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Environmental Health and Safety Blog | EHSWire

Employee “Wellness” – not just for work!

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Jul 5, 2010 1:00:31 AM

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Topics: Personal Protective Equipment, health and safety, General Industry H&S, Construction H&S, H&S Training, Respiratory, water safety

EPA: Air Monitoring at Schools…the Results are IN

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Jun 28, 2010 1:12:47 AM

Lee Bishop, CIH

Have you ever wondered if the air your kids are breathing at their school is safe?  Well, so has the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA).

The US EPA has completed sampling outside air at 63 elementary, middle, and high schools in 22 states.  Even better yet, they have completed the analytical work associated with these samples and have uploaded more than 22,500 results to the EPA website.

The EPA is now analyzing the sampling results to see if there may be long-term health consequences for young people attending these schools.  Reports of the analysis have been released for two schools:  Pittsboro Elementary School in Pittsboro, Ind. and Minnesota International Middle Charter School in Minneapolis.  At both schools, levels of the high-profile pollutants monitored were below levels of both short-term and long-term concern.  EPA previously released analyses for two schools in Tennessee.  These results will also be used for air contaminant modeling programs.

The samples were analyzed for 6 distinct pollutant groups:

  1. Carbonyls such as acetaldehyde,

  2. Diisocyanates such as methylene diphenyl diisocyanate, 2,4-toluene diisocyanate, and 1,6-hexamethylene diisocyanate,

  3. Metals such as arsenic, cobalt, lead, manganese, and nickel,

  4. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH)s such as benzo(a)pyrene, and naphthalene,

  5. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as acrolein, benzene, and 1,3-butadiene, and

  6. Other specific pollutants such as 4,4’-methylenedianiline, and hexavalent chromium (Chromium VI).

While some of these materials may be found in nature, they are concentrated in processed materials and uses related to dyes, plastics, tobacco, transportation, pesticides, and steel / energy production activities.  Many of the emissions related to these products can become concentrated in some areas.  Where schools existed in such areas, outside air was tested.

Particulates were collected by using the EPA’s PM10 method (for dust less than 10 um [microns] in diameter that can enter and be impacted in the lungs), and by the TSP method for particulate matter greater than 10 um in diameter and can be a human health hazard due to dermal contact and subsequent ingestion, or by drinking water contaminated with these materials.

Since these are OUTDOOR air samples – the results tell us a lot about the air quality not just at the schools, but in the communities around these schools.  Check out these data for schools in your community at

I’ve looked at the results for schools in New Jersey, and even though they are schools close to or in urban areas, the levels measured were well below the Short Term Screening Limits established by the EPA.  While the results are reassuring, they do reinforce that we do live in a chemical world!  I wonder what the air quality is like INSIDE my house. What do you think?
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Topics: indoor air quality, EPA, Exposure, environmental air monitoring, Respiratory

Could a Bhopal Disaster Happen Here?

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Jun 21, 2010 1:00:36 AM

Dian Cucchisi, PhD, CHMM

The Bhopal Disaster has been in the news again with the eight former company executives getting convicted of negligence.     A court in the Indian city of Bhopal returned the verdict on June 7, 2010, more than 25 years after the incident

What was the Bhopal Disaster?

For those of us old enough to remember, the words “Bhopal, India” brings to mind the very tragic events of December 2, 1984.  On that day a Union Carbide facility had an accidental release of approximately 40 tons of methyl isocyanate, a chemical used in pesticides.  The chemical plume killed 3,000 people and left an estimated 500,000 people with long-term, damaging health effects.  Amnesty International reports that approximately 15,000 people died in the subsequent years as a result of this incident.  As a result the Union Carbide Bhopal accident is often considered the world's worst industrial disaster.

And then a smaller, but similar event occurred in the USA…

In August 1985 a Union Carbide facility located in Institute, West Virginia experienced an accidental release of toxic chemicals causing more than 100 residents of the area to seek medical treatment.

US Regulators Respond to Community Concerns

In response to these incidents and the growing concern by the American public that this could happen in their backyard, regulatory agencies enacted laws for facilities that manufacture, store, or use certain chemicals above designated threshold quantities.

In 1986 the United States Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA). The law requires facilities to annually report the quantities of “extremely hazardous substances” to the facility’s state and the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC).  This information is available to any member of the public upon request to the LEPC.

In late 1985, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) created the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) (29 CFR 1910.1200) also known as “Right to Know.”  The HCS requires manufacturers and distributors of hazardous materials to communicate to employees the hazards of the chemicals in their workplace by providing Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and ensure that hazardous materials are labeled according to certain requirements.

The Clean Air Act was amended by Congress in 1990, including some regulatory changes intending to create safer workplaces and mitigate the risk of a Bhopal-like disaster in the US, such as:

  • Charging the EPA and OSHA with more authority over the chemical industry.

    • OSHA created the Process Safety Management Standard (29 CFR 1910.119), a program that looks in depth at process technologies, procedures and management practices.

    • The EPA codified Chemical Accident Prevention Provisions (40 CFR Part 68) which requires facilities to conduct a hazard assessment, develop a prevention program, and implement a risk management plan.

    • Other laws that regulate the use of hazardous materials were enhanced.  These include the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA); the Resource, Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA); and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).

  • Creating the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB). 

The Senate legislative history states: "The principal role of the new chemical safety board is to investigate accidents to determine the conditions and circumstances which led up to the event and to identify the cause or causes so that similar events might be prevented." Congress gave the CSB a unique statutory mission and provided in law that no other agency or executive branch official may direct the activities of the Board. Congress directed that the CSB's investigative function be completely independent of the rulemaking, inspection, and enforcement authorities of EPA and OSHA. The CSB became operational in January 1998.  

Accidents in the U.S. STILL OCCUR

In spite of this, accidents continue to happen.  In 2002, the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) examined 167 chemical accidents that occurred between 1980 and 2001.  More than half of those accidents involved chemicals not covered by the regulations mentioned above.  The CSB recommended that the EPA and OSHA expand their regulations.  The Agencies did not agree with the recommendation stating they feel the best approach is worker education.  In 2004, OSHA formed an alliance with the EPA, the American Chemistry Council (ACC), and others to develop and provide worker education on chemical reactivity hazards. 

How do you feel about the expansion of regulations to include chemicals currently not covered by regulations designed to prevent accidents and reduce health risk?
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Topics: OSHA, health and safety, General Industry H&S, EPA, Emergency Response, H&S Training, Compliance, TSCA & R.E.A.C.H., Air Sampling, emergency response training, Exposure, environmental air monitoring, Respiratory, Public Safety

Top 10 Things to Know BEFORE Shipping Hazardous Materials

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Aug 4, 2009 8:34:54 AM

Dian Cucchisi, PhD, CHMM

1. Is the material hazardous? This can be determined by looking at the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) or the label.

2. Does the Department of Transportation consider the material a hazardous material for transportation? Check the Hazardous Material Table (HMT) found in 49 CFR 172.101.

3. Is the material listed by name in the HMT? If so, that would be the proper shipping name.

4. Is the material not listed by name in the HMT but is a hazardous material due to flammability, corrosivity, etc.? If so, a generic proper shipping name would be used. The generic proper shipping names are also located in the HMT.

5. Do you have personnel trained according to 49 CFR 172.704?

6. Do you have the proper label(s) as required by 49 CFR 172.400 - .450?

7. Is the packaging approved for the shipment of hazardous materials according to 49 CFR 173?

8. Have you completed the Shipper's Declaration of Dangerous Goods?

9. Is the listed emergency response telephone number answered by a "live person?"

10. Failure to ship hazardous materials properly has resulted in monetary fines in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
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Topics: OSHA, DOT, health and safety, General Industry H&S, Emergency Response, H&S Training, Hazardous Materials, Occupational Health, Occupational Safety, emergency response training, MSDS, Respiratory, Occupational Training, Safety Training in Spanish

Top 10 Things to Know About Respiratory Protection & Fit Testing

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Jul 28, 2009 9:18:19 AM

Kevin Zeller

1. OSHA regulation 29 CFR 1910.134 details the requirements for a Respiratory Protection Program.

2. A Respiratory Protection Program is mandatory if any employee is required to wear any type of respirator during the course of their job.

3. The establishment and maintenance of a Respiratory Protection Program is the responsibility of the employer and must of: a written program, employee training, fit testing’ and medical surveillance.

4. All employees who will be issued respiratory protection must be medically cleared to wear a respirator before fit testing and donning a respirator

5. Only respirators which have been certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) should be used

6. Fit testing for respirators is done to determine the correct size respirator for the employee.

7. Fit testing is required for all positive and negative pressure tight fitting facepieces.

8. Fit testing can be accomplished by using either a qualitative agent (eg Bitrex) or quantitatively (eg., PORTACOUNT®) with a probed face piece.

9. Fit testing must be conducted: prior to initial issuance of a respirator; when a different facepiece is used; when an employee’s physical changes may affect facepiece fit; and annually thereafter.

10. Employees must conduct a user seal check each time they wear a respirator to assure they have donned and adjusted the facepiece correctly.
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Topics: NIOSH, OSHA, health and safety, General Industry H&S, Construction H&S, Emergency Response, H&S Training, Hazardous Waste Management, Compliance, Occupational Health, Occupational Safety, Lab Safety & Electrical, emergency response training, Fire Safety, Respiratory, Occupational Training, Safety Training in Spanish, EMT, Fit Testing

Top Ten Things You Need to Know About…HEAT STRESS

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Jul 14, 2009 7:54:55 AM

Top Ten Things You Need to Know About…HEAT STRESS

Paula Kaufmann - CIH
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Topics: OSHA, health and safety, General Industry H&S, Construction H&S, Emergency Response, H&S Training, Hazardous Waste Management, Occupational Health, Occupational Safety, emergency response training, Fire Safety, Exposure, Respiratory, Occupational Training, Safety Training in Spanish

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