August 11, 2023
The E-Newsbrief of the National Clearinghouse is a free weekly newsletter focusing on new developments in the world of worker health and safety. Each issue provides summaries of the latest worker health and safety news from newspapers, magazines, journals, government reports, and the Web, along with links to the original documents. Also featured each week are updates from government agencies that handle hazmat and worker safety issues such as DOE, EPA, OSHA and others.
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Recovery Friendly Workplace Landscape Analysis Report
In collaboration with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Worker Training Program published the Recovery Friendly Workplace (RFW) Landscape Analysis Report and the addendum State Profiles document. The report documents the emerging movement to implement RFW programs in workplaces throughout the country; however, resources are lacking to accomplish the main components of these programs, such as outreach, training, and certification. The report highlights the need to increase resources for RFW programs and provides recommendations for policymakers. The State Profiles document showcases the great work that states are doing to create and implement RFW programs, in spite of a lack of resources.
Pioneering Study Links Testicular Cancer Among Military Personnel to ‘Forever Chemicals’
A new federal study for the first time shows a direct association between PFOS, a PFAS chemical, found in the blood of thousands of military personnel, and testicular cancer. Using banked blood drawn from Air Force servicemen, researchers at the National Cancer Institute and Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences found strong evidence that airmen who were firefighters had elevated levels of PFAS in their bloodstreams and weaker evidence for those who lived on installations with high levels of PFAS in the drinking water.
Kaiser Health News [Authors: Hannah Norman & Patricia Kime]
AI Tool May Help Prevent Sudden Cardiac Arrest Among Firefighters
Recently developed artificial intelligence (AI) software can determine whether firefighters may be about to experience a potentially fatal cardiac event. Using AI technology and existing electrocardiogram (EKG) data for 112 firefighters, the researchers created the Heart Health Monitoring, or H2M, model. Individual heartbeats from the EKGs were classified either as normal or abnormal, with the latter possibly indicating irregular heart rhythms. Such rhythms can prompt the heart to stop pumping blood, often because of a heart attack, and trigger sudden cardiac arrest – the leading cause of on-the-job death among firefighters. The researchers say they hope the model ultimately can be used in a portable heart monitor that firefighters could wear while on the job.
A New Clue to the Reason Some People Come Down with Long COVID
Long COVID only affects a small percentage of people who are infected with SARS-CoV-2, but the scope of the pandemic means that many millions of people are suffering. Roughly 25 million people in the U.S. and over 17 million people in Europe have long COVID symptoms, with many more in other parts of the world. There isn't a universally agreed upon definition for what is considered long COVID – people experience a range of different symptoms including fatigue, muscle pain, intestinal disorders, and brain fog, and for different periods of time. That's made the disease difficult for scientists to fully understand, but the new research adds to the growing body of work showing that genetics can influence COVID outcomes.
NPR [Author: Max Barnhart]
Biden-Harris Administration Launches National Dashboard to Track Heat-Related Illness
The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Climate Change and Health Equity, in partnership with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, launched a first-of-its-kind online information portal called the Heat-Related Illness EMS Activation Surveillance Dashboard (“EMS HeatTracker”), which maps emergency medical services responses to heat-related illness across the country. The EMS HeatTracker will be used to help state, regional, and local government officials, such as city and regional planners, determine where to prioritize heat mitigation strategies, like street trees, parks, and cool roofs. It will also be used to help mayors and public health officials prioritize interventions like cooling centers and outreach to at-risk populations during periods of extreme heat.
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Workplace Safety in Hybrid Federal Laboratories: A Workshop
Safety considerations are an integral part of laboratory-based research and development operations. However, the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly changed the research environment. It forced researchers to work remotely, separated them from the lab for extended periods, and as facilities moved to hybrid environments, altered the traditional mentoring process, potentially leading to less direct contact between principal investigators, safety representatives, junior researchers, and facility users. This workshop will examine the effect that hybrid working environments have on safety proficiency, cultures, and practices while maintaining the highest standards of effort, performance, and relevance. This workshop will be held virtually on August 15, 2023, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. EDT and August 16, 2023, from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. EDT.
#SummerReady Webinar: Extreme Heat Impacts on Mental Health
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region 5 and the Department of Homeland Security Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in coordination with FEMA’s Offices of Disability Integration and Coordination and External Affairs are co-hosting a webinar on Extreme Heat and the Impacts on Mental Health. The webinar will focus on the mental health impacts of extreme heat, especially on people who are at greater risk, such as older adults, children, and people with disabilities. The webinar will be held on August 15, 2023, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. EDT.
|On The Web This Week
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Study Finds Health Care Workers Face Increased Risk for Fatal Drug Overdoses
A study of health care workers found that registered nurses, social or behavioral health workers, and health care support workers were at increased risk for drug overdose death, suggesting the need to identify and intervene on those at elevated risk. Researchers from Columbia University analyzed a prospective cohort of 176,000 health care workers aged 26 years and older between 2008 and 2019. The authors found that 0.07% of their study sample died of a drug overdose during the follow-up period.
U.S. COVID Tracking Shows Another Slight Rise, Increasing EG.5 Proportion
With levels still very low, some indicators federal health officials use to track COVID-19 activity, such as hospitalizations and emergency department visits, showed more small rises. In the latest variant proportion update, the EG.5.1 Omicron subvariant, a descendant of XBB.1.9.2, continues its steady rise. Hospitalizations—one of the main markers—were up 12.1% compared to a week ago. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that hospital admissions for COVID are currently low for more than 99% of the country.
University of Minnesota CIDRAP [Author: Lisa Schnirring]
Largest U.S. Offshore Wind Project Could Produce Power This Year
America's first major offshore wind farm is coming into focus on the wavy horizon off Massachusetts. The project, Vineyard Wind, will see 62 turbines installed south of Martha's Vineyard, a large increase over the seven total turbines that have been installed in U.S. waters previously. The first turbines are expected to start generating power later this year, while the entire project will be completed in 2024.
Scientific American [Author: Benjamin Storrow]
|Federal Agency Update
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DOE Awards $135 Million For Groundbreaking Research By 93 Early Career Scientists
The Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced the selection of 93 early career scientists from across the country who will receive a combined $135 million in funding for research covering a wide range of topics, from artificial intelligence to astrophysics to fusion energy. The 2023 Early Career Research Program awardees represent 47 universities and 12 DOE National Laboratories across the country. These awards are a part of the DOE’s long-standing efforts to develop the next generation of science, technology, engineering, and math leaders to solidify America’s role as the driver of science and innovation around the world.
FEMA and FCC Plan Nationwide Emergency Alert Test for Oct. 4, 2023
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), will conduct a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) this fall. The national test will consist of two portions, testing WEA and EAS capabilities. Both tests are scheduled to begin at approximately 2:20 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Oct. 4. The WEA portion of the test will be directed to all consumer cell phones. This will be the third nationwide test, but the second test to all cellular devices. The test message will display in either English or in Spanish, depending on the language settings of the wireless handset. The EAS portion of the test will be sent to radios and televisions.
HHS Awards $2.5 Million to Help Decrease Food Insecurity in Native Communities
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Indian Health Service (IHS), awards $2.5 million in funding to support the development of produce prescription programs in tribal communities. The purpose of the IHS Produce Prescription Pilot Program is to help reduce food insecurity and improve health care outcomes among American Indian and Alaska Native people by increasing access to produce and other traditional foods within Native communities.
Department of Labor, Norfolk Southern Corp., Teamsters’ Railway Union Enter Agreement to Enhance Safety at East Palestine, Ohio, Derailment Site
After several Department of Labor workplace safety and health investigations at the East Palestine, Ohio, site where a Norfolk Southern Corp. train derailed in February 2023, the train’s operator has entered into a settlement agreement with the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division-International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Under terms of the settlement, Norfolk Southern agreed to implement a medical surveillance program for all affected employees who worked at the derailment site, provide union employees with 40 hours of Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response training for future derailments, create a training program on lessons learned from the Ohio derailment, and pay penalties assessed by OSHA for four safety and health violations.
President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Approves Major Disaster Declaration for Hawaii
FEMA announced that federal disaster assistance has been made available to the state of Hawaii to supplement recovery efforts in the areas affected by wildfires beginning on August 8, 2023 and continuing. The President's action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in Maui County. Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-interest loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners jumpstart their recovery.
|Awardee Highlights/Online Learning
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How Bad Could Hurricanes Get with Climate Change?
In a new YouTube series about the wild world of extreme weather, meteorologist Alexandra Steele introduces viewers to scientists, experts, and friends in the field of climate and weather to answer these important questions. This series premiere features Yale Climate Connections meteorologist Dr. Jeff Masters and renowned climate communicator Susan Joy Hassol.
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Department of Veterans Affairs Seeking Industrial Hygienist
The position serves as the facility Industrial Hygienist assigned to the Safety and Emergency Management Service (EMS) at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS) located in Palo Alto, CA. The HCS is a major tertiary system with three hospital-based divisions at Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Livermore. VAPAHCS is a teaching hospital, providing a full range of patient care services, with state-of-the-art technology as well as education and research, Comprehensive health care is provided through primary, tertiary and long-term care in areas of medicine, surgery, psychiatry, physical medicine and rehabilitation, neurology, oncology, dentistry, geriatrics and extended care.
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