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Construction workers may be exposed to silica dust, which has been linked to cancer.

Construction workers may be exposed to silica dust, which is linked to chronic lung disease.

In a classic tug-of-war between keeping contractors safe on the job and the cost of that safety, builders are battling the Occupational Safety and Health Administration over its proposed standards for silica.

Crystalline silica is found in soil, sand, granite, quartz, and other natural substances that contractors work with. When blasted, cut, or drilled, those stones and minerals produce dust that workers can inhale.

Long-term exposure can lead to respiratory problems and silicosis, a chronic lung disease.

OSHA’s plan to require more aggressive protection has been in limbo since the agency introduced it in September 2013.

After multiple extensions, the proposed rule had one of the longest public comment periods in OSHA’s history.

Although the comment period is closed, the Construction Industry Safety Coalition, a consortium of 25 trade associations, sent a report to OSHA last week saying the agency’s proposed requirements for lowering the exposure to silica on job sites could cost the industry billions of dollars more than the government has projected.

In an accompanying letter to Assistant Labor Secretary David Michaels, a lawyer for the Coalition called the proposed rule “potentially… the most expensive OSHA standard ever for the construction industry.”

The government’s case

Both sides agree that contractors working in mining, quarrying, road construction, with cement or flint, and in sand blasting and glass industries are most likely to be at risk.

But they disagree about the best way to mitigate that risk.

OSHA’s proposed construction standard would require employers to measure the amount of silica that workers are exposed to, during an eight-hour work day, to see if it could exceed a level acceptable to OSHA (25 micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air). If the exposure measures more than 50 micrograms, the company must protect workers.

In addition, the proposed rule would require construction firms to limit workers’ access to high-exposure areas; use dust controls to protect workers from inhaling higher-than-acceptable amounts of the powder; supply respirators when those dust controls aren’t enough to limit a worker’s exposure; and offer medical exams, including chest X-rays and lung function tests, every three years to workers who are exposed to high levels of silica for 30 or more days a year.

The rule would also mandate more employee training and careful record-keeping that documents workers’ exposure and medical exams.

The builders’ response

Builders and trades involved in commercial, residential, road, and heavy industrial construction have partnered to oppose the proposed rule. They back a Construction Industry Safety Coalition request for OSHA to withdraw its planned new standard and instead bolster enforcement of the existing rule.

The cross-sector Coalition claims that the proposed silica standards will cost the industry $5 billion per year—a whopping $4.5 billion more than OSHA has estimated.

“We are deeply concerned about the misguided assumptions and cost and impact errors that OSHA has relied upon in creating this proposed rule that will significantly affect our industry,” Tom Woods, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders, said in a press release.

Woods asked OSHA to put its proposal aside and instead work with the industry on a compromise that is “technologically and economically feasible [and] also works to improve industry workers’ health and safety.”

The Coalition claims OSHA’s cost estimates reflect “a fundamental misunderstanding of the construction industry.”

The Coalition’s report estimates that 80% of the cost of complying with the proposed rule will come from paying for additional equipment, labor, and record-keeping. The remaining 20% will result from increased prices for materials like concrete, glass, roofing shingles, tile, paint, and countertops, as manufacturers pass their compliance costs on to builders.

In addition, the industry has predicted that the proposed rule will lead to the loss of more than 33,000 full-time jobs among contractors, equipment suppliers, and building products manufacturers, and another 20,000 economy-wide when laid-off construction and supplier workers no longer have earnings to spend.

Add in part-time and seasonal jobs, and the number soars to 80,000 lost positions, the Coalition’s report says.

Source: Construction Dive

Concerned about dust exposure on the job? Electrocorp has designed a wide range of industrial and commercial air cleaners for construction, renovation and other industry applications. Armed with high quality dust filters as well as a carbon filter and other options, these air cleaners remove airborne dust particles, chemicals, fumes, smells, bacteria, viruses and more. Contact Electrocorp for more information and a free consultation by calling 1-866-667-0297 or writing to sales@electrocorp.net.

Airborne particles from wildfire smoke can cause health problems.

Airborne particles from wildfire smoke can cause health problems.

As the American West, parched by prolonged drought, braces for a season of potentially record-breaking wildfires, new research suggests these events not only pose an immediate threat to people’s safety and their homes, but also could take a toll on human health, agriculture and ecosystems.

The study, appearing in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology, could help societies map out a plan to mitigate these effects in wildfire-prone regions.

Matthew D. Hurteau and colleagues point out that wildfires naturally occur in many areas around the globe.

In response, human societies have harnessed the power of fire to better control wild blazes and minimize damage. But climate change also can impact the number and severity of wildfires.

Understanding how these factors influence each other is crucial so that people can better prepare for the future and perhaps lessen the effects of the blazes.

Previous studies have estimated the effect of climate change and population growth on wildfire patterns and the risk of damage to buildings and homes in California. Hurteau’s team wanted to expand on those findings and investigate six possible future climate scenarios.

Using several different models, they estimated that by 2100, emissions from wildfires in California will grow by 19 to 101 percent. They found that climate, not population growth or development, will likely be the driving force behind these increases.

However, a rise in wildfires still will mean significant societal challenges, such as higher pollution levels, which can affect human health and aggravate respiratory conditions. Poor air quality also can lower crop yield, and forest health could suffer.

Source: American Chemical Society via AAAS

Better air quality with air purifiers

Poor air quality outside also means that indoor air quality suffers, which is often affected by accumulation of contaminants due to poor ventilation, HVAC systems, chemical and/or pesticide use and more.

Electrocorp has designed smart and effective air cleaners for industrial and commercial applications that can remove airborne contaminants and provide cleaner and more breathable air. The air purifiers feature carbon wall technology for the removal of chemicals and gases as well as HEPA or Super-HEPA for fine particles and dust (a variety of pre-filters help preserve the lifespan of these main filters).

For more information, contact Electrocorp: 1-866-667-0297.

Nail polish fumes have been linked to serious health problems.

Nail polish fumes have been linked to serious health problems.

Nail salons are where women turn for pampering and polish. But under the luxurious veneer, salons aren’t always healthy places to be.

Authorities are beginning to notice the serious health risks associated with nail products and they are starting to act.

Last year, Alameda County’s Department of Environmental Health began a Healthy Nail Salon Recognition Program to push its roughly 350 salons, which employ 1,000 manicurists, to adopt healthier practices. San Francisco was the first city in the nation to launch such a program in 2012, and Santa Monica followed in July.

Alameda County publicly honored Leann’s Nails and six other salons last month for becoming certified in its program. Requirements include installing proper ventilation and ensuring employees wear gloves. Salons also must significantly limit their use of products with chemicals that are health hazards.

“These people are working with these materials constantly,” said Pamela Evans, the coordinator of Alameda County’s nail salon program. “They’re being used right in very close proximity to people’s breathing zones.”

 

Losing the ‘toxic trio’

The polishes in Leann’s Nails come in every hue, from turquoise to fuchsia, but a sign makes it clear that they do not contain what health officials refer to as the “toxic trio”: dibutyl phthalate, toluene and formaldehyde.

Exposure to these compounds can result in headaches, dizziness and irritations in the eyes, skin, nose and throat. It can also lead to more severe, long-term problems.

Dibutyl phthalate, which gives polishes flexibility and a moisturizing sheen, is linked to developmental problems in animals. Toluene, which is used to create a smooth look in polishes, can cause damage to the liver and kidneys and harm unborn children during pregnancy. And formaldehyde, which hardens polish, is a carcinogen.

Those are just the polishes. Businesses that join the county’s Healthy Nail Salon Recognition Program also must stay away from polish removers with butyl acetate, methyl acetate and ethyl acetate, which collectively can cause drowsiness and irritate the eyes, skin and other parts of the body.

Finally, salons must not use thinners – which remove thick clumps from polish – that contain toluene or methyl ethyl ketone, which is associated with upset stomachs, headaches and loss of appetite.

Environment regulators and consumer advocates have long been trying to limit these exposures.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers to evaluate workers’ exposure to dust and chemical vapors, and, if the levels are a health risk, provide workers with respiratory gear for protection.

Most work in a nail salon will not require respiratory protection if proper ventilation and safe work practices are in place, according to the agency.

 

Misleading claims

But it can be difficult to properly evaluate chemical exposures, especially because some nail products that claim to be free of the “toxic trio” in fact contain one or more of the hazardous chemicals, according to a 2012 analysis of 25 randomly selected products by the state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control.

Symptoms can also worsen when they go unreported, as is often the case among the thousands of Vietnamese women employed in salons, said Julia Liou, co-founder of the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, a health advocacy group.

Of California’s estimated 300,000 licensed nail technicians, about 80 percent are of Vietnamese descent, Liou said. Many do not speak English well, feel uncomfortable complaining to management and are of child-bearing age, when reproductive poisons can be particularly harmful.

“Workers often feel very powerless to invoke their rights to have a healthy workplace,” said Liou, who is also director of program planning and development at Asian Health Services, an Oakland community health center.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

 

Remove dangerous chemicals in hair and nail salons

An well designed, industrial-strength air purifier can help remove the toxic fumes and odors that may affect the workers and clients at salons and spas.

Electrocorp offers air cleaners that were specifically designed for hair and nail salons, with a deep-bed activated carbon and HEPA filter as well as source capture attachments for the best protection.

Contact Electrocorp to ask about customizable air purifiers for nail salons and spas, such as the CleanBreeze 2 or the CleanBreeze 3.

Image

Researcher uses social media to keep track of flu outbreaks.

A social media–monitoring program led by San Diego State University geography professor Ming-Hsiang Tsou could help physicians and health officials learn when and where severe outbreaks are occurring in real time.

In results published last month in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, Tsou demonstrated that his technique might allow officials to more quickly and efficiently direct resources to outbreak zones and better contain the spread of the disease.

“There is the potential to use social media to really improve the way we monitor the flu and other public health concerns,”Tsou said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines flu season as the period from October through May, usually peaking around February.

But the unpredictability in exactly when and where outbreaks occur makes it difficult for hospitals and regional health agencies to prepare for where and when to deploy physicians and nurses armed with vaccines and medicines.

There’s about a two-week lag in the time between hospitals first noticing an uptick in flu patients and the CDC issuing a regional warning. Tsou and his colleagues, funded by a $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation, wanted to find a quicker, more efficient way to identify these patterns.

They selected 11 U.S. cities and monitored tweets originating from within a 17-mile radius of those cities. Whenever people tweeted the keywords “flu” or “influenza,” the program would record characteristics about those tweets, including username, location, whether they were original tweets or retweets, and whether they linked to a Web site.

From June 2012 to the beginning of December, the algorithm recorded 161,821 tweets containing the word “flu,” 6,174 containing “influenza.”

Tsou compared his team’s findings to regional data based on the CDC’s definition of influenza-like illnesses (ILI). Nine of the 11 cities showed a statistically significant correlation between an increase in the number of tweets mentioning those keywords and regionally reported outbreaks.

Method picked up on outbreaks earlier

In five of those cities, Tsou’s algorithm picked up on the outbreaks earlier than the regional reports. The cities with the strongest correlations were San Diego, Denver, Jacksonville, Seattle and Fort Worth.

“Traditional procedures take at least two weeks to detect an outbreak,” Tsou said. “With our method, we’re detecting daily.”

Original tweets and tweets without Web site links also proved more predictive than retweets or those that did include links, possibly because original and non-linking tweets are more likely to reflect individuals posting about their own symptoms, Tsou said.

The next step in Tsou’s ongoing research will be hunting for even finer-grained correlations between ILI data and specific symptomatic keywords like “cough,” “sneeze,” “congestion,” and “sore throat.”

Tsou envisions this kind of “infoveillance” applying to a range of public health, such as monitoring regional incidences of heart attack or diabetes. The project is connected to a larger SDSU initiative, Human Dynamics in the Mobile Age, one of the university’s four recently selected Areas of Excellence. Tsou is a core faculty member for the initiative.

“In social media, there’s a lot of noise in the data,” Tsou said. “But if we can filter that noise out and focus on what’s relevant, we can find all kinds of useful connections between real life and cyberspace.”

Source: San Diego State University

Concerned about exposure to the flu virus or other indoor air contaminants that can affect health and well-being? Electrocorp has designed commercial and industrial air cleaners for a wide range of applications, including offices and other workplaces. The air purifiers can remove airborne viruses, bacteria, mold spores, chemicals, gases, odors, particles, allergens and dust. Contact Electrocorp for more information.

Greener practices are possible within the printing industry
Image: FreeDigitalPhotos

The printing industry has had a reputation for being one of the most environmentally unfriendly industrial sectors, but at least one company in Chicago has found a way around that.

Since 1973, Consolidated Printing Company has used alternatives for chemically-laden inks and fountain solutions, as well as solvents used in parts washers.

Rather than using the once common petroleum or chlorinated solvents to degrease parts, this printing company uses recycled cooking grease from restaurants. Inks are made from 100% vegetable products and fountain solutions are VOC free.

The company went one step further by renovating the premises with non-toxic, eco-friendly materials. Conservation has always been an important part of its mandate and it does that by keeping its water waste free of hazardous materials as well as reducing energy consumption by 30 percent.

For decades now, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has given suggestions on how to reduce pollution.

The EPA’s first piece of advice? Start by preventing pollution.

Reusing by-products, substituting toxic chemicals with safer ones and reducing the release of pollutants in the air are just a few ways to minimize environmental impacts. In 2010, the EPA also hosted a webinar on how the printing industry can lower its carbon imprint through the use of green power.

Unfortunately, volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are still a problem within the printing industry as many manufacturers still struggle with finding alternative products that can do the same job. Though Consolidated Printing Company went so far as to make its own inks and solvents using household products, many companies continue to use products that can be harmful; not only to the environment, but also to their employees.

Would you do business with a company that uses vegetable-based inks? Tell us what you think!

Source: NBC Chicago

Protecting employees’ health at the workplace

I-6500

Because many chemical and paper products are used in printing, employees are exposed to unhealthy doses of chemical fumes as well as a lot of particle matter during the cutting process.

Electrocorp has several solutions for small and medium-sized printing companies that use digital and/or offset printers. These shops can benefit from our I-6500 with source captures. This unit connects to HVAC systems, while source captures hanging from the ceilings are positioned above the printers.

PrintSafe

The PrintSafe is another good option as it is mobile and the intake hood can be placed right at the source of the fumes, thereby protecting workers from the worst of the chemicals.

During the cutting process, many fine paper particles enter the air. The Dirty Dog is ideal for dust-filled environments. It uses a bag filter that can reduce particle levels by up to 90 percent.

DirtyDog

For more information on our units, contact one of our IAQ experts or visit our printing and graphics section on the Electrocorp website.

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