Dust lies The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said there was neither the evidence nor the costings to justify tightening the exposure standard for lung-shredding silica dust. But Hazards editor Rory O’Neill reveals HSE has expunged key evidence from its website and has ‘no information’ on the total number of workers dying nor any intention to determine related costs for one of the most potent workplace killers. Hazards 161, January-March 2023
Biting the dust The Health and Safety Executive maintains its silica dust standard is just fine. Hazards editor Rory O’Neill spoke to former stonemason David Wood, who at 64 can’t work and struggles for breath. He, like hundreds of others who develop deadly silica-related diseases each year, are the undeniable proof HSE has got it dangerously wrong. Hazards 148, October-December 2019
Choked The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) admits its silica dust limit is deadly, but told Hazards there was no way to enforce a more protective exposure standard. Then the US acted. Then Australia. Hazards says HSE either made a fatal error or just plain lied – and says HSE may need to be forced to put things right.
Hazards 147, July-September 2019
Stone dead Hundreds of stonemasons took to the streets of Pindwara on 1 May 2019, to protest at the deadly dust risks facing the workers building India’s temples. Hazards 146, April-June 2019
All out! Chemicals are everywhere. The global industry is set to grow four-fold by 2060. But toxic workplace exposures are already claiming at least a million lives each year. Sharan Burrow, head of the global union confederation ITUC, spells out why a new trade union campaign is an essential step to stopping the chemical carnage. Hazards 145, Jan-Mar 2019 • Also in Spanish, French and Dutch
Fuming We warned over 30 years ago that diesel fumes were deadly, with millions at risk at work every day. If the authorities had listened then, today’s diesel exhaust driven public health catastrophe could have been averted. Hazards editor Rory O’Neill reveals the criminal acts that left a working generation exposed and cost tens of thousands their lives. Hazards 144, October-December 2018
Die diesel die Diesel exhaust fumes are a dirty, deadly and daily exposure for millions of workers. Hazards editor Rory O’Neill looks at how union reps can tackle this top public health menace.Hazards 144, October-December 2018
Level thinking What should you do at work when an occupational hygienist calls? Hazards cautions that safety reps should make sure anyone used to assess workplace risks and exposure levels has the right skills, the right brief and the right oversight. Hazards 136, October-December 2016
Come clean UK multinational Reckitt Benckiser (RB) describes itself as “a global force in health and hygiene.” Korean campaigners, who claim at least 142 people in the country have been killed by an RB disinfectant, have a less rosy view of its health record. Hazards 130, April-June 2015
Sheepish watchdog Sheep dips have been poisoning farmers for decades. The government knew. The Health and Safety Executive knew. So why weren't farm workers ever told?
Hazards 130, April-June 2015
Mean test For seven of the top 10 entries on the official UK occupational cancer risk ranking, you can forget about government payouts. Professor Andy Watterson and Hazards editor Rory O’Neill argue that an unjust state compensation scheme means most conditions, including breast cancers linked to shiftwork, will never overcome an arbitrary double-the-risk qualification hurdle and call for reform of this ailing system.
Hazards 129, January-March 2015
A line in the sand The Health and Safety Executive doesn't want a tighter exposure standard for crystalline silica, either in the UK or Europe. Hazards unpicks its flimsy – and dangerous – excuses.
Hazards 127, July-September 2014
Dust to dust Crystalline silica exposures kill over 1,000 workers a year in in the UK and leaves many more fighting for breath. But, unlike its US counterpart, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) thinks our deadly silica exposure standard is just fine.. Hazards 126, April-June 2014
Fracking boom With massive reservoirs of oil and gas trapped in the rocks under our feet, the oil industry is eager to get fracking. But US evidence of chemical related deaths, soaring fatalities and over-exposure to deadly dust has raised seriously unhealthy questions. Hazards 126, April-June 2014
Lab rats Some scientific hired guns try to hide their industry ties; others flaunt them. Either way cash-for-science can be very bad news for your health. Hazards follows the money.
Hazards special online report December 2013
Dust storm A UK conference of dust exposure experts is attracting unwanted attention, reports Hazards editor Rory O’Neill. Professor Ken Donaldson, the scientific chair of Inhaled Particles XI, has been identified in a potential asbestos cancer 'crime-fraud' controversy and accused of having undeclared links to the industry.
Hazards 123, July-September 2013
Tens of thousands of people in the UK die every year as a result of dust exposures at work. It's all preventable, unions say. And they are sick of our official workplace health guardians saying it's just a bit of a 'nuisance'. Hazards 116, October-December 2011
Dangerous lead Thousands of UK workers are being exposed to levels of lead that can cause serious chronic health problems. Using never before published data, Hazards reveals that the UK's ‘safe' lead exposure standard is placing these workers at risk of kidney and heart disease, brain damage, cancer and other serious disorders. Hazards special report, November 2009
Poisoned! When workers developed the shakes and poor memory working for a South African manganese company, experts advised the job was to blame. So why did the company's docs-for-hire suggest the symptoms were caused by alcohol, drugs or Aids? Hazards 104, October-December 2008
Spin cycle It happens almost every time. When a study is published linking a workplace chemical to serious disease, a scientist working for the industry disputes the findings. David Michaels, author of 'Doubt is their product', exposes industry’s dangerous tactics to protect its toxic favourites. Hazards 103 July-September 2008
Food flavour wrecks lungs US foodworkers have been disabled by "popcorn lung", a potentially fatal condition caused by a common food flavouring. For 10 years this seemed to be just a US problem. Then came Yorkshire factory worker Martin Muir, 38, who tests revealed has the lungs of an 80-year-old man. Hazards 101, January-March 2009
Global: Scientists hid Monsanto’s hand in their ‘independent’ research
An academic journal has conceded that agrochemicals giant Monsanto didn’t fully disclose its involvement in published research that claimed Roundup, the world’s best selling herbicide, is safe. The ‘Expression of Concern’ issued by Critical Reviews in Toxicology, a journal that analyses health risks of chemicals, may bolster arguments that Monsanto, acquired by Bayer this year, ghost-wrote safety reviews.
Work cancer hazards blog. Bloomberg News. 26 September 2018 Expression of Concern and main article: Williams GM, Aardema M, Acquavella J, Berry SC, Brusick D, Burns MM, de Camargo JLV, Garabrant D, Greim H, Kier LD, Kirkland DJ, Marsh G, Solomon KR, Sorahan T, Roberts A, Weed DL. A review of the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate by four independent expert panels and comparison to the IARC assessment, Critical Reviews in Toxicology, volume 46 (supplement 1), pages 3-20, September 2016.
D Bernstein and others. Health risk of chrysotile revisited, Critical Reviews in Toxicology, volume 43, number 2, pages 154-183, 2013.
TUC glyphosate guide. Risks 869. 8 October 2018
Europe: RISCTOX chemical online database goes live
The RISCTOX chemicals database, developed by the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) and the Spanish union safety institute ISTAS, has gone live online, giving workers access to health and safety information on over 100,000 chemicals. According to ETUI, each chemical data ‘card' specifies the chemical's classification and labelling, its main work uses (solvent, cleaner, paint stripper, etc), how it affects health, and the occupational diseases it causes.
Greenpeace Detox Campaign Chemical Investigation database, Global
RISCTOX database, ETUI/ISTAS, Europe
Transitioning to safer chemicals: a toolkit for employers and workers, OSHA, USA
Chemical Hazard and Alternatives Toolbox (ChemHAT), USA
Basel Action Network, Global
Blue Green Alliance, USA
Labor Climate Project, USA
Green Jobs Safe Jobs Campaign, National COSH, USA
Chemicals Health Monitor website, Global
Alliance for cancer prevention Facebook pages • Blog, UK
New “CleanerSolutions” database, USA
Toxics Use Reduction Institute, USA
Working Green, IBEW webpages, USA
Green Job Creation, CLC webpages, Canada
Stop climate change and eliminate toxic chemicals webpages, Greenpeace International, Global
ILO sustainable development webpages, ILO, Global
Going Green: Safe and Healthy Jobs, NIOSH, USA
Climate Solidarity, UK
Sustainable Workplace, TUC, UK
Green jobs and climate change webpages, ACTU, Australia
Sustainable development webpages, TUAC
Green Recovery for All, USA
Solar Energy Industry Hazards, USA
Green Jobs for Solar, USA
The Green Solution: A Win-Win Plan to Address Climate Crisis and Jumpstart an Equitable and Sustainable Economic Recovery, USA
European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, Dangerous Substances, Europe
Chemicals Health Monitor, Global
Chemical Substances Portal , France
Choosing our Future, Europe
Chemicals Legislation European Enforcement Network, Europe
Centre national de la recherche scientifique, Europe
European Chemicals Bureau, Europe
European Chemicals Agency, Europe
European Environmental Bureau, Europe
European Mine, Chemical and Energy Workers' Federation, Europe
European chemical Substances Information System, Europe
GESTIS-database on hazardous substances, Germany
Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS), Global
Health and Environment Alliance, International
Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety. Global
Integrated Risk Information System, USA
International Programme on Chemical Safety, Global
IPCS INCHEM, Global
RISCTOX Database, Global (Spanish)
Toxicology Network (TOXNET), USA
Toxic Watch Network, Japan
UNEP Chemicals, Global
WWF- Detox campaign, Global
Thailand: Orchard chemicals explosion kills 3 workers
A blast at a Longan plantation in Thailand has killed three workers. They were in the process of making a flowering stimulant by mixing potassium chlorate with urea when the blast occurred. Two died instantly with the third dying from their injuries later.
Bangkok Post, 29 November 2023
Wales: Bill to tackle air and noise pollution passed in the Senedd
New legislation in the Senedd grants the Welsh Government expanded authority to enhance air quality and curb noise pollution in Wales. Recognising air pollution as a significant health risk and noise pollution as a major concern, the Bill aims to improve environmental conditions, human health, biodiversity, and the economy The Bill further supports delivery of a crucial package of measures set out in our Clean Air Plan for Wales to improve the air environment in Wales.
Welsh Government, 28 Nov 2023
Europe: Toxic air killed over 500,000 in in the EU in 2021
In 2021, toxic air caused caused 500,000 deaths in the EU, with half preventable by adhering to recommended pollution limits. PM2.5 particles alone accounted for 253,000 deaths, surpassing WHO guidelines. Despite a 41 per cent decrease in PM2.5-related deaths from 2005 to 2021, urgent action is required as air pollution remains the primary environmental health threat.
The Guardian, 24 November 2023
USA: US proposes complete ban on trichloroethylene
A new rule, expected to be finalised sometime in 2024, to ban all uses of trichloroethylene has proposed by US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The highly prevalent industrial degreasing solvent is considered to be a human carcinogen.
Chemistry World, 1 November 2023
USA: Five people killed after truck carrying toxic substance overturns in Illinois
Five people, including two children, died after a semitruck carrying a toxic chemical overturned in Teutopolis, Illinois, releasing a cloud of ammonia that prompted the evacuation of area 500 residents. Illinois environmental protection agency (IEPA) said the tanker was carrying approximately 7,500 gallons of anhydrous ammonia, and early estimates indicate approximately 4,000 gallons had been released in the 29 September 2023 accident.
The Guardian, 30 September 2023
Global: Study finds lead exposure has health and economic costs at par with PM2·5 air pollution
A study published in The Lancet reports an estimate of the global health burden of lead exposure found lead exposure to be an environmental risk factor on a par with PM2·5 ambient and household air pollution combined; and ahead of unsafe household drinking water, sanitation, and handwashing. Authors reported: "A central implication for future research and policy is that LMICs [Low and Middle Income countries] bear an extraordinarily large share of the health and cost burden of lead exposure; consequently, improved quality of blood lead level measurements, lead exposure identification, research, policies, and practices are very urgently needed to address that burden."
Global health burden and cost of lead exposure in children and adults: a health impact and economic modelling analysis, The Lancet,28 September 2023
Britain: Bradford chemical company fined £300k after workers exposed to chlorine gas
An agricultural chemical company has been fined £300,000 after two workers were exposed to chlorine gas.The incident took place at Nufarm UK Limited in Bradford on 2 August 2021. Two mechanical fitters were assigned to repair a leak on a carbon block heat exchanger. However, later in the day, both fitters started coughing, struggling to breathe and their eyes and throats began to sting and burn. HSE found chlorine gas had escaped from an ope drain valve causing the men to suffer injuries requiring hospital treatment.
HSE news, 25 August 2023
Private health care firm fined over chlorine gas
Private health care provider Circle Health Group has been fined £160,000 after three workers received treatment following exposure to chlorine gas. The workers were exposed to the potentially deadly gas on 11 March 2021.
HSE news release, 21 June 2023.
Australia: Cancer risk from welding fumes
Unions in Australia are demanding action to protect workers from cancer- and lung disease-causing welding fumes. Andrew Dettmer, national president of the union AMWU, which has launched a national campaign, said: “It's not just people who are doing the welding, but people in a welding workplace,” adding: “If they are exposed and they do get lung cancer or other diseases such as manganism, that can be a death sentence.”
Nine News. 7 June 2023
Britain: Most wood firms have deadly dust exposures
Many woodworking businesses are endangering workers’ lives by failing to implement the measures required to prevent or control exposure to wood dust, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has warned as it launched a 2023/24 inspection campaign. In 2022/23, HSE carried out more than 1,000 woodworking inspections and found 78 per cent of businesses were not compliant in protecting workers from dusts linked to asthma, cancer and lung diseases - primarily dust from hardwoods, softwoods and composite materials such as MDF.
HSE news release and Dust Kills: Wood Dust campaign page. 7 June 2023
Britain: Testicular cancer linked to certain jobs
Agricultural, sales and electrical and electronics workers are at almost twice the risk of a testicular cancer, a study has found. “Our findings suggest that agricultural, electrical and electronics workers, and salesmen workers experience an increased risk of TGCT,” the paper concluded, with rates more than 70 per cent higher than expected in these groups.
Margot Guth and others and the TESTIS study group. Testicular germ cell tumour risk by occupation and industry: a French case-control study – TESTIS, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 25 May 2023:oemed-2022-108601. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2022-108601. Epub ahead of print. 31 May 2023
Britain: Checks reveal deadly chemical risk on ships
Checks of specialist production and storage vessels in UK waters have revealed alarmingly high concentrations of hydrogen sulphide (H2S) which could kill crew members instantly and which can pose a threat to vessel safety by corroding steelwork. In response to the findings, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is warning operators of floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) and floating storage and offloading (FSO) vessels and floating storage units (FSU) to take a series of preventive measures to protect workers from the toxic gas.
Nautilus news release. HSE safety notice. 31 May 2023
Global: Narrow defeat in bid for global right to know
An effort supported by unions and public interest groups to reform a UN right to know treaty on the export of the most hazardous substances has narrowly failed. In total 92 governments supported the proposal to amend the Rotterdam Treaty, with only 32 voting against – but this fell just seven votes shy of the 75 per cent threshold for a rule change.
ACTU news release. BWI news release. 17 May 2023
Global: We have a Right to Know about toxics!
A major UN toxic treaty remains paralysed by the tactics of the chemicals industry and a small group of countries, campaigners have warned. An open letter from unions, public interest and asbestos and pesticide action groups, notes that no more than 10 countries, led by China, Russia and India, continue to block the listing on the Rotterdam Convention of highly hazardous chemicals, chrysotile asbestos and pesticides.
Global coalition news release. Open letter. Rotterdam Convention. 10 May 2023
Global: Work chemical exposure causes pancreatic cancer
Every year spent working with chemical agents increases the risk of pancreatic cancer, a study has found. Overall any work with chemicals increased the risk of developing pancreatic cancer by 1 per cent; those with more than 20 years of exposure had a 39 per cent increased risk of the disease, according to a study published in the Journal Occupational Medicine
H Boonhat, A P Pratama, J T Lin, R T Lin. Duration–response association between occupational exposure and pancreatic cancer risk: meta-analysis, Occupational Medicine, 2023, kqad050, 27 April 2023. https://doi.org/10.1093/occmed/kqad050 4 May 2023
New Zealand: Call for silica action spreads
New Zealand’s national union body NZCTU is calling on the country’s government to protect working people who are being exposed to deadly dust from engineered stone. NZCTU president Richard Wagstaff said workers across multiple industries are facing unnecessary risks associated with hazardous exposure to silica and other dust.
NZCTU news release.
ACTION! Send an e-postcard to HSE demanding it introduce a more protective UK silica exposure limit no higher than 0.05mg/m³ and with a phased move to 0.025mg/m³. www.hazards.org/HSEstopkillingus 26 April 2023
Britain: HSE challenged on ‘dust lies’
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has been accused of condemning over 1,000 workers a year to a slow, agonising death by refusing to follow the US, Canada, Australia and other countries by introducing a more protective workplace exposure limit for silica dust. The UK safety regulator told Hazards magazine there is neither the evidence nor the costings to justify tightening the exposure standard for the lung-shredding dust.
Dust lies: UK workers face deadly silica exposures while other countries act, Hazards magazine, number 161, 2023.
ACTION! Send an e-postcard to HSE demanding it introduce a more protective UK silica exposure limit no higher than 0.05mg/m³ and with a phased move to 0.025mg/m³. www.hazards.org/HSEstopkillingus 19 April 2023
Britain: HSE not ‘ambitious’ enough on forever chemicals
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommendations on how to deal with ‘forever chemicals’ are only a limited step forward, the national Hazards Campaign has said. The charity was commenting on the regulatory management options analysis (RMOA) on per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) published this month by the regulator.
Hazards Campaign news release. HSE news release. 12 April 2023
Britain: Report confirms firefighter exposures to PFAS
Firefighters face an occupational risk from exposure to PFAS ‘forever chemicals’, a report from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has confirmed. Riccardo la Torre, national officer with the firefighters’ union FBU, commenting on the regulator’s RMOA report, said: “In addition to eliminating exposures to PFAS we need other vital measures in place to prevent, mitigate and address exposure to dangerous chemicals.”
FBU news release. HSE news release. 12 April 2023
Global: ‘Forever chemicals’ linked to infertility in women
Women with higher levels of ‘forever chemicals’ in their blood have a 40 per cent lower chance of becoming pregnant within a year of trying to conceive, according to a new study on the effect of PFAS on female fertility. “Our study strongly implies that women who are planning pregnancy should be aware of the harmful effects of PFAS and take precautions to avoid exposure to this class of chemicals,” said Dr Nathan Cohen, lead author of the research.
Nathan J Cohen, Meizhen Yao, Vishal Midya and others. Exposure to perfluoroalkyl substances and women's fertility outcomes in a Singaporean population-based preconception cohort, Science of The Total Environment, volume 873, 15 May 2023, 162267. The Guardian. 12 April 2023
Britain: HSE backs limits on some ‘forever chemicals’
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is recommending limits on the use of ‘forever chemicals’ in a range of industries. Its 4 April report sets out the extent to which PFAS (Poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances) are used in Great Britain, with recommendations include limiting the use of PFAS-containing foams used by firefighters to put out fires, as well as the use of PFAS in textiles, furniture, and cleaning products.
HSE news release. 5 April 2023
Australia: Union ramps up push to ban engineered stone
There’s a fresh push in Australia to ban the engineered stone commonly used in kitchen benchtops and linked to high numbers of cases of the incurable lung-scarring disease silicosis. The construction union CFMMEU has said it will instruct its members not to work with the product by the middle of next year unless the government stops it being imported and used Australia-wide.
In Queensland. Canberra Times. Insurance News. 22 February 2023
South Africa: Union welcomes compensation for ex-miners
South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has welcomed a government commitment to identify and compensate former mineworkers suffering from work-related silicosis and tuberculosis. The Department of Health announced it is to roll out a massive screening, verification, medical examination and payment benefits programme for eligible former mineworkers who developed the conditions as a result of working in certain mines between March 1965 and December 2019.
COSATU news report. 1 February 2023
Britain: Fire contaminants linked to mental health problems
Toxic contaminants in fires are directly linked to increased rates mental health issues among firefighters, research has found. Studies commissioned by the firefighters’ union FBU and carried out independently by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) found firefighters were 30 per cent more likely to report a mental health condition if they identified noticing the smell of fire smoke on the body even after washing, or eating with sooty hands.
FBU news release.
Scientific Reports papers on Contamination of UK firefighters personal protective equipment and workplaces, volume 13, article number: 65 (2023); Culture and awareness of occupational health risks amongst UK firefighters, volume 13, article number: 97 (2023); Mental health of UK firefighters, volume 13, article number: 62 (2023); and Cancer incidence amongst UK firefighters, volume 12, article number: 22072 (2022). 18 January 2023
Britain: Firefighters hit by cancer, strokes and heart problems
Firefighters are far more likely to die from cancer, heart attacks and strokes than the general public, a new FBU backed study has found. Their mortality rate from all cancers is 1.6 times higher than the rest of the population, according to the research, conducted by the University of Central Lancashire for the union. The workers are also five times more likely to die from a heart attack and three times more susceptible to strokes, the paper revealed. Firefighters’ greater exposure to contaminants and fire toxins are almost certainly the cause, the union warned, calling for immediate preventive action.
FBU news release. AA Stec, A Robinson, TAM Wolffe, E Bagkeris. Scottish Firefighters Occupational Cancer and Disease Mortality Rates: 2000-2020, Occupational Medicine, kqac138, 10 January 2023. https://doi.org/10.1093/occmed/kqac138.
Morning Star. The Guardian. BBC News Online.10 January 2023
Global: Unions back call on banned pesticides
Global farming union IUF and more than 325 trade unions and NGOs worldwide have issued a joint statement calling for an immediate ban on the export of toxic pesticides banned in the European Union (EU). The joint statement also calls for the prohibition on the export of banned chemicals to be complemented by just transition measures to support a move away from hazardous chemicals towards “safer and sustainable alternatives, especially Integrated Pest Management, Integrated Weed Management, agroforestry and agroecology.”
IUF news release. 14 December 2022
Britain: £3.5m payout for stone mason with silicosis
A stone mason who was exposed to dust while working at Elgin Cathedral has accepted a £3.5m compensation payout. Thompsons Solicitors Scotland, brought in by Gordon Walters’ union PCS to act in the case, said he worked on the renovation and maintenance of the cathedral in the Moray town in the 1980s, and was subsequently diagnosed with silicosis and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Press and Journal. BBC News Online. 14 December 2022
Australia: Union demands action on deadly stone
Pressure is growing on the Australian government to end the use of engineered stone products that can cause disabling and often fatal silicosis in the workers who handle them. Construction union CFMMEU warned that if the federal government does not ban production, importation and use of the material by July 2024, it will instruct its members not to handle it.
ABC News. The Age. 30 November 2022
Britain: FBU Scotland makes strides on DECON
There has been significant progress in Scotland on the FBU’s groundbreaking DECON campaign, the firefighters’ union has said. What initially began with an intention to engage Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) managers and Scottish FbU members on DECON quickly grew into a much larger piece of work, including a meeting of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Contaminants Group, a livestream for members, meetings with Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs), and a meeting of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Senior Leadership team.
FBU news release. 18 November 2022
Europe: Airlines must act on cabin air standards
Aviation workers and safety experts are calling on airlines, plane manufacturers and the EU Aviation Safety Agency to immediately implement new cabin air quality standards designed to protect staff and passengers from chemical fumes. After more than seven years of work on the issue, the European Committee on Standardisation (CEN) has published a technical report including recommendations on how to prevent exposure to fumes through improvements in the design, maintenance, and operation of aircraft.
ETUC news release. 10 November 2022
Britain: Botched ventilation tests put hundreds at risk
A company that tests ventilation systems has been fined after it ‘completely flouted’ safety regulations and put hundreds of workers at risk of serious lung diseases. Airtec Filtration Ltd was used by businesses across the UK to test exhaust ventilation systems, which reduce exposures to airborne contaminants in a workplace.
HSE news release. 10 November 2022
Britain: New push to eliminate toxic substances at work.
A new ‘Eliminating toxic substances at work’ website is aiming to provide workers and their trade union representatives with a ‘one stop’ access to information, innovative solutions and case studies to highlight how reduction or elimination of these substances can be achieved. The resource, developed by Greater Manchester Hazards Centre (GMHC) with funding from the CSEU Alex Ferry fund, was launched at the North West TUC’s occupational health and safety conference.
Eliminating Toxic Substances at Work website. NW TUC health and safety conference. 28 October 2022
Britain: HSE not up to its post-Brexit work on chemicals
Key government regulators including the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) do not have the necessary staff and skills to protect workers and the public from chemical and other risks, MPs have said. The Commons public accounts committee said government plans to cut budgets at HSE “would mean it was not resourced to take on its new functions and maintain existing ones.”
House of Commons Public Accounts Committee news release, report and Inquiry: Regulation after EU exit. Morning Star. 21 October 2022
Britain: Firm fined after factory’s chlorine gas leak
A chemicals company has been fined after releasing a cloud of toxic chlorine gas that spread through its factory, yard and the surrounding area resulting in staff needing hospital treatment and significant damage to the factory. On 12 June 2019, Wiltshire company GEA Farm Technologies (UK) Ltd mistakenly put an Intermediate Bulk Container (IBC) containing approximately 700 kg of concentrated sulphuric acid into a mixing vessel which already contained 1,600 litres of sodium hypochlorite solution, the chemicals reacted releasing a large cloud of toxic chlorine gas, which CCTV footage showed as it permeated the factory and surrounding area.
HSE news release. Risks 1063. 14 October 2022
Britain: HSE silica inspection initiative targets manufacturers
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors have begun a targeted inspection initiative focusing on manufacturing businesses where materials that contain silica are used. However, HSE had faced sustained criticism for refusing to introduce a tighter exposure standard for respirable silica, with the current standard lagging significantly behind international best practice and leading to significant levels of occupational disease even where it is observed.
HSE news release and updates on the HSE silica campaign.
ACTION: Send an e-postcard to HSE demanding it introduce a more protective UK silica standard no higher than 0.05mg/m³ and with a phased move to 0.025mg/m³. www.hazards.org/HSEstopkillingus. Risks 1062. 6 October 2022
Britain: HSE takes small step to reduce work silicosis risks
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says it has ‘refreshed’ its silica guidance for brick and tile manufacturing, stonework and foundries ahead of manufacturing sector focused inspections later this year, in a bid to reduce the risk of related diseases including silicosis. However, HSE has faced sustained criticism for refusing to introduce a tighter exposure standard for respirable silica, with the current standard lagging significantly behind international best practice.
HSE news release, e-bulletin and short video.
ACTION: Send an e-postcard to HSE demanding it introduce a more protective UK silica standard no higher than 0.05mg/m³ and with a phased move to 0.025mg/m³. www.hazards.org/HSEstopkillingus. Risks 1059. 15 September 2022
Global: Union action on asbestos ship hazards
Brazilian and Turkish trade unions are working together to oppose plans to break up and recycle the toxics laden vessel warship Nea São Paulo in a yard in Turkey with poor facilities and safety systems. They want the former French navy vessel to be recycled in France.
DISK/CUT statement. Risks 1056. 16 August 2022
India: Garment workers hospitalised after gas leak
A total of 121 workers at a Brandix India Apparel City garment manufacturing unit in the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) at Atchutapuram, were hospitalised this month after inhaling poisonous gas. On 2 August, the women workers at the Seeds Intimate Apparel India PvT Limited garment factory complained of difficulties in breathing, suffocation, nausea, coughing and headaches while some of them also fainted before they were hospitalised.
INdustriALL news release. Times of India. Risks 1055. 9 August 2022
Australia: Stricter silica rules will save lives and money
Preventing just five deaths a year caused by exposure to respirable silica would cover all the costs of far stricter controls on the cancer and lung disease-causing dust. Curtin University occupational cancer researchers Renee Carey and Lin Fritschi warn that that without this action, Australian workers over a working lifetime will develop more than 10,000 future lung cancers, or a ‘future excess fraction’ of around 1 per cent of all the lung cancers in the Australian adult population plus more than 80,000 cases of the often deadly lung scarring disease silicosis.
The future burden of lung cancer and silicosis from occupational silica exposure in Australia: A preliminary analysis. Curtin University report commissioned by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), 2022. The Conversation. 13 July 2022
Britain: UK falling behind EU on chemicals standards
The UK government confirmation it will not match new EU restrictions on a number of potentially hazardous chemicals will put people at risk, a chemical charity has warned. Chem Trust said there was the prospect of a “chasm” emerging between Brussels and the UK, leaving Britain with weaker regulations on chemicals that are potentially harmful to human health and the environment.
Chem Trust. Business Telegraph. 13 July 2022
Jordan: Officials sacked after port chlorine gas deaths
Top port and safety officials had been sacked after a deadly toxic gas leak. A tank of chlorine gas fell as it was being loaded by crane onto a ship in Jordan’s Red Sea port of Aqaba on 27 June, releasing the toxic substance, killing at least 13 people, including five Vietnamese nationals, and injuring at least 260 others.
Khaleej Times. BBC News Online. 5 July 2022
Global: Substituting hazardous chemicals at work
The OECD has revamped its ‘Replacing harmful chemicals with the Substitution and Alternatives Assessment Toolbox’ (SAAToolbox). The new SAATtoolbox provides information “about chemical substitution and alternatives assessments and get practical guidance on conducting them.”
SAAToolbox. 5 July 2022
Britain: Carlsberg fined £3m following ammonia tragedy
Carlsberg has been fined £3 million following a November 2016 ammonia gas leak from a refrigeration system at one of its breweries that killed father-of-two David Chandler, 45, and seriously injured David Beak, now 57. Both were employees of sub-contractor Speedrite NE Ltd.
HSE news release. Northampton Chronicle. 29 June 2022
Britain: Tube dust ‘could cause serious illness’
Dust exposures on the London Underground system have the potential to cause serious illness to station staff, research has revealed. The first study on the impact of particulate matter (PM) from an underground railway found exposure increased the risk of pneumococcal infections such as pneumonia.
Lisa Miyashita and others. Underground railway particulate matter and susceptibility to pneumococcal infection, The Lancet eBioMedicine, volume 80, 104063, 1 June 2022. Evening Standard. 8 June 2022
Norway: Benzene risks to offshore workers under-estimated
The number of workers exposed to the cancer-causing benzene contaminating the muds used in offshore drilling is greatly under-estimated, a union has warned. Halvor Erikstein, an organisational secretary and occupational hygienist with the Norwegian energy union SAFE, investigated benzene exposures during offshore oil well drilling and found a University of Bergen matrix used to designate exposed jobs “has completely omitted exposure from benzene blending into drilling mud” and during the ‘deaeration’ of systems.
Drilling Mud and Benzene The Elephant in the Room Chemical Environment, SAFE, 2022. Summary. Risks 1038. 29 March 2022
Australia: Workplace protection needed as Covid cases rise
Despite rising numbers of Covid cases linked to the highly contagious BA.2 omicron subvariant, workers are being put at additional risk because many of the protective public health orders have been withdrawn, Australia’s top union body has warned. The national union federation ACTU said preventive measures must remain in place at work.
ACTU news release. Risks 1038. 29 March 2022
Britain: Chemicals and hazardous substances at work survey
Greater Manchester Hazards Centre (GMHC) is working with trade unions to reduce worker exposure to harmful, toxic chemicals in a project on ‘Toxics Use Reduction’. To help safety reps deal with toxic exposures better, the centre says it needs “to know more about the types of chemicals workers are exposed to, the harms caused, their awareness and knowledge of risks and of successful eliminations or substitution of safer chemicals or changes to processes that have been made in your workplace;” it is asking people to help out with the work by completing a short questionnaire, which should only take about 10 minutes.
Complete the toxics use reduction survey.
See the related GMHC alert and toxics use reduction report. Risks 1038. 29 March 2022
Britain: New collaboration to reduce pesticide harm
A broad-based UK network is aiming to challenge the harm caused by pesticides and involve more workers and unions. The Pesticide Collaboration, which already includes the union Unite and the national Hazards Campaign, said: “The Pesticide Collaboration brings together health and environmental organisations, academics, trade unions, farming networks and consumer groups, working under a shared vision to urgently reduce pesticide-related harms in the UK, for a healthy future.”
The Pesticide Collaboration. More information. Risks 1032. 9 February 2022
Britain: Firefighters urged to protect themselves from toxics
Firefighters have been urged by their union to use its DECON campaign protect themselves from toxic fire contaminants. FBU national officer Riccardo la Torre said: “DECON guidance and training helps firefighters protect themselves through simple actions like better cleaning of gear and making sure to always wear breathing apparatus when it’s needed, never putting it on too late.”
FBU news release and DECON training and guidance. Firefighter Cancer and Disease Registry. Risks 1027. 4 January 2022
USA: Whistleblower warning on chemical assessments
A top US government agency has been accused of falsifying risk assessments for dangerous new chemicals in an effort to make the compounds appear safe so it can quickly approve them for commercial use, whistleblowers have charged. Over the past five years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not rejected any new chemicals submitted by industry despite agency scientists flagging dozens of compounds for high toxicity.
PEER news release and complaint. The Guardian and earlier report in The Intercept. Risks 1012. 2 September 2021
Australia: Unions call for national action on silicosis
Unions in Australia are calling on the federal government to take action to address deadly silicosis risks at work. National union body ACTU says a National Dust Disease Taskforce’s (NDDT) report fails to make meaningful recommendations on prevention of the devastating occupational lung disease.
ACTU news release. Risks 1006. 22 July 2021
Britain: Car firm convicted after apprentices get chemical burns
A car dealership has been fined after two apprentices suffered chemical burns. Leicestershire Magistrates’ Court heard how on 15 March 2018 two apprentices were working at Mercedes-Benz of Northampton, cleaning the vehicle ramps in the workshop using a chemical from an unlabelled barrel.
HSE news release. Risks 1003. 30 June 2021
Britain: Car firm convicted after apprentices get chemical burns
A car dealership has been fined after two apprentices suffered chemical burns. Leicestershire Magistrates’ Court heard how on 15 March 2018 two apprentices were working at Mercedes-Benz of Northampton, cleaning the vehicle ramps in the workshop using a chemical from an unlabelled barrel.
HSE news release. Risks 1003. 30 June 2021
Britain: Bell foundry fined over lead exposure
Britain's last traditional bell foundry has been fined £13,333 after workers were exposed to potentially harmful lead dust during restoration work. The men were carrying out repairs at St Peter's Church in Barton-upon-Humber on behalf of the John Taylor Bell Foundry when the incident happened.
HSE news release. BBC News Online. Risks 1001. 16 June 2021
Canada: Quebec farmers to get Parkinson's compensation
For people working in the agriculture industry who have developed Parkinson's as a result of long-term exposure to pesticides, claiming benefits from Quebec's workplace health and safety board (CNESST) is about to get easier. With Parkinson's added to the province’s list of accepted occupational illnesses, people working on farms will no longer have to prove the disease is related to their work.
CBC News. Risks 992. 14 April 2021
Britain: Global firm fined after chemical spill
A global engineering firm has been fined after a hazardous chemical spill left four workers suffering serious health symptoms. Poole Magistrates’ Court heard how, on 9 October 2017, between 150 and 200 litres of a chemical preparation including highly hazardous hydrofluoric acid spilled across a large area of the factory floor of Nasmyth Technologies Limited’s fabrication division, and that four workers with no training and inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and respiratory protective equipment (RPE) suffered ill-health in the clean-up, included an asthma attack, a severe headache, nausea, sore eyes and throat.
HSE news release. Dorset Echo. Risks 989. 16 March 2021
Britain: Chem Trust webpage on chemical mixtures
UK chemical safety charity CHEM Trust has produced a new online resource on chemical mixtures. The webpage includes information on why mixtures are a problem, support for action on mixtures, and links to related resources and position papers.
Chem Trust chemical mixtures webpages. Risks 985. 17 February 2021
Global: Impact of chemicals on women’s health ignored
The global food and farming union IUF has welcomed a new report from IPEN – the International Pollutants Elimination Network - highlighting the overlooked impact on women of exposure to chemicals. The IPEN review found there is a lack of research and information about women’s exposure to chemicals or nanomaterials and their effects on women’s specific physiology or endocrine [hormone] system, as well as the long-term effects on their reproductive health.
Women, chemicals and the SDGs: Gender review mapping with a focus on women, February 2021. IUF news release and manual, Making women visible in occupational health and safety. Risks 984. 11 February 2021
Australia: Fears about hidden toll from deadly silica
Workers at risk of developing an incurable, progressive and fatal lung disease caused by silica dust need greater protections across a range of workplaces, Australian unions have warned. The warning comes after a spate of cases of the lung-scarring disease silicosis affecting young workers.
Sydney Morning Herald.
ACTION: Send an e-postcard to HSE demanding it introduce a more protective UK silica standard no higher than 0.05mg/m³ and with a phased move to 0.025mg/m³. www.hazards.org/HSEstopkillingus. More on work-related dust diseases. Risks 984. 11 February 2021
USA: Nitrogen leak at poultry plant kills six workers
A liquid nitrogen leak at a US poultry plant killed six people on 28 January, and sent at least 11 others to the hospital, some in a critical condition. The incident occurred at the Prime Pak Foods plant near Gainsville, Georgia.
RWDSU news release. CSB statement. New York Times. Insurance Journal. The Guardian. BBC News Online. Whittier Daily News. Risks 983. 3 February 2021
Global: Study reveals dramatic rise in pesticide poisonings
Pesticide poisonings on farms around the world have risen dramatically since the last global assessment 30 years ago, a new study has found. Based on an evaluation of available poisoning data from countries all over the world, the researchers conclude that there are about 385 million cases of acute poisonings each year, up from an estimated 25 million cases in 1990.
PAN news release. Boedeker W, Watts M, Clausing, P and others, The global distribution of acute unintentional pesticide poisoning: estimations based on a systematic review, BMC Public Health 20, 1875, 7 December 2020. Risks 978. 15 December 2020
Global: ReWORKing safety virtual conference, 30 Nov-3 December
Leading global safety standards group Electronics Watch is running a four-day occupational health and safety virtual summit, kicking off on Monday 30 November. The theme is ‘ReWORKing Health and Safety - Protecting Workers and Promoting Resilient Public Sector Supply Chains’.
ReWORKing Health and Safety - Protecting Workers and Promoting Resilient Public Sector Supply Chains, 30 November-3 December, opening session starts 9am UK time. Register. Risks 975. 28 November 2020
Europe: Major reforms signalled on chemicals policy
The European Commission has signalled the biggest reform of chemical regulation in over a decade, saying it will shift the focus of EU legislation away from the safe use of harmful chemicals to avoiding their use in the first place. The strategy includes a wide range of policy initiatives, including a phase-out of all the most harmful substances, measures to better take into account the effect of chemicals in combination and a commitment to ban the export of hazardous chemicals already banned in the EU
European Commission press notice and associated briefing and action points. EEB news release. ECHA news release. Environmental Health News. ENDS Europe. Risks 970. 24 October 2020
Europe: Industry tries to stall hazardous chemicals database
A coalition of 40 manufacturing industry organisations has urged the European Commission to put the brakes on a new EU chemicals database requiring suppliers selling products containing hazardous substances to provide extra information about their chemical constituents. The trade bodies, which represent business across wide sections of the economy from aerospace to battery manufacturers, wrote to commission president Ursula von der Leyen on 21 September urging her to postpone by at least one year the European Chemicals Agency’s (ECHA) new Substances of Concern in Products (SCIP) database.
Ends Europe. Industries letter to EC president Ursula von der Leyen. Risks 967. 3 October 2020
Britain: Call for immediate action on deadly silica risks
MPs are being urged to take immediate action to prevent avoidable deaths and illness caused by exposure to respirable crystalline silica. The British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS), the scientific society on workplace health exposures, has written to MPs calling for action on a dust hazard which could put over 2 million workers at risk in the construction industry alone.
BOHS news release. Unite silica dust campaign and silica exposure register.
Biting the dust: HSE defends a silica standard six times more deadly, Hazards, number 148, December 2019.
ACTION: Send an e-postcard to HSE demanding it introduce a more protective UK silica standard no higher than 0.05mg/m³ and with a phased move to 0.025mg/m³. www.hazards.org/HSEstopkillingus. Risks 967. 3 October 2020
Britain: HSE inspections to target site dust
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors across Great Britain will be targeting construction firms to check that their health standards are up to scratch during a month-long inspection initiative, starting on 5 October 2020. The safety regulator says it will be looking at the measures businesses have in place to protect their workers’ lungs from potentially deadly hazards including asbestos, silica and wood dust.
HSE news release. Risks 967. 3 October 2020
Global: Stop sending toxic chemicals to poor nations – UN expert
The practice of wealthy states exporting their banned toxic chemicals to poorer nations lacking the capacity to control the risks is deplorable and must end, a United Nations expert has said. The comments by the UN special rapporteur on toxics, Baskut Tuncak, were endorsed by 35 other experts from the Human Rights Council.
OHCHR news release. Risks 957. 25 July 2020
Europe: Chemical restrictions drive use of safer substances
Replacing harmful chemicals with safer alternatives and greener technologies is strongly driven by regulation, with companies reporting that restrictions and authorisation are their main drivers for substitution, research by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has concluded. Based on a survey of industry associations and more than 80 companies, many of which were affected by authorisation or restriction, around 19 per cent indicated that restriction is their main reason for replacing hazardous chemicals with safer alternatives.
ECHA news release. Risks 955. 11 July 2020
USA: White House doctored chemical warning
A common workplace solvent linked to fetal heart deformations, cancer and other serious health disorders has been given a healthier spin after a draft report from a US government agency was doctored by the White House prior to publication. A report from the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) reveals the report was altered radically at the direction of the Trump White House, with several instances where wording on the risks to workers revised.
Center for Investigative Reporting report and The Weekly Reveal podcast. Risks 937. 7 March 2020
Britain: Underground drivers demand tests into 'toxic' particles
Staff on the London Underground are demanding more is done to assess the effects of breathing in Tube dust. Train drivers’ union ASLEF is calling for ‘urgent’ research into the long-term impact of inhaling the particles.
BBC News Online. How does dust hurt you? A Hazards at a glance guide. Risks 937. 7 March 2020
Britain: UK workers are overworked and underpaid
UK employers claimed £35 billion of free labour last year because of workers doing unpaid overtime, according to a new analysis of official statistics published by the TUC. More than 5 million people put in an average of 7.6 hours a week in unpaid overtime during 2019.
TUC news release. Risks 937. 7 March 2020
Britain: HSE inspections follow welding cancer alert
The government’s workplace safety regulator is reminding employers that they must protect their workers’ health by controlling the risks from welding fume. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says its current programme of inspections will review health and safety standards across the country follow an HSE safety alert issued in February 2019 after new evidence showed exposure to mild steel welding fume can cause cancer.
HSE news release. Welding, Molybdenum Trioxide, and Indium Tin Oxide, IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, Volume 118.
RESOURCES: TUC guidance on occupational cancer prevention: Occupational Cancer - A Workplace Guide. ITUC/Hazards work cancer hazards blog. Risks 936. 29 February 2020
Britain: Airlines must take action now on toxic cabin air
Airlines must take immediate action to stop ‘aerotoxic fume events’ occurring during flights, cabin crew union Unite has said. The union, which is taking several major airlines to court as a result of members suffering severe health effects caused by exposure to toxic cabin air, made the call after the dangers to pilots and cabin crew were highlighted in a BBC Radio File on Four programme.
Something in the air, File on Four, BBC Radio 4, 25 February 2020. Unite news release, aerotoxic campaign resources, fume events register, factsheet, poster and campaign card. US AFA fume event webpages.
EVENT: ‘Everybody flies’ aerotoxic syndrome documentary. UK cinema screening dates and locations in March 2020. Film trailer. Risks 936. 29 February 2020
USA: Industry wide silica clampdown begins
As the US government’s respirable crystalline silica (RCS) standard takes full effect, its safety regulator OSHA has beefed up its National Emphasis Program (NEP) to ensure compliance with the new, more stringent exposure standard. The 0.05mg/m³ exposure standard is twice as stringent the current UK standard of 0.1 mg/m³ and six times more protective for the lung-destroying dust disease silicosis.
OSHA news release and National Emphasis Program. EHS Today.
Biting the dust: HSE defends a silica standard six times more deadly, Hazards, number 148, December 2019.
ACTION: Send an e-postcard to HSE demanding it introduce a more protective UK silica standard no higher than 0.05mg/m³ and with a phased move to 0.025mg/m³. www.hazards.org/HSEstopkillingus. Risks 934. 15 February 2020
Global: Growing hazard posed by illegal pesticide trade
Over the past two decades, the trafficking of highly toxic pesticides has quietly grown into one of the world’s most lucrative and least understood criminal enterprises, a report in Washington Post has revealed. Adulterated in labs and garages, hustled like narcotics, co-opted by gangs and mafias, counterfeit and contraband pesticides are flooding developed and developing countries alike, with environmental and social consequences that are “far from trivial,” the UN Environment Program reported last year.
Washington Post (subscription needed). Risks 934. 15 February 2020
Britain: Diesel ‘fog’ footage spurs concern at rail depot cancers
Toxic diesel fumes emitted by trains at a Leeds rail depot could be linked to a number of staff members developing cancer in recent years, Unite has warned. The union said three staff members at the Neville Hill rail depot have developed cancers of the throat, with a fourth being diagnosed with throat and lung cancer and a further four staff members also developed cancers of the lung, mouth, bowel and kidney respectively.
Unite news release and video of the diesel exhaust emissions. Unite diesel emissions register. IARC Monographs – volume 105, Diesel and gasoline engine exhausts and some nitroarenes, 2012.
Yorkshire Evening Post. BBC News Online and video report.
Diesel exhaust in the workplace: A TUC guide for trade union activists, October 2018.
ITUC/Hazards work cancer hazards map, 2019. ITUC/Hazards work cancer hazards blog. Risks 933. 8 February 2020
Britain: Suffering stonemason’s plea for action on deadly silica dust
A former stonemason suffering from lung disease is calling for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to introduce a tighter occupational exposure standard for crystalline silica dust. In 2014, David Wood was diagnosed with silicosis, a condition caused by inhaling crystalline silica dust that leads to hardening and scarring of the lungs.
Irwin Mitchell news release. David’s story is examined in detail in the new issue of the union safety journal Hazards. See: Biting the dust: HSE defends a silica standard six times more deadly, Hazards, number 148, December 2019.
ACTION: Send an e-postcard to HSE demanding it introduce a more protective silica standard no higher than 0.05mg/m³ and with a phased move to 0.025mg/m³. www.hazards.org/HSEstopkillingus. Risks 930. 18 January 2019
Europe: Groups call for chemicals policy to be strengthened
The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), the European Consumers Organisation (BEUC) and the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) have come together to call on the European Commission “to build a Europe that protects people and ecosystems against chemical pollution.” In a joint letter sent to Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, the three civil society organisations urge the EU to adopt a 2030 chemicals strategy “to set Europe on the road to a non-toxic economy and a healthy future.”
ETUC news release and joint letter. EEB news release. Risks 927. 14 December 2019
Austria: Glyphosate ban set to take effect in January
The Austrian government’s plan to ban sales and use of the cancer-linked herbicide glyphosate from 1 January 2020 looks set to go ahead. Neither the European Commission nor EU member states have challenged formally the ban on all uses of glyphosate adopted by Austria's parliament in July this year, paving the way for it to come into effect.
IUF news release. Risks 926. 7 December 2019
Australia: Another state to get a safer silica standard
AWorkers exposed to silica dust in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) will be protected by a new, more stringent exposure standard at least half the UK limit, the state’s government has announced. NSW minister for better regulation and innovation Kevin Anderson said: “To reduce the possible exposure to silica dust, the NSW government will support SafeWork Australia’s recommendation to reduce the Australian Workplace Exposure Standard from 0.1 to 0.05 mg/m³, and will also support SafeWork Australia undertaking further research on whether a reduction to 0.02 mg/m³ is achievable.”
Safework NSW news release. NSCA Foundation News. The Conversation.
UK ACTION: Send an e-postcard to HSE demanding it introduce a more protective silica standard no higher than 0.05mg/m³ and with a phased move to 0.025mg/m³. www.hazards.org/HSEstopkillingus. Risks 923. 16 November 2019
Britain: New diesel exhaust fume risk prevention guide
A new resource “to help workers protect themselves from dangerous diesel engine exhaust emissions (DEEEs)” has been launched by IOSH, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health. The card advises people working with or around diesel-powered equipment or vehicles to turn off engines if not needed, use tailpipe exhaust extraction systems, use workplace air extraction, wear a mask, and get trained.
IOSH news release and pocket card for workers on how to prevent exposure to DEEEs.
UNION RESOURCES: Diesel exhaust in the workplace: A TUC guide for trade union activists, October 2018. Fuming feature, Diesel out prevention factsheet and Die diesel die pin-up-at-work poster. Hazards 144, October-December 2018. Unite diesel exhaust register, guide for members and poster. Risks 922. 9 November 2019
Britain: Tackling toxic workplaces conference, Glasgow, 7 November
A ‘tackling toxic workplaces’ conference organised by campaign group Scottish Hazards is to be held on 7 November, in partnership with the Trade Union Education Centre at City of Glasgow College. The event, supported by the STUC, is aimed primarily at trade union health and safety reps.
Tackling toxic workplaces conference, Glasgow, 7 November 2019, 10:00am-4:00pm, City of Glasgow College, Riverside Campus, Glasgow, G5 9XB. Cost: £55 (waged) and £10 (unwaged). Booking form. For further information, email Scottish Hazards. Risks 920. 26 October 2019
Britain: Cabin fumes gave BA passengers breathing problems
Passengers on a British Airways flight to Valencia which filled with smoke mid-air two months ago have said they are still experiencing breathing difficulties. Immediately after the August 2019 incident, UK cabin crew union Unite – which has introduced its own airline fume events register - repeated its call for an inquiry into toxic cabin air and fume events onboard jet airliners.
BBC News Online.
Unite toxic cabin air factsheet, poster and campaign card. Unite fume event register. AFA fume event webpages. Risks 920. 26 October 2019
Britain: Unions welcome UN call for toxic substances action
Unions have welcomed UN backing for stronger protections for workers exposed to toxic substances. ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow was commenting after the adoption by the United Nations Human Rights Council of a resolution from the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Toxics, Baskut Tuncak.
ITUC news release. Chemical Watch. Risks 918. 12 October 2019
Britain: Unite calls for inquiry into Crossrail health fears
Construction union Unite is calling on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to undertake a ‘full inquiry into serious health concerns’ at Crossrail’s Bond Street station. The workforce on the multi-million pound section of the Crossrail project in London has been on stand down following reports that four workers operating on the project had died in their sleep.
Unite news release. Construction Enquirer and related story. Risks 918. 12 October 2019
Europe: EU action after chemical firms flout the law
EU government delegates on the European Commission’s REACH committee have agreed to increase the minimum compliance check target for chemicals registration dossiers from 5 per cent to 20 per cent, the first concrete legislative step following reports of widespread flouting of EU rules by high volume users of industrial chemicals. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) came under pressure last year after German regulators found the majority of dossiers submitted by chemicals firms do not comply with the REACH regulation covering the majority of substances used in the EU, due to absent safety data or failures to update regularly.
ENDS Europe (subscription service). Risks 917. 5 October 2019.
USA: Severe cases of silica disease are being missed
Even severe and sometimes fatal cases of silica dust related diseases are being missed by the authorities, a US study has concluded. Researchers said only one US case in the engineered stone industry had been reported previously in the US, however, they discovered 18 cases of silicosis, including two fatalities, among stone fabrication workers in just four states.
Rose C, Heinzerling A, Patel K and others. Severe Silicosis in Engineered Stone Fabrication Workers — California, Colorado, Texas, and Washington, 2017–2019. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), volume 68, number 38, pages 813–818, 27 September 2019.
ACTION: Send an e-postcard to HSE demanding it introduce a more protective UK silica exposure limit no higher than 0.05mg/m³ and with a phased move to 0.025mg/m³. www.hazards.org/HSEstopkillingus. Risks 917. 5 October 2019.
Britain: Unite calls for urgent cut to killer silica dust limit
Unite had given its strong backing to a campaign to force the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to halve the workplace exposure limit for silica dust, a move it says will save 4,000 lives a year. The union call came in response to a new ‘Choked’ report from Hazards magazine that presents evidence for cutting the current legal limit of 0.1 mg/m³ for respirable crystalline silica to no more than 0.05 mg/m³, a move the report says would dramatically reduce the incidence of the lung scarring occupational disease silicosis, lung cancer, autoimmune diseases and other silica-related conditions.
Unite news release and silica exposure register. Unite silica dust film.
Choked! The evidence for introducing a livesaving new silica dust exposure limit, Hazards, Number 147, September 2019.
ACTION: Send an e-postcard to HSE demanding it introduce a more protective silica standard no higher than 0.05mg/m³ and with a phased move to 0.025mg/m³. www.hazards.org/HSEstopkillingus. Risks 916. 28 September 2019
Global: Airline industry ‘cloak of silence’ on toxic cabin air
The airline industry is deploying a ‘cloak of silence’ over toxic cabin air and fume events onboard jet airliners, the cabin crew union Unite has charged. Speaking at the International Aircraft Cabin Air Conference, Unite assistant general secretary for legal affairs, Howard Beckett, called on the airline industry to clean up its act by using safer oil to lubricate jet engines and to fit cabin air filters on planes.
Unite news release and toxic cabin air factsheet, poster and campaign card. Unite fume event register. International Aircraft Cabin Air Conference. Risks 915. 21 September 2019
China: Rhinestone workers dying of silica dust disease
Workers making the rhinestones often found on high street jewellery, fashion and decorative items are developing the deadly lung disease silicosis, according to a new study. Researchers diagnosed 98 cases of silicosis between the years 2006-2012 in a single crystal rhinestone factory in Guangdong province, China.
C Wen and others. Silicosis in rhinestone-manufacturing workers in South China, Occupational Medicine, kqz107, published first online 22 August 2019. https://doi.org/10.1093/occmed/kqz107. Risks 912. 31 August 2019
Britain: TUC ‘respiratory health’ briefing, London, 27 September
‘Respiratory health – a workplace issue', a TUC briefing for trade union health and safety reps, will take place at the union body’s national HQ in London on 27 September 2019. As well as top speakers, the event will include presentations from the Health and Safety Executive, a union personal injury law firm and the Trade Union Clean Air Network.
‘Respiratory health – a workplace issue', TUC briefing, Congress House, 23-28 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS, Friday 27 September 2019. Registration from 9.45am, event starts at 10.15. Lunch provided. Free event. Registration is required: phone 020 7467 1218 or email the TUC. Risks 912. 31 August 2019
Australia: Unions ramp up push for safer silica standard
An official review of Australia’s respirable silica exposure standard is an opportunity to save lives - but the federal proposals are not protective enough and are being unacceptably delayed, the Victorian Trades Hall Council has said. The union body warned that Safe Work Australia's decision to take three years to halve the current respirable crystalline silica exposure standard to 0.05mg/m³ “does nothing to stem the tsunami of silicosis currently sweeping Australian workplaces.”
We Are Union news release. UnionsWA news release. ABC News. Canberra Times. The Guardian. Victorian government 1 May 2019 call for a national 0.02 mg/m³ occupational exposure standard. Cancer Council’s silica dust factsheet.
Arguments for a more protective UK silica exposure standard: Part 1: Dust to dust: Deadly silica standard is killing UK workers, Hazards, number 126, 2014. Part 2: A line in the sand, Hazards, number 127, 2014. Risks 909. 10 August 2019
Britain: Unite launches silica exposure register to protect workers
Construction union Unite has launched an online register to allow workers who have been exposed to dangerous silica dust to record their exposure. The union says this will assist with potential future legal cases if they experience long term health problems.
Unite news release and silica exposure register. Unite silica dust film.
Resources on dust risks and controls: Guide to occupational hygiene for union health and safety representatives, TUC/British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS), November 2016. More on work-related dust diseases and risk assessment checklist. Risks 909. 10 August 2019
South Africa: Court approves massive mines silicosis settlement
A Johannesburg High Court has approved a 5 billion rand (£285 million) class action settlement between gold mining companies and law firms representing thousands of miners who contracted the potentially fatal lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis. The six mining companies who formed part of the class action agreement are African Rainbow Minerals‚ Anglo American SA‚ AngloGold Ashanti‚ Gold Fields‚ Harmony and Sibanye Stillwater and they will pay from R70,000 to R500,000 (approximately £4,000-£28,000), depending on the type of claim, to affected workers employed in the mines post-1965.
Silicosis settlement website. SABC News and related article. Fin24 News. Daily Maverick. Risks 908. 3 August 2019
Turkey: Faded denim comes at a steep price
Chemicals used to fade denim are making garment workers sick, a study has found. Clean Clothes Campaign Turkey investigated the denim industry's use of potassium permanganate. The campaign’s research found that workers in Turkey spraying the chemical are suffering skin and respiratory problems.
Clean Clothes Campaign news release. Potassium permanganate spray report, CCC Turkey, July 2019.
Abdulhalim Demir’s story. Fashion victims: Global pressure to drop worn jeans for health’s sake, Hazards magazine, number 113, 2011. Risks 907. 27 July 2019
USA: As black lung disease increases, care is cut
The number of black lung cases in the USA is growing at the same time funding has falling sharply for a federal programme to care for those with the disease. The debt-laden Black Lung Disability Trust Fund provides medical and financial assistance to certain miners who are totally disabled by the disease, but is facing penury exacerbated by this year’s 55 per cent decrease in the coal tax rate, declining coal production and coal company bankruptcies.
Washington Post. Black lung benefits program: Financing and Oversight Challenges Are Adversely Affecting the Trust Fund, GAO, 20 June 2019. Risks 906. 20 July 2019
Britain: Contractor fined over deadly silica exposure risks
A playground installation and landscaping contractor has been fined after failing to provide employees with adequate control measures to prevent exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS). Greater Manchester Magistrates’ Court heard how on 23 March 2018, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) served a prohibition notice to stop two employees of Playscape Design Ltd, who were working without any respiratory protective equipment, from using a power tool to cut flags.
HSE news release. Construction Enquirer. Risks 906. 20 July 2019
Britain: MPs to investigate impact of silicosis on site workers
A parliamentary inquiry is to investigate the impact of the deadly dust disease silicosis on construction workers and their families. The All-party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Respiratory Health has joined forces with not-for-profit organisation construction benefits organisation B&CE to better understand why construction workers continue to suffer and die from silicosis caused by inhaling respirable crystalline silica.
BC&E news release. Personnel Today.
Resources on dust risks and controls: Guide to occupational hygiene for union health and safety representatives, TUC/British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS), November 2016. More on work-related dust diseases and risk assessment checklist.
Silica, part 2: A line in the sand, Hazards, number 127, 2014. Silica, part 1: Dust to dust: Deadly silica standard is killing UK workers, Hazards, number 126, 2014. Risks 906. 20 July 2019
Britain: Firm fined after teen apprentice overcome by solvent fumes
An alloy wheel refurbishment company has been fined after a 16-year-old apprentice was overcome by vapours from a chemical used in the stripping and cleaning of alloy wheels. South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court heard how, on 12 December 2017, the employee of Wheelnut Ltd, entered an area known as the “acid room” to retrieve alloy wheels from one of three barrels of a chemical cocktail containing dichloromethane (DCM), methanol and hydrofluoric acid used in the stripping process.
HSE news release and guide on DCM risks during furniture stripping. Risks 905. 13 July 2019
Britain: Site firm fined after worker poisoned by carbon monoxide
Construction 360 Ltd has been sentenced for criminal safety breaches after a worker exposed to carbon monoxide collapsed and lost consciousness while working at the site of King Asia Foods Ltd in Sheffield. Sheffield Magistrates Court heard how, on 11 January 2018, the worker was using a petrol driven floor saw within an enclosed space when he was overcome.
HSE news release. Risks 905. 13 July 2019
Britain: New probe into Tube dust health risks
Health and transport experts are to launch an inquiry into potentially harmful “Tube dust” amid concerns about the impact of pollution on commuters using the London Underground. Tube union RMT has run a lengthy campaign for action to protect Tube workers and passengers from the “scandal” of toxic dust exposures on the network.
London Assembly news release. The Independent. East London Guardian. Risks 904. 6 July 2019
Britain: Dusty work gave worker a deadly lung disease
A stone masonry company has been fined after a criminal failure to control silica dust resulted in an employee developing the disabling lung-scarring disease silicosis. Burnley Magistrates’ Court heard how prior to 2017, employees of GO Stonemasonry Limited in Accrington carried out work that resulted in exposure to respirable silica dust.
HSE news release.
Resources on dust risks and controls: Guide to occupational hygiene for union health and safety representatives, TUC/British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS), November 2016. More on work-related dust diseases and risk assessment checklist. Risks 902. 22 June 2019
USA: Workers will die unless deadly solvent is banned
More labourers working with a toxic solvent will die while the US authorities reconsider the strategy to protect them, occupational physicians, advocates, and researchers have predicted. At least three US workers exposed to the paint stripping solvent, methylene chloride, have died since 2017 when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a rule to ban consumer and most commercial uses, said Jonathan Kalmuss-Katz, a staff attorney working on labour issues at Earthjustice.
Bloomberg News. Risks 901. 15 June 2019
Australia: Dust disease is robbing young workers of life
A deadly disease caused by working with stone dust is affecting workers younger, harder and faster, with a 22-year-old Australian worker now believed to be the country’s youngest diagnosed victim. Silicosis victim Connor Downes can no longer work as a stonemason and says his days are instead filled with medical appointments.
Slater and Gordon Lawyers news release. ABC News. The Guardian. Risks 900. 8 June 2019
Britain: Site proves it is possible to slash diesel use
A major construction job in Wales has shown it is possible to quickly slash the use of cancer and lung disease linked diesel. Solar lighting and power generation has achieved 97 per cent diesel-free operation on a major rail renewal project at Llanwern, South Wales.
Network Rail news release. Global Railway Review.
Diesel exhaust in the workplace: A TUC guide for trade union activists, October 2018. Fuming feature, Diesel out prevention factsheet and Die diesel die pin-up-at-work poster. Hazards 144, October-December 2018. Risks 900. 8 June 2019
Global: Science institute exposed as industry mouthpiece
The non-profit International Life Science Institute, which claims to conduct “science for the public good” that “improves human health and well-being and safeguards the environment,” is in reality an industry lobby group, according to a new study. Findings published in the journal Globalization and Health detail examples of how ILSI advances the interests of the food industry, especially by promoting industry-friendly science and arguments to policymakers.
USRTK news release. Sarah Steele and others. Are industry-funded charities promoting “advocacy-led studies” or “evidence-based science”?: a case study of the International Life Sciences Institute, Globalization and Health, volume 15, number 36, 3 June 2019. Documents from the ILSI study will be posted in University of California, San Francisco’s Food Industry Documents Archive, in the U.S. Right to Know Food Industry Collection. The Guardian. ABC News. Risks 900. 8 June 2019
Britain: Floor layer killed by toxic adhesive fumes
A materials supplier and a maintenance contractor have been fined a total of £750,000 following the death of a floor layer in London. Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that on 4 September 2015, 30-year-old Paul Tilcock was found dead after using an adhesive to fix the flooring to the bathroom floor contained a large amount of dichloromethane, also known as methylene chloride.
HSE news release. Construction Enquirer. The Comet. Risks 900. 8 June 2019
Global: Monsanto hit by new cancer and surveillance exposure
Global agrochemicals giant Monsanto has faced a double hit, ordered to make another massive cancer compensation payout and accused of compiling a potentially illegal dossier on its opponents. A jury in California awarded more than $2bn (£1.5bn) to a couple who said the best-selling weedkiller Roundup was responsible for their cancer.
BBC News Online and story on Monsanto’s dossier of opponents. Le Monde (in French). The Guardian. New York Times. Fleishman Hillard. Risks 897. 18 May 2019
Global: Vested interests again protect deadly substances
Exports of deadly substances including chrysotile asbestos and a slew of pesticides will not require a health warning after a handful of governments defended them at a United Nations conference. The substances were being considered for inclusion on the UN Rotterdam Convention’s ‘prior informed consent’ (PIC) list, which would require exporters to inform importers of the potential risks.
CIEL news release. IBAS news report. PANAP news release. Report of the outcome of the Conference of the Parties. Risks 897. 18 May 2019
Global: Governments agree to ban on cancer chemical
Firefighters’ unions have played a central role in a successful push to get a cancer-linked chemical banned under a United Nations treaty. Governments at a Stockholm Treaty meeting in Geneva agreed to the global ban on PFOA/PFAS, fluorinated chemicals linked to cancer and reproductive harm that does not break down and causes adverse health effects at background levels.
IPEN news release and expert report on alternative firefighting foams. ENDS Report. Bloomberg Environment. IAFF cancer campaign. Risks 896. 11 May 2019
Australia: Silicosis epidemic leads to stonemason shortage
A Queensland government audit of the Australian state’s stone industry last year found 98 workers had contracted silicosis, with 15 of those cases considered terminal. But the news that the industry is killing its workers has had another consequence – a serious labour shortage in the industry.
RACP news release. Sydney Morning Herald. The News Daily. ABC News. Brisbane Times. Risks 896. 11 May 2019
India: Stone carvers demand silicosis protection
Hundreds of stonemasons took to the streets of Pindwara on 1 May, to protest at the deadly dust risks facing the workers building India’s temples. Union leader Ganesh, 31, was diagnosed with the frequently fatal lung scarring disease silicosis at the age of 29, led the rally because he said he wants to ensure that other workers do not suffer like him.
The Wire. Risks 896. 11 May 2019
USA: Workers can challenge work’s toxic toll
A new advocacy guide from the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) aims to assist workers who are seeking to take action to eliminate or reduce their exposure to hazardous substances. Katie Tracy, CPR policy analyst and co-author of the guide, said: “People exposed to toxics at work tend to encounter dangerous substances more frequently, for longer durations, and at higher levels than the public at large, adding: “Too often their employers fail in their obligation to protect them, so we’ve put this guide together to share resources and strategies workers can use to secure a safe workplace.”
CPR news release and report, Chemical detox for the workplace: A guide to securing a nontoxic work environment, CPR, April 2019. Risks 894. 27 April 2019
Global: ITUC aims to show killer chemicals the door
In a high profile new campaign, the global trade union confederation ITUC is calling for killer chemicals to be shown the door. In a campaign kicking off on Workers’ Memorial Day, 28 April, ITUC is urging reps to seek to eliminate or minimise exposure to carcinogens in the workplace and says a first of its kind ITUC at-a-glance guide to work cancers and their causes will ensure unions can identify and challenge preventable and potentially deadly exposures.
All out! Global union confederation ITUC wants to show killer chemicals the door, Hazards magazine, number 145, April 2019. Also in French and Spanish.
ITUC/Hazards 28 April dedicated events and resources website.
ITUC 28 April webpages in English, French and Spanish.
28 April ITUC ‘Chemical reaction’ poster in English, French and Spanish.
Cancers and their work causes: An ITUC/Hazards at-a-glance guide to cancer hazards. Also in French and Spanish.
Hazards Campaign 28 April resources page and order form. Free copies of the Hazards Campaign’s 2019 Workers’ Memorial Day posters are available now; to get your copies email the Hazards Campaign or phone 0161 636 7558.
TUC 2019 Workers’ Memorial Day events page and asbestos, diesel exhaust and workplace cancers guides. Send details of your 28 April 2019 events to the TUC health and safety department. Risks 893. 13 April 2019
Britain: Underground union campaigns against toxic fumes
The RMT union will be stepping up the campaign for dramatic improvements in air quality on London Underground amid fears that the situation continues to deteriorate with serious consequences for both staff and passengers alike. The union has produced a dossier that shows that members are suffering with respiratory problems while station staff and drivers are having high incidents of chest colds.
RMT news release. Risks 892. 6 April 2019
Britain: Union launches court action against airlines in toxic air dispute
The trade union Unite has announced legal action has been served in 51 court cases against five UK airlines. Unite is backing court action against UK airlines after independent expert evidence concluded that the air in most commercial airline cabins can cause irreversible neurological damage and chronic illness among susceptible individuals.
Unite news release. Risks 892. 6 April 2019
Britain: Risks from chemical cocktails ‘under-estimated’
The health risks associated with combined exposures to a range of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are ‘systematically underestimated’, a new study has concluded. The European research project EDC-MixRisk is critical of the current assessment methods employed in the European Union on EDCs, a large group of chemicals linked to reproductive harm, cancer and other health effects.
EDC-MixRisk news release. HEAL news release. ENDS Europe. CHEM Trust blog. Risks 891. 30 March 2019
Europe: Court overrules approval of cancer chemicals
The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has banned with immediate effect the use of known carcinogens used for road markings and in paints and plastics. The court’s Tribunal of the EU, which deals with disputes between EU institutions, ruled in the case brought by the Swedish government that an earlier European Commission decision to authorise uses of the chromium VI compounds, lead sulphochromate yellow and lead chromate molybdate red, was unlawful.
ClientEarth news release. EEB news release. ENDS Europe. Risks 889. 16 March 2019
Europe: Chemical authorisations process is very unsafe
Europe’s system of ‘socio-economic’ cost-benefit calculations for authorising hazardous chemicals is so biased in favour of industry only one has been refused, according to a new report. ChemSec, a non-profit advocating for safer alternatives to toxic chemicals, warns that an exemptions system included in the REACH chemical registration process has “become the back door for companies in order to continue their use of hazardous chemicals.”
ChemSec news release, related release and full report, Lost at SEA, March 2019. Risks 888. 9 March 2019
Europe: Chemical firms mostly failing on chemical rules
Chemical companies are failing routinely to meet basis safety requirements on hazardous chemicals, an official annual review has found. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) progress report released on 28 February 2019 revealed that of the 21 substance evaluations completed in 2018, only 6 (28.5 per cent) of the substances were “sufficiently controlled,” with “further risk management measures” required for the rest; chemical companies also failed to provide important safety information on potentially serious health effects in nearly threequarters of cases (74 per cent or 211 of 286) checked by authorities in 2018.
ECHA news release and 2018 evaluation. EEB news release and Corap release. Risks 888. 9 March 2019
Britain: Glyphosate cancer risk confirmed in new study
A new scientific analysis of the cancer-causing potential of glyphosate herbicides, the most widely used weed killing products in the world, has found that people with high exposures have a 41 per cent increased risk of developing a type of cancer called non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The evidence “supports a compelling link” between exposures to glyphosate-based herbicides (GBH) and increased risk for non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), the authors concluded.
Luoping Zhang and others. Exposure to Glyphosate-Based Herbicides and Risk for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma: A Meta-Analysis and Supporting Evidence, Mutation Research/Reviews in Mutation Research, published online ahead of print 10 February 2019. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mrrev.2019.02.001
The Guardian. The Monsanto Papers. TUC glyphosate guide. Risks 886. 23 February 2019
Canada: Receipts expose retail workers to cancer chemical
Retail workers are being exposed to “worrying” levels of BPA and BPS - hormone disrupting industrial chemicals that have been linked to diabetes, obesity, ADHD and breast and prostate cancers - by simply handling thermal paper receipts, a study by Environmental Defence Canada (EDC) has found. “These slips of paper are covertly exposing cashiers to worrying levels of hormone disrupting BPA and BPS every day,” Muhannad Malas, toxics programme manager at EDC, said in the study.
EDC news release. CTV News. Risks 885. 16 February 2019
Britain: Pollution is a workplace health issue for unions
A newly launched Trade Union Clean Air Network (TUCAN) says preventing environmental pollution is a workplace health and safety issue, with many workers facing high exposures ‘all in a day’s work’. In a bid to address the problem, TUCAN’s founding partners - the Greener Jobs Alliance, Hazards Campaign, University and College Union (UCU) and the National Education Union (NEU) - are promoting a Trade Union Clean Air Network Charter.
Trade Union Clean Air Network (TUCAN) Charter. Greener Jobs Alliance news release.
Diesel exhaust in the workplace: A TUC guide for trade union activists, October 2018. Fuming feature, Diesel out prevention factsheet and Die diesel die pin-up-at-work poster. Hazards 144, October-December 2018. 16 February 2019
Europe: Commission slammed over EDC inaction
The European Commission has come under fire from MEPs who accuse it of continuing to drag its feet over action on regulating endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCS). Speaking at a meeting of the European Parliament's environment committee (Envi) on 22 January, DG Sante’s director for food and feed safety and innovation Sabine Juelicher presented the EU executive’s long delayed strategy for EDCs, involving minimising exposures, more research and an annual forum for ‘active dialogue’ with stakeholders.
ENDS Europe. Chemical Watch. HEAL letter to MEPs. Risks 883. 2 February 2019
Europe: Industry grossly over-estimated REACH costs
Industry estimates of the cost of the European Union-wide REACH chemical registration regulations were massively inflated, the chemical safety group ChemSec has revealed. According to ChemSec, the total costs for registration under REACH turned out to be €3 billion, close to the European Commission figure and more than six times lower than CEFIC’s most conservative calculation.
ChemSec news report. Risks 882. 26 January 2018
Europe: Glyphosate reprieve based on ‘plagiarised’ report
European regulators based a decision to relicense the controversial weedkiller glyphosate on an assessment large sections of which were lifted directly from industry documents, according to a report for the European parliament. A crossparty group of MEPs commissioned an investigation into claims that Germany’s Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) copy-and-pasted tracts from studies by the pesticide manufacturer Monsanto.
Stefan Weber and Helmut Burtscher-Schaden. Detailed Expert Report on Plagiarism and superordinated Copy Paste in the Renewal Assessment Report (RAR) on Glyphosate, 2019.
Socialists and Democrats of the European Parliament news release and related video report. BfR statement.
Charles M Benbrook. How did the US EPA and IARC reach diametrically opposed conclusions on the genotoxicity of glyphosate-based herbicides?, Environmental Sciences Europe, volume 31, number 2, 2019. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12302-018-0184-7 The Guardian. Risks 881. 19 January 2019
Global: Protective gear not protective for pesticide workers
Studies of pesticide use in horticultural workers have found they can be exposed to the chemicals by both skin contact and ingestion despite wearing protective gear, with colleagues and the public also at risk. A study published online in January in the journal Annals of Work Exposures and Health and conducted by NUI Galway in Ireland, the Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM) and the Health and Safety Executive, looked at exposures to glyphosate, a herbicide used to control the growth of weeds and invasive plant species such as Japanese knotweed.
Alison Connolly and others. Evaluating glyphosate exposure routes and their contribution to total body burden: A study among amenity horticulturalists, Annals of Work Exposures and Health, wxy104, published online 4 January 2019.
Also see: Alison Connolly and others. Exploring the half-life of glyphosate in human urine samples International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, published ahead of print, October 2018. Personnel Today. Risks 881. 19 January 2019
Britain: Union law firms wants employers ‘under the COSHH’
A trade union law firm wants employers to take hazardous substances seriously at work - and is giving employees a toolkit to help make sure that happens. Thompsons Solicitors says most organisations today use or create substances, but thousands of workers die each year as a result of exposures to these substances at work.
Thompsons Solicitors news release and Under the COSHH toolkit.
You can share images on twitter showing how your employer is providing a safe place of work using the hashtag #UnderTheCOSHH. Risks 881. 19 January 2019
Britain: Company director jailed for illegal chemicals sales
Company director Nicholas Corbett has been sentenced to 10 months in prison for the online sale of products containing prohibited substances. The company was selling paint stripper containing dichloromethane (DCM), which is restricted under the REACH regulations as well as was selling a prohibited plant protection product containing sodium chlorate.
HSE news release. Risks 880. 12 January 2019
China: Silicosis sufferers protest and are attacked by police
Over 300 silicosis victims and their family members from Hunan Province who staged a peaceful 7 November march and sit-in protest in front of the Shenzhen city government were attacked and tear gassed by police. The workers, some of whom were hospitalised as a result of the attempt by police to disperse the group, were demanding the city government help them with medical expenses and compensation issues.
HKCTU news release. Risks 877. 1 December 2018
Britain: TUC action call on ‘workplace killer’ diesel exhaust
Diesel exhaust is one of the biggest workplace killers, the TUC has said, but has warned the UK is failing to take the action necessary to protect workers. In response, the TUC has published a guide to diesel exhaust that highlights the practical and simple steps that employers can take to protect their workers.
TUC news release and Diesel exhaust in the workplace: A TUC guide for trade union activists, October 2018. Risks 873. 3 November 2018
Europe: Unions and employers want reprotoxins action
The chemical industry and trade unions have agreed a future framework to better protect European Union workers from the risks associated with exposure to substances toxic to reproduction. In a joint declaration, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), the union federation for the chemical sector IndustriALL Europe, the European Chemical Employers Group (ECEG) and the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) call on the European Commission to strengthen the current system of protection of workers’ reproductive health.
Joint ETUC-IndustriAll Europe-Cefic-ECEG news release and Joint Declaration, 16 October 2018. Risks 872. 27 October 2018
Britain: Public inquiry call after coroner’s toxic cabin air warning
A coroner’s warning on the deadly risk posed by toxic cabin air on board aircraft should be a catalyst for a public inquiry, the union Unite has said. The union was speaking out after finding new guidance was issued to coroners in England and Wales, following the unprecedented letter of concern in April this year from the senior coroner in the inquest into the death of Unite member and British Airways cabin crew Matthew Bass.
Unite news release. Why Matt died website. Risks 872. 27 October 2018
Europe: New ‘compromise’ standard for diesel fumes
The Europe-wide trade union body ETUC has welcomed a new diesel exhaust fumes exposure standard. It says 3.6 million workers in the EU are at risk of exposures, adding the new European occupational exposure limit will prevent at least 6,000 deaths per year from lung cancer.
ETUC news release. Socialists and Democrats news release. SCOEL recommendation Risks 871. 20 October 2018.
China: Destitute migrants ravaged by work dust disease
Migrant workers dying of horrific dust-related lung diseases are struggling to pay for medical treatment or to raise enough money to cover their funeral costs. More than 600 workers from Hunan province in central China are seeking money for medical care and to support their families – a reflection of the forgotten human cost of turning Shenzhen, in Guangdong province, from a sleepy fishing village into a city with a gross domestic product of US$338 billion in 2017.
South China Morning Post. Love Save Pneumoconiosis. Risks 871. 20 October 2018
Britain: No place for vaping in the workplace
Caving into pressure from Big Tobacco to allow vaping in enclosed workspaces could put non-vaping workers in harm's way, the TUC has warned. TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson said while e-cigarettes may be safer than traditional cigarettes, “that doesn’t mean we should allow vaping in enclosed workplaces, despite growing pressure from the vaping industry for employers and public transport providers to allow it in enclosed spaces where it is currently banned.”
TUC blog and updated Ensuring smoke-free workplaces guide, including an e-cigarettes section, June 2018. Risks 871. 20 October 2018
Britain: Coal chiefs plotted to ‘delay’ payouts to dying miners
British Coal plotted to ‘delay’ payouts to tens of thousands of miners dying from occupational lung diseases, newly discovered memos have revealed. The firm hatched plans to make it “costly and unattractive” for miners and their families to pursue claims, the documents show.
The Mirror and related editorial. Risks 870. 13 October 2018.
Britain: Garden centre fined over chemical spill injuries
A popular Essex garden centre that failed to undertake adequate checks to protect staff from hazardous chemicals has been fined over £100,000. In a prosecution brought by Colchester Borough Council, Perrywood Garden Centre and Nurseries Ltd admitted to three criminal safety offences after a member of staff developed breathing difficulties after clearing up a spill of garden chemicals in April 2017.
Colchester Borough Council news release. East Anglian Daily Times. Risks 868. 29 September 2018
Britain: HSE asks who you gonna call? Dustbusters!
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors are planning to visit construction sites across Great Britain to see if businesses have measures in place to protect their workers’ lungs from the likes of asbestos, silica and wood dust. The watchdog “will specifically be looking for evidence of construction workers knowing the risk, planning their work and using the right controls,” and adds that it wants workplace ‘#DustBusters’ to show their support for the campaign “by downloading our free selfie cards and sending us your photos via the #DustBuster and #WorkRight hashtags on Twitter at @H_S_E, or on Facebook via @hsegovuk and @SaferSites.”
HSE news release and Selfie signs enjoy retirement, kids, occupational asthma, play footy, die young and die young #2. HSE pointers - is your site ready for a health inspection? Risks 868. 29 September 2018
Global: Toxic substances are a global health crisis
The UN Human Rights Council has been told that exposure of workers to toxic substances can and should be considered a form of exploitation and is a global health crisis. A UN expert on hazardous substances and wastes, Baskut Tuncak, told the Council that governments and companies must strengthen protection for workers, their families and their communities from any exposure to toxic chemicals.
Report. Risks 867. 22 September 2018
Global: UN expert urges firms to take action on chemical risks
The UN’s expert on toxics and human rights has urge firms to take action to protect workers from chemical risks throughout their supply chains. Baskut Tuncak, the UN’s ‘special rapporteur’ on the implications for human rights of hazardous substances and wastes, makes the call in a paper for the UN’s Human Rights Council.
OHCHR news release. Report of the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, OHCHR, 2018. Risks 865. 8 September 2018
Britain: Experts warn embracing vaping is ‘irresponsible’
Environmental health experts have echoed union concerns and urged ‘caution’ over calls to ease restrictions on e-cigarette use in public places and to promote their use in smoking cessation programmes. Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) head of policy Tony Lewis said: “Whilst we whole-heartedly support measures to encourage smokers to give up, we believe that the evidence gap on the long-term health implications of vaping needs addressing as a priority and more research carried out.”
CIEH news release. EHN Online. Risks 865. 8 September 2018
Britain: Unions take their solidarity safety message to Salisbury
TUC South West is to host its health, safety and well-being conference in Salisbury “in a show of solidarity following recent chemical attacks in the city.” Announcing the on 3 September event, TUC regional secretary Nigel Costley said: “As we promote the benefits of good health and safety practices in workplaces, we have the opportunity to acknowledge all the brave workers in Salisbury who responded and dealt with the chemical attack to keep the city safe.”
TUC South West Health, Safety and Wellbeing Conference, Salisbury, 10:30am to 3:30pm, Monday 3 September 2018. Further details: TUC South West event page. Risks 864. 1 September 2018
USA: Lung Transplants on the rise for miners’ disease
The number and rate of lung transplants for black lung disease in the US is increasing, according to new research. A study by the US government’s occupational health research institute NIOSH reflects the rising prevalence of black lung disease among coal miners in the coal belt.
David J. Blackley, Cara N Halldin and A Scott Laney. Continued increase in lung transplantation for Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis in the United States, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, volume 61, issue 7, pages 621-624, 2018. Inside NIOSH, volume 4, number 2, August 2018. Risks 863. 25 August 2018
Britain: British Coal coke oven worker gets lung disease payout
A court judgment in a group action brought on behalf of 260 British Coal coke oven workers and their families, has seen another former miner awarded compensation, opening the way for many more settlements. Workers who contracted respiratory diseases including emphysema, chronic bronchitis and lung cancer, as well as skin cancer, they believe were caused by exposure to harmful fumes at coking plants in England and Wales are seeking compensation.
Irwin Mitchell Solicitors news release. Hugh James Solicitors news release. Devereux Chambers statement. Background: Relative risk - In the courts, it is relatively easy to evade work cancer justice, Hazards online report, June 2015. Risks 861. 11 August 2018
USA: Monsanto found guilty of concealing glyphosate risks
A California jury has found Monsanto guilty of concealing the dangers of glyphosate, the world's most widely-applied herbicide, and awarded a terminally ill schools groundskeeper total damages of US$289 million. The unprecedented 10 August verdict delivered by the San Francisco, California jury in favour of Dewayne Johnson, 46, will weigh heavily on the more than 4,000 similar cases already lodged in the US alleging a glyphosate link to the blood cancer non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
IUF news release. Democracy Now. Workweek Radio podcast. US Right to Know statement. The Monsanto Papers. The Guardian. Bloomberg News. Risks 862. 18 August 2018
Britain: Vaping disables the lung’s defence system, study finds
E-cigarette users could be at risk of chronic lung disease, a new research suggests. A study by Birmingham University researchers found the nicotine infused liquids used in e-cigarettes become much more potent cell killers when vaporised, and can disable the lung’s defence mechanisms.
Birmingham University news release. BMJ/Thorax news release and podcast. Aaron Scott and others. Pro-inflammatory effects of e-cigarette vapour condensate on human alveolar macrophages, Thorax, Online first, 13 August 2013. doi 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2018-211663. The Independent. BBC News Online. Risks 862. 18 August 2018
USA: Black lung hits a 25-year high in coal belt
One in five working US coal miners in central Appalachia who have worked at least 25 years now suffer from the coal miners' disease, black lung. In addition to the heightened rates of disease, the study found that the most severe form of disease – progressive massive fibrosis – now occurs in 5 per cent of veteran miners in the region, the highest rate ever recorded.
NPR News and black lung special series.
DJ Blackley, CN Halldin and AS Laney. Continued increase in prevalence of Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis in the United States, 1970–2017, American Journal of Public Health, 19 July 2018: e1-e3. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2018.304517. Published online ahead of print. Risks 859. 28 July 2018
USA: Cancer-stricken worker puts Monsanto on trial
A worker stricken with a life-threatening cancer he believes was caused by his regular use of the pesticide glyphosate is taking its manufacturer, Monsanto, to court. Dewayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper whose doctors believe may have little time to live, began his job in 2012 and in 2014 was diagnosed with the rare blood cancer Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL).
IUF editorial. US Right to Know news release. US Right to Know: The Monsanto Papers. The Guardian. Risks 859. 28 July 2018
Australia: 'Learn from asbestos' warning over silicosis risks
Stonemasons who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening lung disease are coming forward to call for regulation around dangerous workplace practices. At least six masons who have worked on dry-cutting artificial stone benchtops have been diagnosed with silicosis, an irreversible condition created by breathing in tiny particles of silica dust.
Sydney Morning Herald. Risks 859. 28 July 2018
Britain: Union concerns over toxic foam on film sets
Film and theatre crafts union BECTU is in talks with safety specialists about potential life-threatening health risks from a foam product used by film set construction workers. The union is responding to concerns raised by members about the short and long term effects of inhaling chemicals from polyurethane foams that contain diisocyanates, a group of chemicals that are a recognised and potent cause of occupational asthma.
BECTU news release. Related information: Risk of isocyanate exposure in the construction industry, CPWR technical report, 2010. Risks 859. 28 July 2018
Global: Fashion industry shows it can cut hazardous chemicals
A group of 80 fashion companies who made a commitment to cut hazardous chemicals from their clothing production by 2020 have all achieved ‘significant progress’, according to a Greenpeace report. “While we are extremely happy to see the progress of Detox companies towards cleaning up their supply chains, 85 per cent of the textile industry is still not doing enough to eliminate hazardous chemicals and improve factory working conditions,” said Kirsten Brodde, Greenpeace Germany project lead for the Detox-my-Fashion campaign.
Greenpeace news release, Destination Zero: seven years of Detoxing the clothing industry report and Detox-my-Fashion campaign. Risks 858. 21 July 2018
Global: Samsung singled out for its bad chemical practices
One of the giants of consumer electronics is a laggard in chemicals management, with workers particularly badly hit, environmental and workers’ rights groups have said. South Korean multinational Samsung has faced prolonged criticism of its failure to protect factory workers from exposure to dangerous substances.
Chemical Watch, Global Business Briefing, July 2018 [subscription only]. Samsung Sustainability Report 2018. Risks 857. 14 July 2018
USA: Stricter silica exposure standard from this month
A hard-won more protective silica exposure standard is to come into effect in the US on 23 June. The new OSHA standard, issued under the Obama administration, reduces the permissible exposure limit for crystalline silica over an eight-hour shift to 50 micrograms per cubic metre of air (down from 0.1mg/m³ to 0.05mg/m³).
OSHA announcement. Confined Space blog. Information on the UK’s inadequate exposure standard for silica. Risks 853. 16 June 2018
India: Ban on hazardous pesticides would slash suicides
An international group of experts has said a ban on hazardous insecticides, now under consideration by the Indian government, would help reduce suicide deaths in the country. The UK-based Centre for Pesticide Suicide Prevention (CPSP) has urged India’s agricultural commissioner, SK Malhotra, who heads the committee on the issue, to ban not only the 12 pesticides under review but also several others.
Times of India. First Post.
D Gunnell and others. Prevention of suicide with regulations aimed at restricting access to highly hazardous pesticides: a systematic review of the international evidence, Lancet Global Health, volume 5, number 10, e1026-e1037, October 2017. Centre for Pesticide Suicide Prevention. More on work-related suicides. Risks 853. 16 June 2018
Styrene ranking upgraded to ‘probably carcinogenic’
Styrene, a key component for many plastics and synthetic rubber, is "probably carcinogenic to humans", according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). An assessment this year by an IARC expert working group said there was now sufficient evidence to change its cancer rating from group 2B – possibly carcinogenic to humans – to 2A, a probable cause of cancer in humans.
Manolis Kogevinas and others. Carcinogenicity of quinoline, styrene, and styrene-7,8-oxide, The Lancet Oncology, volume 19, issue 6, pages 728-729, 2018. Chemical Watch. Daily Mail. Risks 852. 9 June 2018.
Britain: Furniture firm exposed workers to carcinogenic wood dust
A Hertfordshire furniture manufacturer has been fined after exposing its employees to significant quantities of hardwood dust, a hazardous substance known to cause occupational asthma, nasal cancer and which has been linked to lung cancer. Luton Magistrates’ Court heard how employees in Andrena Furniture Ltd’s workshop were exposed to hardwood dust on a daily basis.
HSE news release. ITUC/Hazards work cancer hazards website. Risks 848. 12 May 2018
Britain: Toxic cabin air warning should trigger public inquiry
The recommendations from an inquest into the death of a cabin crew member should be the ‘catalyst’ for a public enquiry, the union Unite has said. The union call came after Berkshire’s senior coroner in the inquest into the death of Matthew Bass, a Unite member and British Airways’ cabin crew, said he would write to the chief coroner asking him to warn all coroners in England and Wales of the need for additional tests where the cause of death could be toxic cabin air on board aircraft.
Unite news release and cabin air campaign. Why Matt died website. Risks 848. 12 May 2018
Global: Day of action against rights and safety violator Samsung
Global electronic giant Samsung has been targeted by safety and labour standards campaigners over its deadly record of abuse. An international day of action against Samsung on 1 May saw the company’s bad practices exposed in Asia, Europe and the United States.
Good Electronics news release. Samsung campaign facebook page.
Modern Technology, Medieval Conditions, an ITUC report on Samsung’s operations worldwide. ITUC multimedia documentary: www.samsungexposed.org. Risks 847. 5 May 2018
Zimbabwe: Tobacco work is harming children
Children and adults who work on Zimbabwe’s tobacco farms are facing serious risks to their health, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has warned. A new report from the organisation says child workers are exposed to nicotine and toxic pesticides, and many suffer symptoms consistent with ‘Green Tobacco Sickness’, nicotine poisoning from handling tobacco leaves.
HRW news release and report, A bitter harvest: Child labor and human rights abuses on tobacco farms in Zimbabwe, April 2018. Risks 844. 14 April 2018
Global: Heart disease risk from lead at very low exposures
Exposure to lead at levels a fraction those permitted in UK workplaces puts workers at a greatly elevated and previously grossly under-estimated risk of deadly heart disease and other health effects, a study has found. The US study that those individuals in the top 10 per cent for their initial blood lead concentration had a 37 per cent increase in all-cause mortality and a 70 per cent increase in cardiovascular disease mortality compared to those with a blood lead concentration falling in the lowest 10 per cent.
BP Lanphear, S Rauch, P Auinger, RW Allen and RW Hornung. Low-level lead exposure and mortality in US adults: a population-based cohort study, The Lancet Public Health, published Online First, 12 March 2018. CNN Health. Exposure to Lead in Great Britain 2016: Medical Surveillance of Blood-Lead Levels in British Workers 2015/16, March 2017. More on the hazards of lead. Risks 842. 24 March 2018
Britain: GMB warning after cleaning health findings
Employers and the government should examine the health risks posed by products used by cleaners, the union GMB has said. The union alert came following a study of 6,000 people by a team from Norway's University of Bergen found that regular exposure to cleaning products significantly effects lung function.
American Thoracic Society news release. Øistein Svanes, Randi J Bertelsen, Stein HL Lygre and others. Cleaning at home and at work in relation to lung function decline and airway obstruction, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, published online 16 February 2018 [abstract]. GMB news releases from London, Eastern and Southern Regions. BBC News Online. Risks 842. 24 March 2018
Britain: Safety warning on nano use in construction
Self-cleaning windows, very high strength concrete and thin, lightweight, super-efficient insulation are among the new construction materials using nanotechnology, and could carry significant risks, new research has suggested. Estimates suggest that by 2025 up to half of new building materials might contain nanomaterials.
IOSH news release and nanotech reports. Construction Enquirer. Risks 832. 13 January 2018
USA: Silica court victory will protect millions
An industry challenge to a new occupational silica rule has been rejected in its entirety by a three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals. Richard Trumka, president of the US national union federation AFL-CIO, said the court ruling was a ‘huge victory’ for working people, adding: “The court rejected industries’ arguments and directed the agency to further consider additional union safety recommendations.”
AFL-CIO news release. EHS Today. Courthouse News and court ruling. Risks 831. 6 January 2018
Britain: Unite guidance on facial hair and breathing protection
Unite has published new guidance to help members negotiate policies around the issue of facial hair and respiratory protective equipment (RPE). It says the guidance is intended to ensure that appropriate measures are put in place to protect members from exposure to hazardous substances.
Beards, stubble and respiratory protective equipment, Unite guidance, 2017. Risks 830. 16 December 2017
Britain: Dust levels at plasterboard firm 20 times the legal limit
A plasterboard recycling company has been fined for exposing workers to dust levels up to 20 times the legal limit. The criminal safety breaches were identified at Plasterboard Recycling Solutions Ltd during a routine Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspection of their premises in Bedfordshire.
HSE news release. Construction Enquirer. Risks 829. 9 December 2017
Europe: Weedkiller glyphosate gets a 5-year reprieve
EU countries have voted to renew the licence of glyphosate, a widely used weedkiller at the centre of a major workplace health and environmental controversy. The proposal at the European Commission's Appeal Committee got 18 votes from countries in favour and nine against, with one abstention, ending months of deadlock.
BBC News Online. Independent Science News.
TUC glyphosate briefing. Risks 828. 2 December 2017
Canada: Firefighters absorb cancer chemicals through skin
Toxic chemicals are putting firefighters at risk of cancer and other diseases, a study of their real-life exposures has shown. “Firefighters had from three to more than five times the amount of metabolites, or by-products of PAHs, in their urine after a fire compared to before the fire,” says Jennifer Keir, senior author of the study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
University of Ottawa news release and video. Jennifer Keir and others. Elevated Exposures to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and Other Organic Mutagens in Ottawa Firefighters Participating in Emergency, On-shift Fire Suppression, Environmental Science & Technology, published online 18 October 2017. The Guardian. Risks 823. 28 October 2017
Britain: Vaping may be as dangerous as cigarettes
E-cigarettes could be as dangerous as normal cigarettes and users could also be prone to unique health problems, a new study has revealed. Dr Mehmet Kesimer, who led the study, said: “Our results suggest that e-cigarettes might be just as bad as cigarettes.”
UNC news release. Boris Reidel and others. E-Cigarette Use Causes a Unique Innate Immune Response in the Lung Involving Increased Neutrophilic Activation and Altered Mucin Secretion, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, published online 20 October 2017. Commons Science and Technology inquiry announcement. The Independent. BBC News Online. Risks 823. 28 October 2017
Sweden: Reducing solvents protects painters and the public purse
Reducing exposure to toxic chemicals pays off by reducing both work-related disability and welfare costs, a new study suggests. The Swedish study concluded “it is reasonable to assume that the decrease in disability pension in neurological disorders is due to a change in the occurrence of neurological diseases and that the decreased use of organic solvents in paints has contributed to this decrease.”
Bengt Järvholm and Alex Burdorf. Effect of reduced use of organic solvents on disability pension in painters, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, volume 74, issue 11, pages 827-829, 2017. Risks 822. 21 October 2017
Global: WHO advice on prevention of ‘environmental’ diseases
A newly released publication from the World Health Organisation (WHO) highlights the ‘special relevance of environmental risks’ for non-communicable diseases (NCDs). WHO presents the burden of NCDs caused by environmental risks – a category that includes occupational risk factors - as well as the many areas where action is needed to reduce the burden.
WHO publication alert and report, Preventing noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) by reducing environmental risk factors. Risks 820. 7 October 2017
Britain: Study warns of crumb rubber health risks
Sports stars, amateur players and ground staff could be at risk as a result of a “remarkable” lack of occupational health checks on the effects of rubber crumb pitches, a study has found. The health of some people who work with surfaces made from recycled tyres – such as production workers, suppliers, installers and maintainers – may also be jeopardised due to inadequate monitoring, the Stirling University research suggests.
Andrew Watterson. Artificial turf: Contested terrains for precautionary public health with particular reference to Europe?, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, volume 14, number 9, 2017. Risks 819. 30 September 2017
Britain: Union warning over toxic diesel exhaust exposures
Legal claims over exposure to diesel exhaust fumes at work are rising as unions raise concerns about toxic air in the workplace. Royal Mail and at least one local authority are among major employers who are being sued over their alleged failure to protect staff from the damaging health effects of diesel pollution from vehicles.
The Guardian. Risks 819. 30 September 2017
Britain: Call for public inquiry into toxic cabin air
Airline cabin crew union Unite has repeated its call for a public inquiry into toxic cabin air, as an international two-day conference on the issue got underway at Imperial College London. The Unite sponsored conference, which is supported by the industry, comes as it emerged that easyJet is to fit cabin air filters to its aircraft.
Unite news release and related release on the easyJet move. Risks 818. 23 September 2017
South Africa: Mining giant’s $101m lung disease contingency
British mining multinational Anglo American has set aside $101 million (£77.5m) to cover potential damages claims from former South African employees who contracted the fatal occupational lung disease silicosis. “We have made an accounting provision within our half year results this morning, acknowledging the progress that is being made towards an agreement as part of the working group of companies in the silicosis litigation in South Africa,” said an Anglo American spokesperson.
Anglo American half year financial report for the six months ended 30 June 2017, including statement on the silicosis set-aside, 27 July 2017. The Citizen. Risks 813. 12 August 2017
Britain: To vape or not to vape at work?
Allowing vaping in the workplace is a bad idea, the TUC has reiterated. The union body clarification came in wake of series of misleading articles in the press suggesting that the government’s Five Year Tobacco Control plan for England released last month supported vaping at work.
TUC Stronger Unions blog and advice on smoke free workplaces. Five Year Tobacco Control plan for England. Public Health England (PHE) advice. Risks 813. 12 August 2017
Korea: Court rules Samsung responsible for MS case
A Korean court has upheld a lower-court declaration that a former Samsung employee’s multiple sclerosis was occupationally caused. It ordered that workers compensation benefits be paid to to Kim Mi-seon, a 37 year-old, former LCD assembler of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. who fell victim to multiple sclerosis.
Stop Samsung. Risks 811. 5 August 2017
Global: The chemicals cover-up
A new report on the history of the collusion between chemical companies and the regulators in the USA over the past hundred years has been published online. Called “The poison papers”, the report shows that both industry and regulators understood the extraordinary toxicity of many chemical products and worked together to conceal this information from the public. There are over 20,000 documents, many of them available for the first time and they show a level of collusion and cover-up that mirrors many of the scandals that have been revealed about the tobacco and drugs industries in recent years.
The poison papers. Risks 811. 5 August 2017
Britain: Workers at risk from Tube nano dusts
Tube union RMT’s concerns about what it believes are dangerous levels of airborne dust in the London Underground system have been confirmed by the company’s own measurements. RMT general secretary Mick Cash commented: “RMT has been raising issues of major concern over the contents of air for a long time.”
RMT news release. Evening Standard. Sunday Times. Risks 808. 15 July 2017
Global: US chipmakers outsourced their toxic problems
Twenty-five years ago, faced with studies highlighting miscarriage and other risks in US computer chip plants and highly critical media coverage, US tech companies pledged to stop using chemicals that caused miscarriages and birth defects. But they didn’t solve the problem, they outsourced it, leaving women overseas to face the risks.
Bloomberg Businessweek. Risks 805. 24 June 2017
Britain: Study links contaminated air on planes to pilot deaths
Contaminated air on planes is a health risk to pilots and crew and could ‘degrade’ flight safety, a new study has found. The research led by the University of Stirling showed a clear link between being exposed to air contaminated by engine oil and other aircraft fluids, and a variety of health problems.
Stirling University news release. Susan Michaelis, Jonathan Burdon and C Vyvyan Howard Aerotoxic syndrome: A new occupational disease?, Public Health Panorama, volume 3, issue 2, pages 198-211, June 2017.
The Guardian. BBC News Online. Evening Standard. Risks 805. 24 June 2017
USA: Industry defends deadly solvent
Seventeen workers dying in the US between 2000 and 2015 isn’t enough to convince the methylene chloride industry that more is needed than just labels on a can to prevent the needless deaths of worker stripping bathtubs. Instead legal representatives of a solvents industry lobby group say the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed ban on methylene chloride – also known as dichloromethane - as a paint stripper is a “blatant and raw power grab” of the authority that Congress gave the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Confined Space blog. Environmental Defense Fund blog. Risks 804. 17 June 201
Korea: ‘Disposable’ worker blinded by Samsung speaks out
A South Korean man who lost his vision in his twenties making Samsung smartphones has testified before a United Nations (UN) committee. Kim Yeong-shin said he lost his sight as a result of exposure to the solvent methanol while working for a Samsung Electronics subcontractor.
Good Electronics news release. The Hankyoreh.
The Blind - A report on methanol poisoning cases in supply chains for Samsung and LG Electronics in Korea, 2017. Risks 804. 17 June 2017
Canada: Report exposes mine silica dust danger
Authorities in a province in eastern Canada has said they will implement 11 recommendations of a study that uncovered widespread dust problems affecting mine workers. The report studied the medical information for 636 people, most of them retired, who worked at Labrador’s Wabush Mines or the Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) mine.
CBC News and related story. The Aurora. 660 News. Risks 802. 3 June 2017
Ireland: Report queries Air Corps staff safety effort
A leaked internal Air Corps report into staff exposure to the cancer-causing degreaser trichloroethylene over a 27-year period has cast doubt on whether the force did all in its power to protect workers’ health. Six workers are pursuing compensation claims and have seen a toxico-pathologist who concluded their illnesses — including cancer, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, and memory loss — were caused by their exposure to harmful chemicals.
Irish Examiner and related story. Risks 802. 3 June 2017
Global: Heart risk warning as inhaled nanoparticles found in blood
Researchers have issued a workplace health warning after a study showed gold nanoparticles can cross from the lungs into the blood, where they accumulate in fatty plaques inside arteries. The study of the effects of these tiny particles on human subjects by UK and Dutch researchers provides further evidence of a link between nanoparticles and cardiovascular disease, the authors warn, and has ‘major implications’ for risk management of engineered nanoparticles in the workplace and wider environment.
Full ACS Nano paper. Chemical Watch. Evening Standard. Risks 800. 20 May 2017
Britain: HSE expert advice lacks crucial intelligence
The Health and Safety Executive’s decision to use only experts from outside the workplace to advise on health hazards on the inside is leaving gaping holes in its intelligence, the TUC has warned. TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson was commented after HSE’s Workplace Health Expert Committee (WHEC), created in 2014, published its first four reports, covering stress, silica, musculoskeletal disorders, and health issues affecting bakers.
TUC Stronger Unions blog. WHEC webpage and reports on stress, silica, musculoskeletal disorders and health issues of bakers. Risks 799. 13 May 2017
Britain: Unite takes action against diesel fumes ‘time bomb’
A major new initiative to protect workers from the ‘ticking time bomb’ caused by exposure to diesel exhaust fumes has been launched by Unite. The union’s new diesel emissions register allows Unite members to record when they have been exposed to excessive diesel exhaust fumes.
Unite news release and emissions register. Client Earth news release. Risks 798. 6 May 2017
Britain: Disinfectant made 22 hospital cleaners sick
Cleaners who fell ill at a Torquay hospital after being exposed to a hazardous disinfectant have been awarded £70,000 in damages. The 22 cleaning staff, all members of the public service union UNISON working for the Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, began using Actichlor seven years ago, and experienced runny eyes, nose sores, and wheezing coughs.
UNISON news release. Devon Live. Risks 793. 25 March 2017
Global: UN experts slam myth that pesticides are necessary
Two United Nations experts are calling for a comprehensive new global treaty to regulate and phase out the use of dangerous pesticides in farming, and move towards sustainable agricultural practices. The report, which is highly critical of the claims made by the pesticide industry, notes: “The assertion promoted by the agrochemical industry that pesticides are necessary to achieve food security is not only inaccurate, but dangerously misleading.”
UN news release. UN OHCHR news release and report. Risks 791. 11 March 2017
Global: Father of airline worker ‘killed by toxic air’ speaks out
The father of a cabin crew worker whose death was linked to exposure to toxic air on aeroplanes has warned cabin crew from more than 40 countries of the dangers. Unite member Matt Bass died in 2014 after returning from a flight to Ghana.
ITF news release. Risks 791. 11 March 2017
Europe: Union ‘victory’ on reproductive and cancer hazards
A key European Parliament committee has backed union calls for tighter rules on reproductive and cancer hazards at work. According to the safety unit on the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), the vote by MEPs was an ‘important victory’ for unions.
European Socialists and Democrats news release. ETUI news report (in French). Risks 790. 4 March 2017
Europe: Industry hijacks official chemical limits process
Experts with industry links dominate a committee advising the European Commission on the occupational exposure limits for hazardous substances, an investigation has found. A report published on 24 February in the French daily newspaper Le Monde revealed that 15 out of the 22 members of the Scientific Committee on Occupational Exposure Limit Values (SCOEL) have ties with companies in sectors likely to be affected by the Commission’s plans to adopt new occupational exposure limits (OELs) for certain carcinogens or mutagens at work.
ETUI news report. Le Monde (in French). Risks 790. 4 March 2017
Europe: Chemicals recognised as human hormone disrupters
A top European Union committee has for the first time recognised chemicals as hormone disrupting for humans. Substances with these endocrine disrupting (EDCs) properties have been linked to cancer, reproductive problems and other health effects.
CHemSec news release. SIN list. Risks 789. 23 February 2017
USA: Farm work cancer risk from pesticide spills
Farmworkers who have a high pesticide exposure event - such as a spill - are more likely to experience molecular changes to their DNA that may lead to prostate and other cancers, according to a large study of pesticide applicators. Environmental Health News reports the research, part of the ongoing US Agricultural Health Study that is monitoring the health of more than 57,000 private and commercial pesticide applicators, adds to growing evidence that high exposure to certain pesticides may spur prostate and other cancers in people handling the chemicals.
Environmental Health News. Work Cancer Hazards blog.
JA Rusiecki and others. High pesticide exposure events and DNA methylation among pesticide applicators in the agricultural health study, Environmental and Molecular Mutagensis, volume 58, number 1, pages 19-29, January 2017. Risks 789. 23 February 2017
European: Coalition calls for glyphosate ban
A European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) is calling for a Europe-wide ban on the toxic pesticide glyphosate. The chemical, which is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Round-Up, the world’s best-selling pesticide, has been linked to cancer and other health effects.
European Citizens’ Initiative ‘Stop Glyphosate’ petition. Risks 788. 18 February 2017
Korea: Samsung job caused multiple sclerosis, court rules
In a ground-breaking judgment, a Seoul court has ruled that the multiple sclerosis suffered by a former worker on the LCD production line at Samsung Electronics is a work-related disease. While cancers and other disorders have been recognised officially at other Samsung plants, the 10 February ruling marks the first work-related disease to be recognised on Samsung’s LCD line.
SHARPS news report. The Hankyoreh. Risks 788. 18 February 2017
Europe: Work chemicals safety inspection blitz to start
An inspection programme by health and safety regulators across the European Union is to determine how legally required safety information on hazardous chemicals is communicated in company supply chains and followed in workplaces. The key element of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) project will be to investigate the quality of the safety data sheets that contain guidelines on the safe use of hazardous substances.
ECHA news release. Risks 783. 14 January 2017
USA: New stricter beryllium limit will save lives
A new rule issued by the US safety regulator OSHA dramatically lowers workplace exposure limit for beryllium. The final rule will reduce the eight-hour permissible exposure limit from the previous level of 2.0 micrograms per cubic metre to 0.2 micrograms per cubic metre; the UK limit remains at a level 10 times higher than the new US limit.
OSHA news release. Risks 783. 14 January 2017
USA: Work with BPA leads to enormous body load
Some workers who make or work with the endocrine-disrupting chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) have levels in their bodies 1,000 times higher than the general public, a study by a US government agency has found. The research led by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found, on average, these workers had 70 times more of the chemical in their bodies than the general public, levels well above what has been shown to affect reproduction.
Work Cancer Hazards blog. NIOSH blog. Environmental Health News.
Cynthia J Hines and others. Urinary bisphenol A (BPA) concentrations among workers in industries that manufacture and use BPA in the USA, Annals of Work Exposures and Health, 1 January 2017. Risks 783. 14 January 2017
USA: Low levels of manganese cause neurological problems
Welders exposed to airborne manganese at levels below official occupational safety limits exhibit neurological problems similar to Parkinson’s disease, a study has warned. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis found the more they are exposed to manganese-containing welding fumes, the faster the workers’ signs and symptoms worsen.
American Association of Neurology news release. Washington University in St. Louis news release. Racette BA, Nielsen SS, Criswell SR, Sheppard L, Seixas N, Warden MN, Checkoway H. Dose-dependent progression of parkinsonism in manganese-exposed welders, Neurology, published online ahead of print 28 December 2016. Risks 782. 7 January 2017
Europe: Endocrine disruptors are an occupational risk
A new guide from the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) evaluates research findings on the health consequences of workers being exposed to chemical substances with potentially harmful effects on the endocrine [hormonal] system. The 72-page guide is intended for union representatives and aims “to raise the awareness of union officials and political decision-makers to this largely unrecognised public and workplace health risk.”
Endocrine disruptors: an occupational risk in need of recognition, ETUI, 2016. ETUI publication alert. Risks 781. 17 December 2016.
Britain: Exhaust exposure caused post traumatic stress
An ambulance worker who developed a psychiatric condition after she was poisoned by carbon monoxide from a faulty vehicle exhaust has been awarded £280,000 in damages by the High Court. Solo responder Diane Kennedy developed post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) aster an undetected fault on her vehicle's exhaust system caused harmful fumes to leak into the driver’s compartment.
BBC News Online. The Mirror. Risks 781. 17 December 2016.
Britain: New kitchen fashion is a killer
“Stone” worktops in kitchens are becoming very fashionable in Britain, yet how many people know that they are killing the workers who make or install them? TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson said he was made aware of the problem when he met with a lung consultant, who “mentioned that half of all lung transplants in Israel are due to work with engineered stone.”
TUC Stronger Unions blog. More on the UK’s inadequate exposure standard for silica. Risks 781. 17 December 2016
Europe: ‘Manufacture of a lie’ on endocrine disruptors
The European Commission has been accused of ‘manufacturing a lie’ to avoid tighter regulation of a group of chemicals linked to cancer, reproductive and other health effects. “This should be a science-based procedure – so evidence-based policy-making,” said Axel Singhofen, an adviser to the Greens-European Free Alliance in the European Parliament. “But what we see here is policy-based evidence-making.”
Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) translation of 29 November 2016 article from Le Monde. Risks 780. 10 December 2016
USA: Watchdog nips in with pre-Trump chemical action
In a last minute flurry of activity, the US regulator charged with ushering into effect a new chemical safety law, has named the first 10 chemicals – including asbestos – it has selected for risk evaluations. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announcement was the first major benchmark established by Congress when it passed sweeping changes earlier this year to the Toxic Substances Control Act.
EPA news release. The Pump Handle blog. Risks 779. 3 December 2016
Britain: Ejector seat firm harmed its workers’ lungs
An Uxbridge manufacturer of ejector seats has been fined £800,000 after three workers developed debilitating lung conditions. The skilled CNC machine operators at Martin Baker Aircraft Company Limited developed extrinsic allergic alveolitis (EAA) after many years of exposure to metalworking fluid, used as a coolant and lubricant when machining metal.
HSE news release and metalworking webpages. Risks 779. 3 December 2016
Australia: Diesel exhaust linked to lung cancer in miners
Diesel exhaust exposures are causing high rates of fatal lung cancers in underground miners, according to a new study. Researchers found underground miners would have 38 extra lung cancer deaths per 1,000 males; above-ground mine workers were found to face a lower but still elevated risk of about 5.5 additional lung cancer deaths per 1,000 workers.
Susan Peters and others. Estimation of quantitative levels of diesel exhaust exposure and the health impact in the contemporary Australian mining industry, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, published online first, 15 November 2016. Work Cancer Hazards blog. Risks 778. 26 November 2016
Britain: Make sure work exposure standards measure up
A new guide to occupational hygiene for union health and safety representatives has been published jointly by the TUC and the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS). The report points out that 99 per cent of work-related deaths each year are the result of occupational diseases, with injuries contributing just 1 per cent to the occupational death toll.
TUC publication notice. BOHS news release. Occupational hygiene explained: A guide for union health and safety representatives, TUC/BOHS, November 2016. Risks 778. 26 November 2016
Global: Electronics industry urged to act on chemical safety
How far the production standards developed by the electronics industry fall short of expectations set by experts in occupational health and safety have been exposed by two key international campaign groups. The GoodElectronics Network and the International Campaign for Responsible Technology (IRCT) have launched an online Chemical Challenge Gap Analysis to chronicle the shortfall.
GoodElectronics news release and Chemical Challenge Gap Analysis. ICRT website. Risks 777. 19 November 2016
Britain: Chemical firm fined £3m for chemical blast death
A chemical company has been fined £3 million after worker Paul Doyley was killed in a chemical explosion and a colleague was left with irreversible lung damage. Cristal Pigment UK Ltd had deviated from the normal operating procedures, which led to the dangerous build-up of the chemical titanium tetrachloride.
HSE news release. Grimsby Telegraph. Scunthorpe Telegraph. BBC News Online. Risks 777. 19 November 2016
USA: Top hospital faces black lung class action
One of America’s most renowned medical centres - The Johns Hopkins Hospital - intentionally defrauded hundreds of sick coal miners out of compensation and health benefits while pocketing large sums from coal companies, according to a class action lawsuit filed by the families of two coal miners who died of black lung disease. The lawsuit, which also targets a long-time doctor at the Baltimore hospital, centres around a unit of radiologists who for decades provided coal companies x-ray readings that almost always said the miner didn't have black lung, helping the companies avoid paying benefits under a programme administered by the federal government.
Centre for Public Integrity. Class action lawsuit against Johns Hopkins. Risks 776. 12 November 2016.
Britain: IARC scientists defend glyphosate cancer ranking
The World Health Organisation (WHO) agency that labelled the world’s most widely used herbicide a probable cause of cancer in humans has hit back after the agrichemical industry responded with a savage attack on its science and funding. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) panel of scientists made the evaluation on glyphosate, the chief ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup brand, in March last year.
IARC statement. CropLife America statement. Huffington Post.
TUC glyphosate briefing. Risks 776. 12 November 2016.
Britain: BA accused of ‘downplaying’ toxic fume events
Unite has warned British Airways against downplaying harmful fume events on aircraft by reclassifying them as ‘odour events’. The union says the company’s ‘spin’ could mean the true number of fume incidents across the airline industry is ‘far higher’ than thought.
Unite news release and fume event register. CBC News. The Mirror. Risks 776. 12 November 2016.
Europe: Commission challenged over approval for toxin
The European Commission is facing a new legal challenge on its decision to authorise the use in paint of a chemicals that are neurotoxic and carcinogenic. ClientEarth, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), The International Chemical Secretariat (ChemSec) and International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN), are questioning the legality of a Commission decision that permits Canadian firm Dominion Colour Corporation to supply red and yellow lead chromate pigments in the EU.
ChemSec news release and Request for internal review – lead chromate – official document. Risks 775. 5 November 2016
Canada: Powder given to miners linked to brain disease
Thousands of Canadian miners deliberately exposed to aluminium dust that was supposed to protect their lungs may have developed brain and respiratory disease as a result. As many as 20,000 miners were exposed to a dust called McIntyre powder – the gold and uranium miners were told the powder would coat their lungs and prevent them from contracting deadly silicosis.
Sudbury Star. McIntyre Powder Project. Risks 771. 8 October 2016
Britain: Have your say on chemical safety rules
Union safety reps should make sure the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) knows how important strong, effective chemical regulations are at work, the TUC has said. The union body wants union reps to make their views heard in an HSE review of the current chemicals regulations ahead of an 18 October deadline.
Hazardous substances in the workplace - review of regulations: Complete the HSE chemicals regulations survey. Risks 679. 24 September 2016.
Britain: Artificial enzymes are ‘potent allergens’ at work
Genetically modified enzymes used to create flavourings and aromas and boost the power of cleaning products and medicines, are “potent allergens” that can immediately sensitise those occupationally exposed to them, researchers have found. A paper published online in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine warns as yet there are no commercially available diagnostic tests to monitor the potential health risk posed by these new enzymes.
Lygia T Budnik and others. Sensitising effects of genetically modified enzymes used in flavour, fragrance, detergence and pharmaceutical production: cross-sectional study, Occupational & Environmental Medicine, online first 22 September 2016. Risks 679. 24 September 2016.
USA: Industries queue up to defend their toxins
A new US chemical safety law has triggered an immediate response from chemical producers – a helter-skelter rush to ensure their favourites are the back of the queue for official scrutiny. The Frank R Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act for the 21st Century, passed into law in June this year, gave the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority needed to evaluate and regulate the tens of thousands of commercial chemicals it oversees in the US.
Senator Barbara Boxer’s news release. The Pump Handle blog. EPA webpage. Risks 768. 17 September 2016.
Europe: EC favours industry lobby over public health
Regulators in Europe are continuing to put the interests of the chemical industry above the health of workers and the wider public, food and farming global union IUF has said. “These measures confirm the EU's ongoing retreat from the precautionary principle, sustainable agricultural practices (under which pesticide applications are a last resort) and a hazards-based approach to protecting worker and consumer health and the environment,” it said.
IUF news release. PAN Europe statement. Risks 767. 10 September 2016
Britain: Chemical regulation drives safety improvements
Regulations are ‘critical drivers’ encouraging industry to substitute hazardous chemicals, a new study has found. Joel Tickner and Molly Jacobs from the Lowell Centre for Sustainable Production at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, concluded the biggest hindrances are too few staff and resources focused on substitution, ignorance on safer alternatives and limited information in the supply chains.
ECHA news release and report, Improving the identification, evaluation, adoption and development of safer alternatives: Needs and opportunities to enhance substitution efforts within the context of REACH, September 2016. University of Massachusetts, Lowell Centre for Sustainable Production and Toxics Use Reduction Institute. Risks 767. 10 September 2016
USA: Whopping lies by coal industry on the cost of new rules
The US coal industry’s ‘wild exaggerations’ about the anticipated costs of a proposed tighter coal dust exposure standard have been exposed, five years after the law took effect. George Washington University academic Celeste Monforton described the industry estimates as ‘a doozy’ in a world of industry costs hiking replete with doozies.
The Pump Handle. Risks 764. 20 August 2016
Britain: Herbal medicine firm fined after cleaning chemicals death
A herbal medicine company has been fined £45,000 after a cleaner died from inhaling toxic fumes while working at a Rutland factory. Karl Brader was employed by Herbs in a Bottle Limited in Essendine, is believed to have been killed by chlorine gas, produced when common cleaning chemicals are mixed with bleach.
HSE news release and COSHH toolbox. Lincolnshire Echo. Leicester Mercury. Risks 764. 20 August 2016
Global: Car giants linked to child mica miners
Some of the world’s biggest car makers including Vauxhall, BMW, Volkswagen and Audi are launching investigations into their paint supply chains after the Guardian linked their suppliers to illegal mines in India, where child labour and debt bondage are widespread. Children as young as 10 work at mines producing mica, a mineral that creates the shimmer in the car paint used on millions of vehicles around the world.
The Guardian. Risks 762. 6 August 2016
Britain: Toxic gas kills medicinal herbs worker
A medicinal herbal manufacturing company has been fined after a worker died from exposure to a toxic gas. Leicester Crown Court heard Karl Brader, 50, was working for Herbs in a Bottle Limited and was using cleaning chemicals to clean a changing room when he was exposed to a toxic gas – thought to be chlorine - and died at the scene.
HSE news release and COSHH webpages. Risks 762. 6 August 2016
USA: Illnesses blamed on toxic coal ash exposures
Dozens of lawsuits are pending in the US as a result of a December 2008 dam collapse in Tennessee which saw workers exposed to clouds of toxic coal ash. An army of clean-up workers were drafted in after a dyke failure unleashed a billion gallons of ash from a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) power plant 36 miles south-west of Knoxville.
Center for Public Integrity investigative report. Risks 761. 30 July 2016
Britain: Plastics firm fined for toxic styrene exposures
A manufacturing company has been fined for criminal health and safety failures that exposed workers to a highly toxic chemical for almost two years after the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) first told it to act. South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court heard how South Shields-based Templetown Canopies Limited used styrene in their production of fibre glass door and window canopies.
HSE news release and plastics webpages. Risks 761. 30 July 2016
Global: WHO guide to the public health impact of chemicals
Chemical exposures are causing a public health catastrophe claiming over a million lives worldwide each year, a World Health Organisation (WHO) report has concluded. ‘The public health impact of chemicals: knowns and unknowns’, produced by the UN body’s International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS), estimates that 1.3 million lives and 43 million disability-adjusted life-years were lost in 2012 due to exposures to selected chemicals.
The public health impact of chemicals: knowns and unknowns, WHO, 2016. International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS). Risks 758. 9 June 2016
Australia: Tougher controls needed 'to prevent black lung'
Tougher coal dust monitoring standards in Australian mines are urgently needed to prevent miners from developing black lung, medical experts have warned. A clinical focus on the condition, published in the latest edition of Medical Journal of Australia and written by experts in chronic lung disease, warned Australian coal dust exposure limits are not meeting international standards and should be more stringent to eradicate black lung, or coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP).
Graeme R Zosky and others. Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis: an Australian perspective, Medical Journal of Australia, volume 204, number 11, pages 414-418, June 2016. Channel 9 News. Risks 756. 25 June 2016
Europe: Proposals on endocrine disruptors criticised
Groups advocating for greater control over endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) – a range of common substances linked to cancer, reproductive and other adverse health effects – have said European Commission (EC) proposals “will do nothing to protect human health.” The proposed criteria on EDCs were announced on 16 June by EC Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, after three years of intense debate and industry lobbying which stalled progress.
Alliance for Cancer Prevention statement. EDC Free Europe Coalition statement. ChemSec news release. European Commission proposals, and full communication and related documentation. Risks 756. 25 June 2016
Canada: Union action on chemical sensitivity
A long-running campaign on multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS) by Canadian public service union PSAC has seen the addition of a new video. In the workplace, PSAC has used human rights and disability laws to require employers to accommodate affected workers.
PSAC news release and video, Demystifying Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. Risks 755. 18 June 2016
Europe: Glyphosate reauthorisation stalled
Strong mobilisation by a coalition of citizen groups including trade unions has succeeded in temporarily blocking renewed EU authorisation of glyphosate, the world's most widely-used herbicide and the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup. Food and farming global union IUF said the European Commission and national governments “are manoeuvring between pressure from the agrochemical lobby, organised in the Glyphosate Task Force, and a popular insurgency which shows no signs of going away.”
IUF news release. Risks 755. 18 June 2016
Britain: Retired moulder developed serious dust disease
A former moulder has been compensated after exposure to silica dust at work caused him to develop breathing problems. The Unite member was awarded an undisclosed settlement on a provisional damages basis so that his case could be reopened if he developed another chronic silica related condition, for example the debilitating lung scarring disease silicosis.
Thompsons Solicitors news release. Peterborough Today. Risks 755. 18 June 2016
India: Quartz workers breathe the dust of death
For impoverished migrant workers in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, the quartz crushing industry of Godhra provides an escape from debt. It also generates clouds of white dust, crystalline silica, the cause of the incurable occupational lung disease, silicosis.
Indian Express. Risks 752. 28 May 2016
South Africa: Gold miners can sue over deadly silicosis
Former gold miners in South Africa can go ahead with a class action against mining companies over health damage they believe was caused by exposure to silica at work, a court in Johannesburg has ruled. The high court decision paves the way for what would become the largest class action in South African history.
COSATU news release. BBC News Online. Risks 751. 21 May 2016
Global: Unions call on EU to halt glyphosate approval
Plantation and farming unions in six African countries - Cameroon, Ethiopia, Liberia, Malawi, Nigeria and Zambia - have lent their support to the campaign to halt glyphosate reauthorisation in the European Union. In communications to EU heads of state and the relevant EU authorities, the unions have pointed to the risks from agrochemicals their members confront on a daily basis, often in situations where there is no protective clothing, no proper chemical labelling, no training and no labour inspection.
IUF news release and ban glyphosate campaign. Risks 751. 21 May 2016
Global: Too much dust disease, too little action
The contribution of exposures to dust and fumes at work to a major lung disease killer is higher than previously estimated, top occupational health researchers have warned. They add that the idea that some exposures at work are ‘nuisance dust’ suggests widespread complacency about the occupational risks of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the bronchitis and emphysema linked to thousands of work-related deaths in the UK alone each year.
Paul D Blanc and Kjell Torén, Editorial. COPD and occupation: resetting the agenda, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, volume 73, pages 357-358, June 2016 [abstract].
Resources: TUC dust in the workplace guide [pdf]. Dust up! If you want to breathe easy at work, be a nuisance on dust, Hazards magazine. Risks 751. 21 May 2016
USA: Pesticides linked to deadly nerve disease
Exposure to pesticides could affect the chances that a person will develop amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, new research has found. There is no cure for this rapidly progressive motor neuron disease, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
Feng-Chiao Su and others. Association of environmental toxins with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, JAMA Neurology, published online first, 9 May 2016.
Jacquelyn J Cragg, Merit E Cudkowicz, Marc G Weisskopf, Editorial: The role of environmental toxins in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Risk, JAMA Neurology, published online first, 9 May 2016. Risks 750. 14 May 2016
Europe: Anger at EC inaction on nanomaterials
The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) says the decision by the European Commission to set up an EU Observatory for nanomaterials, instead of a Register, fails to protect workers from health risks and does not contribute in any way to the traceability of nanomaterials, and the transparency and accountability of industry. “Workers have a right to know what they are handling and being exposed to,” said Esther Lynch, ETUC confederal secretary.
ETUC news release. Risks 748. 30 April 2016.
Global: Good ventilation needed for desktop 3D printers
A new study shows that desktop 3D printers release produce airborne nanoparticles that should be controlled to avoid hazardous exposures. A study by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH) and the University of Helsinki had confirmed nanoparticles are emitted into the air when printers are used.
FIOH news release. Risks 747. 23 April 2016
Britain: Chemicals can hurt wherever you work
You don’t have to work in the chemical industry to be harmed by chemicals at work, two 59-year-old Unite members have found to their cost. One was sprayed with bromine and suffered serious burns, the other exposed to a concrete-curing chemical which aggravated childhood asthma, which had not affected his health since he was 10-years-old.
Thompsons Solicitors news releases on the acid burns and chemical fumes settlements. Risks 747. 23 April 2016
Britain: Unite launches lead exposure register
Concerns over exposure to lead at work have led the union Unite to create an exposure register to track members who may have been at risk from the potent nerve poison, which is also linked to kidney and brain damage and cancer. The union says information in this Lead Exposure Register will be used to assist in pursuing personal injury claims for affected workers, to identify members who were employed by the same company or at the same site and may have been exposed and to trace witnesses who can assist with claims.
Unite news release. Risks 747. 23 April 2016
France: Some glyphosate weedkillers to be banned
France's health and safety agency has decided to ban weedkillers that combine the chemicals glyphosate and tallowamine because of concerns over possible health risks. The ANSES agency has sent a letter to manufacturers informing them that it intends to withdraw the authorisation for such products, said Francoise Weber, the watchdog’s deputy director-general.
AgWeek. Sign the IUF/PAN letter to Vytenis Andriukaitis, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety; Donald Tusk, President of the European Council; and Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament. Risks 746. 16 April 2016
Global: Greenpeace puts its chemical detox research online
A campaign by environmental group Greenpeace “for a toxic-free future where hazardous chemicals are no longer produced, used and dumped into our environment” was behind its decision to create a large and growing ‘chemical detox’ database. The two year project has resulted in a database already including entries on over 17,000 substances.
Greenpeace blog. Greenpeace Detox Campaign Chemical Investigation database and executive summary. Risks 746. 16 April 2016
Britain: Worker suffers chemical burns at electropolishing firm
An electropolishing company based in Hampshire has been fined after a worker suffered chemical burns. Basingstoke Magistrates’ Court heard how Keith Brown, a 51-year-old worker at Poligrat (UK) Limited, was told by his manager to dispose of waste cleaning chemicals at their Aldershot site.
HSE news release and COSHH toolbox. Risks 746. 16 April 2016
Europe: Ban glyphosate, get off the pesticide treadmill
Campaigners have said the European Commission must be stopped from proceeding with the renewed authorisation in the European Union of the toxic herbicide glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup and the world's most widely-used herbicide. The demand from the global food and farming union IUF and Pesticide Action Network (PAN) International, comes as renewed authorisation is being pushed through despite an International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) warning last year that glyphosate is probably carcinogenic to humans and other evidence of the impact of glyphosate on food and health.
IUF news alert. Sign the IUF/PAN letter to Vytenis Andriukaitis, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety; Donald Tusk, President of the European Council; and Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament. Risks 745. 9 April 2016
Europe: Time to ban glyphosate, says IUF
A move to approve the continued use of the toxic herbicide glyphosate in Europe has become the topic of a high profile tussle involving member states, citizens groups, environmental campaigners and unions. Global food and farming union federation IUF said “additional pressure is needed to ensure that the European Commission does not cut a deal with the corporate agrochemical giants which would keep Europe locked into the deadly spiral of increasing pesticide applications for another fifteen years.”
IUF briefing. ENVI news release. Risks 744. 2 April 2016
Britain: Syngenta fined £200,000 for toxic pesticide release
Chemical giant Syngenta has been fined £200,000 after tonnes of a potentially deadly weedkiller was released from a defective vessel at its Huddersfield plant. Kevin Slack, prosecuting, said when a worker moved a handle he was immediately sprayed with paraquat dichloride (PDC) on his face and upper body - he told the court ingesting one or two teaspoons of paraquat dichloride could be fatal.
HSE news release. The Examiner. Risks 744. 2 April 2016
Global: On silica, US does what HSE says can’t be done
The US government has gone where the UK had refused to go, introducing new rules to sharply reduce workplace exposures to silica. The 24 March 2016 move by the US Labor Department means the US will halve the occupational exposure standard from the level it currently shares with the UK, 0.1mg/m³, to 0.05mg/m³ - HSE has argued the lower level now being introduced in the US is neither achievable nor practically measurable, issues raised in extensive US government hearings on the draft standard and dismissed comprehensively over two years ago.
Department of Labor news release and US final silica rule website. Finalised rule on the Federal Register. National COSH statement. APHA statement. NELP statement. Public Citizen news release. New York Times. National Public Radio. Risks 744. 2 April 2016
India: Unilever settles with poisoned workers
A 15-year struggle to secure compensation for hundreds of mercury poisoned former employees of Hindustan Unilever in India has ended in victory. The settlement between the company, part of the UK-headquartered multinational Unilever, and 591 former mercury workers from its thermometer factory in Kodaikanal was described by activists as an ‘unprecedented victory’ in a campaign that has attracted international support.
Hindustan Unilever news release. Kodaikanal campaign news release. Risks 743. 19 March 2016
Global: Industry funded studies deliver dangerously biased results
Occupational and environmental health studies with industry funding are more than four times as likely to report negative results, an analysis of hundreds of scientific papers has found. Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health also identified a ‘dose-response’ effect, meaning the greater the industry backing the greater the likelihood the study would find nothing to worry about.
Lee Friedman and Michael Friedman. Financial Conflicts of Interest and Study Results in Environmental and Occupational Health Research, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, volume 58, issue 3, pages 238–247, March 2016 [abstract]. Risks 743. 19 March 2016
Britain: Toxic cabin air legal cases rise sharply
The number of legal cases against UK airlines on behalf of cabin crew exposed to ‘toxic cabin air’ has increased dramatically. Unite says concern has been mounting over ‘fume events’ and exposure to contaminated aircraft cabin air, with the number of legal cases being pursued the union increasing from 17 to 61 in recent months.
Unite news release. Risks 743. 19 March 2016
South Africa: Gold miners win landmark silicosis scheme
Former South African gold miners and relatives of deceased ex-miners have reached a landmark settlement in their long-running legal battle against Anglo American South Africa Ltd and AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. The 4,365 claimants sued the mining companies for the dust-related lung diseases, silicosis and silico-tuberculosis, which they claim resulted from working in unsafe, dusty conditions in the mines.
Leigh Day Solicitors. Risks 742. 12 March 2016
USA: Uranium workers dying of neglect
The towns of Grants and Church Rock in New Mexico were ground zero for US uranium mining from the mid-1950s until the early 1980s. But years, sometimes decades, after labouring in the mines and mills, workers developed the hallmark diseases associated with uranium exposure.
In These Times. Risks 742. 12 March 2016
Britain: HSE criticised for occupational hygiene stance
The Health and Safety Executive’s developing approach to occupational hygiene – the measurement of exposures to chemicals, dust and other exposures at work – has come in for scathing criticism. Hans Kromhout, based at Utrecht University’s Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, said he was ‘amazed’ to hear an HSE presentation on ‘hygiene without numbers’, noting: “‘Hygiene Without Numbers’ comes with a price and we all know who will have to pick up the bill.”
Hans Kromhout. Commentary: Hygiene without numbers, Annals of Occupational Hygiene, published online ahead of print, 2016. doi:10.1093/annhyg/mev096 Risks 742. 12 March 2016
Australia: Union wins black lung public inquiry
An Australian union campaign to ‘Make Black Lung History’ has taken a big step forward with the announcement of a public inquiry into the devastating occupational lung disease. Tony Maher, president of the union CFMEU’s mining and energy division, said he was now confident there would soon be a solution to the growing health crisis.
CFMEU news release and Dust to dust: Make black lung history campaign. Risks 740. 27 February 2016
Europe: Chemical rules pay for companies
Chemical safety rules are not a burden on businesses, but deliver a substantial net benefit, a new report has concluded. ‘The bigger picture’, published by the chemical safety think tank ChemSec, concludes chemical regulation creates opportunities for many progressive companies and shows these companies are not only opting for safer chemicals, but are finding the alternatives are frequently better too.
ChemSec news release and full report, The bigger picture: Assessing economic aspects of chemicals substitution, ChemSec, February 2016. BBC News Online. Risks 740. 27 February 2016
Global: Study confirms aircraft fumes risks
Union warnings about the dangers of toxic chemicals inside aircraft have been borne out by a new scientific study. Research carried out in Germany has confirmed flight attendants and passengers are exposed to toxins in cabin air.
Thompsons Solicitors news release. Unite keep cabin crew safe campaign. Risks 740. 27 February 2016
USA: ‘Rented’ scientists defend toxic chemicals
‘Rented white coats’ – scientists in the pay of vested interests – are defending toxic chemicals with horrific consequences for the workers these substances make ill. A ‘Science for sale’ investigation by the Washington DC based Center for Public Integrity (CPI) found industry-backed research has exploded “as government-funded science dwindles. Its effects are felt not only in courtrooms but also in regulatory agencies that issue rules to try to prevent disease.”
CPI investigative report. Risks 738. 13 February 2016.
USA: E-recyclers take lead home to the kids
In 2009, when Anthony Harrell accepted a $10-an-hour job at an electronics scrap recycling facility in Cincinnati, he was happy to have found work that he liked and that would let him provide for his wife and two children. But Harrell didn’t know that when he went home his kids would inadvertently come in contact with the lead contaminating his hair, skin and clothes, suffering lead related mental problems as a result. Huffington Post. Risks 738. 13 February 2016.
Britain: Chemical giant fined for dangerous gas release
Multinational chemical producer, Solvay Solutions UK Limited, has been fined after a dangerous gas was released to the atmosphere causing disruption to the M5 and thousands of homes nearby. Warley Magistrates’ Court heard how the uncontrolled release put both employees and members of the public at risk.
HSE news release and COSHH webpages. Risks 738. 13 February 2016.
DRC: Kids mine the cobalt used in smartphones
Children as young as seven are working in perilous conditions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to mine cobalt that ends up in smartphones, cars and computers sold by household brands including Apple, Samsung and Sony, according to an investigation by Amnesty International. The human rights group claims to have traced cobalt used in lithium batteries sold to 16 multinational brands to mines where young children and adults are being paid a dollar a day, working in life-threatening conditions and subjected to violence, extortion and intimidation.
Amnesty International news release, video and report, This is what we die for: Human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo power the global trade in cobalt. The Guardian. BBC News Online. Risks 735. 23 January 2016
Britain: Worker suffered cement burns on first day
Building products manufacturer Stressline Limited has been fined after an agency worker suffered serious cement burns on his first day of work. Leicester Magistrates’ Court heard how the inexperienced 21-year-old – on his first day of full-time employment – was exposed to alkaline cement slurry while standing in a drainage pit.
HSE news release and cement hazards factsheet. Risks 735. 23 January 2016
Global: Textile dust linked to rheumatoid arthritis
Occupational exposure to textile dust is associated with almost three times the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, according to new research published online in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. The research, which led the authors to call for better control of dust in the textiles industry, also linked exposure to genetic changes that hasten progression of the disease.
BMJ news release. Chun Lai Too and others. Occupational exposure to textile dust increases the risk of rheumatoid arthritis: results from a Malaysian population-based case-control study, Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, 14 January 2016. doi 10.1136/annrheumdis-2015-208278 Risks 735. 23 January 2016
Global: Prevention of cancer ‘demonstrably’ works
A greater emphasis on prevention of cancers would reap considerable benefits, the director of the UN’s cancer agency has said. Christopher Wild, who heads the International Agency for Research on Cancer, said figures vary, “but one can safely estimate that 40 to 50 per cent of cancers could be prevented if the accumulated knowledge about causes could be translated into effective primary prevention.”
Christopher Wild. Precision in the fight against the global cancer problem, Health Management, volume 15, issue 4, 2015. IARC monographs and prevention guides.
ITUC/Hazards work cancer hazards. Risks 734. 16 January 2016
Britain: UK not pulling its weight on worst chemicals
Despite being a major player in global chemicals production, the UK is showing little interest in efforts to control the most dangerous substances, a new report suggests. A report from the European Environment Bureau (EEB), reveals the UK government has only proposed two Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC), chemicals including carcinogens and reproductive toxins targeted for phase-out.
CHEM Trust news report. EEB news release. A Roadmap to Revitalise REACH, EEB, December 2015. Health and Safety Executive online document on ‘Selecting substances to propose for authorisation, restriction, evaluation or harmonised classification and labelling’. ECHA SVHC webpages. Risks 734. 16 January 2016
USA: Tighter silica exposure standard ‘in sight’
The Obama administration in the US is moving forward with long-delayed rules intended to protect workers from potentially deadly exposures to silica dust. The Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) confirmed on 21 December 2015 that it had sent the rules to the White House for final approval, a step that comes after years of delays.
In These Times. Politico. Silica, part 2: A line in the sand, Hazards, number 127, 2014. Silica, part 1: Dust to dust: Deadly silica standard is killing UK workers, Hazards, number 126, 2014. Risks 733. 9 January 2016
Europe: Commission breached law on endocrine disrupters
The European Court of Justice has ruled that the European Commission has not been quick enough in identifying and banning potentially harmful ‘endocrine disrupting’ chemicals, linked to cancer, reproductive and other adverse health effects. The December 2015 ruling came in a case brought by Sweden on behalf of the Nordic states.
EU Court news release. ClientEarth news release. Swedish government news release. ChemSec news report. BBC News Online. Risks 733. 9 January 2016
USA: Construction causes chronic lung disease
Many cases of a debilitating lung disease in construction workers that is commonly attributed to smoking could be caused by their jobs, a study had found. The union backed US Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) and researchers from Duke University found workplace exposures to an unhealthy combination of vapours, gases, dusts and fumes (VGDF) accounted for nearly one in five chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) cases.
CPWR news report and research summary. Risks 731. 5 December 2015
Australia: Union anger as black lung returns
Four Australian coal miners have been diagnosed with pneumoconiosis or ‘black lung’ - a potentially fatal disease thought to have been eradicated in Australia more than 60 years ago. The mining union CFMEU said it fears the cases, all the state of Queensland, could be ‘just the tip of the iceberg’, with hundreds, possibly thousands of workers potentially at risk.
CFMEU news release. ABC News and related story. Yahoo7 News. Risks 731. 5 December 2015
Britain: Cement burns left site worker in hospital
A Salford construction firm has been fined after a 54-year-old employee suffered severe cement burns to his knees while laying concrete flooring. Sefton Magistrates’ Court heard that on the 26 November 2014, an employee of DLP Services (Northern) Limited, knelt in wet concrete and suffered cement burns to both his knees resulted in 12 days hospitalisation and ongoing treatment.
HSE news release and cement hazards webpage. Construction Enquirer. Risks 731. 5 December 2015
Britain: Stone masonry boss ignored health advice
The owner of a stone masonry company has been fined after exposing his workforce to serious health risks from silica and vibration. Despite receiving previous advice from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on the control of health risks posed by silica and vibration, Thomas Bushby failed to act, the regulator said.
HSE news release and stone masonry webpages. Construction Enquirer. Risks 730. 28 November 2015
Britain: Roofing firm fined for exposing workers to lead
A Gloucestershire roofing company has pleaded guilty to criminal health and safety neglect after workers were exposed to highly toxic lead. Worcester Magistrates’ Court was told that during a routine Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspection, the company was observed carrying out replacement lead work on a roof in Worcester.
HSE news release. More on the hazards of occupational exposure to lead. Risks 728. 14 November 2015
France: Pesticides blamed for cancer ‘homicide'
The French wine industry's attachment to routine pesticide use is coming under increased scrutiny over concerns about its health impacts. In June this year, the French criminal court launched the unprecedented inquiry into a lung cancer victim's “involuntary homicide”, officially recognised as being linked to his profession in 2011.
The Guardian. Earlier coverage in The Telegraph. CBC News. Risks 727. 7 November 2015
Britain: Director fined over chemical tank death
A company run by a former Dundee Football Club director has been fined £50,000 after one of its workers was overcome by toxic fumes and died in a chemical tank. Diamond Wheels (Dundee) Ltd, owned and operated by Paul Marr, admitted a catalogue of criminal health and safety failings over the death of Steven Conway at its premises in the city.
HSE news release. STV News. The Courier. Risks 727. 7 November 2015
Europe: Move to ban some chemical use in clothes
The European Commission is considering far more stringent controls on the use of substances in consumer goods that are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction (CMRs). The Commission, which on 22 October launched a consultation on the proposals, will look into a possible ban on 291 hazardous substances – including certain phthalates, flame retardants and pigments.
ENDS news report. ChemSec news report. The European Commission public consultation. UPI news report. Risks 726. 31 October 2015.
USA: Chemical industry ‘blowing smoke' on self-regulation
Chemical industry claims that its ‘Responsible Care' self-regulation programme is protecting the public are untrue, new research has indicated. ‘Blowing Smoke', a report and interactive map released by the Center for Effective Government (CEG), warns that a “significant number of chemical manufacturing facilities are endangering workers and the environment, despite what the chemical industry tells policymakers, regulators, and the American public.”
Center for Effective Government news release and full report, Blowing Smoke: Chemical companies say “Trust us,” but environmental and workplace safety violations belie their rhetoric. Risks 726. 31 October 2015.
Britain: Deadly silica exposures are not being controlled
Companies are continuing to expose workers to excessive levels of silica dust, which can cause deadly cancers and lung diseases, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has admitted. HSE this week urged the stone industry to do more to protect workers' health after an inspection initiative in the south of England found a failure to control the potentially lethal dust was commonplace, with many not knowing the exposure standard had been tightened nearly a decade ago.
HSE news release and stonemasonry webpages. Risks 726. 31 October 2015.
Global: UN network backs chemical risk reduction
A United Nations (UN) convened network has agreed on a plan that could prevent the annual deaths of more than one million people exposed to toxic chemicals. More than 800 participants, including government ministers, industry, union and civil society leaders, hammered out a strategy to reduce risks from chemicals at the International Conference on Chemicals Management, a weeklong UN Environment Programme event that ended on 2 October.
IPEN news release and video, The true costs of the chemical industry's products. PAN news release. VOA News. Fourth Session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management: Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) report.
Supporting SAICM implementation through fighting toxic work: Unions for a sustainable management of chemicals, Sustainlabour/ITUC, September 2015. Related video. ICCM4. Risks 723. 10 October 2015
Global: New union tools to fight toxic work
Occupational exposures to chemical hazards – and how to identify them and avoid them – is the topic of new resources launched this week at a major international conference. The fourth session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM4), which started in Geneva on 28 September, considered next steps towards a previously agreed 2020 goal of ensuring all chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimise significant adverse impacts on human health and the environment.
Supporting SAICM implementation through fighting toxic work: Unions for a sustainable management of chemicals, Sustainlabour/ITUC, September 2015. Related video. ICCM4.
Related video resource: The true costs of the chemical industry's products, IPEN, September 2015. Risks 722. 3 October 2015
USA: New pesticides rules to protect farmworkers
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released updated rules intended to keep farmworkers from being poisoned by pesticides. Under the changes, employers will now have to train workers on the risks of pesticides every year, rather than every five years, workers have to stay farther away from contaminated fields, farmers will have to keep more records on exactly when and where they use specific pesticides, and no children under the age of 18 will be allowed to handle the chemicals.
EPA news release and related radio broadcast. NPR report. Farmworker Justice news release. Risks 722. 3 October 2015
Global: Consolidated list of banned pesticides
Pesticide Action Network (PAN), comprising over 600 non-governmental organisations, institutions and individuals in over 90 countries, has released ‘The Consolidated List of Banned Pesticides'. The newly compiled list shows whether these pesticides are regarded as highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) by the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation, with the ban list including 316 pesticide active ingredients.
The Consolidated List of Banned Pesticides, PAN, 2015. Risks 722. 3 October 2015
Global: Metalworking fluids linked to irreversible lung disease
Occupational exposure to a fluid commonly used in metal machining operations may be related to a rare, irreversible and disabling lung disease, according to research presented this week at the European Respiratory Society's (ERS) international congress in Amsterdam. Although metalworking fluid is known to be associated with the lung diseases asthma and hypersensitivity pneumonitis -an allergic type of pneumonia – the study authors say their research appears to be the first to establish that exposure to metalworking fluid is associated with lymphocytic bronchiolitis.
ELF news release. Risks 722. 3 October 2015
Britain: Diesel fumes are putting workers at risk
Diesel exhaust fumes on Britain's streets are putting workers at risk of serious and potentially deadly health conditions, the union GMB has warned. The union says excessive levels present a health risk to members working on the roadside, noting “street cleaners, refuse workers, parking enforcement staff, utility workers, police community support workers and others are particularly exposed to such pollutants.”
GMB news release. Risks 722. 3 October 2015
USA: Common solvent is killing people
Methylene chloride, a powerful solvent whose use is heavily restricted in Europe, remains widely used and poorly regulated in the US – and is continuing to kill as a result. “People have died, it poses this cancer threat… and everybody knows it's a bad chemical, and yet nobody does anything,” said Katy Wolf, who recommends safer alternatives to toxic chemicals as director of the non-profit Institute for Research and Technical Assistance (IRTA) in California.
CPI feature. IRTA reports on solvent alternatives. Risks 721. 26 September 2015
USA: Chemicals killed him; but they only tested for drugs
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspector who investigated the suspected chemical asphyxiation death of truck driver David Simpson at an XTO Energy Inc. site deemed the safety practices at the facility ‘UNACCEPTABLE' in his report. But OSHA dropped the case after the Oklahoma medical examiner listed Simpson's cause of death as “unknown,” with Byron Curtis, toxicologist with the medical examiner's office, admitting: “We just did what we usually do for on-the-job, which is an alcohol and drugs of abuse screen.”
E&E News. Risks 721. 26 September 2015
Britain: Unite warns that ‘welding fumes can kill'
New guidance from Unite is warning that ‘welding fumes can kill'. The union says it is concerned about the long term health risks of being exposed to the fumes generated during welding operations.
Unite welding leaflet and posters. Risks 721. 26 September 2015
Europe: EC refuses access to glyphosate assessment
The European Commission has refused to make available the risk assessment report on glyphosate prepared for the European Food Safety Authority. Global food and farming union federation IUF said: “The Commission's ongoing refusal to make available its risk assessment data violates a 2013 ruling by the European Court of Justice requiring public disclosure.”
IUF news report. Risks 719. 12 September 2015
Global: Samsung pressed on cancers foundation
A broad group of civil society organisations from Asia, Europe, Africa, North America and South America is urging Korean electronics giant Samsung to deliver justice to those harmed by chemical exposures in its factories. The letter to Kwon oh hyun, CEO of Samsung Electronics, says Samsung should abide by the recent recommendations of a high profile mediation committee and fund an independent non-profit foundation and resolve all outstanding issues arising from the cluster of occupational diseases such as leukaemia and lymphoma among
IndustriALL news release. Support and endorse the open letter. Good Electronics news release. Korea IT Times. Risks 718. 5 September 2015
Britain: Dundee firm admits failings in chemical tank death
A Dundee company has admitted criminal health and safety failings after a worker died while cleaning out a chemical tank with a highly dangerous chemical cocktail. Steven Conway died while working at Diamond Wheels (Dundee) Ltd, while using a product containing methylene chloride, methanol and hydrofluoric acid.
STV News. BBC News Online. Risks 718. 5 September 2015
USA: Warning on fracking chemicals risks
Greater attention should be paid to the potential health risks posed by fracking chemicals, researchers have warned. A team led by Elizabeth Wattenburg of the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health set out to identify the constituents of fracking fluids, noting: “There is growing concern about how hydraulic fracturing affects public health because this activity involves handling large volumes of fluids that contain toxic and carcinogenic constituents, which are injected under high pressure through wells into the subsurface to release oil and gas from tight shale formations.”
Elizabeth V Wattenberg and others. Assessment of the acute and chronic health hazards of hydraulic fracturing fluids, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, volume 12, issue 9, pages 611–624, September 2015. Hazards fracking guide. Risks 717. 29 August 2015
India: Illegal mica mines power your electronics
The districts of Koderma and Giridih, in the impoverished Indian state of Jharkhand, are home to the world's largest deposits of sheet mica, a glittery silicate that has become an essential component in thousands of electronic and other products. India produces 60 per cent of the world's mica, most of it from Jharkhand.
Wired. Hazards magazine. Risks 717. 29 August 2015
USA: Recycled e-waste toxins taken home to the kids
The disposal and recycling of electronic devices has increased exposure to lead and other toxics and created “an emerging health concern,” according to a top paediatrician. Nick Newman, who directs the Environmental Health and Lead Clinic at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, says two children, ages 1 and 2, whose father worked at an e-scrap recycling company crushing cathode ray tubes (CRTs), were found to have seriously elevated blood lead levels.
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center news release. Science Daily.
Paediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit network. Risks 714. 8 August 2015.
Global: TUC dismay as US says trade trumps safety
A fear that a US-EU trade deal could jeopardise workplace safety standards has been reinforced by new evidence of the US government's risky approach, the TUC has said. TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson said he has warned repeatedly about the threat to health and safety at work from the proposed free trade agreement between the European Union and the United States – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – and now concrete evidence has emerged to shore up these concerns, in the form of the findings of a European Commission consultation on risks posed by endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), linked to breast cancer, reproductive problems and other disorders.
TUC Stronger Unions blog. Risks 714. 8 August 2015.
Europe: EC blamed for 100,000 work cancers each year
The European Commission's drive to simplify legislation for businesses has come under fire from trade unions for blocking EU laws that could save thousands of lives per year. Laurent Vogel, a senior researcher at the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), said that more than 100,000 workers were dying from work-related cancers each year, and blamed the European Commission for inaction.
Euractiv news report. Risks 711. 18 July 2015
Britain: Car body repair boss ignored HSE
The owner of a Derbyshire car body repair company has been fined for failing to comply with two legally-binding Health and Safety Executive (HSE) improvement notices on chemical risks. Christopher Hutton, trading as Auto Bodyworks and Wheel Clinic of Hasland, was prosecuted at Chesterfield Magistrates' Court.
HSE news release. Risks 711. 18 July 2015
Britain: Chemical company fined for acid fumes exposure
A West Yorkshire chemical processing company has been fined after people at a neighbouring firm were exposed to nitric acid fumes. On 29 April 2014, employees from Joda Freight were exposed to the chemical fumes during transfer of the substance from a road tanker into a storage vessel at Airedale Chemical Company Ltd.
HSE news release. Telegraph and Argus. Risks 710. 11 July 2015
Global: Cancer study casts doubt on chemical standards
Chemical exposure standards “should be revisited” because low level exposures to a mix of substances which individually might be harmless can together present a cancer risk, a major study has concluded. The Halifax Project, a high-profile taskforce formed in 2013 by the international organisation Getting to Know Cancer, involved 174 scientists in 28 countries and investigated 85 chemicals that were not considered to be carcinogenic to humans.
William H Goodson III and others. Assessing the carcinogenic potential of low-dose exposures to chemical mixtures in the environment: the challenge ahead, Carcinogenesis, volume 36, Supplement 1, pages S254-S296, 2015. Cancerhazards.org. Risks 709. 4 July 2015
Britain: HSE's academic experts lack workplace intelligence
The TUC has reiterated its concerns over a new Health and Safety Executive (HSE) workplace health expert committee (WHEC), set up “to provide independent expert knowledge and advice on workplace health”. The union body said an experts-only committee lacks the workplace level intelligence to inform their decisions, adding unions and employers on the other hand often identify issues years before the academics can show conclusively there is a health problem.
TUC health and safety facebook page. HSE news release and HSE's WHEC community webpages. Refer an issue to WHEC. Risks 709. 4 July 2015
Britain: Review links pesticides to cancer
Three pesticides that have been heavily used in both agricultural and non-agricultural applications have been linked to cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) evaluated the carcinogenicity of the insecticides lindane and DDT and the herbicide 2,4-D.
IARC news release. Dana Loomis and others. Carcinogenicity of lindane, DDT, and 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, The Lancet Oncology, published online 22 June 2015. Risks 708. 27 June 2015
Britain: HSE replaces accountability with ‘experts'
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has appointed a new committee “to provide independent expert knowledge and advice on workplace health”, a move that unions had earlier warned would be “problematic”. TUC warned hand-picked HSE experts “may have no knowledge of what is actually happening in the workplace,” adding: “They are also, it has to be said, often reliant on the government, or bodies such as the HSE, for much of the funding for their work.”
HSE news release Risks 708. 27 June 2015
USA: ‘Silent epidemic' linked to work chemicals
Workplace chemical exposures are the eighth leading cause of death in the US, but the country lacks any prevention strategy, an advocacy group has warned. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) said these exposures are responsible for more than 40,000 premature deaths each year.
PEER news release and Worker right-to-know chemical exposure database. Risks 705. 6 June 2015
Global: Low level solvent exposure linked to breast cancer
Women exposed to low levels of common organic solvents at work are 20 per cent more likely to develop breast cancer, a new study suggests. The authors say the study suggests that there may be an association between occupational exposure to aliphatic and aromatic solvents and the risk of breast cancer at the low levels of exposure experienced by women in their study.
DC Glass, J Heyworth, AK Thomson, S Peters C Saunders and L Fritschi. Occupational exposure to solvents and risk of breast cancer, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, published online ahead of print, 26 May 2015. doi: 10.1002/ajim.22478. Risks 705. 6 June 2015
Europe: EU drops pesticide laws at US say so
The European Union scrapped planned pesticide regulations under pressure from US officials over the controversial transatlantic trade deal TTIP, newly published documents have revealed. Documents obtained by the Pesticides Action Network (PAN) Europe show a visit from high-level officials from the US Mission to Europe and the American Chambers of Commerce (AmCham) in July 2013 convinced the EU to drop planned rules that could have led to the banning of 31 hazardous pesticides.
EU health policy on endocrine disruption collatoral damage in Commission health service SANTE's power play, PAN Europe. A toxic affair: How the chemical lobby blocked action on hormone disrupting chemicals, Corporate Europe Observatory. ChemSec news report. The Guardian. The Independent. Risks 704. 30 May 2015
Europe: Transatlantic treaty threatens chemical safety
Ongoing Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations could undermine Europe's chemical safety laws, a coalition of chemical safety, environmental and cancer prevention organisations has warned. The groups are concerned that the European Union's chemical safety regulations are being wrongly characterised as barriers to trade that must be weakened.
ChemSec news release and Joint NGO letter. Risks 703. 23 May 2015
Britain: TUC calls for action on glyphosate
The TUC is calling for union safety reps to ensure workers are not exposed to a cancer-causing pesticide. A new briefing says because of the unquestionable risks posed by glyphosate, which can also cause short- and long-term skin, eye and respiratory problems and serious liver and kidney damage, it is “necessary to try to prevent any workers coming into contact with glyphosate.”
TUC glyphosate briefing. ACP news report. Risks 703. 23 May 2015
USA: New rules to govern poisonous nail salons
A growing body of medical research is linking the chemicals found in nail and beauty products to serious health problems affecting salon workers, a recognition that has led New York governor Andrew Cuomo to order new health and safety regulations. The action came after news reports revealed that while clients may be in and out of a nail salon within an hour, manicurists handle the hazardous chemicals and breathe their fumes for hours on end, day after day.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo news release. New York Times and follow-up story.Risks 702. 16 May 2015.
Global: Dumping e-waste is a costly and deadly crime
Up to 90 per cent of the world's electronic waste, worth nearly US $19 billion, is illegally traded or dumped each year, according to a report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The UN body says discarded electronics are recycled in conditions that are hazardous to health, and typically lead to subsequent dumping of the majority of the waste, addding that promoting safe recycling is vital to a better waste management.
UNEP news release and full report, Waste crimes, waste risks: Gaps and challenges in the waste sector. Risks 702. 16 May 2015.
Global: Safer chemicals bring more business and jobs
The worldwide market for safer chemicals has a growth rate massively superior to conventional chemicals, brings fewer risks and leads to substantially more jobs, a new report has concluded. The report, commissioned by the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) and the Lowell University-based Green Chemistry and Commerce Council found the market for safer chemicals is estimated to have 24 times the growth of the conventional chemicals market worldwide, from 2011 to 2020.
ASBC news release. Making the business and economic case for safer chemistry, Report for the American Sustainable Business Council and Green Chemistry and Commerce Council Prepared by Trucost, April 2015. Risks 702. 16 May 2015.
Global: Gold mining causes deadly diseases
The deadly risks posed by silica exposures in gold mines are particularly pronounced in small-scale operations, a new study has found. Research published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, which looked at conditions in Tanzania, revealed that exposures to silica are more than two hundred times greater in small-scale artisanal mines than in larger mines.
Perry Gottesfeld, Damian Andrew and Jeffrey Dalhoff. Silica exposures in
artisanal small-scale gold mining in Tanzania and implications for Tuberculosis prevention, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, published online April 2015. DOI: 10.1080/15459624.2015.1029617. Occupational Knowledge International. Risks 701. 9 May 2015
Global: Paraquat ‘too big a risk to life and health'
Campaigners are pressing for the highly toxic pesticide paraquat to be added to a list of restricted products. Global agriculture unions' federation IUF has produced with Pesticides Action Network (PAN) and the Swiss-based NGO, Berne Declaration, a report on the use of paraquat in India.
IUF news release and report, Conditions of Paraquat Use in India. Risks 700. 2 May 2015
Global: Roundup, WHO and the pesticide lobby
The food system must be ‘transformed' to keep deadly pesticides out of the workplace and the food chain, the global farm and food union federation IUF has said. The union body was speaking out in the wake of a March 2015 report in the journal Lancet Oncology, which revealed the International Agency for Research on Cancer's (IARC) new classification of glyphosate - the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup and the world's most widely-used herbicide - as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
IUF report. The Lancet Oncology. Risks 700. 2 May 2015
Britain: Inquiry call into sheep dip poisoning scandal
Agricultural union Unite and over a dozen members of parliament are calling for answers after a government cover-up of widespread poisoning of farmworkers by sheep dip was revealed. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report concluded least 500 farmers across the UK were left with debilitating health problems after using organophosphate-based (OP) chemicals to protect their sheep against parasites, under a compulsory dipping programme that ran until 1992.
Guardian report and earlier story. Leigh Day and Co Solicitors. Risks 700. 2 May 2015
Global: ITF resolves to tackle toxics in transport
The global transport unions' federation ITF is asking its affiliates to raise awareness about the issue of toxic gas and fumigation in containers with their members. It says “this is an increasingly important topic for us given the tragedy in the port of Antwerp,” where three dockworkers died on 11 April.
ITF news release and statement on the Antwerp tragedy. ITF campaigns on container safety for dockers. Risks 699. 25 April 2015
Britain: Unite calls for an inquiry on cabin air safety
Airline cabin staff union Unite is calling for a public inquiry into the health effects of ‘fume events' on airliners, amid warnings that there is insufficient monitoring and research into ‘aerotoxic syndrome'. Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said that more needed to be done to understand illnesses caused by exposure to contaminated cabin air on jet aircraft, adding that airlines should be required to monitor air quality during all flights.
Unite news release. ITV News. Risks 699. 25 April 2015
Global: Electronics industry challenged on toxic chemicals
Campaigners from over 200 groups worldwide have challenged the electronics industry to tackle the harm caused by its use of toxic chemicals. The call came on 16 March as the an industry association, the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC), met in Brussels to discuss chemical management strategies.
Good Electronics news release. EICC website. Risks 695. 21 March 2015
Britain: Hormone-disrupting chemicals ‘cost billions'
Common industrial chemicals that disrupt human hormones and damage health could be costing Europe more than £110 billion a year, according to new research. The international team behind the research presented their findings on 5 March at the annual meeting of the Endocrinology Society in Brussels.
Endocrine Society website and news release. BBC News Online.
Leonardo Trasande, R Thomas Zoeller, Ulla Hass and others. Estimating burden and disease costs of exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the European Union, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, published online 5 March 2015. Risks 694. 14 March 2015.
Britain: Farm worker killed by toxic gases
Dorset farm owner Clifford Owen Yeatman and his two businesses have been fined for serious criminal safety failings after 29-year-old worker Matthew Pitt died following exposure to toxic gases. Dorchester Crown Court heard that Matthew Pitt and David Bartlett were exposed during maintenance of an anaerobic digestion (AD) plant developed by Biogas Nord UK at the farm.
HSE news release and anaerobic digestion webpages. Risks 693. 7 March 2015
USA: Nuke workers hurt by toxic exposures
Evidence “strongly suggests” a causal link between chemical vapour releases and ill-health in workers at a nuclear facility in the US. Since March 2014, nearly 60 workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state have sought medical attention for on-the-job exposure to chemical vapours released by highly toxic waste stored at the site.
Working In These Times. Risks 692. 28 February 2015
Global: ITF launches aircraft air quality group
The global transport union federation ITF has launched an air quality working group amid concerns about the health risks posed by contaminated air on commercial aircraft and at airports. ITF said it has long recognised the negative implications for flight safety and workers' health of exposure to engine oil fumes on commercial and cargo aircraft.
ITF news release, cabin air qualitywebpages, GCAQE forum and aviation blog. The Independent. Risks 692. 28 February 2015
Europe: Workplaces awash with cancer chemicals
Europe's workplaces are using 5,675 chemicals that manufacturers or importers consider to be carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction (CMR). The figures come in a January report of notifications to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). ECHA compared the data supplied by manufacturers and importers when notifying the classification and labelling of hazardous substances under the classification, labelling and packaging regulations (CLP) with the registration dossiers submitted by firms handling larger quantities of chemicals under the REACH rules.
ETUI news report. ECHA news release and report. Risks 689. 7 February 2015
Canada: Lead at work causes ALS
Individuals with chronic exposure to lead at work are 80 per cent more likely to develop Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Canadian researchers have concluded. Publishing the findings of the analysis of 13 studies of individuals with ‘Lou Gehrig's disease' in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the authors found people with a history of work-related lead exposure were 1.81 times more likely to develop ALS.
Ming-Dong Wang and others. A Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies of the Association Between Chronic Occupational Exposure to Lead and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, volume 56, number 12, pages 1235-1242, December 2014. The Pump Handle. Risks 685. 10 January 2015
Britain: Workers had massive blood lead levels
A Surrey-based civil engineering firm and a Hampshire fabrication company have been fined for exposing workers to lead during refurbishment work on the iconic Nab Tower in the Solent. Russell Leggett and Robert Peach required hospital treatment after inhaling dust and fumes when steel coated in lead paint was cut into and removed from the structure in July 2013.
HSE news release. More on the hazards of occupational exposure to lead. Risks 685. 10 January 2015
USA: Cancer deceit of the petrochemical giants exposed
The petroleum industry has known for decades that benzene, one of its most important products, is a potent cause of cancer in humans but has spent millions on a cover-up, a new evidence database reveals. Internal memorandums, emails, letters and meeting minutes obtained by the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) in a year-long investigation suggest that America's oil and chemical titans, coordinated by their trade association, the American Petroleum Institute, spent at least $36 million on research “designed to protect member company interests,” as one 2000 API summary put it.
Benzene and worker cancers: 'An American tragedy' • Exposed: Decades of denial on poisons, evidence database compiled by the Center for Public Integrity, Columbia University and City University of New York. The ‘dirty dozen' documents from the database • Risks 684 • 13 December 2014
USA: Beauty salon workers need protection
Workers in beauty salons are at risk of breathing, skin and brain problems, cancer, miscarriage and other disorders caused by chemical exposures, a new US report has warned. Advocacy group Women's Voices for the Earth, which works to eliminate toxic chemicals from workplaces, said low paid jobs in beauty salons come with high risks.
Beauty and its beast: Unmasking the impact of toxic chemicals on salon workers, Women's Voices for the Earth, November 2014 • The Pump Handle • Risks 681 • 22 November 2014
USA: Study finds cancer chemicals at fracking sites
Tests of air around homes near natural gas drilling wells and other production equipment in five US states have found sometimes grossly elevated levels of chemicals linked to cancer. The results of the study, published in the journal Environmental Health, noted: “Benzene, formaldehyde, and hydrogen sulphide were the most common compounds to exceed acute and other health-based risk levels.”
Gregg Macey, David Carpenter and others. Air concentrations of volatile compounds near oil and gas production: a community-based exploratory study, Environmental Health, volume 13:82, 2014. Times Union • Risks 680 • 15 November 2014
Asia: Low standards in the hitech industry
Every day thousands of workers in Asia are exposed to dangerous chemicals without the required protection while making computers and other hitech equipment, a new report has found. ‘Winds of change', produce for ElectronicWatch and which involved fieldwork in South Korea, noted that the chemicals used included benzene, a heavily restricted and potent human carcinogen.
Electronics Watch news release and full report, Winds of change: public procurement's potential for improving conditions in the ICT industry • Green America blog • Risks 680 • 15 November 2014
Britain: Scrap metal firm fined over lead poisoning
A scrap metal firm has been fined for criminal health and safety failings after workers suffered from lead poisoning and the firm failed to act on repeated warnings. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said one 48-year-old man from Darwen, who has asked not to be named, was admitted to hospital after blood tests revealed he had seven times the ‘normal' amount of lead in his body, putting him at risk of health problems including nerve, brain and kidney damage, and infertility.
HSE news release and lead webpages • Risks 678 • 1 November 2014
Britain: Vet workers were exposed to harmful drugs
A Bedfordshire veterinary firm has been fined after workers were potentially exposed over a four year period to animal chemotherapy drugs that can cause cancer and birth defects. Employees of Davies Veterinary Specialists Limited, including vets, nurses and support staff, could have been exposed to the drugs as they prepared medicines to treat animals with cancer at the firm's premises in Higham Gobion, Bedfordshire.
HSE news release • Risks 678 • 1 November 2014
Global: Leaked text reveals ‘toxic' trade partnership
A leaked draft of a trans-Atlantic trade deal reveals how the negotiations continue to favour business interests over the protection of health and of the environment, campaign groups have warned. The European Commission's restricted access text for the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) shows that the European Union's proposals for a ‘chemicals annex' shadow those of the chemical industry.
CIEL news release, the leaked text and full report: Toxic partnership: A critique of the ACC-Cefic proposal for trans-Atlantic Regulatory Cooperation on Chemicals • Risks 675 • 11 October 2014
Swaziland: Dangerous solvent sickens textile workers
Workers are being made seriously ill by a toxic chemical introduced at a Swazi textile factory, their union has warned. Dozens of workers required hospitalisation last month after the plant began using the dangerous solvent butyl acetate to remove stains from clothes.
AFL-CIO Solidarity Center report • AFL-CIO Now blog • Risks 674 • 4 October 2014
Europe: Most chemical standards advisers are industry linked
Two-thirds of scientists advising the European Union on the safety assessments of controversial substances have industry links, new research has found. Corporate Europe Observatory's Pascoe Sabido said “these assessments don't just affect public health, they also help dictate the financial fortunes of companies involved in producing and using the substances,” adding: “This means that the independence of the scientists providing the expert advice needs to be above and beyond any suspicion of industry influence – which is not the case.”
CEO news release and full report, Chemical conflicts: inadequate independence policies for EU's expert risk assessors • Risks 674 • 4 October 2014
Britain: Unite calls on HSE to retain ‘vital' committees
The Health and Safety Executive's board must halt plans to close vital health and safety advisory committees and to replace them with “experts”, Unite has said. One committee dealing with chemicals - WATCH - has already been told it has been disbanded; and Unite says its parent body, the Advisory Committee on Toxic Substances (ACTS), also appears to be under threat.
Unite news release • Risks 674 • 4 October 2014
Britain: Life after personal protective equipment is possible
Construction firms should think about removing the risks on site before they cocoon their workers in protective clothing and other safety gear, a top construction health expert has said. Scott Schneider, the director of occupational health at the US union-backed Laborers' Health and Safety Fund of North America (LHSFNA), said: “There's no doubt that PPE helps keep workers safe, but it may not be the best solution and certainly shouldn't be the only solution.”
Safety unmasked, Hazards magazine, number 127, 2014 • Risks 673 • 27 September 2014
Britain: HSE must deliver better controls over silica
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has been accused of leaving workers at double jeopardy from cancer-causing, lung scarring silica. A report in the workers' safety magazine Hazards criticises HSE for resisting a union-backed call for it to halve the current exposure limit for the common workplace dust; and it says the government-imposed, hands-off, HSE enforcement policy combined with swingeing resource cuts mean even the current “deadly” standard is not being enforced effectively.
Silica, part 2: A line in the sand, Hazards, number 127, 2014. Silica, part 1: Dust to dust: Deadly silica standard is killing UK workers, Hazards, number 126, 2014 • Risks 673 • 27 September 2014
Britain: HSE plans to silence workers on chemical risks
Long-established Health and Safety Executive (HSE) committees that assess the risks from some of the most dangerous substances used at work could soon exclude workers and employers, if the regulator gets its way. One, the WATCH committee on hazardous chemicals, has already been quietly disbanded and another, the Advisory Committee on Toxic Substances, is under threat, internal HSE papers show.
TUC Stronger Unions blog • Risks 673 • 27 September 2014
USA: Hazardous drugs in healthcare
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the US government's occupational health research agency, has published an updated dangerous drugs listing to accompany its guide to the hazards posed to healthcare workers by the medicines they administer. In the introduction to the updated drugs list, NIOSH notes: “Hazardous drugs include those used for cancer chemotherapy, antiviral drugs, hormones, some bioengineered drugs, and other miscellaneous drugs.”
NIOSH news alert, 2004 guide and updated drug list, NIOSH List of Antineoplastic and Other Hazardous Drugs in Healthcare Settings, 2014 • Risks 672 • 20 September 2014
Britain: Pulmonary fibrosis asbestos link found
Many cases of a common lung disease that were assumed to be of no known cause are in fact the result of exposure to asbestos, UK scientists believe. Researchers from Imperial College London found a correlation between death rates in England and Wales from the known asbestos-related conditions asbestosis and mesothelioma and from “idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis” (IPF).
ERS news release • Risks 672 • 20 September 2014
USA: Tobacco fields campaign makes inroads
The decision by a leading US tobacco growers' organisation to oppose hiring children under 16 to work on tobacco farms is an important step toward ending this hazardous employment practice, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said. The campaign group was commenting after the Council for Burley Tobacco, representing approximately 5,000 tobacco growers in Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, and Ohio, approved a resolution stating “workers under 16-years-old should not be employed in tobacco production not only in the US but worldwide.”
HRW news release and May 2014 report, Tobacco's hidden children: Hazardous child labor in US tobacco farming • Risks 671 • 13 September 2014
Global: WHO and TUC call for action on e-ciggies
Unions should negotiate the same controls on electronic cigarettes as on smoking at work, the TUC has said. The union body repeated its call after the World Health Organisation (WHO) called for a ban on the use of ‘e-cigarettes' indoors – a move rejected immediately by the UK government - as well as a range of other restrictions on their sale and marketing.
TUC Stronger Unions blog • WHO report • BBC News Online and diacetyl story • Risks 670 • 7 September 2014
USA: High chemical exposures in fracking confirmed
Workers in the fracking industry are exposed to high levels of dangerous chemicals including cancer-causing benzene, an official study has found. The US government's occupational health research body NIOSH found technicians working over the flowback tanks were routinely exposed to benzene at above its recommended exposure limit.
NIOSH Science blog • Risks 669 • 30 August 2014
India: Quarry dust leaves workers dying and in debt
India's quarry industry is leaving workers poverty stricken and consigned to a slow, choking death. Thousands of quarry workers in Rajasthan are battling silicosis caused by inhaling dust containing crystalline silica; many have their health condition go undiagnosed, their breathing problems are scarcely ever linked to the jobs they do, and most are reduced to penury by their disability and medical costs.
India TV News • Risks 668 • 23 August 2014
Global: Apple takes a tiny step away from toxins
Five months after labour and environmental campaigners called on Apple to remove highly toxic chemicals including benzene and n-hexane from its supplier factories in China, the hi-tech multinational has announced it will “explicitly prohibit the use of benzene and n-hexane” at 22 of its final assembly supplier factories employing nearly 500,000 workers.
Apple statement and regulated substances list • Green America blog report and End Smartphone Sweatshops campaign • SACOM news release • ABC News • Risks 668 • 23 August 2014
Britain: Company in court after massive chemical spill
An Essex company has been fined after four of its chemical storage tanks failed and spilled 150 tonnes of hazardous material. An industrial estate was evacuated and access roads closed as a result of the incident at Industrial Chemicals Limited (ICL) in Grays on 11 July 2013 involving large quantities of aluminium chloride and hydrochloric acid.
HSE news release and chemicals webpages • Risks 666 • 9 August 2014
Australia: Solvents exposure linked to brain cancer in your kids
Brain tumours in children have been linked to exposure of either parent to workplace solvents. The study, published in the British Journal of Cancer, found a link between parents' exposure to chemicals such as benzene, toluene, and trichloroethylene and brain tumours in their children.
Susan Peters and others. Childhood brain tumours: associations with parental occupational exposure to solvents, British Journal of Cancer, published online. doi:10.1038/bjc.2014.358 • ABC Science News • Risks 666 • 9 August 2014
Britain: Cockpit fumes linked to pilot's death
A British Airways pilot who died at 43 after complaining he was being poisoned by toxic fumes on passenger planes may have been right, according to new research. Richard Westgate, from Edinburgh, suffered years of ill health including severe headaches, mental confusion, sight problems and insomnia before he died in December 2012 at the age of 43.
Flight Global • Daily Mail • Daily Mirror • Risks 666 • 9 August 2014
Britain: Health ‘timebomb' uncovered by site inspections
A series of intensive official construction site inspections has revealed a health ‘timebomb' facing workers, UCATT has said. The site union was commenting after the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) visited 560 sites over two weeks, focussing on significant long-term health risks for workers including respiratory risks from dusts containing silica, exposure to other hazardous substances such as cement and lead paint, manual handling, noise and vibration.
UCATT news release • HSE news release • Construction Enquirer • Hazards ‘Dust to Dust' report • Risks 665 • 2 August 2014
Britain: Property firm fined after ignoring wood dust risks
A property maintenance firm has appeared in court after ignoring safety concerns at its joinery workshop in Dukinfield. High Peak Remedial Services Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after it failed to comply with an enforcement notice requiring its wood dust extractor to be properly tested.
HSE news release and woodworking webpages • Risks 664 • 26 July 2014
Britain: HSE slammed for deadly silica standard defence
Hundreds of thousands of workers in the UK are being put at risk and more than 1,000 could die every year due to inadequate safeguards for a workplace dust known to cause cancer and other diseases, according to research by University of Stirling academics. The study is critical of the workplace safety regulator, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which it says is wrong to resist a tightening of the current silica exposure standard.
Stirling University news release and full report • BBC News Online • The Herald • Central FM • SHP Online • Risks 664 • 26 July 2014
Britain: Suspended sentence for stone dust failings
The director of a London masonry company has been handed a suspended prison sentence for exposing workers to harmful stone dust and ignoring notices to improve extraction ventilation. Employees at Redmist International Ltd were exposed to potentially deadly stone dust containing silica for a period of six months between January and June 2013.
HSE news release • Risks 664 • 26 July 2014
China: Court rejects shipyard diseases lawsuit
A Guangzhou court has dismissed a lawsuit brought by 34 shipyard workers who claimed their employer, CSSC Guangzhou Longxue Shipbuilding Co. Ltd, had colluded with its affiliated hospital to conceal the results of health checks which should have revealed the early stages of the deadly dust disease pneumoconiosis. The case originated in November 2012, when one worker left the company and independent tests showed he had the occupational dust disease, despite having been given the all clear by the factory hospital a week earlier.
China Labour Bulletin • Risks 663 • 19 July 2014
Europe: RISCTOX chemical online database goes live
The RISCTOX chemicals database, developed by the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) and the Spanish union safety institute ISTAS, has gone live online, giving workers access to health and safety information on over 100,000 chemicals. According to ETUI, each chemical data ‘card' specifies the chemical's classification and labelling, its main work uses (solvent, cleaner, paint stripper, etc), how it affects health, and the occupational diseases it causes.
ETUI publication alert and RISCTOX database • Risks 661 • 5 July 2014
South Africa: Alarming level of TB among miners
For every worker who dies each year as a result of an accident in a South African mine, nine more die of tuberculosis, the country's health minister Aaron Motsoaledi has said. “There are 41,810 cases of active TB in South African mines every year. It is 8 per cent of the national total, and 1 per cent of the population, very unfortunately,” he told parliament.
Cape Times • Fin24 • Risks 660 • 28 June 2014
Britain: Two week HSE focus on site health issues
The poor working conditions likely to lead to ill health on building sites is being targeted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in a two week inspection drive. During the unannounced visits, HSE inspectors will be targeting respiratory risks from dusts including respirable silica, exposure to other hazardous substances such as cement and lead paint and manual handling, noise and vibration.
HSE news release and construction webpages • Risks 660 • 28 June 2014
Britain: Regulating chemicals makes economic sense
Better regulation of hormone-disrupting chemicals linked to breast cancer, reproductive problems and other ill-effects could deliver massive cost savings, a new report has concluded. The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) says exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) may be costing up to €31 billion (£24.8bn) per year across the European Union (EU) and said the EU should set out a specific timetable by which EDCs must be identified and replaced with safer alternatives.
HEAL news release • CIEL news release • Risks 660 • 28 June 2014
Global: Cancer chemicals still in hairdressing products
Chemicals in products used to colour or wave hair could be the cause of higher levels of bladder cancer observed in hairdressers, researchers have concluded. A study published online in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine on 9 June linked frequency of dye and perm use to raised levels of carcinogens found in hairdressers' blood.
Gabriella M Johansson and others. Exposure of hairdressers to ortho- and meta-toluidine in hair dyes, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, published online first 9 June 2014. doi:10.1136/oemed-2013-101960 • Medical News Today • Risks 659 • 21 June 2014
Britain: Chemical firm was a potential bomb
The costs dangerous firms can pass on to the public purse have been illustrated by a case in Flintshire. Chemicals removed from the former Euticals factory had the power equivalent to more than 100 tonnes of explosives with the site clean-up costing the council more than £100,000.
BBC News Online • Risks 659 • 21 June 2014
USA: Government action on black lung scandal
The US Department of Labor has ordered officials who determine if coal miners are eligible for black lung benefits to no longer rely on the medical opinion of the Johns Hopkins Medicine doctor an investigation found systematically denied affected miners were significantly affected by the debilitating condition. From 2000, Dr Paul S Wheeler, who was head of the Johns Hopkins black lung programme, examined 1,573 miners' black lung x-rays and not once diagnosed the severe form of black lung that automatically qualifies for compensation.
AFL-CIO Now blog • ABC Eyewitness News • Risks 658 • 14 June 2014
Britain: Top private school caused deadly silica disease
A top independent boarding college has been handed a six figure fine for criminal breaches of safety law that left a worker with a life-threatening lung disease. Preston Crown Court heard how the ‘inexcusable' failings at the £30,000 a year Stonyhurst College, Clitheroe, caused 54-year-old stonemason Terry McGough to develop silicosis, a disabling lung disease also linked to a higher rate of lung cancer and other conditions.
HSE news release and lung disease webpages • Burnley Citizen • Clitheroe Advertiser • BBC News Online • Risks 657 • 7 June 2014
Global: Brains may never recover from work solvent damage
People who are exposed to paint, glue or degreaser fumes at work may experience memory and thinking problems in retirement, decades after their exposure, according to a new study. Erika L Sabbath of Harvard School of Public Health, an author of the study published last month in the journal Neurology, said: “Solvents pose a real risk to the present and future cognitive health of workers, and as retirement ages go up, the length of time that people are exposed is going up, too.”
Erika L Sabbath and others. Time may not fully attenuate solvent-associated cognitive deficits in highly exposed workers, Neurology, volume 82, number 19, pages 1716-1723, May 2014. American Academy of Neurology news release • The Pump Handle • Risks 657 • 7 June 2014
Global: Nano sickness prompts precaution calls
A report of rapid onset serious nickel allergy in a nano-nickel exposed chemist has prompted calls from both a union body and an official workplace safety agency for a precautionary approach to nanomaterials. Global food and farming union federation IUF said: “The need for a moratorium on the commercialisation of nano products and processes is more urgent than ever” and US government's occupational health research agency NIOSH called for “precautionary and protective measures”.
IUF news report • NIOSH science blog • Journeay and Goldman, Occupational handling of nickel nanoparticles: A Case Report, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, published online ahead of print, 8 May 2014.
USA: Child tobacco workers in danger
Children working on tobacco farms in the United States are exposed to nicotine, toxic pesticides and other dangers, a major report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) has revealed. HRW says the world's largest tobacco companies buy tobacco grown on US farms, but none have child labour policies that sufficiently protect children from hazardous work.
HRW news release and full report, Tobacco's Hidden Children: Hazardous Child Labor in US Tobacco Farming • NPR • Risks 655 • 24 May 2014
Global: More concerns over transatlantic trade talks
A proposed trade deal the TUC warned earlier this month could jeopardise employment and safety standards has now been condemned by 178 trade union, environmental, health and labour rights groups from both sides of the Atlantic. The groups are all signatories to a letter to EU Commissioner Karel de Gucht and US Ambassador Michael Froman, key negotiators of the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
Corporate Europe Observatory news release • ChemSec news release and the letter. BBC News Online • Risks 655 • 24 May 2014
Britain: Firm ignored deadly silica dust warnings
A natural stone supply firm has been fined for failing to protect workers from exposure to deadly silica dust – despite a previous official warning. Teesdale Architectural Stone Ltd (TASL) was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for failings identified in an inspection of its Barnard Castle premises on 16 October 2012.
HSE news release and hazardous substances webpages • Risks 654 • 17 May 2014
South Africa: Mines ‘stalling' on deadly silicosis payouts
Mining multinationals in South Africa have been accused of saving themselves millions by dragging out silicosis litigation and delaying payment of compensation to victims. As sufferers of the occupational dust disease die – and many have - the “pain and suffering” component of any payout is docked from the settlement made to their dependants.
Business Day • The Guardian • Mining Weekly • Risks 653 • 10 May 2014
Global: Concerns over ‘miracle material' graphene
Graphene has been hailed as the latest miracle material set to revolutionise many industries, but it might have more dangerous side effects, experts have warned. “The situation today is similar to where we were with chemicals and pharmaceuticals 30 years ago,” said study co-author Jacob D Lanphere.
US Riverside news release • The Independent • Brown University news release.
Jacob D Lanphere and others. Stability and Transport of Graphene Oxide Nanoparticles in Groundwater and Surface Water, Environmental Engineering Science, published online ahead of print 17 March 2014. doi:10.1089/ees.2013.0392 • Risks 653 • 10 May 2014
Global: Nanotechnology use is booming below the radar
As concerns have been raised about nanomaterials, companies investing in the industry have toned down announcements of their research and the introduction to the market of new products. But they are still coming, and the rate of their introduction is accelerating.
IUF news report • Risks 653 • 10 May 2014
Bangladesh: Shocking toll from work chemicals
At least 63 people were killed in Bangladesh in the last three months by toxic chemicals used at work, a study has found. According to the Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Foundation (OSHE), which conducted the research, the most dangerous industries are agriculture, shipbreaking and tanneries.
BSS News • Dhaka Tribune • Risks 652 • 3 May 2014
USA: Chicken carcass spray makes workers sick
Chemicals used to disinfect chicken carcasses are making the workers exposed to them sick – and could even be killing them. US Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors and workers in poultry plants say the process of preparing chicken for sale is putting them at risk.
Food Integrity Campaign news report • WSBTV • Mother Jones • Washington Post • UFCW Action • EFSA news release and decontamination webpage • Bilaterals.org • IUF trade and investment brochure • Risks 652 • 3 May 2014
Britain: Docs attack complacency on fracking risks
An official report on the risks posed by fracking in England is complacent on the real risks the practice could pose, an editorial in the British Medical Journal suggests. Dr Seth Shonkoff, executive director for Physicians Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy, and his colleagues warn that scientific data should drive decisions on health and safety, instead of gestures to understudied assertions of best practice deployment.
BMJ news release • Editorial: Public Health England's draft report on shale gas extraction, British Medical Journal, 2014;348:g2728 • Risks 652 • 3 May 2014
Namibia: Uranium miners dying, Rio Tinto denying
Miners who dug uranium ore at a Rio Tinto-owned mine in Namibia are dying of cancers and unexplained illnesses after working in one of continent's largest mines. A study of current and former workers at the giant Rio Tinto-owned Rössing uranium mine in Namibia found that everyone questioned was aware of people who are now suffering lung infections and unknown illnesses thought to be linked to their work.
Study on low-level radiation of Rio Tinto's Rössing Uranium mine workers, EJOLT & Earthlife Namibia Report, April 2014. The Guardian • Risks 651 • 26 April 2014
USA: Unions press for a safer silica standard
Workers are continuing to die of preventable lung diseases because of years of footdragging on a safer silica exposure standard, the US national union federation AFL-CIO has warned. AFL-CIO safety and health director Peg Seminario, testifying before a hearing of the national safety regulator OSHA, noted that changes to the current exposure standard - now more than 40 years old - were first proposed in 1997.
AFL-CIO Now blog • OSHA hearings • Risks 648 • 29 March 2014
China: Clamour grows for dust disease action
Pressure for official action to stem China's epidemic of work-related dust diseases has reached the highest levels of government. China Labour Bulletin (CLB) reports that several delegates at the annual meetings of the National People's Congress and its advisory body, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), called on the government to do more for the estimated six million workers in China with pneumoconioses, lung diseases caused by dust.
China Labour Bulletin • Risks 647 • 22 March 2014
Britain: Boss abandoned teenage waitress half-blinded by chemicals
A restaurant owner has been fined after a member of his staff was splashed in the face with a caustic chemical. Initially, the incident – which happened at Huffers Cafe, Sudbury, in September 2012 – was not reported to authorities. The employee, 16-year-old Chelsea Stafford, was left half blinded on the street outside, given £20 to get a taxi and had to call her mother for assistance.
Babergh District Council news release • Suffolk Free Press • Environmental Health News • Risks 647 • 22 March 2014
Global: Chemical industry manipulating EU-US trade talks
A leaked document from the December 2013 round of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations exposes the extent of chemical industry influence over secretive ongoing US-EU trade negotiations, independent researchers have found. Their report says chemical industry proposals to TTIP would have a ‘chilling effect' on the regulatory environment, slowing down the implementation of precautionary decisions on toxic chemicals, undermining democratic decision-making and stifling the innovation of safer alternatives.
Toxic partnership: A critique of the ACC-CEFIC proposal for trans-Atlantic cooperation on chemicals, ClientEarth/CIEL's joint report, March 2014. Leaked document from the December 2013 round of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations • TUC Touchstone blog • The Guardian • Risks 646 • 15 March 2014
Global: Call for full disclosure in science research
The selective promotion of scientific research to steer policy-making is a murky business, particularly as “the battle for the ear of the piper between big business and the ‘little guy', who is often affected by pollution or hazardous substances, is so asymmetric,” a Nature editorial has warned. It cites the ongoing controversy in the US over a much delayed occupational silica dust exposure standard, noting: “Rather than challenging [safety regulator] OSHA for requesting conflict-of-interest disclosures, US politicians should be asking why all federal agencies do not require them.”
Full disclosure: Regulatory agencies must demand conflict-of-interest statements for the research they use. Editorial, Nature, 507, issue 7490, page 8, 6 March 2014 • Risks 646 • 15 March 2014
Britain: Contractor convicted after causing concrete burns
A builder has been convicted of a criminal safety offence after two labourers sustained second degree chemical burns after working knee-deep in wet concrete for more than four hours at a development in south-west London. Principal contractor Geoffrey Cinko, 55, was convicted of a criminal safety offence and fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £10,000 in costs.
HSE news release • Risks 646 • 15 March 2014
Global: Industrial chemicals are damaging our brains
Industrial chemicals including some common pesticides and solvents may be behind the increasing number of cases of neurodevelopmental disabilities among children, researchers warn. Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Philip Landrigan, Dean for Global Health at Mount Sinai Medical School in New York, concluded voluntary controls are not working, and a precautionary approach should be adopted internationally to stem the “silent epidemic” of neurological and other disorders caused by chemical exposures.
Philippe Grandjean, and Philip J Landrigan. Neurobehavioural effects of developmental toxicity, The Lancet Neurology, volume 13, issue 3, pages 330-338, March 2014, published online ahead of print 14 February 2014 [Summary] • Common Dreams • CNN News • Risks 643 • 22 February 2014
Britain: TUC warning on fracking dangers
Known dangers of shale gas exploitation and the poorly understood risks of fracking processes mean the industry must be tightly regulated, the TUC has warned. In a submission to an inquiry by the House of Lords select committee on economic affairs it notes “there are very limited data regarding occupational health hazards from exposure to the chemicals, proppants and processes used in high volume hydro-fracking.”
TUC news release and TUC response to House of Lords shale gas/fracking inquiry • The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee inquiry into the Economic Impact of Shale Gas and Oil on UK Energy Policy • Risks 643 • 22 February 2014
Britain: Lead poisoner escapes jail
The owner of Nottinghamshire firm LDB Light Alloys Ltd has received a suspended jail term after employees Brook Northey, Paul Collins and Martin Bytheway became seriously ill with lead poisoning. Laurence Dennis Brown, 65, was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for 18 months for a criminal safety offenceand also fined £45,000 plus £35,000 costs.
HSE news release and lead webpages • Nottingham Post • Risks 642 • 15 February 2014
Britain: Stained glass firm caused lead poisoning
The owner of a Lincolnshire stained glass firm has been fined after one of his employees, David Doherty, suffered severe lead poisoning. David Sear, sole owner of Lincolnshire Stained Glass, pleaded guilty to a criminal breach of the Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002 and was fined £18,000 with £18,000 costs.
HSE news release • Lancashire Evening Post • Risks 642 • 15 February 2014
Britain: Knee injury exposed metalworking asthma
A former tool maker has been awarded £33,000 in compensation after he developed occupational asthma from almost two decades of exposure to metalwork fluid mist at a Ford plant in Dagenham. Unite member Ronald Hymans, 60, suffered a knee injury requiring three months off work, during which time his doctor recorded that his breathing improved by a third leading to a diagnosis of occupational asthma.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 641 • 8 February 2014
Europe: MEPs criticise inaction on endocrine disruptors
The failure of the European Commission to deliver legislation on endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) is alarming, leading members of the Socialists and Democrats grouping (S&D) in the European Parliament have said. An industry lobbying and product defence campaign set out to dissuade the European Commission from acting, and January this year the Commission said it would delay action for a least one year.
S&D group news release • HEAL news release • Risks 640 • 1 February 2014
Britain: Workers poisoned on Channel Tunnel
A total of 32 workers changing rail tracks inside the Channel Tunnel have suffered suspected carbon monoxide poisoning in two incidents on two consecutive nights. A total of 19 workers out of around 60 working overnight in the tunnel were affected on 26 January and taken to hospital, with one welder who was diagnosed with carbon monoxide poisoning reported to be in a serious condition, and a further 13 out of 65 workers were affected the following night and taken to hospital.
The Telegraph • BBC News Online • Construction Enquirer • Risks 640 • 1 February 2014
Global: Many dusts and fumes cause wheezy diseases
A wide range of dust and fume exposures lead to lung disorders including bronchitis and emphysema, a study has found. The literature review funded by the Danish Working Environment Research Fund found that there is strong and consistent evidence that many dusts and fumes are risk factors for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Ø Omland and others. Occupational chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a systematic literature review. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health, volume 40, number 1, pages 19-35, 2014. OH-world blog • Risks 639 • 25 January 2014
Norway: Landmark win on mercury at work
Health workers exposed to mercury were harmed and should be compensated, Norway's top court has ruled. Former dental nurse Bertha Regine Serigstad took the union-backed case against her government employer all the way to Norway's Supreme Court.
PSI news report • Risks 638 • 18 January 2014
Britain: HSE removes ‘good practice' from dust rules
The Health and Safety Executive has “weakened” its approach to hazardous substances at work with potentially deadly consequences, a top occupational health expert has warned. Dr John Cherrie of the Institute of Occupational Medicine said he had urged HSE to make improvements to dust controls as part of a consultation on the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations, but “unfortunately HSE ignored this advice and in fact weakened the criteria.”
OH-world.org blog • HSE COSHH publication alert and full document: The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. Approved Code of Practice and guidance (sixth edition) • Risks 637 • 11 January 2014
Britain: New HSE publications on dangerous substances
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has updated key publications on the control of dangerous substances at work. Both the COSHH and DSEAR documents are available free online, or can be purchased in print versions.
COSHH publication alert and full document: The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. Approved Code of Practice and guidance (sixth edition).
DSEAR publication alert and full document: Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002. Approved Code of Practice and guidance (second edition) • Risks 635 • 14 December 2013
Britain: HSE falls 1,000 short on diesel cancer deaths
Almost 5 per cent of lung cancer deaths in the United States and the United Kingdom may be due to workplace exposure to diesel exhaust, according to a new study. The study's findings suggest official Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimates of occupational lung cancer deaths in the UK caused by diesel exhaust exposures could fall more than 1,000 short of the true toll.
Roel Vermeulen, Debra T Silverman, Eric Garshick, Jelle Vlaanderen, Lützen Portengen, and Kyle Steenland. Exposure-Response Estimates for Diesel Engine Exhaust and Lung Cancer Mortality Based on Data from Three Occupational Cohorts, Environmental Health Perspectives, published online 22 November 2013. ETUI news update. HSE occupational lung cancer estimates • Risks 635 • 14 December 2013
Britain: Acid fountain sees chemical firm in court
An international chemical company has been prosecuted after three workers suffered acid burns when pipework at its plant near Southampton ruptured, sending a jet of sulphuric acid 20 metres into the air. Polimeri Europa UK Ltd, part of one of Europe's largest chemical companies, Versalis, was fined £120,000 plus £18,023 costs after admitting two criminal safety offences.
HSE news release and chemicals webpages • Risks 634 • 7 December 2013
Britain: Suspected benzene cancer victim seeks justice
A former fitter who has been diagnosed with cancer is appealing for former colleagues to come forward to help with an investigation into the dangerous chemicals he was exposed to at work. Michael Fernay, 65, who believes he was exposed to benzene at British Glue & Chemicals, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), a cancer of the blood cells linked to the chemical, during March this year.
Irwin Mitchell Solicitors news release. Anyone with useful information to support the compensation case should email Katrina London or call her at Irwin Mitchell on 0161 838 7262 • Risks 631 • 16 November 2013
USA: Scandal leads to shutdown of lung disease ‘denial' clinic
Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, a top US occupational medicine unit, has suspended its black lung programme after a media investigation found it was systematically denying sick coal miners were suffering the debilitating occupational lung disease. The Center for Public Integrity and ABC News investigation revealed how medical opinions from doctors at the prestigious hospital have helped coal companies thwart efforts by ailing mine workers to receive disability benefits.
CPI news release • Johns Hopkins Medicine statement • AFL-CIO Now • Risks 630 • 9 November 2013
USA: OSHA advises firms on safer chemicals move
The US government's safety watchdog OSHA is encouraging a shift to safer chemicals at work. Launching a new online guide, ‘Transitioning to safer chemicals: a toolkit for employers and workers', OSHA said: “Establishing a chemical management system that goes beyond simply complying with OSHA standards and strives to reduce or eliminate chemical hazards at the source through informed substitution best protects workers.”
OSHA news release and online resource, Transitioning to safer chemicals: a toolkit for employers and workers • Risks 629 • 2 November 2013
USA: A double victim of a weak dust standard
Lax official dust exposure standards not only left a US worker sick, they cost him his compensation too. The West Virginia Supreme Court ruled that furnace operator Randy Torris was properly denied the payouts because the company was compliant with dust standards enforced by the official workplace safety watchdog OSHA.
West Virginia Record • Risks 628 • 26 October 2013
Global: Landmark silicosis settlement for gold miners
South African miners employed by a gold firm forming part of a UK-based multinational have received landmark payouts for the deadly dust disease silicosis. The long-running President Steyn gold miners' silicosis litigation against Anglo American South Africa Ltd (AASA) includes payments to 23 claimants, including 18 President Steyn Mine claimants, whose claims began in 2004.
Leigh Day and Co news release • IOL Business • Risks 625 • 5 October 2013
Europe: Critics of EU chemical policy had industry ties
Seventeen scientists who launched a high profile attack on plans in Europe to regulate endocrine-disrupting chemicals have past or current ties to regulated industries. An investigation by Environmental Health News (EHN) revealed that of 18 toxicology journal editors who signed a controversial editorial, 17 have collaborated with the chemical, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, tobacco, pesticide or biotechnology industries.
Environmental Health News • Nature • ChemSec news • Policy decisions on Endocrine Disruptors should be based on science across disciplines: A Response to Dietrich et al and Editorial: An international Riposte to naysayers of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals. Both in Endocrinology, published online ahead of print, 18 September 2013.
DR Dietrich and others. Scientifically unfounded precaution drives European Commission's recommendations on EDC regulation, while defying common sense, well-established science and risk assessment principles, Food and Chemical Toxicology, published online 5 July 2013.
P Grandjean and D Ozonoff. Transparency and translation of science in a modern world, Environmental Health, volume 12, number 70, 27 August 2013 • Risks 624 • 28 September 2013
USA: Chemical exposure at work poses worst pregnancy risk
The evidence that exposure to chemicals in pregnancy leads to adverse reproductive and developmental health outcomes is “sufficiently robust,” medical experts have warned, with the risks highest for those exposed at work. A report from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) urges doctors to push for stricter policies to better identify and reduce exposure to chemicals that prove truly risky.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists committee opinion, number 575, October 2013 • Risks 624 • 28 September 2013
Britain: Research paper backs union stance
Unites campaign for lower limits on dust were given a boost by research from a group of academics. A paper 'Low-Toxicity Dusts: Current exposure guidelines are not sufficiently protective' by John W. Cherrie, Lisa M. Brosseau, Alastair Hay and Kenneth Donaldson outlines that exposure to low-toxicity dusts, which have previously been viewed as 'nuisance dusts', can cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or other non-malignant respiratory disease.
Unite news • TUC guidance • Risks 623 • 21 September 2013
Australia: Unions slam complacency on toxic dispersants
Australia's offshore petroleum industry safety regulator must fully investigate the use of potentially deadly dispersants to clean up oil spills in Australia, the country's national union federation ACTU has said. ACTU assistant Secretary Michael Borowick said reports on the Channel 9 TV programme 60 Minutes regarding dispersants used to clean up spills in Australia were deeply concerning, and that the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) needed to conduct a genuine and timely investigation, putting health and safety first.
ACTU news release • 60 Minutes • Australian Marine Conservation Society statement. NOPSEMA response to 60 minutes • Herald Sun • Risks 619 • 24 August 2013
Britain: HSE slated for leaving workers in the dust
Construction union UCATT has said it is “dismayed” the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) failed to inform union members about a planned seminar on dust dangers in the industry. Cheryl Pidgeon, regional secretary of UCATT Midlands, said “workers are at greatest risk from dust inhalation and the HSE should be working with UCATT to make sure that union safety reps are involved in the seminar.”
UCATT news release • HSE news release and information sheet • Global Unions zero cancer campaign • Risks 618 • 17 August 2013
USA: Respirators don't protect you from fracking dust
Workers involved in ‘fracking' are being exposed to levels of carcinogenic silica up to 10 times the US recommended limit, a study has found. Researchers from the US government occupational health research institute NIOSH looked at worker exposures during hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations and also found the most commonly used type of respirator, the half-mask air-purifying respirator, might not provide enough protection for workers.
Esswein EJ, Breitenstein M, Snawder J, Kiefer M, Sieber WK. Occupational exposures to respirable crystalline silica during hydraulic fracturing, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (JOEH), volume 10, number 7, pages 347-56, 2013 [abstract]. EHS Today • Risks 617 • 10 August 2013
Global: Call for phase out of killer pesticides
Highly hazardous pesticides should be phased out because it has proven “very difficult” to ensure proper handling, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has said. It notes: “FAO therefore recommends that governments in developing countries should speed up the withdrawal of highly hazardous pesticides from their markets,” adding: “Non-chemical and less toxic alternatives are available, and in many cases Integrated Pest Management can provide adequate pest management that is more sustainable and reduces the use of pesticides.”
FAO news release and Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management • SAICM paper on highly toxic pesticides • Sustainlabour report • Wall Street Journal • International Herald Tribune blog • Risks 617 • 10 August 2013
Britain: New warning on the UK's deadly dust standard
The UK's workplace dust standard should be tightened considerably to protect workers from serious diseases, a new academic paper has concluded, echoing a 2011 call from the TUC. The paper published in the July edition of the Annals of Occupational Hygiene concludes: “We urge regulators in Britain and elsewhere to move to develop new, safe OELs for poorly soluble low-toxicity dusts.”
John W Cherrie, Lisa M Brosseau, Alastair Hay and Kenneth Donaldson. Low-toxicity dusts: Current exposure guidelines are not sufficiently protective, Annals of Occupational Hygiene, volume 57, issue 6, pages 685-691, 2013.
Dust in the workplace. Guidance for Health and safety representatives, TUC, 2011 • Risks 617 • 10 August 2013
Britain: Payout for a life wrecked by solvents
A paint shop supervisor whose life was wrecked by exposure to solvents at work has received a ‘substantial' payout. Adam Coventon, who was employed by Prior Scientific Instruments Ltd, developed myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) after being exposed to the industrial solvent and known neurotoxin trichloroethylene, because his employer failed to properly install a new piece of machinery.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 616 • 3 August 2013
Global: Justice call for South African silicosis victims
Former workers suffering silicosis after working for a UK-based gold mining multinational must be given justice and compensation, campaigners have demanded. A letter to the Guardian co-authored by TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady notes that tens of thousands of gold miners working under the apartheid system were not protected from dust, exposures the industry “knew was causing them to contract silicosis in droves.”
The Guardian • ACTSA • Leigh Day and Co • Risks 615 • 27 July 2013
China: Dust activist pays for double-lung transplant
Four years ago, a young Chinese migrant worker, Zhang Haichao, came to global prominence after voluntarily undergoing surgery to prove he was suffering from the deadly occupational lung disease pneumoconiosis. Zhang, who has paid for a lifesaving double lung transplant, used his experiences to highlight the plight of dust exposed workers in China and is pressing for decent compensation for other affected workers.
China Labour Bulletin • Risks 614 • 20 July 2013
Global: Dangers of toxic cocktails are under-estimated
A team from the Institute for the Environment at Brunel University has found that commonly applied “uncertainty factors” led to “ill-founded” assurances about the effects are these mixtures. The review, published in the journal Environmental Health, found no support for the “urban myth” that the default uncertainty factor is over-conservative.
OV Martin and others. Dispelling urban myths about default uncertainty factors in chemical risk assessment – sufficient protection against mixture effects?, Environmental Health, volume 12, number 53, 2013. Chemical Watch (subscription only) • Risks 614 • 20 July 2013
USA: Chemical combinations increase cancer risk
Researchers at Texas Tech University who looked at exposures to low levels of both arsenic and oestrogen have found that low doses of both chemicals together – even at levels low enough to be considered “safe” for humans if they were on their own – can cause cancer in prostate cells.
J Treas and others. Chronic exposure to arsenic, estrogen, and their combination causes increased growth and transformation in human prostate epithelial cells potentially by hypermethylation-mediated silencing of MLH1, The Prostate, published online ahead of print, 26 June 2013. Texas Tech University news release • Risks 614 • 20 July 2013
Europe: Experts call for controls on endocrine disrupters
A global expert body on occupational health has called on the European Union to introduce stringent controls on endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). The Collegium Ramazzini, an international academy of 180 experts in environmental and occupational health from 35 countries, released a statement calling for new ways to test chemicals and to revise current approaches to risk management.
Collegium Ramazzini news release, Statement on Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals In The European Union and Letter to President Barroso and Commissioners • Risks 610 • 22 June 2013
Britain: E-cigarettes face new restrictions - eventually
Planned regulations covering e-cigarettes should not be delayed until 2016, the TUC has said. The union body said the announcement by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency that it will regulate e-cigarettes as medicines was welcome, but criticised the decision to wait until new European tobacco laws come into force before introducing the controls.
TUC health and safety facebook page and earlier Stronger Unions posting • BMA news release • BBC News Online • Risks 610 • 22 June 2013
USA: Chemical safety laws really work
A US study looking at the impact of a Toxics Use Reduction Act (TURA) in Massachusetts found that reported use of known or suspected carcinogens with businesses to reduce chemical risks, said: “These significant reductions show that when companies are required to examine their use of a toxic chemical, many find ways to use it more efficiently, while many others find options for replacing it with by industries in the state declined 32 per cent from 1990 to 2010 while releases to the environment declined 93 per cent from 1991 to 2010. Michael Ellenbecker, director of the Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) created alongside the act to work a safer substitute chemical or process.”
TURI news release and executive summary and full report, Opportunities for Cancer Prevention: Trends in the Use and Release of Carcinogens in Massachusetts, TURI, June 2013 • Risks 609 • 15 June 2013
Europe: Make prevention part of chemicals policy
A paper looking at the impact of chemical control laws in Europe, including the REACH regulations, has concluded “that the prevention of environmental exposure that is or may be related to cancer should become an integral part of cancer policies and cancer control programmes.” The paper published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health notes: “With the precautionary principle and that of physical–chemical hygiene in mind, the European regulations discussed in this article prove to be important steps towards a healthier living environment.”
Cathy Rigolle and others. How effective is the European legislation regarding cancer-related chemical agents? Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, volume 67, number 7, pages 539-541, 2013 [abstract] • Risks 609 • 15 June 2013
USA: Chemical Hazard and Alternatives Toolbox (ChemHAT)
ChemHAT, the Chemical Hazard and Alternatives Toolbox, is a new internet database developed by the US union IUE-CWA and the Blue Green Alliance. The organisations say: “Instead of what engineering controls and personal protective equipment do I need to lower the levels of exposure to a ‘safe' level, ChemHAT is being designed to answer the question, ‘Is there a way to get this job done without using dangerous chemicals?'” ChemHAT • Risks 608 • 8 June 2013
Britain: Top pregnancy docs say safety first with chemicals
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has concluded pregnant women may want to “play it safe” and avoid chemicals found in many common industrial and household products. RCOG says its paper on the issue is informing women and filling a void - until now, there has been no official advice for pregnant and breastfeeding women to turn to.
RCOG news release and full report, Chemical exposures during pregnancy: Dealing with potential, but unproven, risks to child health, RCOG, June 2013. BBC News Online • Risks 608 • 8 June 2013
Global: Toxic exports convention ‘in crisis'
Outraged civil society groups attending the Rotterdam Convention conference in Geneva last week have said the convention was hijacked by industry interests. For the fourth time, a handful of countries allied to the asbestos industry have refused to allow chrysotile asbestos to be added to the Convention's list of hazardous substances that require exporters to obtain ‘prior informed consent' from the importer; listing of the pesticide paraquat was also blocked.
RightOnCanada news release • IBAS news report • Joint news release by the Berne Declaration, PAN, IPEN and IUF • Risks 605 • 18 May 2013
Europe: Action call on hormone disrupting chemicals
Europe's lawmakers have said chemical safety laws must be overhauled to take account of the impact of widely-used endocrine disrupted chemicals (EDCs). The large group of common industrial chemicals were linked last year to breast cancer in a range of industrial and other jobs, prompting renewed calls for action from unions and chemical safety campaigners.
HEAL news release and related Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health commentary • ChemSec news report • EDC free campaign website • Risks 598 • 23 March 2013
Global: New global chemicals regime is needed
A new comprehensive global chemicals agreement is needed to safeguard people and the environment, a report has concluded. The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) said existing global agreements for chemicals management fall short, with only 22 hazardous chemicals currently managed throughout their lifecycle at the global level.
CIEL news release and report, Paths to global chemical safety: The 2020 goal and beyond • Risks 597 • 16 March 2013
Britain: E-ciggies area problem at work
E-cigarettes are potentially hazardous and have no place in the workplace, the TUC's head of safety has advised. Hugh Robertson, who said he had received two inquiries from safety reps about the product in the last week, said while the electronic nicotine delivery systems are not banned, they should be subject to the same controls at work as real cigarettes.
TUC Stronger Unions blog – see all the stories in the new Stronger Unions health and safety section • Risks 595 • 2 March 2013
Global: Chemical controls necessary to protect health
Industrial chemicals found in common household products may cause breast cancer, asthma, infertility and birth defects, global health chiefs have warned. The World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report indicates a ban could be necessary.
UNEP press release, report summary and full report, State of the science of Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals. ChemSec news report. Alliance for Cancer Prevention statement. Daily Mail • Risks 594 • 23 February 2013
USA: Stronger chemical laws ‘spur innovation'
Stronger laws to regulate hazardous chemicals spur innovation, with potential benefits for national economies, as well as human health and the environment, according to a new report from the Washington DC-based Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL).
CIEL news release and full report, Driving innovation: How stronger laws help bring safer chemicals to market, CIEL, February 2013. Forbes.com • Risks 594 • 23 February 2013
USA: Demand for action on deadly silica
Unions and safety advocates are demanding urgent action on silica, linked to hundreds of occupational disease deaths each year and thousands of cases of devastating ill-health. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the official US safety regulator, has drafted a proposal that would reduce occupational exposure to silica but it's been stalled by the White House for more than two years now.
National COSH network blog • AFL-CIO Now blog • Risks 592 • 9 February 2012
Britain: Train drivers want action on station pollution
Train drivers' union ASLEF is demanded action to reduce dangerous fumes at Edinburgh's Waverley Station after a study revealed that air pollution at the station is seven times higher the environmental safety standard. This means workers can be exposed throughout their working shifts to levels of fumes several times the public safety limit.
ASLEF news release • The Scotsman • Risks 592 • 9 February 2012
USA: Government agency is dangerously close to business
A US government agency intended to assist small businesses is instead operating as an unquestioning promoter of a deadly business lobby wishlist. A report from the independent Center for Effective Government says the Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy has been weighing in on issues including scientific assessments of the cancer risks of formaldehyde, styrene, and chromium, regurgitated chemical industry lobbyists talking points.
Center for Effective Government news release and report: Small businesses, public health, and scientific integrity: Whose interests does the Office of Advocacy at the Small Business Administration serve? • Risks 591 • 2 February 2013
India: Rajasthan campaigners in stunning silicosis gains
Workplace health campaigners in India are celebrating after the government of Rajasthan agreed to provide medical, monetary and social benefits to around 2.5 million unorganised mine workers affected by silicosis. As well as registering with the mines department, the firms will be required to report on health and safety violations, including any workers affected by silicosis.
Hindustan Times • Risks 591 • 2 February 2013
Britain: Cleaning jobs linked to asthma
There is strong evidence cleaning jobs increase the risk of developing asthma, a new UK study has concluded. Researchers at Imperial College London tracked the occurrence of asthma in a group of 9,488 people born in Britain in 1958. The study, published in the journal Thorax, found risks in the workplace were responsible for one in six cases of adult onset asthma - more than the one in nine cases attributed to smoking.
Imperial College news release and report, RE Ghosh and others • Asthma and occupation in the 1958 birth cohort. Thorax, 22 January 2013 • Asthma UK news release • BBC News Online • Risks 590 • 26 January 2013
Britain: Firms taking big risks on chemicals
Britain's manufacturers face the prospect of unlimited fines or even prison if they don't do more to ‘get to grips' with chemical safety law. EEF, the manufacturers' trade body, was speaking out following publication of a survey showing awareness of the implications of the REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) regulations for manufacturers, especially amongst smaller companies, remains worryingly low.
EEF news release and REACH webpages • HSE REACH webpages • Risks 589 • 19 January 2013
Britain: Wrecked health led to job loss and tiny fines
A Cambridge instrument company and a health and safety consultant have received small fines after a worker's life was ‘wrecked' by chemical exposures. Paint sprayer Adam Coventon, 36, suffered irritation to his eyes, breathing difficulties, headaches and lost the ability to concentrate after working with trichloroethylene and isocyanates at Prior Scientific Instruments Ltd in Fulbourn.
HSE news release and COSHH webpages • Risks 589 • 19 January 2013
Europe: SUBSPORT case histories on substitution
SUBSPORT, the Substitution Support Portal, is an online resource that provides information to aid a reduction in the use of harmful substances used at work, including a database of alternatives to hazardous chemicals. The rapidly developing database now includes more than 200 substitution case stories. The information is not just provided by companies; a number on substitution case histories have been submitted by trade unions and other organisations, such as the Swedish National Substitution Group - a network of practitioners at universities and hospitals that promote substitution.
ChemSec news report and information about sharing your case histories • SUBSPORT web portal • Risks 587 • 22 December 2012
Britain: Birth defects linked to solvent exposures
Exposure to organic solvents during pregnancy increases the risk of certain types of birth defects, a new study indicates. Researchers found mothers with greater exposure were 4 to 12 times more likely to have babies with oral clefts than mothers with less exposure.
Cordier, S, R Garlantézec, L Labat, F Rouget, C Monfort, N Bonvallot, B Roig, J Pulkkinen, C Chevrier and L Multigner. Exposure during pregnancy to glycol ethers and chlorinated solvents and the risk of congenital malformations. Epidemiology, volume 23, number 6 pages 806-12, 2012 [abstract] • Environmental Health News • Risks 587 • 22 December 2012
Britain: Double standard should have workers fuming
A pollution double standard that means workers can be permanently exposed to levels of fumes several times the public safety limit has been highlighted by concerns raised at Edinburgh's Waverley train station. The Sunday Herald reported that exhaust fumes from trains and taxis, coupled with toxic dust kicked up by construction works, are endangering the health of commuters, tourists and workers – particularly those with asthma, lung or heart conditions.
Sunday Herald • Rob Edwards • IOM news • Risks 587 • 22 December 2012
USA: New guide on chemical alternatives
US-based Clean Production Action (CPA) has released a new ‘Guide to safer chemicals', a practical tool setting benchmarks for how users of chemicals - purchasers, retailers and product manufacturers - can track their progress towards safer chemicals use. The guide builds on four key principles: Know and disclose product chemistry; assess and avoid hazards; commit to continuous improvement; and support public policies and industry standards.
CPA news release and report, Guide to safer chemicals • ChemSec news report • Risks 586 • 15 December 2012
USA: New website on site work and silica
The US based Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR), has launched a ‘Work safely with silica' website. CPWR, an organisation working closely with US construction unions, says as well as giving details of US silica regulation and official research, the new resource includes other research, articles, and training materials, as well as responses to frequently asked questions.
Work safely with silica • Risks 586 • 15 December 2012
Global: Chemical firms failing on substance safety
Chemical companies worldwide are not doing enough to make their products and practices safer and more sustainable, an investment rating agency has concluded. Oekom Research's evaluation of 101 chemical companies from 25 countries found the industry brings large numbers of new chemical compounds and products into the market every year, but only a small proportion have been comprehensively analysed to determine the risks associated with them.
Oekom press release and report, Oekom industry focus chemicals. ChemSec news report • Risks 583 • 24 November 2012
USA: Pesticide threat to farmworker families
The children of US farmworkers are facing deadly health risks from exposure to pesticides. An analysis by the Pesticide Action Network North America (PAN) has found while public concerns have centred on pesticides in food, it is the children in farmworker communities that are facing the greatest risk.
Working In These Times • A generation in jeopardy: How pesticides are undermining our children's health and intelligence, PAN North America, 2012 • Risks 579 • 27 October 2012
Europe: Chemicals watchdog is failing on REACH
European companies are failing to produce the legally required information on the chemicals they use and the watchdog that should be making them comply is not doing so, new evidence suggests. A report from the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and ClientEarth says the chemical industry has largely failed to provide the necessary data to make the REACH chemical safety law work, adding the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has allowed them to get away with it.
EEB press release and report, Identifying the bottlenecks in REACH implementation - the role of ECHA in REACH's failing implementation • ChemSec news report • The SIN list • Risks 579 • 27 October 2012
Britain: School worker suffers bromine poisoning
A school science technician was poisoned by toxic bromine gas after staff complaints about a poorly ventilated chemical cupboard were ignored. UNISON member April Walsh, 34, was exposed to bromine fumes while working as a senior science technician at Richard Rose Central Academy in Carlisle.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 578 • 20 October 2012
USA: Your job could put your offspring at risk
The jobs men and women do can lead to birth defects in their offspring, two new papers suggest. The studies, both US-based, were published online in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine and were based on data from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, an ongoing population based study.
Gilboa SM, Desrosiers TA, Lawson C and others. Association between maternal occupational exposure to organic solvents and congenital heart defects, National Birth Defects Prevention Study, 1997-2002, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Online First 17 July 2012. doi:10.1136/oemed-2011-100536
Desrosiers TA, Herring AH, Shapira SK and others. Paternal occupation and birth defects: findings from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Online First 17 July 2012. doi:10.1136/oemed-2011-100372 • Risks 565 • 21 July 2012
Europe: Unions to be ‘REACH ambassadors'
Unions in Europe are to become ‘REACH ambassadors' in companies using chemicals. ETUC and IndustriAll Europe, part of the global union federation covering workers in the chemical sector, say they “are calling on their member organisations to alert employers about their responsibilities through a new campaign in collaboration with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).”
ETUC news release and REACH leaflet • Risks 562 • 30 June 2012
Britain: UK dust standard leaves waste workers in peril
The waste industry must adopt “much lower exposure limits” for dust at work or workers will be left at risk of potentially life-threatening occupational diseases, a study has concluded.
BOHRF project description • Review of health risks for workers in the waste and recycling industry, IOM, 2012 [pdf]. Dust in the workplace, TUC, September 2011 [pdf] • Hazards magazine workplace dust webpages and graphic guide to occupational dust diseases • Risks 561 • 23 June 2012
Global: Unions call for action on diesel fumes cancers
Unions have called for urgent action to protect workers and the public from diesel exhaust fumes after the common workplace hazard was confirmed as a proven cause of cancer in humans. An expert panel convened by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a United Nations body, announced on 11 June that diesel had been reclassified as a top rated ‘Group 1' carcinogen.
IARC news release [pdf] and interviews, video casts and report, IARC Monographs – volume 105, Diesel and gasoline engine exhausts and some nitroarenes • GMB news release • The Pump Handle and related article on the industry's bid to undermine the evidence • OH-world.org • The Scotsman • BBC News Online • Risks 560 • 16 June 2012
USA: Rules on workplace toxics stalled
Workers in the US are suffering slow, agonising deaths from occupational diseases because improved standards on well-established killers like beryllium and silica are being stalled by industry interference and a legislative system that can keep new rules on the back burner indefinitely. Rena Steinzor, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law and president of the Center for Progressive Reform said: “OSHA hasn't made a serious run at regulating chemicals in the workplace in a couple of decades.”
iWatch News • Risks 559 • 9 June 2012
USA: Fracking workers in deadly peril
If you work in the hydraulic fracturing industry - better known as “fracking”, a process used to free natural gas and oil from shale rock - you may be exposed to high levels of crystalline silica, putting you at risk of silicosis, lung cancer and other debilitating diseases. The warning comes in a letter sent by US unions to top federal safety agencies. AFL-CIO blog and letter. NIOSH science blog • Bloomberg • Risks 558 • 2 June 2012
Europe: SUBSPORT route to chemical safety
A new online tool intended to help businesses move from toxic chemicals to less dangerous alternatives has been launched. The SUBSPORT project, which has involved unions in its design and development, provides free-of-charge multilingual tools. ChemSec news release • ChemSec news report, portal and case history database • Risks 558 • 2 June 2012
USA: Groups say styrene has earned cancer tag
One of the USA's largest unions and leading environmental advocacy groups started legal proceedings last week aimed at making sure the US government can alert the American public to the potenti l dangers of top cancer suspect styrene. The legal action by USW, the Environmental Defense Fund and Earthjustice is in support of the US Department of Health and Human Services' listing of styrene as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen,” in response to a chemical industry lawsuit attempting to force the agency to withdraw the styrene warning.
Earthjustice news release • Risks 557 • 26 May 2012
Australia: Warning on blue collar cancer risks
More than 90,000 blue collar workers in Australia could be at risk of cancer owing to a lack of coordination between regulators to reduce exposure to carcinogens and the absence of any incentive for industries to act. A national cancer at work forum hosted by Cancer Council Australia (CCA) and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) heard the highest numbers of at-risk workers are employed in machinery manufacture, printing and allied industries, the food industry and plastics manufacture.
CCA news release • Herald Sun •TURI website • 4 December 2009 news release announcing the Ontario Toxics Use Reduction law • ITUC/Hazards global union cancer campaign • Risks 555 • 12 May 2012
Britain: Cut price coins could cause allergies
Fears are being raised that high nickel 5p and 10p coins being introduced into circulation could cause skin problems. Dermatologists have warned “consideration must be given to the potential costs to health from skin disease related to nickel exposure (allergic contact dermatitis and hand dermatitis); financial implications to the NHS for clinical management of affected people; and other taxpayer costs (inability to work because of hand dermatitis related to nickel allergy).”
Danielle T Greenblatt, David J Gawkrodger and Ian R White. Allergy risk from Royal Mint's new nickel plated steel coins should be publicly assessed, British Medical Journal, volume 344:e2730, 2012, published online 19 April 2012. BBC News Online • Risks 553 • 28 April 2012
Britain: Mass lead poisoning at recycling firm
A London recycling company has been fined after large numbers of its employees were found to have “significantly high” levels of lead in their blood, with two exhibited symptoms of poisoning so serious they required drastic chelation therapy. Metal and Waste Recycling Ltd in Edmonton had bought and was stripping some lead-sheathed copper cabling from British Telecom (BT) after the network began to be changed from copper to fibre optic cable.
HSE news release and 9 November 2009 HSE statement on lead exposure • Hazards magazine ‘Dangerous lead' report • HSE lead webpages • Risks 553 • 28 April 2012
South Africa: Anglo American blamed for dust disease
A South African miner who believes he contracted tuberculosis as a result of digging gold on behalf of Anglo American this week used the mining giant's annual meeting to demand compensation. Daniel Seabata Thakamakau, 66, represents more than 1,200 former miners, many with silicosis and tuberculosis, who are suing Anglo American in a mass tort action.
Leigh Day & Co news release • ACTSA news release • Unite news item [pdf] • The Guardian • Risks 552 • 21 April 2012
USA: Joint call for stricter beryllium standard
A beryllium producer and trade union have made a joint appeal for a stringent legally-binding exposure limit for the highly dangerous metal. The call from the United Steelworkers (USW) and Materion Brush came as they announced they had reached agreement on a model beryllium standard and had sent it to the official Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as a joint recommendation.
USW news release • Risks 543 • 18 February 2012
Global: Monsanto guilty of poisoning French farmer
A French court has found the US biotech giant Monsanto responsible for the poisoning of a farmer who inhaled a powerful weedkiller. Monsanto says it will appeal against this week's verdict by a court in Lyon. Grain farmer Paul Francois, 47, suffered from dizziness, memory loss, stammering, headaches, muscular aches and other problems after examining a sprayer in 2004 which contained Lasso, a product which remained on the market in France until 2007, despite earlier bans in Britain, Belgium and Canada. France 24 • RFI • The Guardian • BBC News Online • Daily Mirror • Risks 543 • 18 February 2012
Britain: Stonemason gets belated payout for diseased lung
A stonemason who developed a life-limiting occupational lung disease after he was exposed to silica dust at work has received compensation more than 13 years after he was diagnosed, and despite one set of solicitors turning his case down.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 542 • 11 February 2012
USA: Action on deadly silica hits a brick wall
Progress on a new safer official US workplace exposure limit for deadly silica dust has been frustrated by the business lobby for over a decade. But a bid by the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to finally introduce stricter controls on silica has hit a second brick wall – a review process run by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that has stalled the ready-to-go standard since 14 February last year.
National Council for Occupational Safety and Health silica campaign and letter to President Obama [pdf] • Union of Concerned Scientists news release • NPR Morning Edition • Huffington Post • AFL-CIO Now blog • Risks 541 • 4 February 2012
Turkey: Denim sandblasting takes another life
The deadly legacy of Turkey's denim sandblasting trade has accounted for another life. Press reports from the country say 28-year-old İdris Oral died after suffering from silicosis caused by his work at a denim sandblasting workshop.
Bianet • Clean Clothes Campaign appeal • Risks 541 • 4 February 2012
USA: Miscarriages in nurses linked to work exposures
Nurses who worked with chemotherapy drugs or sterilising chemicals were twice as likely to have a miscarriage as their colleagues who didn't handle these materials, a US study has found. Nurses who gave patients x-rays had a slightly elevated risk of miscarriage too, about 30 per cent higher than nurses who didn't work with x-rays; and nurses who handled sterilising agents, such as ethylene oxide or formaldehyde, more than an hour a day also had a doubled risk of miscarriage, but only during the second trimester. Christina C Lawson and others. Occupational exposures among nurses and risk of spontaneous abortion, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, published online ahead of print, 30 December 2011 • MedlinePlus • Mother Nature Network • Risks 540 • 28 January 2011
Britain: Print fumes caused occupational asthma
A printer who developed asthma when he was exposed to dangerous fumes at work has received compensation. Unite member Jason MaCann, 35, was diagnosed with the condition after he was exposed to isocyanates used in laminating machines at FFP Packaging in Northampton.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 537 • 7 January 2012
Britain: ‘Ticking timebomb' of bladder cancer cases
Lawyers are warning of a ‘ticking timebomb' as workers exposed to carcinogenic chemicals from the 1950s to the 1970s develop potentially fatal cancers. Pauline Chandler from the law firm Pannone said “my fear is that workers in a number of industries, including; the chemicals sector, paint production, rubber manufacture and pigments and dyestuffs production, will develop cancers and be unaware that they are related to their past employment.”
Pannone Solicitors • The Guardian • Global Unions zero cancer campaign • HSE cancer statistics • Risks 536 • 17 December 2011
Global: Brands promise to ditch hazardous chemicals
Six major international clothing brands have announced a ‘joint roadmap' intended to dramatically reduce the use of hazardous chemicals in their supply chains. Adidas Group, C&A, H&M, Li Ning, Nike Inc and Puma say the initiative will lead the apparel and footwear industry towards zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020.
ChemSec news report. Joint roadmap [pdf] • Dirty Laundry • Risks 535 • 10 December 2011
USA: More evidence of dangers from trike
An international study has linked the industrial solvent trichloroethylene (TCE), also called 'trike', to Parkinson's disease. Researchers found a six-fold increase in the risk of developing Parkinson's in individuals exposed in the workplace.
News report • Review of carcinogenicity of trike • Risks 532 • 19 November 2011
Cambodia: Mass fainting follows use of insecticide
The latest mass fainting incident at a Cambodian factory supplying major high street stores has been linked to the use of an insecticide. More than 100 workers collapsed at the Anful Garments Factory in Kampong Speu on 24 October after the cloth they were working with was sprayed with insecticide the previous day, a senior provincial health official said.
Phnom Penh Post • Risks 530 • 5 November 2011
Britain: Chemical reaction keeps painter out of work
A painter who developed a reaction to epoxy paints has had to give up his trade as result. The 61-year-old from South Tyneside, whose name has not been released, developed a sensitivity to the paint after 40 years in the trade.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 530 • 5 November 2011
Cambodia: Mass fainting follows use of insecticide
The latest mass fainting incident at a Cambodian factory supplying major high street stores has been linked to the use of an insecticide. More than 100 workers collapsed at the Anful Garments Factory in Kampong Speu on 24 October after the cloth they were working with was sprayed with insecticide the previous day, a senior provincial health official said.
Phnom Penh Post • Risks 530 • 5 November 2011
Britain: Firm failed to protect workers from asthma risk
A South Tyneside company has been prosecuted for putting workers' health at risk by exposing them to a potent cause of occupational asthma. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched an investigation at Variable Message Signs Limited after an inspector visited the company's premises in Hebburn and identified serious failings in the way the company was controlling the risk of employees developing occupational asthma during soldering work.
HSE news release • Risks 529 • 29 October 2011
Britain: TV stonemason is done for dust
A stonemasonry business has been fined for exposing workers to potentially deadly stone dust after a viewer spotted its dangerous practices on a BBC television programme. Atelier 109 Limited featured in March 2010 in the BBC2 series Mastercrafts, presented by Monty Don.
HSE news release • Peterborough Today • Risks 529 • 29 October 2011
Britain: Unite says ‘no' to workplace dust
The official limit for workplace dust must be lowered to protect workers from one of the work's biggest killers, the union Unite has said. Bud Hudspith, Unite national health and safety adviser, commented: “The current dust standards are not good enough and there is strong scientific evidence to prove it.”
Unite news release and TUC dust guide [pdf] • Risks 522 • 10 September 2011
Britain: TUC demands lower dust exposure ceiling
The TUC is calling for urgent action to reduce dust levels in the workplace, a problem it says is responsible for thousands of deaths in the UK every year. In new guidance sent out to all union safety reps, the TUC argues the current workplace dust exposure standards are “totally inadequate.”
TUC news release. Dust in the workplace, TUC, September 2011 [pdf] • Risks 521 • 3 September 2011
Britain: Iraq-Iran war mustard gas caused BBC death
A BBC Newsnight sound recordist died 27 years after inhaling mustard gas while covering the war between Iran and Iraq, an inquest has heard. Cyril Benford had been with colleagues in 1984 when an Iranian soldier opened a shell releasing the gas.
BBC News Online • Daily Telegraph • Risks 519 • 20 August 2011
Cambodia: Union calls for probe into fainting episodes
The head of one of Cambodia's biggest independent union's has called for a government investigation into the fainting spells that have affected thousands of factory workers this year. Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union, sent letters to the ministries of Health, Environment and Labour, requesting they look into conditions at factories that are harming the health of workers.
VOA Khmer • Phnom Penh Post • Risks 516 • 30 July 2011
Global: Under fire Versace caves and bans sandblasting
Italian fashion giant Versace has become the latest brand to back a drive to end a deadly sandblasting process that gives denim a fashionable worn look. A succession of major global retailers had already banned the process, after a high profile campaign by workers' rights groups.
Clean Clothes Campaign news release • Vogue Magazine • Financial Times • The Independent
Sign the Clean Clothes Campaign petition urging Dolce and Gabbana to stop sandblasting • Risks 516 • 30 July 2011
Britain: Court rules work toxins caused Parkinsonism
An RAF corporal who was left with a devastating degenerative neurological condition after he was exposed to dangerous chemicals has won a groundbreaking legal victory at the Court of Appeal. Shaun Wood, 52, was diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy-P (MSAP), an incurable condition related to Parkinson's Disease that affects the nervous system, after exposure to organic solvents as a painter and finisher at RAF sites across the world.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 514 • 16 July 2011
USA: New chemical safe law good for jobs
More stringent controls on industrial chemicals could support job creation in the US while protecting health and the environment, a new report has concluded. The study, produced by the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) and commissioned by the BlueGreen Alliance, shows that innovation in sustainable chemistry can reverse the industry's job shedding trend in a market that increasingly requires cleaner, safer production.
BGA news release and full report, The economic benefits of a green chemical industry in the United States: Renewing manufacturing jobs while protecting health and the environment • In These Times • Risks 506 • 21 May 2011
Britain: Woodworking firm ignored dust warning
A Bristol joinery and staircase specialist that ignored an official order to improve control exposures to wood dust has been fined. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector visited the Blackstone Developments (South West) Ltd workshop on 9 February 2011 and found the firm had failed to comply with an official improvement notice issued on 7 October 2010.
HSE news release • Risks 506 • 21 May 2011
Britain: Top docs back union dust plan
The Institute of Occupational Medicine has backed a union push for a dramatic reduction in the amount of dust allowed in workplace air. Unions have for over two years been pressing an intransigent Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to reduce the occupational exposure limit for general workplace dust to a quarter the current level and to run a campaign to raise awareness of dust dangers.
The IOM's position on occupational exposure limits for dust, May 2011 [pdf] • Delivering for health: HSE action on occupational respiratory disease [pdf], paper to the HSE board meeting, December 2010 [minutes, pdf] • Risks 506 • 21 May 2011
Britain: MoD fights degenerative solvent disease ruling
An RAF corporal who was left with a devastating degenerative and incurable neurological condition after he was exposed to dangerous toxins while working in ‘Victorian conditions' is being forced to again defend his case for compensation, this time in the Court of Appeal. Shaun Wood, 52, was diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy-P (MSAP), a Parkinson's-type condition that affects the nervous system, after exposure to a “lethal cocktail” of solvents as a painter and finisher at RAF sites across the world.
Thompsons Solicitors • Risks 500 • 2 April 2011
Global: WHO says chemicals kill millions each year
Researchers from the World Health Organisation (WHO) has calculated the death toll due to the use of chemical substances. In 2004, chemical substances caused 4.9 million deaths (or 8 per cent of total mortality); when related ill-health is factored in, the number of years of life lost reached 86 million (5 per cent of the total).
Annette Prüss-Ustün, Carolyn Vickers, Pascal Haefliger and Roberto Bertollini. Knowns and unknowns on burden of disease due to chemicals: a systematic review, Environmental Health, volume 10, number 9, 2011, doi:10.1186/1476-069X-10-9 • Risks 499 • 26 March 2011
Global: IUF calls for lung killer action
A long union push for workplace regulation of the highly toxic food flavouring diacetyl has resulted in the introduction of a strict new workplace standard in the state of California. But only watered down controls have been introduced in the US at the national level – and global foodworkers' union federation IUF says action on the widely used butter flavouring is near non-existent elsewhere.
IUF news release and diacetyl briefing for union reps [pdf] • More on diacetyl • Risks 499 • 26 March 2011
South Africa: Top court backs mine dust victims
South African miners have won a landmark dust disease case in the nation's highest court. The legal precedent is expected to allow thousands of miners stricken with life-threatening respiratory and other diseases to sue companies under common law in South Africa, even if they have already received a payout from a state-run scheme.
ICEM news report • Risks 498 • 19 March 2011
Britain: Chemical spray left sprayer sore
An international utilities company has been fined after an agency worker suffered skin problems caused by prolonged exposure to a hazardous chemical. Laing O'Rourke Utilities Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after Peter Johnson, 48, from Exeter, suffered sore skin around his face after several weeks of exposure to isocyanate between July and August 2007.
HSE news release • Risks 498 • 19 March 2011
Britain: Chemicals harmed agency farm workers
A company has been fined after three workers were taken to hospital following a chemical incident at a Spalding vegetable grower and supplier. Spalding Magistrates' Court heard a Latvian agency worker at Emmett UK Ltd was cleaning food processing machinery when he accidentally mixed two cleaning chemicals which reacted together to produce a toxic gas.
HSE news release • Spalding Today • Risks 497 • 12 March 2011
Britain: Plumber severely burned by acid rain
A property maintenance firm has been fined after one of its employees suffered acid burns to his face, neck and arm. Neil Kelly, from Bury, was using a high concentration of sulphuric acid to unblock a sink at a domestic property when the corrosive liquid erupted into the air.
HSE news release and chemicals webpage • Risks 497 • 12 March 2011
China: Poisoned workers turn to Apple for help
Chinese workers who suffered debilitating solvent-related neurological problems while making touchscreens for mobile devices, including iPhones, have written to Apple asking it to do more to help them. Some 137 workers suffered adverse health effects following exposure to the solvent n-hexane, used to clean touch screens.
China Daily • Huffington Post • Wall Street Journal • BBC News Online • Risks 496 • 5 March 2011
Britain: Safety breaches caused toxic chemical burns
A worker at an Ellesmere Port factory suffered toxic burns to his arms and chest requiring skin grafts as a result of his employer's failure to abide by workplace and environmental safety laws. Abacus Chemical Ltd was prosecuted and a director cautioned in a joint case brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Environment Agency following the incident.
HSE news release and chemicals webpages • Risks 493 • 12 February 2011
USA: Contaminated work site caused nerve damage
A long-delayed state health department report on a 2006 incident at an Alaska military base has concluded an unknown volatile chemical was the probable cause of the serious nerve damage that afflicted several construction workers. At least four workers at the Fort Wainwright base were permanently disabled and are still seeking compensation for medical bills and more than 30 construction workers were hospitalised after exposure to the chemical in Aircraft Maintenance Hangar No.6.
PEER news release • Risks 491 • 29 January 2011
USA: Farmworkers act on strawberry poison
A coalition of environmental groups is hoping newly inaugurated California governor Jerry Brown will rescind the decision by his predecessor Arnold Schwarzenegger to approve the use of methyl iodide. Erik Nicholson, national vice-president of the UFW, commented: “Farmworkers are on the front lines of methyl iodide use and will suffer the most tragic consequences,” adding: “If this decision is allowed to stand, strawberries may very well become the new poster child for giving farmworkers cancer and late term miscarriages.”
In These Times • Pesticides Action Network North America • Risks 490 • 22 January 2011
Global: Call to drop worn jeans
Unions this week told major garment companies and retailers they should stop selling sandblasted jeans. The process, which is used to give denim a fashionable worn and faded look, causes an often fatal lung disease in exposed garment workers.
ITGLWF news release • Risks 490 • 22 January 2011
Britain: Firms fail to control cancer chemicals
There has been no improvement in over a decade in the chemical industry's control of a potent carcinogen, research for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has found. The study into exposures to the cancer-causing chemical MbOCA found more than 1 in 20 measurements (6 per cent) exceeded the guidance value for MbOCA in urine, with levels in excess of this figure found at seven of the 19 sites visited in study.
Occupational exposure to MbOCA (4,4′-methylene-bis-ortho-chloroaniline) and isocyanates in polyurethane manufacture, RR828, December 2010 [pdf] • Risks 489 • 15 January 2011
Sweden: Firms call for safer toxics laws
Regulations and incentives are needed to encourage a shift away from toxic chemicals, a group of Swedish business leaders, academics and environmental organisations have said. The call, in a co-signed article in Dagens Industri, the country's largest financial newspaper, says it is a misconception that a lack of technically sound alternatives are the barrier to the transition towards a toxic free world.
ChemSec news report • Risks 486 • 11 December 2010
Britain: Alert on chemicals shake up at work
The TUC has reissued its call for union safety reps to make sure their employers are meeting new legal duties on workplace chemicals. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) says by the REACH deadline of 30 November 2010, 24,675 registration dossiers had been successfully submitted for 4,300 substances including nearly 3,400 phase-in substances.
HSE news release • REACH - A briefing for safety representatives, TUC, September 2010 • ECHA news release, website and Practical Guide [pdf] • Risks 485 • 4 December 2010
USA: USW calls for lung cancer screening
The US steelworkers' union USW wants routine occupational lung cancer screening for all workers in high risk jobs. USW international president Leo W Gerard said: “Millions of workers have been exposed to asbestos, silica, chromium, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, nickel and combustion products – and all of these exposures are firmly established as causes of human lung cancer.”
USW news release • Risks 482 • 13 November 2010
USA: ‘Toxic nightmare' in prison recycling scheme
Inmates and employees at 10 US prisons were exposed to toxic metals and other hazardous substances while processing electronic waste for recycling, a four-year investigation by the Justice Department's inspector general found. Yet despite finding officials wilfully endangered thousands of prison staff and inmates, none will be prosecuted and most of the officials have retired without any sanction, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
US Justice Department Inspector General report [pdf] • PEER news release • FairWarning • New York Times • Risks 480 • 30 October 2010
Britain: Lead level reached four times the legal limit
A Black Country glass maker has been fined £3,600 after an official inspection found airborne lead levels in some instances were over four times the legal limit. Employees at Brierley Crystal had elevated blood lead levels, with four in excess of the 35 micrograms/dl level described as evidence of “significant” over-exposure in the lead regulations.
HSE news release and lead at work webpages • Hazards magazine lead webpages • Risks 476 • 2 October 2010
Britain: TUC alert on chemicals shake up at work
The TUC says union safety reps should make sure their employers are ready to meet new legal duties on workplace chemicals. The union body, which has published new online safety rep guidance on the REACH regulations, says safety reps in firms using chemicals should check with the employer whether: Their classification should be changed under the new rules; they are labelled in line with the rules; all uses are covered by updated safety data sheets; and the required risk assessment measures have been implemented.
REACH - A briefing for safety representatives, TUC, September 2010 • ETUC news release and leaflet • Risks 475 • 25 September 2010
USA: Chromium industry buries cancer evidence
The world's largest producer of chromium chemicals failed to inform the US authorities after it found a “substantial” lung cancer risks to workers exposed to hexavalent chromium (CrVI, or chrome 6). A notice this month filed by the US government's Environmental Protection Agency says Elementis Chromium failed or refused to submit to EPA a study conducted for an industry trade group that showed evidence of excess lung cancer risk among workers in chromium production facilities.
The Pump Handle blog and 2 September 2010 EPA notice, posted on the Defending Science website • Risks 474 • 18 September 2010
Global: Deadly jeans fade out of fashion
Two major multinationals have agreed to end sandblasting denim jeans, a practice that has led to deadly lung disease in garment workers. ITGLWF, the global union federation for the sector, welcomed the announcement by Levi Strauss and H&M.
ITGLWF news release • Levi Strauss news release • Risks 474 • 18 September 2010
Europe: SUBSPORT guide to chemical substitution
A new European online resource is being developed, to provide information about safer alternatives to the use of hazardous chemicals. The EU-backed substitution portal, being prepared by groups from Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Spain, including the trade union safety research body ISTAS, aims to be the leading database for substitution worldwide.
SUBSPORT website • Risks 472 • 4 September 2010
USA: There are alternatives to toxic chemicals
A comprehensive, proactive federal chemicals management policy should identify toxic chemicals before they are used commercially and force the use of safer alternatives, a new report says. ‘Preventing toxic exposures: Workplace lessons in safer alternatives' says while new rules are formulated, efforts should concentrate on measures to promote safer alternatives.
Preventing toxic exposures: Workplace lessons in safer alternatives, Perspectives, volume 5, number 1, UC Berkeley Health Research for Action, 2010 [pdf] • California Progress Report • Green jobs, safe jobs blog • Risks 471 • 28 August 2010
USA: Metropolis faces deadly work peril
Union members at America's only uranium conversion plant, in Metropolis, Illinois, say work-related cancers are a central reason the union is refusing to accept the plant operator's plan to reduce pensions for newly hired workers and health benefits for retirees. On 28 June, Honeywell locked out its 220 union employees after contract negotiations stalled, accusing the union of refusing to give the company 24 hours' notice of a strike.
New York Times • Risks 469 • 14 August 2010
Britain: Director fined over high lead levels
An employer has been fined after routinely exposed workers to excessive levels of lead at a Norfolk sheet metal manufacturing company. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which brought the prosecution, told Hazards magazine that airborne levels of lead Anglia Lead Ltd exceeded official limits on “various occasions” investigated by the watchdog and blood tests showed a number of workers were “significantly exposed.”
HSE news release and lead webpages • Risks 469 • 14 August 2010
USA: Cheap masks won't protect Gulf workers
Masks issued to workers in the Gulf of Mexico cleaning up the BP oil spill are not offering the necessary protection, an expert has warned. Industrial hygienist Eileen Senn, writing in The Pump Handle blog, reports the $5 officially recommended masks are “not approved for organic vapours” meaning “this dust mask presumably will remove only small amounts of hydrocarbon vapours, so workers may still be exposed to them.”
The Pump Handle • Risks 464 • 10 July 2010
Britain: HSE observes hi-tech horror show
Microelectronics firms in Britain have neglected health risks to workers, tampered with crucial safety alarms and have shown no consideration of the risks faced by entire groups of workers, an official report has found. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) uncovered “weaknesses”, “misunderstandings” and poor practices in vital safety procedures across the sector.
Unite news release • Sunday Herald • Rob Edwards website • Control and management of hazardous substances in semiconductor manufacturers in Great Britain in 2009, HSE, July 2010 [pdf] • Risks 464 • 10 July 2010
Britain: Pesticides linked to cancer increases
A ‘dramatic' increase in a range of occupational and childhood cancers has been linked to pesticide exposures. A report published last week by CHEM Trust links exposure prior to conception or during pregnancy to higher rates of childhood cancer and warns that farm workers could also be developing cancers caused by pesticide exposures at work.
Chem Trust news release [pdf] and report [pdf] • Green jobs, safe jobs blog • Scotsman • Risks 464 • 10 July 2010
India: Panel reconsiders Bhopal leak action
Cabinet ministers are recommending that India's government revisit its response to the 1984 toxic gas leak in Bhopal. The fact that the Bhopal tragedy is back in the news at the same time as the huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has added to the sense that victims of the 1984 disaster have been terribly let down.
The Guardian • BBC News Online. The Hindu • Risks 462 • 26 June 2010
REACH - an opportunity for trade unions
The marketing of chemicals - especially those that could harm human health - has been covered by the EU-wide REACH regulations since 1 June 2007. But ‘REACH: an opportunity for trade unions', a new publication from the trade union research institute ETUI, concludes real progress, including outlawing the most toxic chemicals from workplaces, “will not happen unless union representatives take ownership of the law.”
REACH: an opportunity for trade unions.
Putting knowledge to work in the workplace, Tony Musu, ETUI, 2010. ISBN 978-287452176-8. Price: 10 Euros. ETUI publications notice and contents and preface [pdf] • Risks 460 • 12 June 2010
Britain: RAF painter disabled by solvents
A services painter who was left with a devastating degenerative neurological condition after he was exposed to dangerous toxins while working in ‘Victorian conditions' has won his 17-year battle for compensation. Shaun Wood, 52, was diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy-P (MSAP), a Parkinson's type condition which affects the nervous system, after exposure to a cocktail of solvents as a painter and finisher at RAF sites across the world.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 457 • 22 May 2010
USA: Blood lead levels tied to nerve disease
A study has strenghtened evidence linking long-term lead exposure to the risk of developing the fatal neurological condition amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease. The study found a doubling of blood lead levels led to a near doubling of the chances of developing ALS.
F Fang and others. Association between blood lead and the risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, American Journal of Epidemiology, volume 171, Number 10, pages 1126-33, 2010 • Risks 457 • 22 May 2010
Britain: Lead poisoning leads to fine
A company carrying out a massive restoration of a Scottish mansion has been fined £10,000 after workers were poisoned by lead paint. Several east European workers were found to have contracted lead poisoning which could affect their health for 25 years, while restoring the estate of Dutch construction billionaire Dik Wessels.
HSE news release • STV • Dangerous lead report, Stirling University/Hazards magazine, November 2009 • Risks 448 • 20 March 2010
Global: Greenpeace adds to Samsung pressure
A global electronics giant embroiled in an occupational cancer scandal has been accused by Greenpeace of reneging on a promise to phase out toxic chemicals linked to cancer and other diseases. This week climbers from the environmental group scaled the Benelux headquarters of the Korean multinational Samsung, sticking the message “Samsung = Broken Promises” in giant letters onto the front of the building.
Greenpeace news release • Green jobs, safe jobs blog • Sign the SHARPs petition urging Samsung to act on occupational cancer risks • Risks 447 • 13 March 2010
Europe: Dangerous substances risk campaign
European health and safety inspectors are to run a Europe-wide inspection campaign to improve working conditions associated with the use of dangerous substances in the workplace. The campaign, which will run from January 2010 to March 2011, is being run by SLIC, the European Union Senior Labour Inspectors Committee, and is supported by the European Commission.
Risks 443 • 13 February 2010
Britain: Company fined for poisoning its workers
A recycling company and its director have been fined a total of £145,000 for exposing workers to toxic mercury fumes at a site in Huddersfield. Electrical Waste Recycling Group Ltd recycles electrical equipment, including fluorescent light tubes containing mercury and TV sets and monitors containing lead at a plant in School Lane, Kirkheaton.
Green jobs, safe jobs blog • 13 February 2010
New Zealand: Unions welcome poisonings probe
The Maritime Union of New Zealand has welcomed new research on nerve disease and the toxic fumigant methyl bromide. Concerns were raised after port workers exposed to the gas developed Motor Neurone disease, with one port town having a rate of the disease 25 times the national average.
Maritime Union news release • TVNZ • Risks 441 • 30 January 2010
USA: Toxic chemicals law reform call
An overhaul of the US federal toxic chemical law to reduce the level of toxic exposures to workers, families and children is urgently required, campaigners have said. The union USW, the Learning Disabilities Association, the Cancer Institute and the Pennsylvania Nurses Association joined forces to call for reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act.
USW news release • The health case for reforming Toxic Substances Control Act • Risks 441 • 30 January 2010
Bangladesh: Pesticides pushers kill thousands
Thousands of Bangladeshi workers are dying of pesticide poisoning each year, as a result of unsafe use of often banned pesticides. Meanwhile, safer, greener approaches to production are ignored in the face of a sustained and richly-resourced lobbying campaign by multinational pesticide producers.
Green jobs, safe jobs blog • Risks 440 • 23 January 2010
China: Apple supplier hit by poisonings protest
Workers at a Chinese factory that supplies Apple touchscreens smashed vehicles and factory facilities last week in a protest over safety and pay. The China Daily reported that the more than 2,000 workers were involved in the protest at the United Win (China) Technology Ltd Co factory where they say there have been deaths from over-exposure to n-hexane, a toxic solvent used to clean the screens.
China Daily • Breitbart • San Jose Business Journal • Risks 440 • 23 January 2010
Britain: Cancer-linked pesticides used in schools
At least four potentially cancer causing pesticides are being used in UK schools, placing staff and pupils at risk, according to a new survey. The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) and Pesticides Action Network (PAN) snapshot of English, Welsh and Scottish school authorities also reveals that in addition to the four possible carcinogens – dichlobenil, oxadiazon, sulfosulfuron and mecoprop - seven of the pesticides used in schools may pose other serious health risks.
HEAL news release [pdf] and full survey report [pdf] • PAN UK • 23 January 2010
Global: Lead poisoning set to rise
Widespread lead poisoning will result from the planned distribution of a billion computers to developing countries by technology companies and charities, according to a new study. “The lead from batteries needed to power these computers will result in environmental contamination and harmful exposures unless some commonsense safeguards are taken,” said Perry Gottesfeld, co-author of the study published in the Journal of Cleaner Production.
Christopher R Cherry and Perry Gottesfeld. Plans to distribute the next billion computers by 2015 creates pollution risk, Journal of Cleaner Production, volume 17, pages 1620–1628, December 2009 [pdf] • OK International • Green jobs blog • Risks 433 • 21 November 2009
Britain: Campaign calls for zero lead exposures
Workers must have “zero exposure” to lead, a prominent safety campaign has said.
The Construction Safety Campaign's (CSC) London annual general meeting last week voted unanimously for the use of lead to be banned, a ban on lead imports and for zero exposure to lead at work.
CSC news release • Green jobs blog • Risks 433 • 21 November 2009
Britain: HSE withdraws lead safety advice
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has withdrawn advice on the dangers of working with lead after an investigation found it greatly under-estimated health risks that could be affecting over 100,000 workers. The HSE move came after a report by academics at Stirling University, published in Hazards magazine, said the official health and safety warnings about the dangers of lead were so complacent the watchdog was guilty of “extreme recklessness” with workers' health.
Dangerous lead, Hazards magazine, October-December 2009 • Channel 4 News report and video clip • The Guardian. HSE statement. Green jobs blog • Risks 432 • 14 November 2009
Cambodia: Hundreds sickened in garment factory
More than 500 workers at a Phnom Penh garment factory collapsed on 12 October after they were exposed to a chemical spray. Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of the Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, said staff at the Willbes Cambodia Ltd factory in Dagkor province were overcome because the air was filled with “an unbearable chemical smell.”
Phnom Penh Post • Risks 428 • 17 October 2009
Britain: Chlorine damaged trainee doc's throat
A trainee doctor who was exposed to dangerous levels of chlorine at the Hilton Hotel while working in a part time job has received a £1,000 payout. Stephen Barratt, 28, received the damages after he suffered from a burnt larynx when working as a deputy gym manager at the LivingWell Health Club, part of the Hilton in Sheffield.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 425 • 26 September 2009
USA: Radiation risk making granite tops
Workers who make the granite countertops popular in many household kitchens may be exposed to dangerous levels of radiation, a study has found. Researchers found full-time granite workers could be exposed to radiation levels up to 3,000 times the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) radiation exposure limit for members of the general public.
The Cold Truth blog • Risks 424 • 19 September 2009
Britain: Multinational pays penalty for skin risks
A multinational cable manufacturer has been fined £27,500 after an employee suffered such serious occupational dermatitis he was forced to take early retirement. Prysmian Cables and Systems Limited was sentenced at Southampton Crown Court after earlier pleading guilty to three breaches of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH).
HSE news release • Risks 424 • 19 September 2009
Global: Work lead standards poses major heart risk
Exposure to lead over a lifetime has been linked to an increased risk of dying from heart disease by new research. The authors of the US study call for a tightening of the country's occupational exposure standard – they found that men who had the highest concentrations of lead in their bones had a six times greater chance of dying from cardiovascular disease than men with the lowest concentrations and were 2.5 times greater chance of dying from all causes.
Marc G Weisskopf and others. A prospective study of bone lead concentration and death from all causes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer in the Department of Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study, Circulation, published online before print 8 September 2009 [abstract] • Harvard University news release • Science Daily news release • US News and World Report • Health Scout • Risks 424 • 19 September 2009
Britain: Study confirms lead and brain damage link
The dangers of even low levels of lead have been illustrated by a study published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood. The University of Bristol study found blood levels well below the accepted “safe” threshold of 10 µg/dl harm young children's intellectual and emotional development, with a doubling in lead level from 5 to 10 µg/dl associated with a 0.3 point fall in SAT scores.
K Chandramouli and others. Effects of early childhood lead exposure on academic performance and behaviour of school age children, Archives of Disease in Childhood, published online before print 17 September 2009 • 19 September 2009
Britain: Work pesticides up Parkinson's risk
Gardeners and farmers who use pesticides as part of their job are up to three times more likely than others to develop Parkinson's, according to a new study. Overall, the study, published in the Archives of Neurology, found that those whose job involved using pesticides were 80 per cent more likely to develop the condition, which affects 120,000 people in Britain.
Caroline M Tanner and others. Occupation and risk of Parkinsonism: A multicenter case-control study, Archives of Neurology, volume 66, number 9, pages 1106-1113, September 2009 [abstract] • The Telegraph • Risks 424 • 19 September 2009
Global: Study exposes chemical cocktail risk
Workers exposed to a cocktail of chemicals may be suffering far more harm than previously considered, a study suggests. Results from a study of male rats published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, indicate that assessing the risk of chemicals one compound at a time will underestimate potential harm.
Sofie Christiansen and others. Synergistic disruption of external male sex organ development by a mixture of four anti-androgens, Environmental Health Perspectives, 2009 [abstract] • Full text [pdf] • Ecologist • Risks 424 • 19 September 2009
USA: Unions says hydrogen fluoride must go
US union the United Steelworkers (USW) has called for a nationwide phase-out of hydrogen fluoride alkylation units. “Hydrogen fluoride is such a deadly component, and there are new and safer technologies available,” said USW vice president Gary Beevers, who is in charge of the union's oil sector.
USW news release • 5 September 2009
Britain: Hunt for cause of worker's cancer
The solicitor acting for a cancer survivor from Bradford is looking for information about his working conditions. The man, who developed bladder cancer in 2007 and who had worked at a firm producing pesticides, has undergone surgery to remove the tumour, but his condition is still under careful review.
Thompsons Solicitors • Telegraph and Argus • Risks 420 • 22 August 2009
Europe: Furniture trade wants formaldehyde rules
Unions and employers in Europe's furniture trade want strict limits on formaldehyde in furniture production. A joint declaration from the European Federation of Building and Wood Workers (EFBWW) and the European Furniture Manufacturers Federation (EFMF) calls for “legislation requiring that all materials used in furniture put on the market in the European Union (EU) have the lowest possible emission level based on the best available technology”.
REHS news report • EFBWW/EFMF joint declaration on formaldehyde [pdf] • Risks 416 • 25 July 2009
Global: 'Toxic pants' pesticides protest
Campaigners are calling on consumers to swap non-organic cotton pants for organic ones, in a bid to reduce pesticide use. Groups including the Pesticide Action Network, Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) and Pants to Poverty have a particular beef with endosulfan, a pesticide that's banned in the EU.
The Guardian environment blog. IUF on endosulfan. Coalition against Bayer Dangers. Pants to Poverty. Environmental Justice Foundation • Risks 414 • 11 July 2009
Britain: Body lead load linked to dementia
Older adults with higher amounts of lead in their bones exhibit greater memory impairment than adults with low lead levels, researchers have found. In a study of men and women aged 55 to 67 years, higher lead levels were associated with poorer performance on tasks used to assess memory deficits.
Environmental Health News • E van Wijngaarden, JR Campbell and DA Cory-Slechta. Bone lead levels are associated with measures of memory impairment in older adults. Neurotoxicology, published online 2009. doi:10.1016/j.neuro.2009.05.007 • Risks 412 • 4 July 2009
Britain/USA: New concern at lax lead standards
The UK's occupational exposure limits for lead are leaving workers at risk of serious chronic diseases. The US-based Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) wants a blood lead level of 10 micrograms per 100 millilitres (µg/100ml) or more in adults to be accepted as “elevated ” - the current UK action level for blood lead in male workers is 50 µg/100ml, with workers not suspended until the level hits 60 µg/100ml.
Earth Times • Sun Herald • Risks 411 • 20 June 2009
Global: Nanotubes can attack the immune system
Inhaling carbon nanotubes can suppress the immune system, according to new research. The findings raise possible health concerns for those working in the manufacture of the materials.
JD McDonald and others. Mechanisms for how inhaled multiwalled carbon nanotubes suppress systemic immune function in mice, Nature Nanotechnology. Published online: 14 Jue 2009. doi:10.1038/nnano.2009.151 [abstract] • The Guardian • Risk management of carbon nanotubes, HSE information sheet, March 2009 [pdf] • Risks 411 • 20 June 2009
France: Work pesticide use causes Parkinson's
A new study confirms the link between on-the-job pesticide exposure and Parkinson's disease, and suggests that certain insecticides may be particularly risky. In the study, published online in the Annals of Neurology, French researchers found that among nearly 800 adults with and without Parkinson's, agricultural workers exposed to pesticides - including insecticides, weed killers and fungicides - were at greater risk of the disease, with the risk climbing in tandem with the amount of time a worker was exposed.
Alexis Elbaz and others. Professional exposure to pesticides and Parkinson's disease, Annal of Neurology, published online [abstract] • Fox News • ETUI-HESA news report • Risks 412 • 27 June 2009
Britain: Wind firm blows thousands on dermatitis
A wind turbine firm has been fined £10,000 after workers developed occupational dermatitis. Thirteen workers at the Newport plant of blademaker Vestas Blades UK Ltd developed the condition caused by exposure to epoxy resins.
Isle of Wight County Press • SHP Online • Risks 412 • 27 June 2009
Britain/USA: New concern at lax lead standards
The UK's occupational exposure limits for lead are leaving workers at risk of serious chronic diseases. The US-based Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) wants a blood lead level of 10 micrograms per 100 millilitres (µg/100ml) or more in adults to be accepted as “elevated ” - the current UK action level for blood lead in male workers is 50 µg/100ml, with workers not suspended until the level hits 60 µg/100ml.
Earth Times • Sun Herald • Risks 411 • 20 June 2009
Britain: Paint spraying job killed man
A car paint sprayer died of pneumonia after long-term exposure to paint fumes, an inquest has ruled. Car paint sprayers are exposed to chemicals including diisocyanates, a potent cause of COAD, the condition that killed David Mathis, aged 66.
Hastings Observer • A job to die for, Hazards magazine, 2005 • Risks 408 • 30 May 2009
Britain: ‘Green' lightbulbs poison workers
Workers in China could pay a high price for the production of “green” lightbulbs in cost-cutting factories. Large numbers of Chinese workers have been poisoned by mercury, which forms part of the compact fluorescent lightbulbs.
Sunday Times • Risks 405 • 9 May 2009
Britain: Sixth cancer death linked to university
A sixth person who worked in a Manchester University building used by Lord Rutherford, and contaminated by radiation and mercury, has died. Professor Tom Whiston, 70, a psychology lecturer, is the third to die from pancreatic cancer.
Manchester Evening News • BBC News Online • Global Unions cancer prevention campaign • Risks 405 • 9 May 2009
USA: Blast ‘could have eclipsed' Bhopal
A US chemical plant explosion could have surpassed the 1984 Bhopal disaster, according to a report released this week by congressional investigators. The 28 August 2008 explosion at the Bayer CropScience Institute plant, in which two workers died, turned a 2.5-ton chemical vessel into a “dangerous projectile” that could have destroyed a nearby tank of the deadly Bhopal chemical methyl isocyanate (MIC), according to the report by House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee staff.
CSB news release • Charleston Gazette • Committee report [pdf] • Risks 403 • 25 April 2009
Turkey: Jeans sandblasting banned after deaths
The Turkish government has banned the manual sandblasting of jeans and other clothing to prevent the development of incurable silicosis. The practice had been linked to 40 deaths, and can lead to rapid onset of the disease, with some teenagers known to be affected.
Zaman • Risks 402 • 18 April 2009
USA: Popcorn peril spreads to sweets
A recently identified outbreak of severe cases of popcorn lung among former sweet factory workers may prove what government and civilian occupational health experts have long feared - the sometimes-fatal disease can afflict those exposed to diacetyl butter flavouring regardless of where they work.
Andrew Schneider Investigates • More from Hazards on diacetyl risks • Risks 401 • 11 April 2009
Europe: Action call on high concern chemicals
Unions are calling for hundreds of the most hazardous workplace chemicals to be subject to tight control under the European Union's chemicals law, REACH. The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) this week presented to the European Parliament its list of 306 priority chemicals for authorisation under REACH.
ETUC news release and Trade Union Priority List for REACH authorisation and related documentation • ChemSec news report • TUC chemicals webpage • HSE REACH webpages • Risks 400 • 4 April 2009
Europe: Increasing risks from hazardous substances
Contact with hazardous substances at work is endangering the health of workers across Europe and nanotechnology is one of the risks causing most concern, an expert report has concluded. ‘Expert forecast on emerging chemical risks', published by the Bilbao-based European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), identifies the main groups of substances which could pose new and increasing risks to workers, contributing to diseases which range from allergies, asthma and infertility to cancers.
European Agency news release • Risks 400 • 4 April 2009
USA: Movement at last on popcorn lung
The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), reversing years of foot dragging while the agency was controlled by the Bush administration, is moving quickly to protect workers from a serious lung disease caused by diacetyl, the artificial butter flavouring added to popcorn and other food products.
OSHA news release • Lynn Woolsey statement • AFL-CIO Now • The Pump Handle • Andrew Schneider Investigates • Risks 398 • 21 March 2009
USA: Workers failed by old lead standard
Americans who work with lead and their families are still at risk of developing serious chronic health conditions, according to a new report. ‘Indecent exposure', published this week by health researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, notes: “As scientific evidence has shown more serious health effects associated with lower lead levels than previously anticipated, the number of persons who must be considered at risk increases dramatically.”
Indecent exposure: Lead puts workers and families at risk, Perspectives, volume 4, number 1, March 2009 [pdf] • The Pump Handle • Risks 398 • 21 March 2009
Britain: Print work caused kidney disease
A printer who was exposed to a dangerous chemical in the workplace developed a debilitating kidney disease as a result. Unite member David Owenson, from Scarborough, was diagnosed with membranous neuropathy, a form of glomerulonephritis, following years of exposure to the common workplace solvent toluene.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Did your job cause your illness... check out the Hazards detective • Risks 396 • 7 March 2009
Global: Warning on chemical cancers risk
A major report has warned that the global cancer burden has doubled in a generation and that too little attention is paid to potential occupational and environmental risks. The International Agency for Research on Cancer published its World Cancer Report 2008 last month.
World Cancer Report 2008, WHO/IARC [pdf] • IARC news release • Risks 396 • 7 March 2009
New Zealand: Bridge workers poisoned by lead
Dozens of workers on the Auckland Harbour Bridge were poisoned after inhaling lead-based paint dust during maintenance work last year. Tests on the men, who took off their full-face dust masks because they were uncomfortable to work in, showed up to half had marked increases in their blood lead levels.
Sunday Star Times • Risks 394 • 21 February 2009
USA: Toxic firm wants to be left alone
A top journalist has attacked a major US flavouring firm for attempting to prevent federal health investigators from protecting workers. Seattle Post Intelligencer reporter Andrew Schneider, writing in his ‘Secret ingredients' blog, was commenting on a year-long court battle between an Indianapolis flavour manufacturer and the government's top occupational health investigators regarding diacetyl, a flavouring know to cause potentially fatal lung disease.
Secret ingredients • Hazards website: www.hazards.org/diacetyl • Risks 393 • 14 February 2009
Britain: Old diseases stalk new workplaces
A plater with the hydraulic components manufacturer Parker Hannifin plc has received a “substantial” payout after he developed occupational dermatitis caused by chromates which forced him to give up his job.
Risks 393 • 14 February 2009
Global: Pesticide is an unnecessary killer
The argument that the highly toxic herbicide paraquat is necessary for crop production has been shown to be nonsense by a union-backed report. ‘Goodbye paraquat', produced by the global food and agriculture union federation IUF and a Swiss-based environmental group Berne Declaration (BD), is based on questionnaire responses from more than 40 major producers of bananas, tea and palm oil, crops which traditionally have been big users of paraquat.
IUF news release and Goodbye Paraquat report [pdf] • Risks 393 • 14 February 2009
USA: Work disease system favours business
A US man who believes workplace solvent exposure left him struggling with Parkinson's Disease is fighting a second battle, this time for compensation. Ed Abney worked at a former Dresser Industries plant in Kentucky for over 20 years, often elbow deep in the solvent trichloroethylene, used to clean metal piping.
WKYT 27 News First • New York Times • Workers' Comp Insider •
Don M Gash and others. Trichloroethylene: Parkinsonism and complex 1 mitochondrial neurotoxicity, Annals of Neurology, volume 63, issue 2, pages 184-192, February 2008 [abstract] • Risks 391 • 31 January 2009
Europe: Chemical firms start REACH attack
Four chemical firms are challenging in the European Court of Justice (ECJ) new European-wide chemical registration and control rules. The case aims to get some requirements of the regulations annulled.
HESA news report • Risks 391 • 31 January 2009
Britain: Factory staff at 'higher risk' of cancer
Scientists have uncovered higher rates of cancer at a rubber chemical plant in North Wales. Birmingham University researchers found that at least 10 people at Wrexham's Flexsys factory in Cefn Mawr may have already suffered premature deaths as a result.
Daily Post • Evening Leader • BBC News Online.
Tom Sorahan and others. Cancer risks in chemical production workers exposed to 2-mercaptobenzothiazole, Online First Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 2009. doi: 10.1136/oem.2008.041400 • Risks 390 • 24 January 2009
USA: Lead at work affects the brain in old age
People exposed to lead at work are more likely to exhibit damaged brain function as they get older, a new study has found. For older people, a buildup of lead from earlier exposure may be enough to result in greater cognitive problems after age 55, the authors say.
APA news release • NailaKhalil and others. Association of cumulative lead and neurocognitive function in an occupational cohort, Neuropsychology, volume 23, issue 1, pages 10-19, 2009 [abstract] • Times of India • EHS Today • Risks 389 • 17 January 2009
Europe: Euro MPs back pesticide controls
The European Parliament has voted to tighten rules on pesticide use and ban at least 22 chemicals deemed harmful to human health. The rules, which can only become law after they are approved by the 27 member states' governments, are opposed by the UK government.
European Parliament news release • Group of Socialist MEPs (PES) news release • BBC News Online • Risks 389 • 17 January 2009
Britain: Employers ignorant of deadly silica risks
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has vowed to step up its ‘Clear the Air!' campaign warning workers against the dangers of silica exposure after it concluded that smaller companies still know very little about the potentially fatal health risks. However, late last year a succession of industry contributors to an HSE online forum on silica risks complained a failure of HSE inspection and oversight was leading to widespread abuse of safe practices and substantial exposures to the cancer causing dust.
HSE news release • Contract Journal • Building • Risks 388 • 10 January 2009
Britain: Lafarge recalls cancer risk cement
Construction materials multinational Lafarge has recalled 280,000 bags of cement after discovering a batch contained high levels of cancer-causing chromium VI. In total, about 2,500 tonnes of the Blue Circle cement have been recalled.
Wiltshire Times • Contract Journal • Risks 388 • 10 January 2009
Britain: Blood and feathers firm pays for gassing
A firm that processes blood and feathers has received a six figure fine after a near fatal gassing incident. JG Pears (Newark) Ltd was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay £38,052.44 costs at Nottingham Crown Court after pleading guilty to safety offences.
HSE news release • The Star • Risks 387 • 20 December 2008
Italy: Study finds solvent cancer link
Exposure to the industrial solvent benzene increases a person's risk of developing multiple myeloma, according to new research. Adele Seniori Constantini of Italy's Center for Study and Prevention of Cancer and her colleagues also found two other common workplace solvents in the same aromatic hydrocarbon group and often used as substitutes for benzene, xylene and toluene, were also tied to greater chronic lymphoid leukaemia risk.
Reuters • Risks 384 • 29 November 2008
South Africa: Manganese poisoning scandal exposed
A US medical expert drafted in by a manganese processing giant accused of poisoning its workers resigned a prestigious post after it was revealed he was a major recipient of industry cash, a South African government inquiry has heard. The ongoing inquiry heard Dr Warren Olanow, who was brought in by Assmang in May 2008 to provide medical reassessments when the company disputed the poisoning diagnoses, resigned from his chair at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital around the time a US judge disclosed industry payments to medical experts related to manganese litigation.
• The Mercury • Risks 383 • 22 November 2008
Europe: Pesticide reductions edge closer
A top European Parliament committee has resisted pressure from agribusiness and industry and has approved proposals for bans on toxic pesticides. Members of the parliament's environment committee voted on two legislative proposals from the European Commission, one on approval of pesticides and the other aiming to reduce their use across the EU.
ETUI-HESA news report • The Guardian • BBC News Online •
Campaign group HEAL has launched a new Pesticides and cancer (sick of pesticides) campaign website • Risks 383 • 22 November 2008
USA: Pesticide linked to Parkinson's
A widely used fungicide has become the latest pesticide linked to elevated rates of Parkinson's disease. Researchers have found a strong connection between the debilitating neurological disease and long-term exposure to pesticides, particularly to the common fungicide Ziram.
Fresno Bee • Risks 383 • 22 November 2008
Global: Toxic trade defenders condemned
Global trade union confederation ITUC has joined the chorus of condemnation of the decision last month to exclude chrysotile asbestos and the pesticide endosulfan from the list of dangerous products under the Rotterdam Convention, the international agreement which regulates exports of hazardous chemicals.
ITUC news release • Risks 382 • 15 November 2008
Global: Treaty wreckers protect toxins
Governments doing the dirty work of toxic exporters have succeeding in blocking listing of chrysotile asbestos and the pesticide endosulfan on a global safety warning system. A handful of governments ignored dire health problems linked to the two candidate substances, and vetoed their including on the “Prior Informed Consent” list, which would require importing nations to be given notice of the dangers posed by the product.
Rotterdam Convention news release • International Ban Asbestos Secretariat reportHESA news release • The Dominion • Toronto Star • Risks 381 • 8 November 2008
Papua New Guinea: Workers ‘paid to die' in dust
Workers in Papua New Guinea (PNG) have been “paid to die” instead of being supplied with protective gear against volcanic ash fallout, a top government official has said. David Tibu, secretary of PNG's industrial relations department, said some businesses were paying risk allowances instead of providing safety wear, so in effect their workers are “getting paid to die,” he said.
Sydney Morning Herald • The Australian • Risks 378 • 18 October 2008
Britain: Work cancer victim's call for witnesses
A West Yorkshire cancer survivor is urging his former work colleagues to come forward to provide information about his exposure to chemicals at work. Michael Savage, 65, from Halifax was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2005 after working as as a maintenance fitter by ICI, at the Leeds Road, Huddersfield site from 1972 to 1977.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 378 • 18 October 2008
Anyone who worked with Mr Savage at ICI Huddersfield during the 1970s or who was employed in the 824 Beta Nap building should contact Marion Voss on 08000 224 224.
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