by 2000, black lung was on the rise again. An advanced form of the disease, rarely seen in the mid-1990s, made an especially dramatic comeback.

Please read on at: By NADJA POPOVICH

Workplace Emergency Plans

Recent floods, wildfires, mudslides, and outbreaks demonstrate the powerful impact emergencies have in California. Is your workplace ready for the unexpected?

The Cal/OSHA Emergency Action Plan standard sets minimum standards for workplace preparations. There are a number of resources that can help you plan.

A good start is the preparing for emergencies (PDF) overview from the California Department of Industrial Relations-funded Worker Safety & Health Training & Education Program (WOSHTEP). It is part of a set of materialsdesigned to help employers meet their Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) responsibilities.

The emergency preparedness resources from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) can also help with developing a workplace emergency plan.

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

A firefighter works to control a blaze.


Cal/OSHA Emergency Action Plan standard

Preparing for Emergencies (PDF) – California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR)

WOSHTEP Injury & Illness Prevention Program Resources – DIR

Emergency Preparedness for Business - NIOSH

Feb 19, 2018

Significant Winter Storm to Hit Wisconsin via @readywisconsin

READY WISCONSIN RELEASE: Significant Winter Storm to Hit Wisconsin

(MADISON---February 18, 2018)    A major winter storm will be moving across Wisconsin the next few days bringing snow, sleet, ice and heavy rain that could cause flooding, dangerous travel conditions and possible power outages due to ice.

Numerous warnings and watches are in effect across the state including an ice storm warning for Marquette, Green Lake, Fond du Lac, Sheboygan, Sauk, Columbia and Dodge Counties as forecasters say up to ½ inch of ice could occur thru Tuesday.  

The first wave of the storm system began this morning moving across northern Wisconsin bringing heavy snow.   Southern Wisconsin will see rain beginning tomorrow morning. Freezing rain is likely across much of central Wisconsin, including Eau Claire to Rhinelander and Green Bay down through Lone Rock to Sheboygan.   

Extreme southeastern Wisconsin will have heavy rain of up to 1.5 to 2" that could cause flooding in streets, creeks and low areas, and some rivers.  National Weather Service forecasters warn that a change in 1 or 2 degrees could be the difference between rain or freezing rain in some areas.  Stay tuned to the latest forecast for your area as conditions may change with this developing storm.

If you do need to travel, leave early and make sure you have an emergency kit in your vehicles.  A kit could help keep your family safe until help arrives.  Consider carrying non-perishable foods, flashlight, extra hats, and gloves and blankets in your cars.  Other suggestions are available at ReadyWisconsin.wi.gov

Before you travel, check with the 511 Wisconsin for the latest traffic and road conditions.  This information, along with live traffic cameras and traffic alerts, can be accessed on the 511 Wisconsin system, which includes a free mobile app, @511WI on Twitter, or the mobile-friendly site  www.511wi.gov.

When there is freezing rain, tree branches and power lines can begin to fall.  Downed power lines are dangerous.  Do not touch them or drive over them. Assume that they are live.  If you see a downed power line, call your local utility company or emergency officials to alert them of downed lines.

Be careful of the icy conditions.  Encourage elderly and the very young to stay indoors during the freezing rain.  Check on your neighbors and friends to make sure they are alright.

For southeastern Wisconsin, residents need to be ready for potential flooding and flash flooding.  Do not attempt to drive over a flooded road. STOP! Turn around and go another way.  Pay attention to local reports as area creeks and rivers will continue to rise due to the expected heavy rain and rapid snowmelt.  

For tips on emergency preparedness: http://readywisconsin.wi.gov. You can also follow ReadyWisconsin on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Current News Releases available at http://readywisconsin.wi.gov

Feb 16, 2018

FDA authorizes marketing of first blood test to aid in the evaluation of concussion in adults

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today permitted marketing of the first blood test to evaluate mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), commonly referred to as concussion, in adults. The FDA reviewed and authorized for marketing the Banyan Brain Trauma Indicator in fewer than 6 months as part of its Breakthrough Devices Program.

Most patients with a suspected head injury are examined using a neurological scale, called the 15-point Glasgow Coma Scale, followed by a computed tomography or CT scan of the head to detect brain tissue damage, or intracranial lesions, that may require treatment; however, a majority of patients evaluated for mTBI/concussion do not have detectable intracranial lesions after having a CT scan. Availability of a blood test for concussion will help health care professionals determine the need for a CT scan in patients suspected of having mTBI and help prevent unnecessary neuroimaging and associated radiation exposure to patients.
"Helping to deliver innovative testing technologies that minimize health impacts to patients while still providing accurate and reliable results to inform appropriate evaluation and treatment is an FDA priority. Today's action supports the FDA's Initiative to Reduce Unnecessary Radiation Exposure from Medical Imaging—an effort to ensure that each patient is getting the right imaging exam, at the right time, with the right radiation dose," said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. "A blood-testing option for the evaluation of mTBI/concussion not only provides health care professionals with a new tool, but also sets the stage for a more modernized standard of care for testing of suspected cases. In addition, availability of a blood test for mTBI/concussion will likely reduce the CT scans performed on patients with concussion each year, potentially saving our health care system the cost of often unnecessary neuroimaging tests."

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013 there were approximately 2.8 million TBI-related emergency department visits, hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S. Of these cases, TBI contributed to the deaths of nearly 50,000 people. TBI is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the brain's normal functioning. Its severity may range from mild to severe, with 75 percent of TBIs that occur each year being assessed as mTBIs or concussions. A majority of patients with concussion symptoms have a negative CT scan. Potential effects of TBI can include impaired thinking or memory, movement, sensation or emotional functioning.
"A blood test to aid in concussion evaluation is an important tool for the American public and for our Service Members abroad who need access to quick and accurate tests," said Jeffrey Shuren, M.D., director of the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health. "The FDA's review team worked closely with the test developer and the U.S. Department of Defense to expedite a blood test for the evaluation of mTBI that can be used both in the continental U.S. as well as foreign U.S. laboratories that service the American military."
The Brain Trauma Indicator works by measuring levels of proteins, known as UCH-L1 and GFAP, that are released from the brain into blood and measured within 12 hours of head injury.

Full at:

Feb 5, 2018

Free EPA-TRI Webinar This Wednesday, February 7

Last week, EPA published the 2016 TRI National Analysis report, an in-depth look at the most recent data on chemical releases and pollution prevention activities at more than 21,000 U.S. industrial facilities. 

Join us for a webinar this Wednesday, February 7, 2018, from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. EST to see highlights from the 2016 TRI data and learn how to find out what facilities are doing in your local area. To register, please go to:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with more details.

Feb 2, 2018

Federal Court Extends Stay of Livestock Air Emissions Reporting Obligation

On February 1, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit extended a stay of air emissions reporting from livestock wastes through at least May 1, 2018.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had asked for an additional stay of 90 days to provide the agency additional time to prepare for any reporting obligations. In its motion for stay, EPA cited a need for more time to refine guidance to industry on meeting the reporting obligations and to finalize agriculture-specific forms that would be used to report emissions from animal wastes to EPA. Livestock industry groups supported EPA's request, while environmentalist and animal rights groups, who have previously pushed the court to apply these reporting obligations to farms, took no position on this latest request for stay.

Read More from Michael Best & Friedrich LLP