Apr 25, 2018

$54.3 Million in Brownfield Grants to Assess and Clean Up Brownfields

EPA is pleased to announce that 144 communities will receive 221 grants totaling $54.3 million in EPA Brownfields funding through our Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup (ARC) Grants to assess, clean up and redevelop underutilized properties while protecting public health and the environment. These funds will expand the ability of communities to recycle vacant and abandoned properties for new, productive reuses.

In addition, communities can use Brownfields funding to leverage considerable infrastructure and other financial resources. For example, EPA's Clean Water State Revolving Fund and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund can be used, under certain conditions, to address the water quality aspects of brownfield sites and the assessment and construction of drinking water infrastructure on brownfields, respectively. EPA's Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program may also serve as a potential source of long-term, low-cost supplemental financing to fund brownfields project development and implementation activities to address water quality aspects of brownfields.


FARMER Program to help farmers upgrade equipment, $135 million for purchase of cleaner agricultural trucks, pump engines, tractors and more

SACRAMENTO — Funds will soon be available to expedite the purchase and use of cleaner agricultural equipment to help farmers reduce their exposure to harmful diesel exhaust, improve local air quality, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the California Air Resources Board has announced.

The "Funding Agricultural Replacement Measures for Emission Reductions" (FARMER) Program provides $135 million for farmers to acquire cleaner heavy duty trucks, harvesting equipment, agricultural pump engines, tractors and other equipment used in agricultural operations.  The funds, available this summer, will be administered through California's regional air districts.

"Emissions from agricultural equipment are a significant source of air pollution, especially in the San Joaquin Valley.  Reducing that pollution is necessary to protect public health and meet air quality standards," CARB Executive Officer Richard Corey said.  "Although tough new engine standards are in effect now and will eventually lower emissions, most agricultural equipment lasts for decades.  We cannot wait for the older dirtier equipment to phase out naturally, so we are taking action to improve air quality sooner by helping farmers to buy cleaner farm equipment now. This will help improve air quality throughout the state, but particularly in the San Joaquin Valley which suffers from unacceptably high levels of fine particle pollution."

FARMER funding allocations come from proceeds from the state's cap-and-trade program ($85 million), the Air Quality Improvement Fund ($15 million) and the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Fund ($35 million). The California Legislature directed funds from these three sources to reduce emissions from the agricultural sector through grants, rebates and other financial incentives.

Because the San Joaquin Valley has the vast majority of California's agricultural operations and experiences the greatest negative health impacts from agricultural emissions, 80 percent of the funding — $108 million — will be distributed by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to farmers in the region.

Legislators placed special emphasis on purchasing vehicles and equipment that use advanced technologies such as clean diesel or electricity in order to accelerate improvements in air quality.

More Information

Apr 16, 2018

FREE Webinar: Taking Safety to the Next Level with Lockout Leadership

An April 17 EHS Today-hosted webinar, sponsored by The Master Lock Company

Date: Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Time: 2:00 p.m. EDT (GMT -4, New York)
Duration: 1 Hour
Event Type: Live Webinar
Cost: Free

Register Today!

Description

Summary:  Lockout tagout is perennially one of OSHA's top 10 violations and a leading cause of serious injuries in the workplace. What makes the difference in influencing workplace safety culture is a mentor-based leadership program. Lockout leaders perform hands-on training, day-to-day coaching, and effective inspections.  This can make the difference by reinforcing the routine incorporation of energy control strategies into each task where sudden startup hazards exist.

Key Points:

  • How hands-on training makes the difference when delivered by instructors embedded on the work floor
  • Why having knowledgeable coaches keeping an ongoing eye on lockout practices drives continuous improvement
  • How to turn auditing from a difficult chore to manage to an ongoing method of positive reinforcement
  • Why lockout leadership skills can be a great start for a much broader Safety Champion program
    ​​

Apr 15, 2018

Sarcoidosis Among U.S. Navy Enlisted Men, 1965-1993

Sarcoidosis is a multisystem granulomatous disease of unknown etiology with highest incidence among young and middle-aged adults. In the United States, the risk for sarcoidosis is substantially higher among blacks than among other races (1,2); however, the reasons for this association are unknown. In response to the occurrence of a case of sarcoidosis in a U.S. Navy (USN) enlisted man, CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) analyzed USN data on cases of sarcoidosis diagnosed among active-duty enlisted personnel during 1965-1993. This report summarizes the findings of this analysis, which indicate that the incidence of sarcoidosis declined among USN enlisted men during 1965-1993, particularly among blacks, and that the risk for sarcoidosis was statistically associated with the assignment of USN enlisted men to aircraft carriers.

In 1974, a 21-year-old black enlisted man had sarcoidosis diagnosed based on a chest radiograph indicating bilateral hilar adenopathy without parenchymal disease; noncaseating granulomata were present on lymph node biopsy. He had a history of shortness of breath, cough, and chest and joint pain, which he related to his work of grinding antiskid materials from aircraft carrier decks during the preceding 2 years. He received a medical discharge for sarcoidosis in 1975. In 1987, physicians at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs diagnosed pneumoconiosis in this patient after mineral-dust deposits were identified in a lung biopsy; the mineral-dust deposits were attributed to the same work exposures aboard the aircraft carrier. In October 1992, the patient asked the USN to request NIOSH to investigate whether his sarcoidosis diagnosis and other cases diagnosed in persons with whom he had served in the USN may have been associated with environmental exposures during their USN service. Because of the possibility of an association between risk for sarcoidosis-like illnesses and environmental exposures during service in the USN and because the underlying cause(s) of sarcoidosis is unknown, in December 1992 the USN requested that NIOSH evaluate the potential relation between sarcoidosis and the USN work environment.

NIOSH obtained records from the U.S. Naval Health Research Center (NHRC) for all incident cases of sarcoidosis (defined as diagnosis of "sarcoidosis" by a USN health-care provider) identified among white and black enlisted men while on active duty at any time from 1965 through 1993 * (n=1121). Incidence rates were calculated using age-specific total denominator data for white and black enlisted men on active duty from 1971 through 1993 (denominator data were unavailable for the years before 1971). Numbers for other races were too small for meaningful analysis (no more than three incident cases of sarcoidosis were diagnosed among persons in any other racial category); women were excluded because none had been assigned to aircraft carriers -- an exposure of particular a priori interest -- during 1965-1993.


Apr 10, 2018

Cellphone Radiation Linked to Brain and Heart Tumors studies are reproducible

In 2011 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified cellphones as a Group 2B "possible carcinogen,"1 and the evidence supporting the theory that electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation from cellphones can trigger abnormal cell growth and cancer2,3 just keeps growing and getting stronger.

In February, the findings of two government-funded animal studies4 were published. Curiously enough, the published interpretation of this $25 million research (conducted by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), an interagency research program currently under the auspices of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) significantly downplays the actual findings of the studies.


Cellphone Radiation Linked to Brain and Heart Tumors

The NTP research includes two studies: one on mice and one on rats. Male rats were more likely to develop heart tumors, while female rats and newborns exposed to high levels of radiation during pregnancy and lactation were more likely to have low body weight. DNA damage and damage to heart tissue were also observed in both male and female rats, but not mice. Other types of tumors did occur in both types of animals, though, including brain, prostate, liver and pancreatic tumors.

According to the researchers, if these results can be confirmed, then cellphone radiation may indeed be a "weak" carcinogen. As you'll see below, that confirmation was delivered last month, in the form of published research by the Ramazzini Institute.

The animals in the NTP studies were exposed to cellphone radiation for nine hours a day for two years (basically the full life span of a rat). As noted by The New York Times,5 the heart tumors (malignant schwannomas) found in male rats are "similar to acoustic neuromas, a benign tumor in people involving the nerve that connects the ear to the brain, which some studies have linked to cellphone use."

The scientists also expressed surprise at the finding of DNA damage, as the conventional belief is that nonionizing radiofrequency radiation cannot harm DNA. "We don't feel like we understand enough about the results to be able to place a huge degree of confidence in the findings," John Bucher, Ph.D.,6 senior scientist at the NTP told reporters. Such statements fly in the face of warnings issued by NTP researchers two years ago.


NTP and Ramazzini Show Effects Are Reproducible

The NTP-funded studies found rats exposed to RF radiation began developing glial cell hyperplasias — indicative of precancerous lesions — around week 58; heart schwannomas were detected around week 70. Ramazzini's study confirms and reinforces these results, showing RF radiation increased both brain and heart tumors in exposed rats. This, despite the fact that Ramazzini used much lower power levels.

While NTP used RF levels comparable to what's emitted by 2G and 3G cellphones (near-field exposure), Ramazzini simulated exposure to cellphone towers (far-field exposure). In all, the Ramazzini Institute exposed 2,448 rats to 1.8 GHz GSM radiation at electric field strengths of 5, 25 and 50 volts per meter18 for 19 hours a day, starting at birth until the rats died either from age or illness.

To facilitate comparison, the researchers converted their measurements to watts per kilogram of body weight (W/kg), which is what the NTP used. Overall, the radiation dose administered in the Ramazzini study was up to 1,000 times lower than the NTP's — yet the results were strikingly similar. As in the NTP studies, exposed male rats developed statistically higher rates of heart schwannomas than unexposed rats.

They also found some evidence, although weaker, that RF exposure increased rates of glial tumors in the brains of female rats. As noted by Ronald Melnick, Ph.D., a former senior NIH toxicologist who led the design of the NTP study and current senior science adviser to the Environmental Health Trust:19

"All of the exposures used in the Ramazzini study were below the U.S. FCC limits… In other words, a person can legally be exposed to this level of radiation. Yet cancers occurred in these animals at these legally permitted levels. The Ramazzini findings are consistent with the NTP study demonstrating these effects are a reproducible finding. Governments need to strengthen regulations to protect the public from these harmful non-thermal exposures."

The NTP's conclusion that there's no cause for concern is also challenged by an independent review panel, which concluded its review of the two NTP studies March 28. According to this panel of experts, there's "clear evidence" linking RF radiation with heart schwannomas and "some evidence" linking it to brain gliomas. It remains to be seen whether the NTP will accept or reject the panel's conclusions in its final report.

Why Evidence of Rodent Schwannomas Could Spell Trouble for Human Health

As explained by Louis Slesin, Ph.D., editor and publisher of Microwave News, the increased incidence of schwannomas in rodents exposed to RF is no mere coincidence, and is of great concern for public health:20

"Schwann cells play a key role in the functioning of the peripheral nervous system. They make the myelin sheath, which insulates nerve fibers and helps speed the conduction of electrical impulses. There are Schwann cells just about everywhere there are peripheral nerve fibers. They are present in most organs of the body — whether mice, rats or humans. Schwann cell tumors are called schwannomas.

The NTP found schwannomas in many other organs, in addition to the heart, of rats chronically exposed to cellphone radiation. These included a variety of glands (pituitary, salivary and thymus), the trigeminal nerve and the eye … The NTP also saw schwannomas in the uterus, ovary and vagina of female rats. The brain has no Schwann cells —the brain is part of the central nervous system. There, glial cells play a similar function. In fact, Schwann cells are a type of glial cell …

Tumors of the glial cells are called gliomas. The NTP also saw an increase in glioma among the male rats exposed to GSM and CDMA radiation. Higher rates of glioma have been reported in a number of epidemiological studies of cellphone users. The other tumor linked to cellphone radiation in human studies is acoustic neuroma, a tumor of the auditory nerve … formally called a vestibular schwannoma.

While schwannomas and gliomas are commonly noncancerous tumors, they can develop into malignant schwannomas or glioblastomas … The implication is that instead of searching for consistency in RF's ability to cause cancer in specific organs, the emphasis should now be on specific cell types — beginning with Schwann cells in the periphery and glial cells in the brain."

Full information:



Apr 9, 2018

​​Phosphine Exposure Among Emergency Responders — Amarillo, Texas, January 2017

Investigation and Response
At approximately 5:00 a.m. on January 2, 2017, emergency responders were dispatched to a single-family residence following a 9-1-1 call reporting shortness of breath, loss of consciousness, and other symptoms among occupants. These health effects were initially thought to be the result of carbon monoxide exposure; however, air monitoring detected no carbon monoxide. Emergency responders discovered that a restricted-use pesticide containing ​​aluminum phosphide had been applied outside the residence several days before the 9-1-1 call. It was determined that phosphine had been released when the pesticide reacted with water, first from ambient humidity, and then when attempts were made to wash the pesticide away on January 1, 2017.

Because a hazardous substance was suspected, the City of Amarillo dispatched a hazardous materials (HAZMAT) team composed of fire department personnel and established a secure perimeter around the home. Persons found inside were assisted out of the residence, given emergency medical care, and transported to a nearby hospital. Domestic animals found on-scene were decontaminated by dry brushing and taken to a local animal welfare facility. The local health authority issued a health alert to inform medical care providers.

Later on January 2, the City of Amarillo requested a toxicologic consultation from DSHS related to the incident. Based on incident response activities described during the consultation, it was determined that emergency responders might have been exposed to phosphine at the scene. Therefore, DSHS investigated potential occupational phosphine exposures and associated health effects among all City of Amarillo personnel who participated in the emergency response.

DSHS reviewed Texas Poison Control Network call records related to the event, and then designed a standardized health questionnaire based on the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's (ATSDR's) Assessment of Chemical Exposures toolkit to interview potentially exposed emergency responders (2). Data collected included demographics, work history, role in the response, PPE use, potential exposure to phosphine and related acute health effects, emergency response training, and medical care received. Local health department personnel administered the questionnaire for DSHS via in-person and telephone interviews from January 23 through February 3, 2017. Data were analyzed by DSHS; data that could potentially identify an individual were suppressed if counts were fewer than five.

Fifty-one emergency responders participated on-scene in the response. Air monitoring data were limited, so all were considered potentially exposed to phosphine and contacted for a follow-up interview. All 51 (100%) responders participated, including fire, police, animal welfare, and emergency medical services personnel. The median emergency responder age was 31 years (range = 20–54 years) and the median length of time in their current job was 5 years (range = 2 months–30 years).

Eleven responders (21.6%), including seven firefighters and HAZMAT team members, reported use of respiratory protection while on-scene; none of these persons reported symptoms within 24 hours or sought medical care following the incident (Table 1). Fifteen (37.5%) of the 40 emergency responders who did not use respiratory protection received medical care for symptoms or as a precaution after the incident. Seven (17.5%) of these 40 reported new or worsening symptoms within 24 hours of the response. Symptoms included irritability, ocular pain or burning, headache, nausea, drowsiness, dizziness, burning of nose or throat, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, generalized weakness, trembling legs or hands, and trouble walking.

Among the 40 responders who did not use respiratory protection, 14 (35%) provided the following nonmutually exclusive reasons: did not know it was needed or were not told to use it (five); rescuing victims was more important (four); did not know the contaminant was present (four); was not required for the work performed (two); and did not have equipment (one).

Thirty-seven (72.5%) of the 51 responders stated that their agency had plans or standard operating procedures for responding to situations where hazardous materials are present. Forty (78.4%) reported receiving at least one emergency response training† before the incident (Table 2), including 29 (72.5%) of the 40 responders who did not use respiratory protection.

 67(13);387–389

Emily M. Hall, MPH1; Ketki Patel, MD, PhD1; Kerton R. Victory, PhD2; Geoffrey M. Calvert, MD3; Leticia M. Nogueira, PhD1; Heidi K. Bojes, PhD1(View author affiliations)

Apr 4, 2018

EPA Announces New Funding for Water Infrastructure Projects

WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of funding that could provide as much as $5.5 billion in loans, which could leverage over $11 billion in water infrastructure projects through the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program. Prospective borrowers seeking WIFIA credit assistance must submit a letter of interest (LOI) by July 6, 2018. 

"Thanks to the President's leadership, this WIFIA funding will spark new investments to repair our nation's crumbling water infrastructure," said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. "EPA will play a key role in the President's infrastructure efforts by incentivizing states, municipalities, and public-private partnerships to protect public health, fix local infrastructure problems, create jobs, and provide clean water to communities." 

The WIFIA program received $63 million in funding in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 23, 2018. This more than doubles the program's funding from 2017. Leveraging private capital and other funding sources, these projects could support $11 billion in water infrastructure investment and create more than 170,000 jobs. This year's Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) highlights the importance of protecting public health including reducing exposure to lead and other contaminants in drinking water systems and updating the nation's aging infrastructure.   

"An investment in water infrastructure is an investment in our communities," said Dr. Andrew Sawyers, director of the Office of Wastewater Management. "The WIFIA program helps improve water quality and protect public health while supporting the local economy." 

The WIFIA program will play an important part in making vital improvements to the nation's water infrastructure and implementing the President's Infrastructure Plan, which calls for increasing the program's funding authorization and expanding project eligibility.

Background

Established by the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014, the WIFIA program is a federal loan and guarantee program at EPA that aims to accelerate investment in the nation's water infrastructure by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental loans for regionally and nationally significant projects.

WIFIA credit assistance can be used for a wide range of projects, including:

  • Drinking water treatment and distribution projects;
  • Wastewater conveyance and treatment projects;
  • Enhanced energy efficiency projects at drinking water and wastewater facilities;
  • Desalination, aquifer recharge, alternative water supply, and water recycling project; and
  • Drought prevention, reduction, or mitigation projects.

EPA will evaluate proposed projects described in the LOIs using WIFIA's statutory and regulatory criteria as described in the NOFA. Through this competitive process, EPA will select projects that it intends to fund and invite them to continue to the application process. 

In 2017, for WIFIA's inaugural round, EPA invited 12 projects in 9 states to apply for more than $2 billion in WIFIA loans.

For more information about WIFIA and this funding announcement, visit: https://www.epa.gov/wifia   

​​

Apr 3, 2018

Improved Tool Decreases Dangerous Airborne Silica Dust


sand mover operator station

During sand transport, a visible cloud of dust containing crystalline silica floats past this top sand-mover operator station. Photo courtesy of Barbara Alexander, NIOSH.

An improved, NIOSH-developed tool, or engineering control, can help reduce the amount of dangerous, airborne crystalline silica dust generated during sand moving for oil and gas extraction, according to research published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene.

During hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas extraction, workers use equipment that pumps millions of pounds of water and sand into rock formations deep underground. The purpose of this pressurized mixture is to create and maintain cracks in the rock to extract the oil and gas trapped within. The problem is that the sand usually contains crystalline silica dust, which, when inhaled, can cause severe illness, including lung cancer and the deadly lung disease silicosis. During certain tasks, such as moving and mixing sand at hydraulic-fracturing sites, airborne crystalline silica dust poses a serious risk to workers' health.

Engineering controls are a critical part of preventing worker exposure to airborne crystalline silica dust. In fact, respirable crystalline silica standard 29 CFR 1910.1053 from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will require hydraulic-fracturing companies to adopt engineering controls for crystalline silica dust by June 23, 2021.

NIOSH investigators who study and develop these engineering controls showed in previous research that a NIOSH-developed control effectively reduced levels of airborne crystalline silica dust released from inspection hatches on top of sand movers. Known as the NIOSH mini baghouse, it comprises four large bags made of filter material and a baseplate that clamps to the openings on top of sand movers. It is unique in that it has no moving parts, requires no power source, and can retrofit to existing sand movers.

In a study of the third generation of the mini baghouse, investigators tested it at an Arkansas sand mine during May 19–21, 2015. They collected 168 air samples at 12 locations on and near a sand mover, both with the mini baghouse installed and without it, and then measured the levels of respirable crystalline silica dust in the air samples. The measurements showed that air samples taken with the mini baghouse installed contained 98%–99% less respirable crystalline silica dust than those taken without the mini baghouse. In addition, other tests showed that the crystalline silica dust probably contained freshly fractured quartz, which is an especially dangerous type of crystalline silica dust.

Compared to earlier versions, this third-generation mini baghouse performed significantly better due to improvements, such as a larger surface area of a "slipperier" filter fabric. Now, the investigators are studying additional design improvements, including a cover to offer protection from the weather. They also are planning future trials looking at long-term use of the mini baghouse.

More information is available:

Mar 20, 2018

Top Story OSHA Will Enforce Beryllium Standard Starting in May

OSHA will start enforcement of the final rule on occupational exposure to beryllium in construction, shipyard, and general industries on May 11, 2018. The start of enforcement had previously been set for March 12, 2018. In response to feedback from stakeholders, the agency is considering technical updates to clarify and simplify compliance. In the interim, if an employer fails to meet the new exposure limits, OSHA will inform the employer and offer assistance to ensure compliance. For more information, read the news release.

What Is The USEPA Revised Hazardous Waste Generator Rule And How It Affects You

Hazardous Waste Dates: Rule effective May 30, 2017 for EPA administered areas. Becomes effective in a RCRA authorized states when adopted by the state. What Happened The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) issued the November 2016 final rule that revised the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act's (RCRA) hazardous waste generator regulatory program. According to USEPA, the revisions reorganized the hazardous waste generator regulations to make them more user-friendly, address gaps in the existing regulations and, provide greater flexibility for hazardous waste generators to manage their hazardous waste. The final rule is effective initially in states where EPA runs the RCRA hazardous waste program. 

In a RCRA authorized state, the rule will become effective when the state adopts the federal requirements in its own state regulations. States generally have one to two years to adopt federal requirements (expected in most states in 2018). In addition, states can choose to customize the federal requirements to suit their needs by making them more stringent or not adopt them if less stringent than previously. To find out if the rule is effective in your state, check with your state environmental age agency and this web page: https://www.epa.gov/hwgenerators/where-hazardous-waste-generator-improvements-ruleeffect 

Impact When the rule becomes effective, the changes in the Federal rules will affect all hazardous waste generators. The extent of impact will depend on the site's generator category and how their state chooses to adopt the rule. Table 1 highlights the rule changes and impacts in more detail. Table 2 summarizes the updated regulatory requirements by generator type. 

Suggested Action
Find out when the rule will become effective in your state. 
Evaluate impacts, prepare for, and implement necessary changes. 
Evaluate whether you can take advantage of certain flexibilities allowed by the revised rule. For example, consolidation of waste generated at other sites at Large Quantity Generator site under common control, use Episodic Generation notification to maintain or downsize lower Generator status. 
Also, evaluate if any the hazardous wastes are eligible to be managed as universal waste in your state rules. States are authorized to add to EPA's lists of universal wastes. If you can reclassify a waste as universal waste, it's possible you can downsize your hazardous waste generator status in addition to using less burdensome requirements. 


Courtesy of: Prokopis Christou, PE, CHMM , March 19, 2018 

Preventing Illness from Pesticide Drift

As the breadbasket for the United States, California has many communities and workplaces surrounded by agriculture. Workers can become ill when pesticide drifts onto workplaces after it is applied incorrectly.

A new fact sheet and poster from the California Department of Public Health's Occupational Pesticide Illness Prevention Program (OPIPP) provides employers and workers with tips for preventing pesticide illness from drift incidents. The fact sheet will help workplaces located near pesticide applications to plan ahead and know who to contact to report drift. A case study illustrates the need to plan in advance and train workers on how to respond.

The companion poster reinforces what to do in a drift situation and provides an easy way to post the contact information for reporting drift.

You can find more information and resources about OPIPP on their website.

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


Resources

Plan Ahead to Prevent Pesticide Drift from Causing Illness – fact sheet

What to Do If Pesticides Drift onto Our Workplace – poster

Occupational Pesticide Illness Prevention Program website

Annual Death Toll From Opioid Epidemic Exceeds That of the Vietnam War

The opioid epidemic — which between 2002 and 2015 alone claimed an estimated 202,600 Americans' lives1 — shows absolutely no signs of leveling off or declining. On the contrary, recent statistics suggest the death toll is still trending upward, with more and more people abusing these powerful narcotics. The most common drugs involved in prescription opioid overdose deaths include2 methadone, oxycodone (such as OxyContin®) and hydrocodone (such as Vicodin®).

This dangerous class of drugs promises relief from pain and is filling a hole in human hearts and souls everywhere. According to the most recent data3 from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), overdose cases admitted into emergency rooms increased by more than 30 percent across the U.S. between July 2016 and September 2017. Overdose cases rose by:4

  • 30 percent among men
  • 31 percent among 24- to 35-year-olds
  • 36 percent among 35- to 54-year-olds
  • 32 percent among those 55 and older

In the Midwest region — Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin — overdose cases rose by 70 percent and opioid-related mortality by 14 percent. Large cities also saw a 54 percent increase in overdose cases in that same timeframe. According to CDC officials, the results are "a wake-up call to the fast-moving opioid overdose epidemic.''

'The Opioid Diaries'

Curiously, opioid abuse appears to be a uniquely American problem. As noted in a recent write-up in New York Magazine,5 the U.S. "pioneered modern life. Now epic numbers of Americans are killing themselves with opioids to escape it." I've written about opioid misuse and addiction on many occasions in recent years, and it seems one cannot discuss this issue enough. Many are still unaware of the dangers involved with filling that first prescription.

As an indication of the need for awareness, the March 5 issue of Time magazine, "The Opioid Diaries,"6 is aimed at exposing the national crisis. For the first time in the magazine's history, an entire issue is devoted to a single photo essay — the work of photojournalist James Nachtwey, who has documented stories for Time for over three decades. In "The Opioid Diaries," Nachtwey's photos detail the stark reality of this all-American crisis.

He and editor Paul Moakley spent months traversing the U.S., interviewing over 200 people along the way. As noted by a deputy sheriff who has seen more than his fair share of the fallout of this epidemic, opioid addiction doesn't discriminate. "It's not just the guy who's never worked a day in his life," he says. "It's airline pilots. It's teachers. I'm sure there's law enforcement, firemen out there hooked on it. It's Joe Citizen that's dying."

A Country in Crisis  

Here are some statistics about the U.S. opioid epidemic that really ought to get everyone's attention:

Leading cause of death for younger Americans

Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under the age of 50.7

Annual death toll greater than entire Vietnam War

Preliminary data for 2016 reveals the death toll from drug overdoses may be as high as 65,000,8 a 19 percent increase from 2015; the largest annual increase of drug overdose deaths in U.S. history, and a number that exceeds both the AIDS epidemic at its peak and the death toll of the Vietnam War in its entirety.9

That much-opposed war claimed the lives of 58,000 American troops. Now, we're suffering a death toll exceeding that of the Vietnam War each and every year, courtesy of a drug addiction epidemic created by the pharmaceutical industry.  

Deadlier than breast cancer

Opioids, specifically, killed 33,000 in 2015,10,11,12 and 42,249 in 2016, which is over 1,000 more deaths than were caused by breast cancer that same year.13

Synthetic opioid abuse skyrocketing

Deadly overdoses involving fentanyl, an incredibly potent synthetic opioid, rose by 50 percent between 2013 and 2014 and another 72 percent between 2014 and 2015. Over 20,000 of the drug overdose deaths in 2016 were attributed to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids.14 In Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, fentanyl was responsible for at least 70 percent of all opioid-related deaths between July and December 2016.15

While some users will buy fentanyl on purpose, others buy tainted wares and end up taking it without knowing the risks. This is a critical problem, as fentanyl is so potent just a few grains can be deadly.

An inexpensive fentanyl test strip can check for the presence of the drug, and trials where test strips have been given to users show they're more likely to cut back on the amount they're taking when they know it's tainted with fentanyl. As such, fentanyl testing can be employed as "a point-of-care test within harm-reduction programs" aimed at lowering the death toll.16

Significant factor in unemployment rates

Opioid abuse has been identified as a significant factor in rising unemployment among men, accounting for 20 percent of the increase in male unemployment between 1999 and 2015.17 Nearly half of all unemployed men between the ages of 25 and 54 are using opioids on a daily basis.18

Americans use vast majority of global opioid supplies

Americans consume 99 percent of the hydrocodone sold worldwide, and 81 percent of all oxycodone — approximately 30 times more than medically necessary for the population size of the U.S.19 A number of different statistics convey this massive overuse.

For example, in a five-year span, between 2007 and 2012, 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills were shipped to West Virginia, which has just 1.8 million residents.20 More than 1 in 5 Americans insured by BlueCross BlueShield were prescribed an opioid in 2015, and insurance claims involving opioid dependence rose by nearly 500 percent between 2010 and 2016.21

Declining life expectancy

Life expectancy for both men and women in the U.S. has declined two years in a row,22,23 and this decline is largely attributable to the opioid crisis. Just as the opioid epidemic, declining life expectancy is a uniquely American phenomenon. No other developed countries has experienced this decline in life expectancy.

A Story of Misery

There are compelling reasons to suspect the opioid epidemic was purposely engineered by the drug companies that make them, and that these same companies have, and continue to, shy away from doing what's necessary to curb the use of opioid pain killers for financially-driven reasons.

Moreover, while this was not likely planned, the industry's misleading promotion of narcotic pain relievers appears to have coincided with a growing trend of emotional pain and spiritual disconnect, and opioids satisfy people's need not only for physical pain relief but also psychological and existential pain relief. As noted by New York Magazine:24

"The scale and darkness of this phenomenon is a sign of a civilization in a more acute crisis than we knew, a nation overwhelmed by a warp-speed, postindustrial world, a culture yearning to give up, indifferent to life and death, enraptured by withdrawal and nothingness …

[U]nless you understand what users get out of an illicit substance, it's impossible to understand its appeal, or why an epidemic takes off, or what purpose it is serving in so many people's lives. And it is significant, it seems to me, that the drugs now conquering America are downers: They are not the means to engage in life more vividly but to seek a respite from its ordeals … And some part of being free from all pain makes you indifferent to death itself."

The article cites a number of firsthand accounts of the experience opioids provides — the blissful serenity of being able to stand apart from one's psychological pain in addition to physical pain; the sensation of being connected to some deeper wellspring of peace. These are experiences typically derived from spiritual practices, and hint at a widespread lack of connectedness to the divine in general.

Read on by By Dr. Mercola

Mar 16, 2018

ECHA: New website about chemicals for consumers launched today

New ECHA website has been launched on World Consumers Rights Day. 
 
It is available in 23 EU languages and gives useful information on the benefits and risks of using chemicals and explains how the EU legislation on chemicals protects us.
 
The website has a trending section for topical news and is connected to our chemicals database – the largest of its kind. 

You can also explore parts of the European Union Observatory for Nanomaterials (EUON) through articles on nanomaterials and health, the workplace and consumer products. 360-degree interactive apartment shows you where and why nanomaterials are used in our lives.

Mar 15, 2018

Study finds that 90% of bottled water contains tiny plastic particles

BBC News:  Prof Mason and her colleagues filtered their dyed samples and then counted every piece larger than 100 microns – roughly the diameter of a human hair.

Graphic

Some of these particles – large enough to be handled individually - were then analysed by infrared spectroscopy, confirmed as plastic and further identified as particular types of polymer.

Particles smaller than 100 microns – and down to a size of 6.5 microns – were much more numerous (an average of 314 per litre) and were counted using a technique developed in astronomy for totalling the number of stars in the night sky.

The make-up of these particles was not confirmed but Prof Mason said they can "rationally expected to be plastic".

This is because although Nile Red dye can bind to substances other than plastic - such as fragments of shell or algae containing lipids - these would be unlikely to be present in bottled water.

Graphic: Type

Since the study has not been through the usual process of peer review and publication in a scientific journal, the BBC has asked experts in the field to comment.

Dr Andrew Mayes, of the University of East Anglia and one of the pioneers of the Nile Red technique, told us it was "very high quality analytical chemistry" and that the results were "quite conservative".

Michael Walker, a consultant to the Office of the UK Government Chemist and founder board member of the Food Standards Agency, said the work was "well conducted" and that the use of Nile Red has "a very good pedigree".

Both of them emphasised that the particles below 100 microns had not been identified as plastic but said that since the alternatives would not be expected in bottled water, they could be described as "probably plastic".

One obvious question is where this plastic may be coming from. Given the amount of polypropylene, which is used in bottle caps, one theory is that the act of opening a bottle may shed particles inside.

Graphic showing the rising number of plastic drinks bottles thrown away
Presentational white space

To check that the process of testing was not itself adding plastic to the bottles, Prof Mason ran "blanks" in which the purified water used to clean the glassware and the acetone used to dilute the Nile Red dye were themselves investigated.

Small quantities of plastic were found in them – believed to be from the air - but these were subtracted from the final results.

A surprise to researchers was the wide variety of findings – 17 of the 259 bottles tested showed no evidence of plastic but all of the rest did, with big differences even within brands.

Read on at: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-43388870

Mar 14, 2018

EPA Proposes Universal Waste Designation for Aerosol Cans

(PAINT.ORG) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to add hazardous waste aerosol cans to the universal waste program under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations. In a pre-publication notice signed March 5 by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the agency said, "this proposed change, once finalized, would benefit the wide variety of establishments generating and managing hazardous waste aerosol cans, including the retail sector, by providing a clear, protective system for managing discarded aerosol cans."

EPA will accept comments for the 60-day period following the official publication notice in the Federal Register.

The streamlined universal waste regulations are expected to ease regulatory burdens on retail stores and others that discard hazardous waste aerosol cans; promote the collection and recycling of these cans; and encourage the development of municipal and commercial programs to reduce the quantity of these wastes going to municipal solid waste landfills or combustors.

Under the proposed reclassification, aerosol cans, pressurized or spent — including spray paint cans — would be treated and handled as universal waste. In 1995, EPA promulgated the universal waste rule to establish a streamlined hazardous waste management system for widely generated hazardous wastes to encourage environmentally sound collection and proper management of the wastes within the system. Hazardous waste batteries, certain hazardous waste pesticides, mercury-containing equipment, and hazardous waste lamps are already included on the federal list of universal wastes. The universal waste regulations in 40 CFR part 273 are a set of alternative hazardous waste management standards that operate in lieu of regulation under 40 CFR parts 260 through 272 for specified hazardous wastes.

Notably, four states, California, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico, already have universal waste aerosol can programs in place; and two more states, Ohio and Minnesota, have proposed to add aerosol cans to their universal waste regulations. The universal waste programs in all these states include streamlined management standards like 40 CFR part 273 for small and large quantity handlers of universal waste, and a one-year accumulation time limit for the aerosol cans. In addition, the four state universal waste programs, as well as Ohio's proposed regulations, set standards for puncturing and draining of aerosol cans by universal waste handlers.

More information on EPA's Universal Waste Program may be found here.

Contact ACA's Xavier Ferrier or Rhett Cash for more information.

Mar 13, 2018

Milwaukee HazWoper Refresher Seminar March 21, 2018

Annual OSHA HazWoper Refresher

Wednesday, March 21st - NEXT WEEK
Hilton Garden Inn, 11600 W Park Place, Milwaukee
 
The HazWoper Refresher, hosted by the WI CHMM Chapter, will be held next week on Wednesday, March 21st in Milwaukee.  
 
The seminar is designed to meet the annual refresher training requirements under OSHA's standards for general industry and the construction industry on hazardous waste operations and emergency response (29 CFR 1910.120 or 29 CFR 1926.65).
 
The HAZWOPER standard applies to five groups of employers and their employees who may exposed to hazardous substances, including hazardous waste, and are engaged in:
  • Mandatory clean-up operations required by the government involving hazardous substances at uncontrolled hazardous waste sites.
  • Corrective actions involving clean-up operations at RCRA sites
  • Voluntary clean-up operations at RCRA sites
  • Operations involving hazardous wastes that are conducted at treatment, storage, and disposal (TSDF) facilities
Emergency response operations for release of, or substantial threats of releases of, hazardous substances

If you or your employer are or have the potential to fall into one of these groups, you should attend this 8-hour annual refresher training. This program offers Professional Credits.
 
An agenda and registration information can be found by clicking the program link below or visit the FET website at www.fetinc.org