Recent chemicals news

News archive

Pakistan: The darker side of glittering bangles
Behind Pakistan’s burgeoning glass bangles industry, is a story of child labour, poverty, deprivation and hardship. An occupational health and safety study in the industry commissioned by the ILO highlighted the risks of working in proximity to the furnaces used in the moulding and joining processes, and also from toxic chemicals during coating and painting.
ILO International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC)Risks 376 • 4 October 2008

Britain: Inquiry over mercury poisoning
An investigation is under way after workers at a West Yorkshire recycling firm were exposed to mercury. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said staff at Electrical Waste Recycling Co Ltd in Huddersfield had been put at risk of mercury poisoning.
Risks 376 • 4 October 2008

Britain: Unilever doesn’t care for workers’ skin
A UK multinational with a multimillion pound trade in skin care products has been fined after trashing the skin of its own staff. Unilever was ordered to pay £28,000 in fines and costs after 25 Merseyside workers contracted dermatitis.
Risks 375 • 27 September 2008

Europe: Campaigners target worst chemicals
A coalition of environmental, consumer and union safety organisations has published a ‘Substitute It Now!’ list of ‘high concern’ chemicals. The aim of the ‘SIN List’ is to speed up implementation of REACH, the new EU chemicals law, by encouraging companies to make sound substitution decisions.
ETUI-REHS news itemSIN List 1.0ChemSec • Substitution 1.0 – the art of delivering toxic-free products [pdf] • Risks 375 • 27 September 2008

Britain: Bootful of cement causes burns
An Oxford building company has been fined £500 after one of its employees sustained burns to his legs after wet concrete poured into his Wellington boots. In addition to the fine, O'Brien & McIntyre LLP was ordered at Stratford upon Avon Magistrates' Court to pay £150 prosecution costs after pleading guilty to breaching the Control of Substance Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH).
Risks 374 • 20 September 2008

Britain: Boss escapes jail for silica use
A company boss whose firm used deadly silica despite the process being banned for 58 years has received a £26,000 fine but has escaped jail. Andrew Thomson, trading as Thomson Sandblast, of Great Harwood, was also ordered to pay £24,000 costs and was told that magistrates had considered a custodial sentence.
Global Unions cancer campaignRisks 374 • 20 September 2008

USA: Second consumer popcorn lung case
A second US man may have developed ‘popcorn lung’ as a result of microwave cooking and consuming bags of popcorn. Larry Newkirk has been diagnosed with the sometimes fatal lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans.
Seattle Post-IntelligencerHazards diacetyl webpagesRisks 373 • 13 September 2008

Australia: Concern at paramedic drug exposures
An Australian ambulance union is calling for a commonly used pain killer to be assessed for potential risks to paramedics. Ambulance Employees Australia state secretary Steve McGhie said he had written to Ambulance Victoria asking for a risk assessment into penthrane, which it says has been banned in America due to concerns it may be carcinogenic, and it is also no longer used by West Australian paramedics.
Risks 373 • 13 September 2008

South Africa: Doctors fired for diagnosing work
When specialist doctors diagnosed at least 10 cases of manganese-specific chronic illnesses at a factory in Cato Ridge, the Assmang manganese company dumped them “like hot potatoes”. Evidence to a government enquiry revealed the firm then replaced them with a new team of doctors that revised the diagnoses to suggest the sick workers might be alcoholics, drug abusers or victims of Aids.
Risks 372 • 6 September 2008

Finland: Union call for ban on creosote poles
A Finnish union is calling for the use of creosote-impregnated wooden electricity poles to be stopped on health grounds. The Electrical Workers’ Union says safer alternatives should be used instead.
Trade Union News from FinlandRisks 368 • 9 August 2008

Europe: Union blast on reprotoxins
The European Trade Union Confederation has criticised a European Commission u-turn on substances that are toxic for reproduction. The union body says these reprotoxins should have been brought into the directive that protects workers from carcinogens and mutagens, which is currently up for revision, but is dismayed the Commission has instead changed tack and dropped any mention of reprotoxins from its proposals.
ETUI-REHS news briefing and ETUC note [pdf] • Risks 368 • 9 August 2008

USA: Perils of the new pesticides
The US-based Center for Public Integrity has used official government data to expose the ‘Perils of the new pesticides.’ The free online resource is based on a review of 10 years’ worth of adverse-reaction reports filed with the Environmental Protection Agency by pesticide manufacturers.
CPI Perils of the new pesticides websiteRisks 368 • 9 August 2008

USA: Prison labour exposed to deadly toxins
US federal health officials have found staff and inmates had no protection against exposure to high levels of lead and cadmium in a prison industry computer recycling plant. The amount of health damage or risk could not be assessed because the Elkton Federal Correctional Institution in eastern Ohio did not conduct medical monitoring or industrial hygiene surveillance.
Full NIOSH report [pdf] • AFGE statement [pdf] • Risks 367 • 2 August 2008

USA: Secret Bush rule to protect toxins
The Bush administration has been caught trying to introduce secretly an eleventh-hour rule that would make it harder to set new safety standards limiting workers’ exposure to chemicals. The Labor Department has refused to discuss or disclose the proposal, which has spurred anger and condemnation from unions, Democrats in Congress and public health scientists.
Washington Post and related earlier coverageAFL-CIO Now • Requirements for DOL Agencies' Assessment of Occupational Health Risks. Action: Proposed Rulemaking. Department of Labor, RI 1290-AA23 [pdf] • Risks 366 • 26 July 2008

Holland: Solvent repro hazards prompt review
The Dutch government has ordered a review of workplace solvent health effects after new studies added to evidence of a significant reproductive risk in exposed workers. The Dutch State Secretary for Social Affairs has asked the Health Council of the Netherlands to investigate the issue.
ETUI-HESA news report • Occupational exposure to organic solvents: effects on human reproduction, Health Council of the Netherlands, 2008 [pdf] • Risks 366 • 26 July 2008

Britain: Chemical firm’s small fine over dust blast
A chemical company in Wales has been fined £12,000 following an “entirely foreseeable and avoidable” April 2006 dust explosion and fire. Warwick International Group Ltd has since changed procedures and spent £1.3 million in rebuilding the part of its Mostyn factory destroyed in the blaze.
Risks 366 • 26 July 2008

Britain: Rolls-Royce fined for dangerous exposures
Rolls-Royce has been fined £120,000 for failing to ensure that five of its agency staff were sufficiently protected against dangerous substances. Derby Crown Court heard the workers developed ill effects, including skin rashes, bowel problems and breathing difficulties, while decommissioning a light alloy foundry at the firm's plant in Osmaston Road, Derby, between July and October 2005.
HSE COSHH webpagesRisks 366 • 26 July 2008

Europe: ETUC wants paint stripper outlawed
Europe’s trade union confederation ETUC is calling for a blanket ban on paint strippers that contain dichloromethane. The union made its position clear as the European Parliament's (EP) Environment Committee prepares to publish its opinion on a Commission proposal to restrict the sale and use of products containing the chemical.
European Commission proposal [pdf] • Risks 364 • 12 July 2008

Britain: Government u-turn hits disease sufferers
Workers developing occupational diseases could lose out as a result of a government u-turn on retention of insurance records by employers. The government is pressing ahead with a move to drop the requirement on firms to keep their employers’ liability insurance records for 40 years – despite opposition from workplace health groups, lawyers, unions and insurers.
Asbestos Forum news release [pdf] and briefing [pdf] •
Employers’ Liability Compulsory Insurance, EDM 2010 • Has your MP signed the EDM? If not, ask why not: you can find out how to contact your MP here – all you need is your postcode • Risks 364 • 12 July 2008

Europe: Production and reproduction - the risks
A new guide from the ETUC’s safety thinktank, HESA, sets out to improve awareness of work-related reproductive hazards. ‘Production and reproduction: Stealing the health of future generations’ says potential risks include chemicals, ionising radiation, vibration, heat, biological agents and stress. Adverse effects include male and female infertility, miscarriages, birth defects and impaired child development.
Production and reproduction: Stealing the health of future generations, ISBN 978-287452126-6, 10 Euros. Order onlineRisks 364 • 12 July 2008

USA: Welding firms pay for manganese disease
US firms facing thousands of compensation claims from manganese-exposed welders with serious nervous system disease, have been paying millions to scientists who have then produced papers denying any link between the metal and “manganism”, a Parkinson’s-type condition.
Mother JonesRisks 363 • 5 July 2008

USA: Beryllium firm caught in spin mode
A major US firm that denied outright having used notorious industry spin doctors to block regulatory action on highly dangerous beryllium was lying, evidence suggests. Earlier this year, David Michaels and Celeste Monforton of the Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy (SKAPP) published a paper, ‘Beryllium’s public relations problem: Protecting workers when there is no safe exposure level,’ criticising beryllium giant Brush Wellman for its efforts to prevent workplace safety agency OSHA and the US Department of Energy from lowering exposure limits for the highly toxic metal, linked to problems including cancer and debilitating lung and other diseases. and documents relating to Brush WellmanSKAPP case study: Beryllium - Science or public relations?Risks 363 • 5 July 2008

Britain: Chemical burns blast firm pays twice
A worker who suffered serious burns after an explosion at a Brighouse chemical container site has been awarded £15,000 compensation. Mohammed Ahmed Ali suffered 15 per cent burns to his forearms, thighs, genitals and lower abdomen when a chemical container he was working on at Pack2Pack exploded in March last year.
Brighouse EchoHalifax Evening CourierRisks 361 • 21 June 2008

Global: Europe’s chemical law has long reach
The REACH chemical safety law that started to come into force in Europe this month, is also forcing US companies to improve their chemical health and safety approach. The EU regulations take a far more precautionary approach than US law, where regulators must prove a chemical is harmful before it can be restricted or removed from the market.
Washington PostRisks 361 • 21 June 2008

USA: Does popcorn poison cause Parkinson’s?
A top expert on diacetyl, the chemical responsible for an outbreak of the potentially fatal lung disease ‘popcorn lung’, now fears it could also be linked to Parkinson’s disease. David Egilman, a physician and clinical associate professor at Brown University in the US, says he is aware of two cases of Parkinson’s disease in men who were flavourists at Givaudan in Cincinnati, a large flavourings company.
The Pump HandleSeattle Post-Intelligencer ‘Secret Ingredients’ blogHazards diacetyl webpagesRisks 360 • 14 June 2008

USA: Diabetes higher in pesticide sprayers
People who spray pesticides have a higher risk of diabetes than the rest of the population, according to a new study. Scientists from the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) found that people who spent more than 100 days using chlorinated bug sprays were 20 to 200 per cent more likely to get diabetes, depending on which chemical they worked with.
NIEHS news release • MP Montgomery and others. Incident diabetes and pesticide exposure among licensed pesticide applicators: Agricultural health study, 1993-2003, American Journal of Epidemiology, volume 167, pages 1235-1246, 2008 [abstract] • Risks 360 • 14 June 2008

Europe: Unions REACH out on chemical safety
Unions will play an active role in promoting the Europe-wide chemicals regulation REACH, union confederation ETUC has said. The commitment came on 3 June 2008 as the Helsinki-based European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) became operational.
ETUC news release • ECHA news release [pdf] • Risks 359 • 7 June 2008

Britain: UK bids to weaken formaldehyde standard
The UK government has attempted to undermine a proposed new European exposure limit to protect workers from a chemical linked to allergies and cancer. Commenting on new standards agreed by the European Commission’s Advisory Committee for Safety and Health at Work, the European Trade Union Confederation’s (ETUC) research arm, ETUI-REHS, reported: “The German and British governments actively supported the formaldehyde industry’s campaign, while the other governments were divided.”
ETUI-REHS news reportFatal failings on formaldehyde, Burying the evidence, Hazards magazine, number 92, 2005 • Global Unions zero cancer campaignRisks 359 • 7 June 2008

Australia: Board sick thanks to formaldehyde
Tom Connelly knows all about the symptoms of sick house syndrome. As a carpenter he comes into regular contact with the formaldehyde-rich building materials that create health problems for residents. Construction union CFMEU is campaigning for low formaldehyde building boards, to protect workers from allergies, irritation and cancer risks.
Sydney Morning HeraldRisks 359 • 7 June 2008

Britain: Payouts for stone dust disease
Two foundry workers who developed silicosis, one of the longest recognised occupational lung diseases, have received compensation. The Unite members, who both worked in the melting department of Federal Mogul’s Southwick factory on Wearside, have received “substantial” payouts in an out of court settlement.
Thompsons Solicitors news releaseSunderland EchoRisks 358 • 31 May 2008

Britain: Common solvents threaten fertility
Men regularly exposed to chemicals found in paint and other common products may be more prone to fertility problems, UK research as indicated. Men such as painters and decorators, who work with a family of solvents called glycol ethers, are two-and-a-half times more likely to produce fewer “normal” sperm; the findings reinforce warnings issued in 1983 by the US authorities about reproductive hazards to both male and female workers from occupational exposure to certain glycol ethers.
Sheffield University news releaseScience Daily news releaseRisks 358 • 31 May 2008 

Britain: Beehive firm doesn’t cut it on wood dust
A Lincolnshire firm making beehives has been fined after a worker was injured by a cutting machine and colleagues were exposed to potentially harmful Western Red Cedar wood dust. Company managers had attended a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) woodworking safety and health awareness day only seven months earlier, but have now been criticised by HSE for not acting on what they learned.
HSE news releaseRisks 358 • 31 May 2008

USA: Court dismisses industry’s unsafe assumption
A well-resourced attempt by industry lobby groups has failed in a legal bid to keep under wraps a listing of non-statutory, non-binding chemical exposure limits. In a summary judgment, a federal judge in the United States District Court in Macon, Georgia dismissed the last of four counts in a lawsuit against the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH).
ACGIH news releaseThe Pump HandleDefendingScience.orgRisks 357 • 24 May 2008

Britain: Fumes death boss is fined but free
A company boss has been cleared of the manslaughter of a worker who died after inhaling poisonous fumes – but was fined £17,500 for a health and safety breaches. John Beckett, 44, was accused over the death of “right hand man” Dean Cox; the 21-year-old was found slumped over a vat of chemicals used to strip alloy wheels at Wolverhampton firm A1.
Express and Star and related storyRisks 356 • 17 May 2008

Bangladesh: Synthetic materials harm garment workers
Synthetic materials used in Bangladesh’s massive ready-made garment (RMG) sector are causing widespread ill-health in the industry’s workforce.
The Daily StarRisks 355 • 10 May 2008

Britain: Weed killers cause work cancers
Common weed killers have been linked to cancers in exposed workers.
Claudine M Samanic and others. Occupational exposure to pesticides and risk of adult brain tumors, American Journal of Epidemiology, volume 167, pages 976-985, 2008 [abstract] • Reuters on the brain cancer risk • Katherine A McGlynn and others. Persistent organochlorine pesticides and risk of testicular germ cell tumors, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, volume 100, pages 663-671, 2008 [abstract] • Reuters on the testicular cancer riskGlobal Unions zero cancer campaignRisks 355 • 10 May 2008

Australia: Union alert on formaldehyde cancers
Australia's biggest building union is calling on the federal government to start an urgent investigation into the use of formaldehyde in household products. CFMEU said formaldehyde poses a real cancer risk to workers and must be subject to stringent laws.
CFMEU news release • Atsuya Takagi and others. Induction of mesothelioma in p53+/- mouse by intraperitoneal application of multi-wall carbon nanotube, Journal of Toxicological Sciences, volume 33, number 1, pages 105-116, 2008 [pdf] • Risks 354 • 3 May 2008

USA: Formaldehyde linked to Lou Gehrig's disease
New preliminary research suggests that exposure to the chemical formaldehyde, present in workplaces from laboratories to hospitals to MDF factories, could greatly increase a person's chances of developing Lou Gehrig's disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Those who reported more than 10 years of exposure to formaldehyde were almost four times more likely to develop ALS.
Marc Weisskopf and others. Prospective study of chemical exposures and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis mortality, AAN Meeting 2008; Abstract # S25.005. AAN news release [pdf] • Risks 353 • 26 April 2008

USA: Pesticide exposure ups Parkinson’s risk
There is strong evidence that exposure to pesticides significantly increases the risk of Parkinson's disease, experts have concluded. A study of people with the neurological disease found that sufferers were more than twice as likely to report heavy exposure to pesticides over their lifetime as family members without the disease.
Dana B Hancock and others. Pesticide exposure and risk of Parkinson's disease: a family-based case-control study, BMC Neurology, volume 8:6, 2008, doi:10.1186/1471-2377-8-6, abstract and full paper [pdf] • Risks 350 • 5 April 2008

UK: Toxic plane fumes inquiry call
Airline staff and passengers are at risk from toxic fumes leaking into aircraft cabins, according to the Global Cabin Air Quality Executive pressure group. The group wants a public inquiry into why more has not been done to protect people and inform them of health risks and charges that the Health and Safety Executive and the Civil Aviation Authority “have failed to ensure that airlines abide by health and safety guidelines and basic principles.”
GCAQE news releaseGlobal Cabin Air Quality ExecutiveRisks 350 • 5 April 2008

Australia: Work exposures up vet miscarriage risk
Female vets run twice the risk of miscarriage as a result of exposure to anaesthetic gases and pesticides, suggests a study. Women carrying out surgery and exposed to anaesthetic gases that were not filtered out of the atmosphere, for an hour or more a week, were almost 2.5 times more likely to miscarry, those who used pesticides during the course of their work were also twice as likely to miscarry, and those who performed more than five x-rays a week were around 80 per cent more likely to miscarry than those performing fewer procedures. Maternal occupational exposures and risk of spontaneous abortion in veterinary practice
Online First, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 3 April 2008, doi: 10.1136/OEM.2007.035246 [abstract] • Risks 350 • 5 April 2008

Medical experts are calling for action to reduce the potentially fatal risks to health service staff posed by latex. ‘Latex allergy: Occupational aspects of management’, new guidelines from the Royal College of Physicians and NHS Plus, falls short of calling for a total ban on latex gloves, with union safety experts warning the strategy might also fall foul of the COSHH regulations, which require substitution of hazardous substances were suitable, safer alternatives are available.
RCP news release • ‘Latex allergy: Occupational aspects of management’ is available on the RCP [pdf] and NHS Plus websites [pdf] • Risks 349 • 29 March 2008

USA: Watchdogs probe diacetyl threat to cooks
A US federal investigation into the hazards facing cooks exposed to diacetyl, a sometimes deadly artificial butter flavouring, is under way in New York City restaurants. Meanwhile in Seattle, the state safety watchdog is starting a similar inquiry.
Seattle Post IntelligencerConfectionery NewsUnite Here December 2007 news releaseHazards guide to diacetyl risksRisks 348 • 22 March 2008

Britain: Latex payout but no job for young nurse
A young nurse who had to give up the profession afte
r developing a potentially deadly latex allergy has received a six figure payout. UNISON member Tanya Dodd, 25, was a trainee nurse at Scarborough General Hospital when she developed type 1 latex allergy from gloves she wore routinely as part of her job.
UNISON news releaseBBC News OnlineRisks 348 • 22 March 2008

Global: Toxics trade convention in jeopardy
A treaty intended to ensure the worst industrial poisons aren’t traded globally without health and safety warnings is in jeopardy because of lobbying by vested interests. A global alliance of environmental, labour movement and health groups is sounding the alarm, saying “industry interference and political sabotage by a handful of countries, led by Canada, is strangling the Rotterdam Convention”.
Rotterdam Treaty campaign statementRightOnCanada asbestos webpageRisks 347 • 15 March 2008 

Holland: Roadside workers face brain peril
Half an hour of sniffing diesel fumes in a busy city street is enough to induce a "stress response" in the brain and could cause lasting problems, according to a new study. Scientists have known nanoparticles – which include particulate matter in diesel exhaust fumes - reach the brain when inhaled, but this is the first time they have been shown to affect how we process information.
Bjoern Cruts, Ludo van Etten, Hakan Tornqvist, Anders Blomberg, Thomas Sandstrom, Nicholas L Mills, Paul JA Borm. Exposure to diesel exhaust induces changes in EEG in human volunteers, Particle and Fibre Toxicology, volume 5, number 4, 2008 [abstract and full paper (provisional pdf)] • Risks 347 • 15 March 2008

Britain: HSE issues low key diacetyl warning
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has put out a low key, two-paragraph, warning about the risk from diacetyl, a food flavouring that is widely used in the UK and that has been linked to hundreds of cases of serious occupational lung disease in the US.
HSE diacetyl alertI can't believe it's not deadly: Food flavour wrecks lungs, Hazards magazine diacetyl feature and resources • NIOSH flavourings topic pageRisks 347 • 15 March 2008

Global: Toxics trade convention in jeopardy
A treaty intended to ensure the worst industrial poisons aren’t traded globally without health and safety warnings is in jeopardy because of lobbying by vested interests. A global alliance of environmental, labour movement and health groups is sounding the alarm, saying “industry interference and political sabotage by a handful of countries, led by Canada, is strangling the Rotterdam Convention”.
Rotterdam Treaty campaign statementRightOnCanada asbestos webpageRisks 347 • 15 March 2008

Britain: Government busy doing nothing on diacetyl
In an 11 March written answer to a parliamentary question from Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock on diacetyl risks in the UK, DWP parliamentary under-secretary of state Anne McGuire replied: “No research has been commissioned by the government or the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). However, the Health and Safety Executive accepted the evidence from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in the United States of America as the basis for alerting the food industry to the potential inhalation risks to workers from diacetyl in 2004” - a reported UK case resulted from workplace diacetyl exposures in 2005.
Food: Industrial health and safety, Hansard written answer, 11 March 2008 • 15 March 2008 

Britain: Lead exposure still a problem
The number of workers under medical surveillance for lead exposure rose last year. In 2006/07, 8,697 workers were monitored for blood levels of the metal, which can cause serious occupational health problems including cancer, anaemia, kidney and brain damage in chronically exposed workers.
HSE lead statisticsRisks 347 • 15 March 2008

Global: Private equity buyout of toxics firm
Giant private equity fund Permira is to take control of a multinational pesticide producer, Arysta LifeScience. Global foodworkers’ union federation IUF has warned the buyout, which is largely financed by borrowing, “can be considered an experiment in the impact on human health of cash flow management in the service of enormous debt when applied to the production of toxic agrochemicals.”
IUF Private Equity Buyout WatchRisks 347 • 15 March 2008

Global: New chemicals health monitor
The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) has launched a new Chemicals Health Monitor website - an online source of information about chemicals and related diseases. HEAL says the new resource “provides a comprehensive compilation of recent information and evidence” about the links between chemical contaminants and ill-health.
HEAL news release Chemicals Health Monitor websiteRisks 347 • 15 March 2008

Sweden: Kill pine weevils, spare workers
Four toxic pesticides used in Sweden’s forestry industry are to be phased out within three years, with the ban plan intended to stimulate alternative approaches to the control of a damaging pest.
BWI news releaseRisks 346 • 8 March 2008

Britain: Lung destroying disease reaches the UK
A union organisation has repeated its call for global action on a lung-destroying occupational disease which has affected hundreds in the USA, after it was revealed the first case had been identified in the UK. Global foodworkers’ union federation IUF said regulatory action and medical surveillance of food workers exposed to the flavouring ingredient diacetyl, the cause of bronchiolitis obliterans, have so far elicited no response by health and safety agencies in Europe.
IUF news releaseIrwin Mitchell solicitors news releaseI can’t believe it’s not deadly: Food flavour wrecks lungs, Hazards magazine, Number 101, January-March 2008 • Risks 345 • 1 March 2008

Global: More evidence on wood dust cancers
Wood dust exposure at work greatly increases the risk of a range of cancers, a study has found. A study has linked occupational exposure to wood dust to “other upper aero digestive tract and respiratory (UADR) cancers”, with the researchers finding “regular wood dust exposure was associated with a statistically significant increased risk of 32 per cent for all UADR cancers”.
Vijay Jayaprakash and others. Wood dust exposure and the risk of Upper Aero-Digestive and Respiratory Cancers in males, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Published Online First: 8 January 2008. doi:10.1136/oem.2007.036210 [abstract] • Global union zero cancer campaignOccupational and Environmental Cancer Prevention - from research to policy to action at international, national and workplace levels, Friday, 25 April 2008, University of Stirling, Scotland. Further information, including conference programme, contact details and fees (including union reductions) • Risks 345 • 1 March 2008

Britain: Payout after oven cleaner attack
A residential social worker who was sprayed in the face with oven cleaner has received thousands of pounds in compensation from Newport City Council. Miss Rudi Meszaros, 33, suffered long term chemical damage to her eyes after being attacked by a young person in her care.
Thompsons Solicitors news releaseRisks 344 • 23 February 2008

USA: Work cancer protection inadequate
A report produced by the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA), calls for tighter controls on chemicals including workplace carcinogens. The report found 109 chemicals recognised in California as cancer-causing are not regulated as occupational carcinogens, with 44 of these not even having a permissible exposure limit for the workplace.
Occupational Health Hazard Risk Assessment Project for California. Complete OEHHA technical report [pdf] • Executive summary [pdf] • Risks 339 • 19 January 2008

Europe: Patchy progress on better Euro laws
Leading Socialist Euro MPs have celebrated European Parliament approval this week of a report calling for new measures to protect the health and safety of Europe's workers. They expressed shock, however, after Conservatives and Liberals blocked inclusion of clauses calling for action on crystalline silica, a cancer-causing substance to which over 3 million workers in the European Union (EU) are routinely exposed, and on nanotechnology risks.
European Parliament resolution of 15 January 2008 on the Community strategy 2007–2012 on health and safety at work (2007/2146(INI))Risks 339 • 19 January 2008

USA: Deadly lung risk to kitchen staff
Restaurant workers could face serious health risks from exposure to the flavouring ingredient diacetyl. The chemical, an artificial butter flavouring, is a common ingredient in the margarines, shortenings and cooking oils and sprays used in commercial kitchens and has been found to cause the lung-destroying condition bronchiolitis obliterans in popcorn workers, but the risk to other groups of workers has been largely overlooked.
IUF news releaseSeattle Post-Intelligencer and follow up article on union call for actionThe Pump HandleRisks 338 • 12 January 2008

China: Exports come at a high price
Nearly a decade after some of the most powerful companies in the world - often under considerable criticism and consumer pressure - began an effort to eliminate sweatshop conditions in Asia, worker abuse is still commonplace in many of the Chinese factories that supply Western companies, according to workers’ rights groups. The groups say some Chinese companies routinely shortchange their employees on wages, withhold health benefits and expose their workers to dangerous machinery and harmful chemicals, like lead, cadmium and mercury.
New York TimesInternational Herald TribuneRisks 338 • 12 January 2008 

USA: Farm women’s asthma risk from pesticides
A study suggests farm women who have contact with some common pesticides are at far greater risk of developing allergic asthma. Researchers at the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) found an average increase of 50 per cent in the prevalence of allergic asthma in all farm women who applied or mixed pesticides.
American Thoracic Society news release • Jane A Hoppin and others. Pesticides and atopic and nonatopic asthma among farm women in the Agricultural Health Study, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, volume 177, pages 11-18, 2008 [abstract] • Risks 338 • 12 January 2008

USA: Chemicals linked to nurse ill-health
A national survey of US nurses’ exposures to chemicals, pharmaceuticals and radiation at work suggests there are links between serious health problems such as cancer, asthma, miscarriages and children’s birth defects and the duration and intensity of these exposures. The survey, released online last week by the Environmental Working Group and several other US academic, advocacy and nursing organisations, found nurses confront daily low-level but repeated exposures to mixtures of hazardous materials.
EWG news releaseNurses’ health: A survey on health and chemical exposures • 22 December 2007

Pakistan: Cotton pickers suffer pesticide poisoning
Pakistan's cotton-picking women are suffering pesticide poisoning symptoms ranging from mild headaches and skin allergies to cancer, a study has shown. The research by the Islamabad-based Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), found that blood samples of only 10 per cent of the female cotton pickers were clear of pesticides after the harvesting season.
DawnSDPI Research and News Bulletin, volume 14, number 3, 2007 • 22 December 2007 

Global: Multinationals, toxic toys and toxic work
A spate of recalls of “toxic toys” exported from China has given lots of emphasis to the risk to consumers, but is ignoring the toxic risk at the companies exploiting cheap labour in the country and supplying brand name multinationals. Anita Chan and Jonathan Unger of the Australian National University’s Contemporary China Centre commented: “No mention has been made of the many hundreds of thousands of Chinese workers who labour under dangerous conditions, making toys and many hundreds of other kinds of export products.”
YaleGlobal OnlineAustralian National University Contemporary China Centre • 22 December 2007 

Britain: Dawson’s driver develops diesel dermatitis
A delivery driver who developed irritant contact dermatitis when diesel splashed on his hand is to receive £1,800 compensation. Dawson Holdings plc employee William Smith, 54, was filling his work van with diesel using a hand held nozzle, when diesel blew back from the tank of the van and went directly onto his hands.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • 15 December 2007

Britain: Work lung cancer risks are not declining
If you thought workplace exposure to the dust, fumes and chemicals that cause lung cancer was a think of the past you’d be wrong. An international study “suggests that exposure to occupational lung carcinogens is still a problem, with such exposures producing moderate to large increases in risk.”
F Veglia, P Vineis, K Overvad and others. Occupational exposures, environmental tobacco smoke, and lung cancer, Epidemiology, volume 18, number 6, pages 769-775, 2007 [abstract] • Global trade union occupational cancer/zero cancer campaign • 15 December 2007

Britain: Study exposes cancer control complacency
A disastrous failure by chemical firms and the Health and Safety Executive to control one of the best known workplace carcinogens has been revealed by an HSE survey. HSE assessed occupational exposures to the industrial chemical MbOCA, which can cause bladder cancer and which has been linked to other cancers, and found controls and personal protective equipment (PPE) were inadequate, training was poor and exposure levels were unacceptable.
HSE publication alert • A survey of occupational exposure to MbOCA in the polyurethane elastomer industry in Great Britain 2005-2006, HSE [pdf] • Global union occupational cancer/zero cancer campaign • 1 December 2007

Britain: Inspector unearths more dust disease
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector Andrea Robbins has unearthed a second case of a stonemason suffering a potentially fatal dust disease. Silica dust levels had previously been found to be over 100 times than the current legal exposure limit.
HSE news release • 24 November 2007

Global: IUF calls for action on lung destroyer
A global union body is demanding urgent control measures on the food flavouring diacetyl, a widely used chemical that can destroy workers’ lungs. IUF, the international federation for foodworkers’ unions, says the ingredient in artificial butter flavours has been shown to cause disabling and sometimes fatal illnesses in exposed workers.
IUF news releaseFood Navigator • 10 November 2007

Nicaragua/USA: US payout awarded over pesticide
A US jury has awarded a total of $3.3m (£1.58m) to six workers who claim they were left sterile by a pesticide used at a banana plantation in Nicaragua. The workers accused Dole and Standard Fruit Co and Dow Chemical Co of concealing the dangers posed by the pesticide, used in the 1970s.
BBC News Online • 10 November 2007 

Britain: Stonemason develops deadly silica disease
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has warned quarrying companies and stonemasons of the risk from the potentially fatal disease silicosis, if adequate measures to monitor and prevent exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) are not in place. The alert came after a quarry owner was fined for breaches of the COSHH chemical control regulations and the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) – he had failed to notify the HSE of a reportable work disease, silicosis.
HSE news release • 13 October 2007

USA: Work linked to deadly autoimmune diseases
Occupational exposures in farming and industry may be linked to higher death rates from systemic autoimmune diseases, a new study has found. The conditions involve the immune system attacking the body's own tissues, damaging organs. Science Daily.
LS Gold and others. Systemic autoimmune disease mortality and occupational exposures, Arthritis & Rheumatism, volume 56, issue 10, pages 3189–3201, 2007 [abstract] • More on the diseases linked to work, including the Hazards detective
• 13 October 2007 

Britain: Six figure payout for dental nurse allergy
A dental nurse who had to pack in work after developing occupational dermatitis has received a £200,000 payout. The 50-year-old UNISON member, who has not been named, worked for the Central Manchester Primary Care Trust and developed the debilitating skin condition as a result of using latex gloves between 1980 and 2004.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • 29 September 2007

Britain: Airline cabins to be tested for fumes
Pilots’ union BALPA has welcomed a government decision to test the cabins of commercial jets for toxic fumes. The move comes after a government-backed report called for an investigation into whether pilots are being disorientated by poor quality air.
Statement from BALPA to the Committee on Toxicity [pdf] • Committee on Toxicity update paper [pdf] and webpages • 29 September 2007

USA: Industry obstructs cancer progress
Documents linking industrial chemicals to cancer are being kept from the public gaze as a result of industry lobbying, a new report has claimed. OMB Watch says its report, ‘An attack on cancer research’, shows how industry has “repeatedly misused the Data Quality Act (DQA) to suppress important cancer-related information.”
OMB Watch news release • An attack on cancer research: Industry's obstruction of the National Toxicology Program [pdf] • Hazards occupational cancer webpages and Work cancer prevention kit • 22 September 2007 

Global: Mum’s job can affect the fetus
Workplace exposures in pregnancy can affect the health of the fetus with workers in blue collar jobs at greatest risk, researchers have found. The authors say the evidence suggests workplace exposures may have negative effects on fetal development, but add more research needs to be conducted on the reasons why the risk is elevated in particular occupations.
Parvez Ahmed and Jouni JK Jaakkola. Maternal occupation and adverse pregnancy outcomes: a Finnish population-based study, Occupational Medicine, volume 57, Number 6, pages 417-423, 2007 [abstract] • OHS reps, issue 123, 13 September 2007 • 22 September 2007

Global: Pesticides cause asthma in farmers
Exposure to several commonly used pesticides dramatically increases the risk of asthma in farmers, new research suggests. This finding stems from a study of nearly 20,000 farmers, which was presented at the European Respiratory Society annual congress in Stockholm.
Pesticides associated With atopic and non-atopic asthma among farmers in the Agricultural Health Study [abstract]; ERS congress presentation, 16 September 2007 • Daily Mail • 22 September 2007

Britain: Asthma risk for nurses and cleaners
Nurses and cleaners are much more likely as people with other jobs to develop asthma, according to a new study. The study found that conditions in the workplace may be causing up to 25 per cent of new asthma cases in the developed world.
ETUI-HESA news report • Manolis Kogevinas and others. Exposure to substances in the workplace and new-onset asthma: an international prospective population-based study (ECRHS-II), The Lancet, volume 370, number 9584, pages 336-341, 28 July 2007 [abstract – requires registration] • 11 August 2007

Australia: Office printers 'are health risk'
An office laser printer can damage lungs in much the same way as smoke particles from cigarettes, a team of Australian scientists has found. An investigation of a range of printer models showed that almost a third emit potentially dangerous levels of toner into the air.
Environmental Science & Technology Online • 4 August 2007

Canada: Smoke, fire and Lou Gehrig's disease
At least seven out of 10,500 full-time firefighters in the Canadian province of Ontario have recently developed Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease, an incurable and fatal neurodegenerative condition, investigations have found. Statistically, only one or two people in 100,000 get the disease.
Globe and Mail • 28 July 2007

Britain: Union warning on chemicals law
The European chemicals law being phased in over the next 11 years must not be allowed to undermine existing workplace safety regulations, a union has warned. A briefing from Unite’s Amicus section on the REACH regulations on chemical evaluation and registration says the union’s “primary concern… will be for the health and safety of people at work,” adding the law is primarily concerned with environmental risks “with workplace effects of chemicals being a secondary consideration.”
Unite-Amicus REACH briefing • 14 July 2007

Britain: Retired driver gets skin rash payout
A retired machine driver has successfully claimed compensation for an uncomfortable work-related skin rash that could easily have been prevented. James Quinn, 68, from Leeds, was employed with Mone Brothers Civil Engineering Limited from 1985 to 2004 and was required to fill up machines and this meant he came into contact with diesel, hydraulic and engine oils, along with lubricant grease on a daily basis.
Irwin Mitchell Solicitors news release • 14 July 2007

USA: Watchdog ordered to release exposure database
The US government’s workplace safety watchdog has wrongfully withheld data documenting years of toxic exposures to workers and its own inspectors, according to a federal court ruling. As a result, the world's largest compendium of measurements of occupational exposures to toxic substances - more than 2 million analyses conducted during some 75,000 Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) workplace inspections since 1979 - should now be available to researchers and policymakers.
PEER news release • 7 July 2007

Britain: Pesticide wipes out worker’s memory
A pesticide-affected local authority groundsman went missing overnight and was discovered by a colleague wandering in a park the following day with no memory of what had happened. Andrew McKeith’s employer, Macclesfield Borough Council, was fined a total of £6,000 and ordered to pay £3,747 costs after pleading guilty to two HSE charges at Macclesfield Magistrates Court.
HSE news releaseMacclesfield Express and related report • 7 July 2007

Britain: Powertrain workers in legal victory
More than 20 former Powertrain workers struck down by work-related breathing difficulties have won the fight to lodge industrial disease benefit claims. The workers, members of the TGWU section of Unite, triumphed in a long-running battle to allow sufferers of extrinsic allergic alveolitis - EAA, also known as hypersensitivity pneumonitis - to lodge disability claims.
Birmingham MailHazards compensation webpage • 9 June 2007

Europe: New EU chemical law takes effect (slowly)
Legislation requiring the safety testing of tens of thousands of chemicals has come into effect across the European Union (EU). The new European Directive on the Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of CHemicals (REACH) came into force on 1 June; its requirements will be phased in between now and 2018. European Commission news release • European Commission REACH webpages • European Chemicals Agency • 9 June 2007

France: Brain tumour link to pesticides
Agricultural workers exposed to high levels of pesticides have a raised risk of brain tumours, research suggests. All agricultural workers exposed to pesticides had a slightly elevated brain tumour risk, the French study found, but the paper published online by the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine reported the risk was more than doubled for those exposed to the highest levels.
Dorothée Provost and others. Brain tumours and exposure to pesticides: a case-control study in, southwestern France, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, published online 30 May 2007; doi: 10.1136/oem.2006.028100 [abstract] • BBC News OnlineHazards cancer webpages • 9 June 2007

Australia: Qantas in chrome cancer payout
Australian airline Qantas could face tens of millions of dollars in compensation after a dying aircraft maintenance worker was awarded almost Aus$1 million (£0.41m) for lung cancer he contracted after working for the airline. Sheet metal worker Philip Johnson, who worked at the airline's Sydney Airport base between 1971 and 1991, was diagnosed with lung cancer two years ago, the condition deemed to have been caused by the inhalation of hexavalent chromium, a known cause of occupational cancer.
The Daily TelegraphGlobal union cancer campaign • 2 June 2007 

South Africa: Poisoned worker fights for justice
A brain-damaged factory worker who was poisoned by toxic manganese fumes has lodged a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission after his company attempted to fire him “via the back door.” The complaint has been lodged on behalf of Brian Anderson, a 51-year-old foreman at the Assmang ferromanganese smelter at Cato Ridge who was diagnosed with manganism - a crippling, job-related neurological sickness which causes Parkinson’s disease type symptoms - in January 2006.
Independent Online • 2 June 2007 

Europe: New study links pesticides to Parkinson's
Exposure to pesticides could lead to an increased risk of contracting Parkinson's disease with the risks substantially higher in those occupationally exposed, a study has found. Those who had been exposed to high levels of pesticides, such as farmers, were 1.41 times as likely to be affected, according to the findings.
• Finlay Dick and others. Environmental risk factors for Parkinson’s disease and Parkinsonism: the Geoparkinson study; Occupational and Environmental Medicine, published online 30 May 2007; doi: 10.1136/oem.2006.027003 [abstract]
• Do you know of anyone who might have developed parkinsonism that could have been caused by workplace exposure to pesticides, organic solvents or heavy metals, for example manganese? Hazards magazine would like to hear details, in confidence • 2 June 2007

Britain: Cancers killed rubber worker
A 43-year-old man who inhaled dangerous chemicals whilst working in the rubber industry died from a form of cancer only usually seen in pensioners, an inquest has heard. Timothy Kirkby died at Derbyshire Royal Infirmary on 20 July last year; he had cancer in a kidney and in his bladder and urethra.
Burton MailGlobal union prevent cancer campaign • 26 May 2007

South Africa: Benzene ‘harms refinery staff’
A study at a fuel refinery in South Africa has found that benzene in petroleum causes high levels of DNA damage in refinery workers, distribution workers, tank drivers and office staff alike. The Wits School of Public Health study found that continued exposure of workers to the known workplace carcinogen reduced the ability of their bodies to repair the damage to DNA, the body’s genetic code.
Business DayHazards cancer prevention news and resources • 19 May 2007 

Global: Moves to tackle toxic wood boards
Wood-based boards that can lead to workplace exposures to a mix of two known carcinogens pose an unacceptable risk, campaigners have warned. Australian construction union CFMEU says it may consider a ban on imports of MDF - medium density fibreboard – because of concerns about formaldehyde risks, while California legislators have introduced laws limiting the amount of the toxin in the boards.
CFMEU construction safety newsletter - [pdf] • US formaldehyde-free campaignHazards/Global union cancer prevention campaign • 19 May 2007

France: Chemical firm liable for kidney cancers
The world’s third largest animal feed supplement producer has been found liable for kidney cancers suffered by its staff. A social security tribunal in Moulin, France ruled in April that Adisseo had been grossly negligent and ordered the company to pay out compensation of 50,000 to 60,000 euros (£34,000-41,000) to each of nine current or former workers suffering from kidney cancer.
ETUI-REHS news report • 12 May 2007

Britain: TUC raises skin problems
Employers are showing a “shameful” lack of concern for the health of their employees, the TUC had said. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber spoke out following new advice from the official safety watchdog that thousands of workers are still affected by a painful skin conditions caused by coming into contact with harmful substances at work.
Personnel Today • 12 May 2007

Global: Unions say ‘Don’t work with killer chemicals’
Union organisations are demanding an end to the lax safety procedures that mean millions of workers are being routinely and needlessly exposed to industrial quantities of deadly substances, with many thousands dying each year as a result. Workers are being advised against working with unfamiliar workplace substances, unless a full assessment of the risks has been undertaken and safe working practices are in place.
Hazards magazine • 27 April 2007

USA: Unions win action on cement health risks
A union legal challenge has won stricter controls on cancer and other risks posed by a constituent of portland cement. The ubiquitous site material, which contains hexavalent chromium (chrome 6), a known carcinogen and powerful allergen, had been excluded from the official chrome 6 standard.
BCTD news release and full text of the settlement agreement [pdf] • AFL-CIO NowHazards cancer webpagesRisks 302 • 21 April 2007

Nicaragua/USA: Pesticide company settles sterility case
A Southern California chemical company has agreed to pay $300,000 (£150,000) to Nicaraguan field workers who filed a lawsuit alleging one of the firm's pesticides caused them to become sterile. Lawyers for the plaintiffs announced the settlement with Amvac Chemical Corp during a 15 April rally in Chinandega, Nicaragua.
Risks 302 • 21 April 2007

France: Few workers protected from major health risks
A major survey of French workplaces has revealed few workers are adequately protected from from the risks posed by carcinogenic, mutagenic or reprotoxic substances (CMR agents) – in general, substances that carry a cancer or reproductive health risk. Inspections at 2,000 firms found only 40 per cent of workplaces using CMR agents - nearly half of all the firms visited were using these substances - had carried out the necessary risk assessment.
Risks 299 • 24 March 2007

Extraterrestrial: Lunar dust 'may harm astronauts'
Scientists are investigating the possible threat posed to astronauts by inhaling lunar dust. A study suggests the smallest particles in lunar dust might be cause lung scarring and other health effects, if comparisons with dust-related exposures and ill-health on Earth apply.
Risks 299 • 24 March 2007

Britain: Soap firm settles for scaly skin
Toiletries giant PZ Cussons has paid out £10,000 to a former employee who developed occupational dermatitis. The 35-year-old TGWU member from Nottingham was required to wear latex gloves to protect his hands from workplace chemicals and went on to develop latex allergy.
Hazards work and health and compensation webpages • Risks 298 • 17 March 2007

Britain: Consultation on REACH chemicals enforcement
The government has published a consultation document on the enforcement of the REACH chemicals safety regulations in the UK. REACH will apply not only to chemicals manufacturers or suppliers, but to any business which uses chemicals - so a wide range of businesses will be affected by the enforcement arrangements proposed.
Risks 298 • 17 March 2007

Sweden: Site dust causes heart attacks
Construction workers who are exposed to airborne particles in the workplace are more likely than others to die of a heart attack, a major Swedish study has found. Researchers from Gothenburg and Umeå found there has been little improvement in building site health and safety conditions in the last 25 years.
Risks 297 • 10 March 2007

South Africa: Sick manganese workers demand action
Scores of factory workers - many shuffling about on walking sticks - gathered last week to urge South Africa’s labour department to get to the bottom of a manganese poison scandal. The meeting was called by senior inspectors of the labour department at the request of Spoor and shop stewards from the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa).
Hazards work and health webpagesRisks 296 • 3 March 2007

USA: Lawsuit pushes for a quicker pesticide ban
Farmworkers and environmental groups have reopened a lawsuit against the US government’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in an attempt to hasten the phase out a pesticide they say has been poisoning fieldworkers for decades. The federal lawsuit challenges a decision by the EPA last November to set a 2012 timetable for phasing out the pesticide azinphos-methyl, known as guthion or AZM.
Risks 293 • 10 February 2007

USA: Campaign targets nail salon hazards
Nail salon workers are facing serious risks to their health from physical strains and toxic exposures, an advocacy organisation has warned. Lehn Tsan, a community advocate and organiser, and Connie Nguyen, a peer trainer, are from Asian Law Caucus, which has launched a nail salon project as part of a worker health and safety programme.
Risks 291 • 27 January 2007

Britain: TUC publishes REACH briefing for safety reps
TUC has published a detailed online guide to the REACH chemicals law. The guide, which targets union safety reps, gives a background on the need for a chemicals law, its scope, and the timetable for implementation.
TUC REACH briefingRisks 291 • 27 January 2007

India: The real cost of cheap stone
Research and “diagnosis camps” run by the Gujarat-based Peoples Training and Research Centre (PTRC) have identified an “epidemic” of silicosis, a deadly lung disease caused by exposure to stone dust. Quarry workers, gem polishers, foundry and other industrial workers are at risk.
PTRC websiteMore on the PTRC dust campaign Risks 289 • 13 January 2007

Europe: MEPs pass diluted REACH solution
The European Parliament has brought the passage of European Union (EU) legislation on the trade in chemicals close to completion. A plenary vote by members of the European Parliament leaves the REACH proposal requiring just the backing of the Council of Ministers, the final hurdle before implementation.
Risks 287 • 16 December 2006

USA: Multinationals blame workers for chemical cancers
Nine former employees of a US tyre plant who developed occupational cancers as a result of toxic exposures have been told by chemical giants it was their own fault. The group, who all worked at Uniroyal Goodrich Tire Co. in Eau Claire County, Wisconsin, were exposed to benzene but have been told they caused their own cancer because they “voluntarily used the chemicals knowing the dangers and risks, and they failed to take precautions which could have avoided injuries.”
Hazards workplace cancers webpagesRisks 284 • 25 November 2006

Britain: Poisonous package leads to payout
A TGWU member who was taken ill after being exposed to toxic fumes at work is to receive £1,200 compensation. Tony Green from Solihull was employed as a stock controller by Yuasa of Birmingham, one of the world’s largest manufacturers and suppliers of valve regulated lead-acid batteries.
Risks 283 • 18 November 2006

Global: Concern over chemicals brain risk
Industrial chemicals may be causing a pandemic of brain disorders because of inadequate regulation, researchers have warned. An online report in the Lancet identifies 202 chemicals, including metals, solvents and pesticides, which have potential to damage the brain.
Risks 283 • 18 November 2006

Britain: Amicus takes on “terrible” silica problems
An Amicus campaign is seeking to minimise the risks of “terrible” diseases caused by workplace exposure to silica. Crystalline silica can cause silicosis and other respiratory disease and has been linked to lung cancer, kidney and autoimmune system problems.
Risks 280 • 28 October 2006

Global: Rotterdam Treaty a “casualty” of asbestos disease
An international treaty designed to protect developing nations from toxic trade has become the latest casualty of the global asbestos industry. Failure to list chrysotile asbestos under a global right-to-know scheme has left the Rotterdam Convention "discredited" health campaigners have warned. They are calling on the United Nations to take urgent action to restore the treaty's credibility.
Hazards magazine/IBAS/BWI • 13 October 2006

Britain: Man develops illness with photochemicals
The former employer of a photo booth engineer whose health was wrecked by toxic chemicals has been fined £100,000. The problem only came to light after Stuart White, 37, blew the whistle on the workplace dangers.
Hazards work and health webpagesRisks 278 • 14 October 2006

Europe: Substitution principle gets more backing
A top European committee has endorsed tough new laws on chemicals. The European Parliament's environment committee backed a law which would require companies to replace dangerous substances where safer ones exist.
Risks 278 • 14 October 2006

Britain: New REACH helpline
The government has designated the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) the UK’s “competent authority” for REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals), the forthcoming European regime for the regulation of chemicals. HSE this week launched a helpdesk to support UK business in the run-up to the regulations coming into force.
Risks 278 • 14 October 2006

USA: New “CleanerSolutions” database
A new interactive web-based tool can help you find safer industrial cleaning alternatives that perform as well as hazardous chemicals. The free ‘CleanerSolutions’ database, produced by the Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) at the University of Massachusetts Lowell in the USA, “helps companies understand how to choose alternatives so that overall risks to workers and the environment are reduced.”
CleanerSolutions databaseTURI websiteRisks 277 • 7 October 2006

Global: Challenging the chip – hazards in electronics exposed
Challenging the chip: Labor rights and environmental justice in the global electronics industry is the first comprehensive examination of the impacts of electronics manufacturing on workers and local environments from Silicon Valley in California to Silicon Glen in Scotland, from Silicon Island in Taiwan to Silicon Paddy in China.
Challenging the chip: Labor rights and environmental justice in the global electronics industry, Edited by Ted Smith, David A Sonnenfeld and David Naguib Pellow, Temple University Press, 2006. ISBN 1-59213-330-4. US$25.95 • Foreword, contents and chapter 1 and order detailsQuestion and answer with co-editor Ted SmithRisks 276 • 30 September 2006

Britain: Raised lead levels linked to heart disease risk
Two new studies have linked even relatively low lead exposures to a higher rate of heart disease.
Hazards work and health webpagesRisks 276 • 30 September 2006

Europe: Chemicals law must mean safer workers
Workplace health and safety must be a key component of forthcoming European chemical safety laws, Europe’s top union body has said. The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) said REACH proposals could, if not introduced in a responsible manner including a substitution clause, undermine existing safety law.
Risks 275 • 23 September 2006

USA: Workplace lead exposure a brain cancer risk
People who are routinely exposed to lead at work are far more likely to die from brain cancer than people who are not exposed. The US study found the death rate among people with jobs that potentially exposed them to lead was 50 percent higher than unexposed people, and the number of deaths was larger than in many previous studies.
Hazards cancer webpagesRisks 273 • 9 September 2006

USA: Why are miners still choking to death?
It's been well over 100 years since the US Congress first told mine companies to limit coal dust in mines and four decades since the first efforts were made to reduce the incidence of coal miners’ pneumoconiosis, or black lung, a deadly choking of the lungs with coal dust. But an official study has revealed miners in eastern Kentucky and western Virginia are at greater risk than miners in other coal belt areas and are developing the condition earlier.
Risks 271 • 26 August 2006

Britain: Essex fined £15,000 for cement burns
A construction firm has been fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £7,000 costs after a plasterer suffered serious cement burns.
Risks 269 • 12 August 2006

USA: Call for emergency action on work popcorn peril
Two large US unions and dozens of leaders in public and occupational health are petitioning the US government to use emergency powers to control worker exposure to a chemical in butter flavouring that has sickened hundreds of workers. The government safety watchdog, though, says it could take two years to consider the request.
Risks 268 • 5 August 2006

USA: Toxic chemicals more expensive
There’s a high price to pay for toxic chemicals – literally. A US study has found toxic chemicals are more expensive than switching to safer alternatives.
Risks 265 • 15 July 2006

Britain: Trust fined for latex blunder
The health trust running Swindon’s Great Western Hospital has been fined after a nurse with a known allergy to latex was given latex gloves to wear. Swindon and Marlborough NHS Trust was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £10,000 in costs after admitted failing to properly assess the risk to nurse Wendy Roberts of wearing latex gloves
Risks 265 • 15 July 2006

Europe: Chemical standard row rumbles on
The tortuous passage of the European Union’s planned chemical safety law, REACH, has made some minor progress. On 27 June the European Council in Luxembourg formally adopted its common position on the REACH regulation, but without the clause requiring substitution of some substances with safer alternatives.
Risks 264 • 8 July 2006

Britain: Allergy nurse's compensation deal
An RAF dental nurse whose career was ruined by a potentially fatal allergy to latex gloves has been awarded £260,000 compensation. Lisa Furphy, 35, had to be invalided out of the RAF in 2004 because of her allergy to powdered latex gloves, following an anaphylactic attack while working at RAF Holton in 2003.
Risks 263 • 1 July 2006

China: Campaign calls for cadmium compensation
The global metalworkers’ union federation IMF is calling on its affiliates worldwide to join the campaign for compensation for workers in China suffering from cadmium poisoning. When Gold Peak Industries opened its Huizhou factories in 1994, Chinese workers were not warned of the dangers of handling highly dangerous cadmium and were initially refused masks. Years later, these workers suffer from cadmium poisoning, are going into debt from medical bills and unable to find new employment.
Risks 263 • 1 July 2006

USA: More proof links Parkinson's to pesticides
New highly credible evidence linking exposure to pesticides to the development of Parkinson’s disease has come from a study in the US. A team from Harvard School of Public Health found that people who said in 1992 that they had been in contact with pesticides were 70 per cent more likely to develop Parkinson’s within the next 10 years.
Risks 263 • 1 July 2006


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