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Hair stylists who use certain products may harm their health.

Hair stylists who use certain products may harm their health.

NEW YORK – All a receptionist at Salon Zoë hair salon wanted to do was make her fellow employees aware of health hazards associated with products containing formaldehyde that were regularly used by haircutters and stylists at the business in the Riverdale section of the Bronx.

Her employer responded by firing her.

As a result, the U.S. Department of Labor is suing the business and its owner, Kristina Veljovic, for discrimination, and seeking redress and compensation for the worker who exercised her rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

“This firing was illegal and inexcusable,” said Robert Kulick, regional administrator in New York for the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“It’s against the law to fire or otherwise retaliate against an employee for informing colleagues about possible health hazards in their place of employment. Such behavior not only intimidates workers, it also can deny them access to knowledge that will protect them against workplace hazards.”

The suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York says the worker began to experience respiratory distress in December 2011, including difficulty breathing and an impaired sense of smell. She sought medical attention on multiple occasions over the next several months. During this period, she also told her employer that she believed the salon’s hair-straightening products, which contain formaldehyde, were causing her health problems.

On June 27, 2012, she informed fellow employees of the presence of formaldehyde in the salon’s products and provided several co-workers with copies of an OSHA fact sheet* detailing the dangers of formaldehyde exposure.

Two days later, Kristina Veljovic terminated her employment. In July 2012, a physician confirmed that the worker’s respiratory distress resulted from her formaldehyde exposure at work. She subsequently filed an antidiscrimination complaint with OSHA, which investigated and found merit to her complaint.

“No employee should be fired for raising awareness of a potential workplace health hazard,” said Jeffrey Rogoff, the regional Solicitor of Labor in New York. “Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Labor Department has the authority to file suit against employers who retaliate against employees and it will do so when the case warrants. This is clearly one of those cases.”

The department’s lawsuit asks the court to affirm the discrimination charge and permanently prohibit the defendants from illegally retaliating against employees in the future.

It also seeks payment of lost wages as well as compensatory, punitive and emotional distress damages to the employee, an offer of reinstatement with full benefits and seniority and the removal of all references to the matter in the worker’s employment records.

It would also require the employer to prominently post a notice that she will not discriminate against employees.

In a related action, OSHA’s Tarrytown Area Office conducted an inspection of Salon Zoe and cited the company in December 2012 for lack of a chemical hazard communication program and for not providing the salon’s employees with information and training on formaldehyde and other hazardous chemicals.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower* provisions of the OSH Act and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, worker safety, public transportation agency, maritime and securities laws.

Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government.

Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with the secretary of labor to request an investigation by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available here.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

Source: OSHA

Remove dangerous chemicals in salons and spas

Hair salons, beauty centers and spas often use products that can contain and emit harmful chemicals and fumes.

Electrocorp's CleanBreeze 3 was conceived specifically for salons and spas

Electrocorp’s CleanBreeze 3 was designed for beauty salons and spas

These substances can affect worker health and well-being, especially after long-term exposure.

Electrocorp has designed a wide range of air cleaners for the hair styling and beauty industry, which help remove harmful fumes, chemicals, particles, odors and other contaminants from the ambient air.

Other air purifiers, such as Electrocorp’s CleanBreeze3, comes with a source capture attachment that can be positioned close to the head where the treatment is being used and helps remove harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde before they spread.

For more information and a free consultation, contact Electrocorp by calling 1-866-667-0297 or writing to sales@electrocorp.net.

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Lawsuits prove that companies need to keep workers' health and safety in mind - or they may face costly litigation.

The widow of a man who recently died of lung cancer has filed a lawsuit against the company that employed him for exposing him to asbestos.

According to an article in The Record in April, Katherine Jackson filed a lawsuit in St. Clair County Circuit Court against Illinois Central Railroad, alleging that the exposure caused her deceased husband’s fatal condition.

Jackson alleges her recently deceased husband, Claudy Jackson, worked as a fireman for the railroad company from 1948 until 1951.

During that time, Claudy Jackson was exposed to asbestos, diesel exhaust, environmental tobacco smoke, silica, welding fumes, toxic dusts, gases and other fumes, according to the complaint.

As a result of his exposure, Claudy Jackson experienced great pain, disability, mental anguish and nervousness and incurred medical costs, the suit states, and on April 26, 2008, Claudy Jackson died after a battle against lung cancer.

His wife claims the company did not follow proper health and safety procedures and is seeking a judgment of more than $200,000, plus costs.

Source: The Record

The dangers of asbestos exposure

The WHO identifies asbestos as one of the most dangerous occupational carcinogens, declaring the need to eliminate asbestos use and associated health damages. An estimated 107,000 people worldwide die from asbestos-related diseases.

Asbestos is a mineral fiber commonly used for insulation in constructions. It is relatively affordable, which makes it attractive in developing countries.

Asbestos-related lung diseases, particularly mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis (asbestos induced lung fibrosis), typically develop after decades of lag time from first exposure.

Protect workers’ health and safety with powerful air cleaners

Air purifiers and major air filtration systems from Electrocorp designed for mold and asbestos abatement projects can help keep the indoor air clean by removing chemicals, particles, fibers and gases from the air with a large activated carbon filter and a HEPA filter.

Electrocorp’s air cleaners use only safe and proven filtration technologies.

Contact Electrocorp for more information.

Green is great - as long as IAQ is being considered as well.

A new Institute of Medicine report says that the recent green building boom may have a negative impact on the average new construction’s indoor air quality.

Untested new materials, airtight construction for energy efficiency and other building retrofits could either limit or alter the air flow inside buildings and it could lead to the accumulation of indoor air pollutants such as chemical emissions. Prolonged exposure may cause Sick Building Syndrome and other health effects.

Among the problems outlined in the report were indoor dampness which can lead to active mold growth, poor ventilation, excessive temperatures and emissions from building materials and equipment such as improperly placed back-up power generators.

Government agencies and other organizations are developing and promoting protocols to evaluate emissions from furnishings, building materials, and appliances, but more needs to be done to make prevention of health problems a priority, the report says.

“America is in the midst of a large experiment in which weatherization efforts, retrofits, and other initiatives that affect air exchange between the indoor and outdoor environments are taking place and new building materials and consumer products are being introduced indoors with relatively little consideration as to how they might affect the health of occupants,” said committee chair John D. Spengler, from the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston.

“An upfront investment to consider the consequences of these actions before they play out and to avoid problems where they can be anticipated will yield benefits in health and in averted costs of medical care, remediation, and lost productivity.”

The report calls for updated building codes and standards for ventilation as well as regular testing.

Worried about IAQ, lost productivity and employee health and safety?

Electrocorp designs portable and HVAC-compatible air filtration systems to improve indoor air quality in office buildings, schools and universities, bars and restaurants and any buildings or businesses where odors, chemicals and particles are a concern.

Contact one of Electrocorp’s air quality experts to find out more about the most complete air cleaners with large activated carbon plus HEPA filters for commercial and industrial uses.

Chemicals and fumes can be toxic.

Searchable databases on chemical toxicity and exposure data now available

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is making it easier to find data about chemicals.

EPA is releasing two databases — the Toxicity Forecaster database (ToxCastDB) and a database of chemical exposure studies (ExpoCastDB) — that scientists and the public can use to access chemical toxicity and exposure data.

Improved access supports EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson’s priorities of protecting Americans’ health by assuring the safety of chemicals and expanding the conversation on environmentalism.

“Chemical safety is a major priority of EPA and its research,” said Dr. Paul Anastas, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

“These databases provide the public access to chemical information, data and results that we can use to make better-informed and timelier decisions about chemicals to better protect people’s health.”

ToxCastDB users can search and download data from over 500 rapid chemical tests conducted on more than 300 environmental chemicals.

ToxCast uses advanced scientific tools to predict the potential toxicity of chemicals and to provide a cost-effective approach to prioritizing which chemicals of the thousands in use require further testing. ToxCast is currently screening 700 additional chemicals, and the data will be available in 2012.

ExpoCastDB consolidates human exposure data from studies that have collected chemical measurements from homes and child care centers. Data include the amounts of chemicals found in food, drinking water, air, dust, indoor surfaces and urine.

ExpoCastDB users can obtain summary statistics of exposure data and download datasets. EPA will continue to add internal and external chemical exposure data and advanced user interface features to ExpoCastDB.

The new databases link together two important pieces of chemical research — exposure and toxicity data — both of which are required when considering potential risks posed by chemicals.

The databases are connected through EPA’s Aggregated Computational Toxicology Resource (ACToR), an online data warehouse that collects data on over 500,000 chemicals from over 500 public sources.

Users can now access 30 years worth of animal chemical toxicity studies that were previously only found in paper documents, data from rapid chemical testing, and various chemical exposure measurements through one online resource.

The ability to link and compare these different types of data better informs EPA’s decisions about chemical safety.

More information about the databases:

Because of modern building materials and airtight constructions, the indoor air quality (IAQ) in many commercial buildings can have an adverse effect on people’s health and productivity.

This building sickness has been termed “Sick Building Syndrome” (SBS) and its cause cannot easily be identified.

Modern buildings often suffer from poor indoor air quality.

Symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome:

– Headache

– Eye, nose or throat irritation

– Dry cough

– Dry or itchy skin

– Dizziness and nausea

– Difficulty concentrating

– Fatigue

– Sensitivity to odors

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, these complaints can stem from other causes, including allergies and other illnesses, but studies show that symptoms may be caused or aggravated by poor indoor air quality.

What to do when you suspect Sick Building Syndrome

Step 1
Identify possible causes

Sick Building Syndrome has been associated with environments that feature inadequate ventilation. Does your building have a ventilation system and does it provide enough clean, outdoor air for every person in the room? Familiarize yourself with the recommended ventilation standards by organizations such as the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).

Building sickness can also be caused by chemical pollution released by building materials and furnishings in the building. Examples include adhesives, carpeting, copy machines and cleaning agents. Many modern-day products emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde. Often, chemical pollutants also enter the building from the outside, through poorly placed air intake vents.

Another possible cause for sick building syndrome is biological in nature. Bacteria, molds and viruses plague many interior spaces, and they thrive in moist and humid environments.

Keep these possible causes in mind during the initial walk-through.

Step 2

Introduce measures to improve indoor air quality

Source control: If the source of the pollution has been identified, you can take the appropriate steps toward removal and future protection. These steps depend on the specific problem in the building and may include periodic cleaning and maintenance of the filters in heating and air conditioning systems, fixing water leaks promptly as well as repairing any affected materials and using less pollutant products or limiting exposure to building occupants.

Ventilation: See above.

Air cleaning: EPA recommends using an air purification system as an adjunct to the two previous measures to capture smaller particles as well as chemicals and gaseous pollutants that are floating through the air. Many industrial and commercial settings have specific requirements when it comes to cleaning the air. You can find the right air purification system for offices, printing environments, schools and universities and other applications on Electrocorp’s list of applications.

 

Step 3

Collect information about indoor air quality

There are many useful resources that can help sort out your indoor air quality problems, provide chemical and odor control solutions and make workplaces healthier. Check out national health and safety organizations such as EPA or Health Canada. Standards often change and air quality tests can provide helpful information.

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