Category Archives: Health & Safety

People of color breathe more air pollution

Source: Jennifer Langston-Washington, Futurity, September 17, 2017

People of color are exposed to more pollution from cars, trucks, and power plants than whites, a new 10-year study shows. Researchers estimated exposure to outdoor concentrations of a transportation-related pollutant—nitrogen dioxide (NO2)— in both 2000 and 2010, based on neighborhoods where people live and found that disparities in NO2 exposure were larger by race and ethnicity than by income, age, or education. Further, that relative inequality persisted across the decade. While absolute differences in exposure to the air pollutant dropped noticeably during that time period for all populations, the relative difference—or the percent difference between pollution levels to which white people and people of color were exposed—narrowed only a little…..

…..If people of color had breathed the lower NO2 levels experienced by whites in 2010, it would have prevented an estimated 5,000 premature deaths from heart disease among the nonwhite group, researchers say…..

Changes in Transportation-Related Air Pollution Exposures by Race-Ethnicity and Socioeconomic Status: Outdoor Nitrogen Dioxide in the United States in 2000 and 2010
Source: Lara P. Clark, Dylan B. Millet, and Julian D. Marshall, Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 125 no. 9, September 2017

From the abstract:
Disparities in exposure to air pollution by race-ethnicity and by socioeconomic status have been documented in the United States, but the impacts of declining transportation-related air pollutant emissions on disparities in exposure have not been studied in detail.

This study was designed to estimate changes over time (2000 to 2010) in disparities in exposure to outdoor concentrations of a transportation-related air pollutant, nitrogen dioxide (NO2), in the United States.

We combined annual average NO2 concentration estimates from a temporal land use regression model with Census demographic data to estimate outdoor exposures by race-ethnicity, socioeconomic characteristics (income, age, education), and by location (region, state, county, urban area) for the contiguous United States in 2000 and 2010.

Estimated annual average NO2 concentrations decreased from 2000 to 2010 for all of the race-ethnicity and socioeconomic status groups, including a decrease from 17.6 ppb to 10.7 ppb (−6.9 ppb) in nonwhite [non-(white alone, non-Hispanic)] populations, and 12.6 ppb to 7.8 ppb (−4.7 ppb) in white (white alone, non-Hispanic) populations. In 2000 and 2010, disparities in NO2 concentrations were larger by race-ethnicity than by income. Although the national nonwhite–white mean NO2 concentration disparity decreased from a difference of 5.0 ppb in 2000 to 2.9 ppb in 2010, estimated mean NO2 concentrations remained 37% higher for nonwhites than whites in 2010 (40% higher in 2000), and nonwhites were 2.5 times more likely than whites to live in a block group with an average NO2 concentration above the WHO annual guideline in 2010 (3.0 times more likely in 2000).

Findings suggest that absolute NO2 exposure disparities by race-ethnicity decreased from 2000 to 2010, but relative NO2 exposure disparities persisted, with higher NO2 concentrations for nonwhites than whites in 2010.

Dirty Laundry: An Investigation

Source: Annie Hylton, Dissent, Summer 2017

…..While most New Yorkers recognize the thousands of storefront laundromats scattered across the city that offer drop-off washing or dry-cleaning services as well as coin-operated machines, few may be familiar with larger corporate-owned commercial laundromats, to whom these services are increasingly being contracted. Many of us have likely used a sheet or table cloth cleaned in a commercial laundry, which typically provides services for hotels, hospitals, restaurants, and neighborhood laundromats that outsource their laundry. The commercial laundry industry is growing: in the New York metropolitan area alone, the number of laundry and dry cleaning workers grew from about 9,480 in 2011 to 12,680 in 2016, according to the Department of Labor.

Commercial laundries can range from massive industrial operations employing hundreds or even thousands of workers to more modest “sweatshop” laundries, with anything from a dozen employees to fifty or more, like Suffolk, where Marlyn Gonzalez worked. It is in such commercial laundries, most of which are housed in large factory-like buildings in Queens, Long Island, and the Bronx, that thousands of laundry workers—largely African-American or immigrant women—labor in hot, crowded, and often dangerous or toxic conditions to clean the linens used by millions of New Yorkers. And it is these workers who endure the consequences of an industry plagued by poor working conditions, exploitation, and abuse…..

Deadly Picket-Lines in US Labour History

Source: Paul F. Lipold and Larry W. Isaac, International Union Rights, Vol. 24 No. 2, 2017
(subscription required)

Dead men tell no tales; that is, until the living give them voice. From 1870 to 1970, a veritable victims’ chorus of no fewer than 1160 fatalities was amassed during labour dispute confrontations within the United States of America. Each was simultaneously an expression of and catalyst within the dialectical evolution of US labour-management relations. …. Between 1877 to 1947, the US labour movement experienced the most violent and bloody era of and Western industrialized nation: strikers, organisers, and their sympathizers comprised nearly two-thirds of the classifiable victims. ….

Work organization, health, and obesity in urban transit operators: A qualitative study

Source: Marnie Dobson, BongKyoo Choi and Peter L. Schnall, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, First published: 18 August 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Urban transit operators have high rates of obesity, hypertension, and other cardiovascular risk-factors compared to other occupations. There have been few qualitative studies exploring the interrelationships between the organization of transit work, stress, and health including obesity, from the perspective of operators.

Five focus groups were conducted at five Divisions in a transit authority in Southern California and included 65 bus and rail operators.

Operators reported a great deal of stress related to their work, including 1) time pressures and lack of recovery time; 2) long work shifts and overtime; 3) feeling unsafe when dealing with the public; 4) lack of respect from supervisors and management. Operators believed stressful working conditions negatively impacted their health and weight.

This qualitative study yielded new as well as confirmatory data about stress and transit work organization, health, and weight in operators. This study will add to future survey research and interventions in this population.

Prevention Is Key (Er…Required): Will Your State Soon Mandate Workplace Violence Prevention Programs?

Source: Sean Kingston, JDSupra, August 4, 2017

It is no secret to hospital and other healthcare employees that their workplace is no longer a guaranteed safe zone. In fact, recent statistics released by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) indicate that workplace violence is four times more prevalent in the healthcare and social services industries than in other private industries. Violence may come from many sources, including patients or those accompanying them, employees and those who have relationships with employees, and third parties with no business at the facility.

Responding to an outcry from nurses’ unions and patients’ rights groups, and following the lead of seven other states, the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (CalOSHA) recently enacted a new law (effective April 1, 2017) creating a standard for workplace violence prevention in the healthcare industry. While the breadth of coverage and depth of action required of employers in California now exceeds what can be found in any other state, it could be a sign of things to come for other states.

Because the national tide is turning to legislation that mandates workplace violence prevention programs, particularly in the healthcare context, all healthcare employers would be wise to emulate the practices required by CalOSHA. The federal OSHA and numerous state counterparts are working to assemble similar legislation. …

Safety of union home care aides in Washington State

Source: Ashley L. Schoenfisch, Hester Lipscomb and Leslie E. Phillips, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Vol. 60 Issue 9, September 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
A rate-based understanding of home care aides’ adverse occupational outcomes related to their work location and care tasks is lacking.

Within a 30-month, dynamic cohort of 43 394 home care aides in Washington State, injury rates were calculated by aides’ demographic and work characteristics. Injury narratives and focus groups provided contextual detail.

Injury rates were higher for home care aides categorized as female, white, 50 to <65 years old, less experienced, with a primary language of English, and working through an agency (versus individual providers). In addition to direct occupational hazards, variability in workload, income, and supervisory/social support is of concern. Conclusions: Policies should address the roles and training of home care aides, consumers, and managers/supervisors. Home care aides’ improved access to often-existing resources to identify, manage, and eliminate occupational hazards is called for to prevent injuries and address concerns related to the vulnerability of this needed workforce.c

Trade associations and labor organizations as intermediaries for disseminating workplace safety and health information

Source: Andrea H. Okun, Janice P. Watkins and Paul A. Schulte, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Vol. 60 Issue 9, September 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
There has not been a systematic study of the nature and extent to which business and professional trade associations and labor organizations obtain and communicate workplace safety and health information to their members. These organizations can serve as important intermediaries and play a central role in transferring this information to their members.

A sample of 2294 business and professional trade associations and labor organizations in eight industrial sectors identified by the National Occupational Research Agenda was surveyed via telephone.

A small percent of these organizations (40.9% of labor organizations, 15.6% of business associations, and 9.6% of professional associations) were shown to distribute workplace safety and health information to their members. Large differences were also observed between industrial sectors with construction having the highest total percent of organizations disseminating workplace safety and health information.

There appears to be significant potential to utilize trade and labor organizations as intermediaries for transferring workplace safety and health information to their members. Government agencies have a unique opportunity to partner with these organizations and to utilize their existing communication channels to address high risk workplace safety and health concerns.

The effect of long working hours on cerebrovascular and cardiovascular disease; A case-crossover study

Source: Kyong-sok Shin, Yun kyung Chung, Young-Jun Kwon, Jun-Seok Son and Se-hoon Lee, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Vol. 60 Issue 9, September 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This study investigated the relationship between weekly working hours and the occurrence of cerebro-cardiovascular diseases using a case-crossover study design.

We investigated average working hours during the 7 days before the onset of illness (hazard period) and average weekly working hours between 8 days and 3 months before the onset of cerebro-cardiovascular diseases (control period) for 1,042 cases from the workers’ compensation database for 2009.

Among all subjects, the odds ratio by conditional logistic regression for the risk of cerebro-cardiovascular diseases with a 10 hr increase in average weekly working hours was 1.45 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.22–1.72), a significant association.

An increase in average weekly working hours may trigger the onset of cerebro-cardiovascular disease.

Long working hours as a risk factor for atrial fibrillation: a multi-cohort study

Source: Mika Kivimäki, Solja T. Nyberg, G. David Batty, Ichiro Kawachi, Markus Jokela, et al, European Heart Journal, July 13, 2017

From the abstract:
Studies suggest that people who work long hours are at increased risk of stroke, but the association of long working hours with atrial fibrillation, the most common cardiac arrhythmia and a risk factor for stroke, is unknown. We examined the risk of atrial fibrillation in individuals working long hours (≥55 per week) and those working standard 35–40 h/week.

Methods and results:
In this prospective multi-cohort study from the Individual-Participant-Data Meta-analysis in Working Populations (IPD-Work) Consortium, the study population was 85 494 working men and women (mean age 43.4 years) with no recorded atrial fibrillation. Working hours were assessed at study baseline (1991–2004). Mean follow-up for incident atrial fibrillation was 10 years and cases were defined using data on electrocardiograms, hospital records, drug reimbursement registers, and death certificates. We identified 1061 new cases of atrial fibrillation (10-year cumulative incidence 12.4 per 1000). After adjustment for age, sex and socioeconomic status, individuals working long hours had a 1.4-fold increased risk of atrial fibrillation compared with those working standard hours (hazard ratio = 1.42, 95% CI = 1.13–1.80, P = 0.003). There was no significant heterogeneity between the cohort-specific effect estimates (I2 = 0%, P = 0.66) and the finding remained after excluding participants with coronary heart disease or stroke at baseline or during the follow-up (N = 2006, hazard ratio = 1.36, 95% CI = 1.05–1.76, P = 0.0180). Adjustment for potential confounding factors, such as obesity, risky alcohol use and high blood pressure, had little impact on this association.

Individuals who worked long hours were more likely to develop atrial fibrillation than those working standard hours.