Vibration Frequencies and Physiological Responses – NIOSH

jack-hammer“Speaking on April 19 at the Experimental Biology 2009 meeting in New Orleans, Dr. Kristine Krajnak, a team leader in the Engineering and Control Technologies Branch of the Health Effects Laboratory Division of NIOSH in Morgantown, West Virginia, describes results from the first study to directly link the different physical responses of tissue that occur with exposure to different vibration frequencies with biological mechanisms underlying the development of vascular dysfunction. Her presentation is part of the scientific program of The American Physiological Society.

The study, along with results of other studies conducted by NIOSH, supports the importance of reducing job-related exposure to vibration. Ongoing research is evaluating the effectiveness of anti-vibration devices, such as anti-vibration gloves and tools.

Higher frequency vibrations produced by an electric sander (greater than 100 Hz) are smoother than the slower vibrations of an electric hand drill (approximately 63 Hz) and therefore are less likely to cause users discomfort.

Don’t let that fool you into not using protective devices that can reduce your exposure to vibration, she says. The new research study conducted at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) suggests that exposure to high and low frequencies cause different physiological responses, but both may affect the risk of developing vibration-induced peripheral vascular dysfunction.

Of the 1.1 to 1.5 million U.S. workers exposed to hand transmitted vibration on a fairly regular basis, approximately half eventually develop some disorder such as Vibration White Finger, in which a single finger or sometimes the entire hand turns white and numb when exposed to the cold, due to restricted blood flow.

Workers also may experience reductions in tactile sensitivity, grip strength, and/or manual dexterity. Earlier studies have shown that risk goes up with frequency and duration of exposure, although NIOSH studies are underway to determine why certain people appear more susceptible to shorter exposure durations.


OSHA Notifies Over 13,500 Employers Regarding High Injury Rates

osha-logoOSHA notified over 13,500 employers in April 2009 regarding their higher than average injury and illness rates. OSHA stated that the letter was an attempt to make the employers aware of their rates and to encourage them to work to lower the rates and improve their overall health and safety via:

  • hiring an outside safety and health consultant
  • talking with their insurance carrier, or
  • contacting the workers’ compensation agency in their state for advice
  • A copy of the letter can be found HERE.

    The employers are those whose establishments are covered by Federal OSHA and reported the highest “Days Away from work, Restricted work or job Transfer injury and illness” (DART) rate to OSHA in a survey of 2007 injury and illness data. For every 100 full-time workers, the 13,500 employers had 5.0 or more injuries or illnesses which resulted in days away from work, restricted work or job transfer versus the national average is 2.1.

    “Employers whose businesses have injury and illness rates this high need to take immediate steps to protect their workers,” said acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Jordan Barab. “Our goal is to make employers aware of their high injury and illness rates and to get them to eliminate hazards in their workplace. To help them in this regard, OSHA offers free assistance programs to help employers better protect the safety and health of their workers.”

    Click HERE to download a copy of the list of employers receiving the letter.

    Scientific American – Are Some Chemicals More Dangerous at Low Doses?

    Original article appeared in the Scientific American Blog “60-Second Science“, by David Biello

    chemicalsThere are some 82,000 chemicals used commercially in the U.S., but only a fraction have been tested to make sure they’re safe and just five are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to congressional investigators. But a government scientist says there’s no guarantee testing actually rules out health risks anyway.

    The basic premise of safety testing for chemicals is that anything can kill you in high enough doses (even too much water too fast can be lethal). The goal is to find safe levels that cause no harm. But new research suggests that some chemicals may be more dangerous than previously believed at low levels when acting in concert with other chemicals.

    “Some chemicals may act in an additive fashion,” Linda Birnbaum said this week at a conference held at the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health at Columbia University. “When we look one compound at a time, we may miss the boat.”

    Birnbaum, director of both the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Toxicology Program in Washington, D.C., noted that some chemicals, such as those that mimic human hormones, may combine with other hormonelike chemicals at low doses to produce big effects.

    For example, bisphenol A (BPA), a primary component of some plastics, reacts with cells in the same way as the female hormone estrogen and could be acting synergistically with other pseudoestrogens in the bloodstream to produce heart disease, diabetes or liver failure. Such effects have been observed in animal studies in the lab as well as in frogs in the field for chemicals ranging from the phthalates (used to help perfumes scent linger and make plastics soft) to ubiquitous herbicides like atrazine, linked to malformation in frogs.

    In fact, Birnbaum says, there may be no safe dose of certain compounds. For example, lead, a potent neurotoxicant, has been disappearing from the bloodstreams of American children since the 1970s when it was phased out of gasoline and paint. But some children are still exposed to low levels from old, peeling paint and its effects on intelligence and behavior can still be seen. “There is no safe level of lead,” Birnbaum noted.


    Combustible Dust Bill Introduced

    A summary of H.R. 849

    osha-logoWorker Protection Against Combustible Dust Explosions and Fires Act of 2009 – Requires the Secretary of Labor to promulgate an interim final standard regulating combustible dusts, which shall apply to manufacturing, processing, blending, conveying, repackaging, and handling of combustible particulate solids and their dusts (including organic dusts, plastics, sulfur, wood, rubber, furniture, textiles, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, fibers, dyes, coal, metals, and fossil fuels), but shall not apply to processes already covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) standard on grain facilities.

    Requires such standard to provide requirements for:
    (1) a hazard assessment to identify, evaluate, and control combustible dust hazards;
    (2) a written program that includes provisions for hazardous dust inspection, testing, hot work, ignition control, and housekeeping;
    (3) engineering controls, administrative controls, and operating procedures;
    (4) housekeeping to prevent accumulation of combustible dust in places of employment in depths that can present explosion, deflagration, or other fire hazards, including safe methods of dust removal;
    (5) employee participation in hazard assessment, development of and compliance with the written program, and other elements of hazard management; and
    (6) providing safety and health information and annual training to employees.
    Provides an exemption from otherwise applicable rulemaking requirements for the interim standard but not for the final standard.
    Provides that such interim standard shall have the legal effect of an occupational safety and health standard and shall apply until a final standard becomes effective.

    Requires the Secretary of Labor to promulgate a final occupational safety and health standard regulating combustible dust explosions that has the same scope and worker protection provisions as the interim rule and provides requirements for:
    (1) managing change of dust producing materials, technology, equipment, staffing, and procedures;
    (2) building design, such as explosion venting, ducting, and sprinklers; and
    (3) explosion protection, including separation and segregation of the hazard.

    Requires the final rule to include relevant and appropriate provisions of the National Fire Protection Association combustible dust standards.

    Requires the Secretary to revise the hazard communications standard to amend the definition of “physical hazard” to include “a combustible dust” as an additional example of such a hazard.

    aihaAIHA offered the following recommendations: 1) “for the periodic inspection and maintenance of engineering controls and equipment, recordkeeping of the results of the inspections, and correction of any problems found during the inspections within a reasonable time.” 2) “determine whether or not it is possible for OSHA to promulgate a final standard within 18 months of enactment of the legislation.”

    The letter stressed that while AIHA does not wish to delay a final standard, the association recognizes it could be difficult for OSHA to promulgate a final standard within the 18-month time frame.

    Call for Abstracts – National Environmental Public Health Conference


    The National Environmental Public Health Conference is being held in Atlanta this year, October 26-28, 2009.  Being organized by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Environmental Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, in conjunction with the National Environmental Health Association promises to be a very informative three days from the field of public health.

    The conference will focus on the following topics:

    • Healthy Places
    • Public Health & Environmental Exposures
    • Sustainability & Public Health
    • Environmental Systems & Public Health
    • Environmental Health Emergencies
    • Environmental Health Science and Practice

    The organizers of the conference are calling for abstract submissions for original, previously unpublished findings by May 8, 2009.  Additional information can be found HERE including a link for abstract submission.

    From the website:
    “The 2009 National Environmental Public Health Conference-Healthy People in a Healthy Environment seeks to promote the nation’s environmental health capacity by enhancing the expertise of environmental health professionals-including public health and healthcare professionals, academic researchers, representatives from communities and organizations, as well as advocacy and business groups with a primary interest in environmental public health.

    The conference aims to develop and encourage innovative strategies for addressing existing and emerging issues in addition to being a forum for CDC/ATSDR and its many partners to share research, scientific, and program information focusing on environmental public health priorities.”

    “Made in China” Drywall Off-Gasing?

    made-in-chinaHere are some of the information that has been put together based upon the claims of off-gasing from chinese made drywall.

    • Homeowners have begun to complain about Chinese made drywall that gives off a egg-like stench
    • Between 2004-2008, approximately 540,000,000 (540 million) pounds of plasterboard (which includes drywall and ceiling tiles) was imported into the US from China
    • A majority of the imported drywall entered the US following the 2005 hurricane season that caused a domestic drywall shortage
    • Chinese drywall was less expensive
    • The drywall was made with fly ash which may not have been refined (i.e. cleaned) as well as some domestically made drywall.
    • The Florida Department of Health found the drywall to emit “volatile sulfur compounds” and contained strontium sulfide, which can release hydrogen sulfide in moist air (i.e. rotten egg smell)
    • A University of New Orleans toxicologist has identified hydrogen sulfide, sulfuric acid, sulfur dioxide and carbon disulfide in the drywall
    • Agencies of the Chinese government did not respond to repeated Associated Press’ requests for comment

    A copy of the AP article can be found HERE

    AIHA & Travelers Risk Control Hold Free Webinars on Industrial Hygiene


    Travelers Risk Control (in conjunction with AIHA) has linked several webinars dealing with timely and pertinent industrial hygiene information on their website.  Currently, these webinars include:

    Take some time to review some of the information they have put together.

    NIOSH Publishes Document on Safe Approaches for Nanotechnology

    From NIOSH

    niosh-approaches-to-safe-nanotech“This document reviews what is currently known about nanoparticle toxicity, process emissions and exposure assessment, engineering controls, and personal protective equipment. This updated version of the document incorporates some of the latest results of NIOSH research, but it is only a starting point. The document serves a dual purpose: it is a summary of NIOSH’s current thinking and interim recommendations; and it is a request from NIOSH to occupational safety and health practitioners, researchers, product innovators and manufacturers, employers, workers, interest group members, and the general public to exchange information that will ensure that no worker suffers material impairment of safety or health as nanotechnology develops.”

    A copy of this document can be found Here

    New NIOSH guidance document for TB

    From NIOSH

    The document can be found HERE

    “Research indicates that an appropriately designed and maintained upper-room UVGI system may kill or inactivate airborne TB bacteria and increase the protection afforded to healthcare workers while maintaining a safe level of UVGI in the occupied lower portion of the room. The purpose of this document is to examine the different parameters necessary for an effec­tive upper-room UVGI system and to provide guidelines to healthcare managers, facility designers, engineers, and industrial hygienists on the parameters necessary to install and maintain an effective upper-room UVGI system. These guidelines are consistent with previous CDC healthcare guidelines and expand upon them. This document provides an overview of the current knowledge concerning upper-room UVGI systems and research needs. Information from CDC/NIOSH-funded laboratory studies and other relevant studies is combined in this report to provide guide­lines for the installation and use of upper-room UVGI systems. Although other pathogenic microorganisms may be killed or inactivated by upper-room UVGI systems, the guidelines were developed for the installation and use of upper-room UVGI systems capable of killing or inactivating surrogates of mycobacteria.”

    New Guidance Document – Assigned Protection Factors

    apfOSHA has issued a new guidance document for employers who may need to establish and implement a respiratory protection program due to potential exposures to contaminants in workplace air.  The document focusues on the mandatory selection provisions of the assigned protection factors (APFs), maximum use concentrations (MUCs) and the use of the APF Table 1 of 29 CFR 1910.134.  A limited number of copies are available for ordering from:

    1. OSHA’s publications page

    2. Calling 202-693-1888, or

    3. Download HERE


    OSHA Announces new Deputy Assistant Secretary

    From OSHA

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    OSHA announces that Secretary Solis has selected Jordan Barab to be Deputy Assistant Secretary for OSHA and Acting Assistant Secretary, effective Monday, April 13. Jordan comes to us from the House Education and Labor Committee where he is the Senior Labor Policy Advisor for Health and Safety to Chairman George Miller. Prior to that, from 2002 through 2007, Jordan worked at the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board.

    Jordan was with OSHA, where he was Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary from 1998-2001.

    OSHA Revises Field Operations Manual

    From OSHA


    WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has revised its Field Operations Manual to provide OSHA compliance officers with a single comprehensive resource of updated guidance in implementing the agency’s mission to more effectively protect employees from occupational injuries, illnesses and fatalities.

    “The manual will be a resource for workers and employers, giving them a consolidated reference on how OSHA expects workplaces to be safe and healthful,” said OSHA Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor Donald G. Shalhoub. “This document is part of OSHA’s continuing commitment to make its standards and enforcement activities transparent and understandable to all parties.”

    The Field Operations Manual, formerly called the Field Inspection Reference Manual, constitutes OSHA’s general enforcement policy and procedures for use by the agency’s field offices in conducting inspections, issuing citations and proposing penalties. It is the guiding document for OSHA’s compliance officers, whose mission is to assure the safety and health of America’s working men and women.

    The manual assists compliance officers in scheduling and conducting inspections, enforcing regulations, and encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and health. It also offers guidance on how to inform employers about OSHA’s free On-Site Consultation Service and compliance assistance.

    The manual is available online at:

    Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. OSHA’s role is to promote the safety and health of America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health. For more information, visit