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Your Environment. Your Health.

NIEHS WTP: February 19, 2021 Newsbrief

Weekly E-Newsbrief, February 19, 2021

Weekly E-Newsbrief

February 19, 2021

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.

Subscribing to the National Clearinghouse Newsbrief is the best way to stay on top of the worker health and safety news.

Top StoriesBack to Top

We Have, And Need, Better Alternatives Than Landfills

Why not landfills? Burying our trash in the ground presents long-term risks to our groundwater supplies. We are currently spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to clean up old, leaking landfills. The value of materials dumped in landfills is lost, that's tens of millions of dollars buried in the ground forever. Finally, landfills emit methane and other potent greenhouse gases at much higher rates than recycling, composting or waste-to-energy.

Minneapolis Star Tribune [Author: Debbie Goettel, Fran Miron, and Victoria Reinhardt]

IN BRIEF: Watchdog Sues Feds Over 'Interim' Storage of Radioactive Waste

Nuclear watchdog Beyond Nuclear in Washington D.C. federal appeals court has sued the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to halt the licensing process of a planned above-ground storage facility for highly radioactive nuclear waste in west Texas that the plaintiffs say would be unsafe.

Reuters [Author: Sebastien Malo]

California’s Aging Dams Face New Perils, 50 Years After Sylmar Quake Crisis

It was a harrowing vision of the vulnerability of aging California dams — crews laboring feverishly to sandbag and drain the lower San Fernando Reservoir, as billions of gallons of Los Angeles drinking water lapped at the edge of a crumbling, earthquake-damaged embankment that threatened catastrophe on the neighborhoods below.

Los Angeles Times [Author: Louis Sahagun]

In Tuskegee, Painful History Shadows Efforts to Vaccinate African Americans

A lingering mistrust of the medical system makes some Black Americans more hesitant to sign up for COVID-19 vaccines. It has played out in early data that show a stark disparity in whom is getting shots in this country – more than 60% going to white people, and less than 6% to African Americans.

NPR [Author: Debbie Elliott]

Why Firefighters Are Facing A Growing Mental Health Challenge

Climate change is fueling more destructive, harder-to-control disasters like last year's massive wildfires. The mental and emotional toll for firefighters and first responders is alarming. NPR’s Morning Edition dives into the critical issue of firefighters and mental health.

NPR [Author: Nathan Rott]

New York Sues Amazon Alleging ‘Flagrant Disregard’ of Health Standards at Warehouses

New York Attorney General Letitia James accused Amazon of “repeatedly and persistently” failing to provide adequate protection to its warehouse workers in the state, suing the e-commerce giant. The company’s “flagrant disregard for health and safety requirements” at facilities in Queens and Staten Island “threatened serious illness and grave harm” to workers.

Washington Post [Author: Jay Greene]

OSHA Virus Emergency Rule Looms as Potent Weapon for Litigation

President Joe Biden’s directive that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) consider an Emergency Temporary Standard to combat the spread of Covid-19 in American workplaces has management-side attorneys and advocates bracing for that rule’s potential impact on litigation.

Bloomberg Law [Author: Fatima Hussein]

Calendar FeaturesBack to Top

Defense High Level Waste: Path Forward in the New Administration

The Energy Communities Alliance will be hosting a webinar on Wednesday, February 24, 2021 from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m. ET. The webinar will include discussions on U.S. Department of Energy cleanup priorities, how Congress plans to address nuclear waste, storage options, and what to expect in the incoming Biden administration.

Meeting Information

Community Visions for Environmental Justice Organizing

How can technical assistance providers such as researchers, lawyers, academics and students support community-led movements for environmental justice? The Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic is hosting three Saturday panels featuring community leaders and assistance providers, followed by moderated small-group discussions with speakers and attendees. Panels run from 1:30-2:45 p.m. ET, and discussions run from 3:00-4:15 p.m. ET on Feb. 27, March 6, and March 13.

Meeting Registration

EPA Nominations for NEJAC Membership is Now Open

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) invites nominations from a diverse range of qualified candidates to be considered for appointment to its National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC). The Agency is seeking nominations to fill approximately eight (8) new vacancies for terms through September 2022. Any interested person or organization may nominate qualified persons to be considered for appointment to this advisory council. The deadline to apply is March 24.


On The Web This WeekBack to Top

National Academies Recommend Changes to EPA’s TSCA Systematic Review Process

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) should make changes to its systematic review process under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to ensure it is comprehensive, workable, objective, and transparent, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine

A Look at Environmental Justice Communities and Regulations

President Joseph Biden Jr. has promised to up the ante for environmental justice (EJ) communities by “rooting out the systemic racism in our laws, policies, institutions, and hearts.” Although a complete rollout of Biden’s plan has not yet been revealed, his campaign plans and initial actions allow for some educated analysis as to what industry can expect for future regulations and enforcement actions.

EHS Today [Author: Lisa Whitley Coleman]

Workplace Safety Training Survey Finds Companies Struggle with Finding Effective Methods

A new study on, “The State of Workplace Safety Training” has found that companies struggle to find time for training and nearly a third can’t verify if their programs are effective. Even with a company’s best efforts to provide training, over half of responders said they still have employees who don’t follow workplace safety protocols on the floor.

Occupational Health and Safety

Temp Workers in Construction: Researchers Explore Barriers to Injury Reporting

Temporary construction workers face “unique barriers” to reporting injuries and near misses, according to researchers from the University of Miami and the NIOSH-funded Occupational Safety and Health Program at the Florida Department of Health.

Safety and Health Magazine

Health Workers and Hospitals Grapple with Millions of Counterfeit N95 Masks

Thousands of counterfeit 3M respirators have slipped past U.S. investigators in recent months, making it to the cheeks and chins of health care workers and perplexing experts who say their quality is not vastly inferior to the real thing. N95 masks are prized for their ability to filter out 95% of the minuscule particles that cause covid-19.

Kaiser Health News [Author: Christina Jewett]

Texas Launches Multimillion Dollar Campaign to Combat Vaccine Hesitancy

The ads, developed by the Texas Department of Health Services and released in the past week, are the first in a $2.3 million public awareness campaign being launched by the state to increase acceptance of the COVID-19 vaccine and inform the public on how to get the shot.

Route Fifty [Authors: Karen Brooks Harper and Marissa Martinez, The Texas Tribune]

People Who Refuse Unsafe Work Can Get Unemployment Benefits

In his first weeks on the job, President Joe Biden has taken a number of actions to improve safety for workers during the pandemic by ordering the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to strengthen workplace safety rules, and by making sure workers know they have the right to refuse work that isn’t safe.

Marketplace [Author: Meghan McCarty Carino]

Taking Care of the Food Workers Who Take Care of Us

When COVID-19 swept through the JBS USA meatpacking facility in Greeley, Colorado, in March 2020, executives and managers left plant employees in harm’s way. Even as hundreds of employees began to fall ill, the company’s leadership urged staff to continue coming to work, without providing any health screens, face masks, or social-distancing guidelines.

NRDC [Author: Nicole Greenfield]

Guinea Declares New Ebola Epidemic, Five Years After West Africa’s Deadliest Outbreak

Dakar, Senegal — Public health officials in Guinea declared a new epidemic of Ebola on Sunday after recording seven cases and three deaths — the first resurgence since the hemorrhagic fever devastated the West African nation and two neighbors from 2014 to 2016.

Washington Post [Author: Danielle Paquette]

Federal Agency UpdateBack to Top

Third CSB Update on Poultry Plant Incident

This is the third information release from the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) regarding the Foundation Food Group Incident that occurred Jan. 28, 2021. CSB provided the public with initial facts (Jan. 30, 2021) regarding our investigation into the liquid nitrogen (LN) release at the Foundation Food Group’s Gainesville Plant 4.


Awardee Highlights/Online LearningBack to Top

WTP Workshop Report Now Available

The WTP Workshop Report that describes WTP’s vision for 2025 is now available. The report includes a comprehensive summary of topics discussed during WTP’s virtual workshop held on Sept. 23-24, 2020. Panelists shared lessons learned and short- and long-term goals for each training area within WTP. Workshop participants gathered in breakout sessions to discuss cross-cutting themes of interest, such as COVID-19 and disasters, equity, evaluation, and others. The report will serve as a foundational resource in updating the WTP strategic plan and logic model. “Sustain and promote equity and opportunities for workers across all the training areas,” said Darryl Alexander, a consultant with the American Federation of Teachers, on next steps for WTP. “Advance together for the continuation of the program. It is your responsibility to protect and continue the work.”

Workshop Report

WTP Vaccine Panel Webinar Discussion Questions and Answers Now Available

Questions and answers from the Jan. 14, Addressing the Role of the Vaccine in Workplace COVID-19 Prevention: How to Weed through Misinformation, Mistrust, and Improve Worker Protection webinar are now available. The document includes answers to questions that were posed in the chat of the webinar. The answers are based on what is currently known about the coronavirus/COVID-19 vaccine.

WTP COVID-19 Webinars and Presentations

Job OpeningsBack to Top

USC Seeks Postdoctoral Fellowship in Environmental Justice and Health Disparities

The Division of Environmental Health in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Southern California (USC) has announced a new Postdoctoral Research Fellow position available in Summer 2021. The successful candidate will conduct investigations around community-driven epidemiology for environmental justice in both urban and rural contexts.

Job Posting

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