Preliminary Field Studies on Worker Exposures to Volatile Chemicals during Oil and Gas Extraction Flowback and Production Testing Operations

This blog describes NIOSH evaluations of worker exposures to specific chemicals during oil and gas extraction flowback and production testing activities. These activities occur after well stimulation and are necessary to bring the well into production. Included are descriptions of initial exposure assessments, findings, and recommendations to reduce worker exposures to potential hazards. Further details about these assessments can be read in a recently published peer-reviewed journal article, “Evaluation of Some Potential Chemical Exposure Risks during Flowback Operations in Unconventional Oil and Gas Extraction: Preliminary Results”.


Current ebola outbreak a concern for local health care workers and others involved with patients

There are specific concerns about occupational exposure to Ebola Virus among health care workers and other workers in health settings, including laboratories, burial sites, cleaners and desinfectors, as well as hunters, animal welfare and wildlife workers. According to Ms Chan, the number of health-care workers who have been infected is unprecedented. To date, nearly 170 health-care workers have been infected, and more than 80 have died. The infections and deaths of health-care workers have three major consequences. First, they diminish one of the most important assets for the response to any outbreak.  Second, they can lead to the closure of hospitals and isolation wards, especially when staff refuse to come to work. Third, they drive fear, already very high, to new extremes.


Dossier « Les poussières de bois »

À l'origine d'environ 70 cas de cancers professionnels des sinus déclarés par an, les poussières de bois sont la deuxième cause de cancers professionnels reconnus, après l'amiante. En outre, elles peuvent provoquer des pathologies respiratoires (rhinite, asthme, fibrose pulmonaire…), cutanées (eczéma) ou oculaires (conjonctivite). Sans compter les incendies et les explosions. Ce dossier fait le point sur ces questions :
•« Petites mais nocives » : point sur les risques liés aux poussières de bois.
•« Pas de poussières sur le parquet ». Exemple de mesures d'exposition des salariés.
•« Une matière première explosive ». Retour sur des actions de prévention visant à réduire les risques d'explosion.
•« Captage, s'adapter à l'existant » : Le point sur la mise en place d'un nouveau process de fabrication d'ossatures bois en vue de mieux prendre en compte les risques professionnels.
•« Aspiration sur commande » : Illustration d'un système d'aspiration performant installé dans une menuiserie.
•« La qualité passe par la propreté ». Témoignage sur l'installation de systèmes d'aspiration sur des machines portatives dans un atelier d'ébénisterie.

Source : Travail & Sécurité, N°752, juillet-août 2014.

Health Care Worker Exposures to the Antibacterial Agent Triclosan

Objective: We sought to quantify absorption of triclosan, a potential endocrine disruptor, in health care workers with occupational exposure to soap containing this chemical.
Methods: A cross-sectional convenience sample of two groups of 38 health care workers at separate inpatient medical centers: hospital 1 uses 0.3% triclosan soap in all patient care areas; hospital 2 does not use triclosan-containing products. Additional exposure to triclosan-containing personal care products was assessed through a structured questionnaire. Urine triclosan was quantified and the occupational contribution estimated through regression modeling.
Results: Occupational exposure accounted for an incremental triclosan burden of 206 ng/mL (P = 0.02), while triclosan-containing toothpaste use was associated with 146 ng/mL higher levels (P < 0.001).
Conclusions: Use of triclosan-containing antibacterial soaps in health care settings represents a substantial and potentially biologically relevant source of occupational triclosan exposure.

Source: MacIsaac, Julia K.; Gerona, Roy R.; Blanc, Paul D.; Apatira, Latifat; Friesen, Matthew W.; Coppolino, Michael; Janssen, Sarah. Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine: August 2014, Volume 56, Issue 8, p. 834–839.

Exposure Factors Associated With Chronic Beryllium Disease Development in Beryllium BioBank Participants

Objective: To assess the importance of occupational history for beryllium-exposed workers.
Methods: Beryllium BioBank data were analyzed for 532 subjects in the following three groups: beryllium-exposed, beryllium-sensitized, and chronic beryllium disease. Predictor variables were several questionnaire-derived exposure indices.
Results: Cumulative exposure estimated from a standardized interview contributes to differentiating beryllium-exposed from chronic beryllium disease. The likelihood of progression from sensitization to disease was associated with peak-level weighted exposure hours.
Conclusions: Selecting workers for extensive diagnostic testing should consider each worker's duration and characteristics of exposure. The intensity and total hours of exposure should be evaluated rather than relying on only the total years.

Source: Harber, Philip; Su, Jing; Alongi, Gabriela. Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine: August 2014, Volume 56, Issue 8, p. 852–856.

Heat Illness and Death Among Workers

United States, 2012–2013
Exposure to heat and hot environments puts workers at risk for heat stress, which can result in heat illnesses and death. This report describes findings from a review of 2012?2013 Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) federal enforcement cases (i.e., inspections) resulting in citations under paragraph 5(a)(1), the "general duty clause" of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. That clause requires that each employer "furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees" (1). Because OSHA has not issued a heat standard, it must use 5(a)(1) citations in cases of heat illness or death to enforce employers' obligations to provide a safe and healthy workplace. During the 2-year period reviewed, 20 cases of heat illness or death were cited for federal enforcement under paragraph 5(a)(1) among 18 private employers and two federal agencies. In 13 cases, a worker died from heat exposure, and in seven cases, two or more employees experienced symptoms of heat illness. Most of the affected employees worked outdoors, and all performed heavy or moderate work, as defined by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (2). Nine of the deaths occurred in the first 3 days of working on the job, four of them occurring on the worker's first day. Heat illness prevention programs at these workplaces were found to be incomplete or absent, and no provision was made for the acclimatization of new workers. Acclimatization is the result of beneficial physiologic adaptations (e.g., increased sweating efficiency and stabilization of circulation) that occur after gradually increased exposure to heat or a hot environment (3). Whenever a potential exists for workers to be exposed to heat or hot environments, employers should implement heat illness prevention programs (including acclimatization requirements) at their workplaces.


Suicide Mortality Among Agricultural Workers in a Region With Intensive Tobacco Farming and Use of Pesticides in Brazil

Objective: To investigate whether suicide risk among agricultural workers is higher in regions with heavier pesticide use and/or presence of tobacco farming.
Methods: Suicide mortality data were gathered from residents of the Brazilian state of Alagoas. Agricultural census data were used to arrange and classify Alagoas cities into distribution groups on the basis of variables concerning pesticide use and/or tobacco farming. Mortality odds ratio calculations were then used to compare suicide risk among agricultural and nonagricultural workers in different groups.
Results: Suicide risk was higher among agricultural workers than among nonagricultural workers, elevated in regions that used more pesticides, and greatest in regions that produced more tobacco.
Conclusions: This is one of the first studies of its kind to suggest that combined effects of pesticide and tobacco exposure may be linked to higher suicide risk among agricultural workers.

Source: Krawczyk N, Meyer A, Fonseca M, Lima J. J. Occup. Environ. Med. 2014.

La radioprotection des travailleurs

Exposition professionnelle aux rayonnements ionisants en France
Dans le cadre de sa mission de surveillance de l'exposition des travailleurs aux rayonnements ionisants, l'IRSN vient de publier ses résultats pour l'année 2013.
Ceux-ci révèlent une baisse du nombre de travailleurs surveillés, avec 352 082 travailleurs surveillés en 2013, en léger recul de 0,7% par rapport à 2012.
Si la dose collective enregistrée est en léger recul (-1% par rapport en 2012), l'IRSN pointe l'augmentation exceptionnelle des cas individuels de dépassements des limites réglementaires avec 9 cas comptabilisés en 2013, dont un à 7,4 Sv (pour 1 mSv de limite annuelle réglementaire fixée pour la population générale).
Ces cas de dépassement concernent 6 travailleurs du domaine médical, 2 travailleurs de l'industrie non nucléaire et 1 travailleur de l'industrie nucléaire.
La majorité des effectifs surveillés (63%) travaille dans le domaine médical et vétérinaire mais la dose collective moyenne enregistrée y est inférieure aux travailleurs de l'industrie nucléaire et non nucléaire. La dose collective moyenne reçue par les travailleurs de l'industrie nucléaire et non nucléaire est d'ailleurs en augmentation par rapport à 2012, sans doute en raison d'un nombre de travailleurs exposés à plus de 6 mSv plus important qu'en 2012.


Chromosomal effects of non-alkylating drug exposure in oncology personnel

Therapy-related leukemia has been a recognized sequela of cancer treatment for decades with “signature” abnormalities of chromosomes 5, 7, and 11 observed in treated patients. Risk to oncology personnel handling anti-cancer agents has also been documented by non-specific measures of genotoxicity in blood and urine. Using chromosomal markers applied in clinical practice, we previously demonstrated in oncology workers, a dose-related increase in abnormalities of chromosomes 5 and 7, known to be targets of alkylating agent exposure. In the analysis presented here, we extended that work to also assess damage resulting from non-alkylating drug exposure. Peripheral blood lymphocytes from oncology personnel (N = 63) and non-exposed controls (N = 46) was collected and examined using the fluorescent in situ hybridization technique with probes for targets on chromosomes 5, 7, and 11. Participants recorded drug handling events over a 6 week period. Important co-variates were considered. Examining chromosomal outcomes as a function of drug handling frequency, we employed Poisson Regression to obtain incident rate ratios (IRRs) for selected drug handling frequencies. We found a dose-related increase in the IRR for aberrations in all three chromosomes 5, 7, and 11, reaching statistical significance for chromosome 5, as a function of non-alkylating drug handling. This suggests that the targeting of chromosome 5 is not limited to alkylating agent exposure, as some recent evidence in treated patients has also shown. Thus, the pattern of insult observed in treated patients appears to extend to oncology personnel exposed in the workplace.

Source : McDiarmid, Melissa A., Rogers, Bonnie, et Oliver, Marc S. (2014). Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis, 55(4), 369-374.

Excessive occupational heat exposure

A significant ergonomic challenge and health risk for current and future workers
Occupational heat exposure threatens the health of a worker not only when heat illness occurs but also when a worker's performance and work capacity is impaired. Occupational contexts that involve hot and humid climatic conditions, heavy physical workloads and/or protective clothing create a strenuous and potentially dangerous thermal load for a worker. There are recognized heat prevention strategies and international thermal ergonomic standards to protect the worker. However, such standards have been developed largely in temperate western settings, and their validity and relevance is questionable for some geographical, cultural and socioeconomic contexts where the risk of excessive heat exposure can be high. There is evidence from low- and middle-income tropical countries that excessive heat exposure remains a significant issue for occupational health. Workers in these countries are likely to be at high risk of excessive heat exposure as they are densely populated, have large informal work sectors and are expected to experience substantial increases in temperature due to global climate change. The aim of this paper is to discuss current and future ergonomic risks associated with working in the heat as well as potential methods for maintaining the health and productivity of workers, particularly those most vulnerable to excessive heat exposure.

Source: Lucas RA, Epstein Y, Kjellstrom T. Extrem. Physiol. Med. 2014; 3: 14.

Effects of agricultural work practices and pesticide use on occupational health of farmers

This study aimed to identify the associated health symptoms between high and low exposed groups to pesticide, and to come up with an intervention pesticide program for our farmers in the vegetable industry.
Survey questionnaires were used to look into pesticide exposures and work practices of 534 farmers in the largest eggplant producing province in the northern Philippines. Physical health assessment was conducted by medical doctors to look into the health status of farmers who ahve been using pesticides for the past years. Laboratory examination of blood was also done, including blood cholinesterase to dertermine organophosphate exposures.

Source: Leilanie Lu J. Occup. Environ. Med. 2014; 71(Suppl 1): A56-A57.

Adjusting to Work in the Heat

Why Acclimatization Matters
Acclimatization is important in keeping your workforce safe and well as temperatures rise. This natural adaptation to the heat takes time, and from a management perspective, it may require careful planning.


Respiratory symptoms and lung function abnormalities related to work at a flavouring manufacturing facility

Objectives: To better understand respiratory symptoms and lung function in flavouring manufacturing workers.
Methods: We offered a questionnaire and lung function testing to the current workforce of a flavouring manufacturing facility that had transitioned away from diacetyl and towards substitutes in recent years. We examined symptoms, spirometric parameters and diffusing capacity measurements by exposure variables, including facility tenure and time spent daily in production areas. We used linear and logistic regression to develop final models adjusted for age and smoking status.
Results: A total of 367 (93%) current workers participated. Shortness of breath was twice as common in those with tenure ≥7 years (OR 2.0, 95% CI 1.1 to 3.6). Other chest symptoms were associated with time spent daily in production. Participants who spent ≥1 h daily in production areas had twice the odds of any spirometric abnormality (OR 2.3; 95% CI 1.1 to 5.3) and three times the odds of low diffusing capacity (OR 2.8; 95% CI 0.9 to 9.4) than other participants. Mean spirometric parameters were significantly lower in those with tenure ≥7 years and those who spent ≥1 h daily in production. Mean diffusing capacity parameters were significantly lower in those with tenure ≥7 years. Differences in symptoms and lung function could not be explained by age, smoking status or employment at another flavouring plant.
Conclusions: Symptoms and lung function findings were consistent with undiagnosed or subclinical obliterative bronchiolitis and associated with workplace exposures. Further efforts to lower exposures to flavouring chemicals, including diacetyl substitutes, are warranted.

Source: Kristin J Cummings, Randy J Boylstein, Marcia L Stanton, Chris A Piacitelli, Nicole T Edwards, Ryan F LeBouf, Kathleen Kreiss. Occup Environ Med. 2014;71:549-554.  

Aide au repérage des nanomatériaux en entreprise

Cette brochure s'adresse à tous les préventeurs de terrain qui sont amenés à identifier des opérations potentiellement exposantes aux nanomatériaux en entreprise. Cette aide au repérage des nanomatériaux manufacturés manipulés en entreprise et à la prise en compte des risques associés vise plus précisément à renseigner les nanomatériaux qui sont fabriqués ou utilisés dans une dizaine de secteurs d'activité.
Le brochure est consitutée en 2 parties. La première dresse un état des connaissances sur les nanomatériaux : généralités (définitions, réglementation, toxicité, exposition professionnelle), repérage et identification des nanomatériaux, évaluation des risques et mesures de prevention. La seconde traite des secteurs concernés par l'utilisation de nanomatériaux. Cette partie se présente sous forme de fiches répertoriant par secteur d'activités les applications, les nanomatériaux concernés et les propriétés ou fonctionnalités recherchées. 8 secteurs sont couverts : Agroalimentaire, Construction, bâtiment et travaux publcs, Cosmétique, produit et équipement de soin et d'hygiène, Energie et environnement, Peinture, vernis et encre, Pharmacie et santé, Plasturgie et caoutchouc, Textile, habillement, papier et carton.


Exposure to volatile organic compounds in healthcare settings

Objectives: To identify and summarise volatile organic compound (VOC) exposure profiles of healthcare occupations.
Methods: Personal (n=143) and mobile area (n=207) evacuated canisters were collected and analysed by a gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer to assess exposures to 14 VOCs among 14 healthcare occupations in five hospitals. Participants were volunteers identified by their supervisors. Summary statistics were calculated by occupation. Principal component analysis (PCA) was used to reduce the 14 analyte inputs to five orthogonal factors and identify occupations that were associated with these factors. Linear regressions were used to assess the association between personal and mobile area samples.
Results Exposure: profiles differed among occupations; ethanol had the highest geometric mean (GM) among nursing assistants (∼4900 and ∼1900 µg/m3, personal and area), and 2-propanol had the highest GM among medical equipment preparers (∼4600 and ∼2000 µg/m3, personal and area). The highest total personal VOC exposures were among nursing assistants (∼9200 µg/m3), licensed practical nurses (∼8700 µg/m3) and medical equipment preparers (∼7900 µg/m3). The influence of the PCA factors developed from personal exposure estimates varied by occupation, which enabled a comparative assessment of occupations. For example, factor 1, indicative of solvent use, was positively correlated with clinical laboratory and floor stripping/waxing occupations and tasks. Overall, a significant correlation was observed (r=0.88) between matched personal and mobile area samples, but varied considerably by analyte (r=0.23–0.64).
Conclusions: Healthcare workers are exposed to a variety of chemicals that vary with the activities and products used during activities. These VOC profiles are useful for estimating exposures for occupational hazard ranking for industrial hygienists as well as epidemiological studies.

Source: Ryan F LeBouf, M Abbas Virji, Rena Saito, Paul K Henneberger, Nancy Simcox, Aleksandr B Stefaniak. Occup Environ Med. 2014. 

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