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Your Environment. Your Health.

NIEHS WTP: February 26, 2021 Newsbrief

Weekly E-Newsbrief, February 26, 2021

Weekly E-Newsbrief

February 26, 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

Texas Freeze Led to Release of Tons of Air Pollutants as Refineries Shut

The largest U.S. oil refiners released tons of air pollutants into the skies over Texas this past week, according to figures provided to the state, as refineries and petrochemical plants in the region scrambled to shut production during frigid weather. The arctic air mass also hit natural gas and electric generation, cutting supplies needed to run the plants along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Reuters [Authors: Laura Sanicola and Erwin Seba]

The Opioid Crisis, Fueled by Covid, Is Worse Than Ever

The opioid epidemic has been eclipsed in the public consciousness by Covid-19, but it hasn’t abated. The pandemic has only exacerbated the crisis, piling stress and grief on top of substance-abuse problems and jeopardizing efforts at recovery. People are “living in tents because they lost their spot in sober homes because they lost their job,” says Charlotte Bismuth, a former assistant district attorney in the New York County district.

Bloomberg [Authors: Valerie Bauman and Ian Lopez]

OSHA Virus Response Draws a Labor Inspector General Audit

The Labor Department’s Office of Inspector General told Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials that it will conduct an audit of the safety agency’s operations and efforts related to protecting workers from exposure to the coronavirus pandemic. The review comes after the safety agency has been criticized by worker safety proponents and by organized labor for its refusal to issue coronavirus-specific safety guidelines.

Bloomberg [Author: Fatima Hussein]

Slowdown of Toxic Waste Cleanup Endangering American’s Health, Consumer Groups Say

One in six Americans lives within three miles of a toxic waste site so dangerous that it has been approved or proposed for cleanup under the federal government’s Superfund program. However, there’s not enough money to pay for the work, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data analyzed in a report from the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Environment America Research and Policy Center.

Seattle Pi [Author: Rita Robison]

The Origins of Environmental Justice—And Why it’s Finally Getting the Attention it Deserves

Sociologist Robert Bullard has spent four decades making the case that environmental harms have disproportionately affected communities of color across the United States. So when one of President Joe Biden’s first moves after inauguration was to sign an executive order that pledged to “advance environmental justice” in his efforts to address the climate crisis, Bullard was ecstatic.

National Geographic [Author: Alejandra Borunda]

Strategies for Emergency Evacuation and Sheltering during the COVID-19 Pandemic

New guidance from the Societal Experts Action Network (SEAN) identifies strategies for emergency planners and decision-makers to consider as they update their disaster plans for sheltering, mass care, and evacuation amidst COVID-19. SEAN links researchers in the social, behavioral, and economic sciences with decision makers to respond to policy questions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

SEAN Guidance

To End the Pandemic, Every Business Leader Must Put Worker Health and Equity First

COVID-19 has upended every part of society. But now that we are a year into the pandemic, we have come to better understand how it spreads, and the incredible risk and sacrifice so many employees are taking to keep our shelves stocked, our health care institutions staffed, our children educated, and our communities moving.

Fortune [Authors: Darren Walker and Chuck Robbins]

Calendar FeaturesBack to Top

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

Challenge Launch Webinar: Cleaner Indoor Air During Wildfires

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a Challenge competition to encourage the development of effective, low-cost technologies to reduce indoor PM2.5 concentrations and protect public health. Applicants can submit designs for an innovative technology, approach, or technology combination. Winning submissions will receive prizes of up to $10,000. An informational webinar will be held on March 4 at 11:00 a.m. ET.

Webinar Details

EPA Environmental Justice and Systemic Racism Speaker Series Features the Mapping Inequality Project

The Mapping Inequality Project created a foundational resource for unprecedented research, education, organizing, and policy advocacy on redlining and current environmental challenges. This has generated an explosion of trailblazing work in the area of environmental justice and systemic racism. Two of its founders will discuss the genesis, philosophy, methodology, and impact of this project. The webinar will be held on March 4 at 12:00-1:00 p.m. ET.

Webinar Details

Virtual NSC Safety Congress and Expo

The National Safety Council (NSC) Safety Congress ad Expo will be virtually held on March 1-5. Registration is now open. For more than 100 years, safety, health and environmental professionals have turned to this safety event for industry-leading technology, education, networking opportunities and the tried and true products and services needed to stay at the forefront and remain competitive within the industry.

Event 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.


AIHce EXP 2021

The American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition (AIHce EXP) is an experience for Occupational Environmental Health Solutions professionals of all levels, specialties, and expertise. Discover the tools and strategies you need to protect worker health while taking advantage of several networking opportunities to grow your professional network. The event will take place in-person and virtual on May 24-26.

Event Registration

On The Web This WeekBack to Top

Former OSHA Head: We’re Getting It Wrong on COVID Workplace Safety – Editorial

Dr. David Michaels led the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which sets workplace standards, during the Obama administration. Now the epidemiologist is one of more than a dozen scientists calling on the Biden administration to set air standards for workplaces like grocery stores, meatpacking plants, buses and prisons, to save lives in a pandemic. Below is an edited transcript with Julie O’Connor of the Ledger Editorial Board.

Future of Work: How Companies Can Continue Supporting Employee Mental Health

According to the Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition, published on February 19, 2021, there’s positive news on the state of workers’ mental health for the first time in the past year. Powered by Total Brain—a mental health and brain performance self-monitoring and self-care platform—the index shows vast improvements but still cause for concern.

Forbes [Author: Bryan Robinson]

New Legislation Introduced to Ensure the Safety of Transportation Workers

U.S. Senators introduced the Essential Transportation Employee Safety Act to address workplace safety for essential transportation workers. Under the new legislation, coronavirus testing for transportation workers would be prioritized and employers will have to implement critical health and safety requirements to keep their workforce safe.

Occupational Health and Safety Online

Is the Definition of Workplace Impairment Changing?

Impairment has always been a workplace safety issue. Workers are unable to safely do their jobs if their ability to work is diminished by substances such as alcohol or opioids. According to a new survey, 90 percent of employers believe that workplace impairment can stem from substances as well as the mental health and chronic stress issues impacting workers due to a lengthy pandemic.

Occupational Health and Safety Online

Thirty Years of Gulf War Illness: How U.S. Troops' Health Was Compromised by Toxic Exposures in Kuwait

This week marks 30 years since President George H.W. Bush announced the start of the ground war in Operation Desert Storm. The two-month-long war, which ended Iraq's occupation of Kuwait, claimed the lives of 154 American troops. But something dangerous loomed during the war that still persists three decades later. More than 100,000 American veterans of Operation Desert Storm came home with constant pain and fatigue, stomach, memory and neurological issues, as known as the Gulf War Illness.

WBUR [Authors: Peter O'Dowd and Serena McMahon]

Federal Agency UpdateBack to Top

Notice of Intent to Publish a FOA for Understanding and Addressing the Impact of Structural Racism and Discrimination on Minority Health and Health Disparities

The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) intends to promote a new initiative by publishing a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) to solicit applications on observational research to understand the role of structural racism and discrimination (SRD) in causing and sustaining health disparities, and intervention research that addresses SRD in order to improve minority health or reduce health disparities.


President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Approves Texas Disaster Declaration

President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. declared that a major disaster exists in the State of Texas and ordered federal assistance to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by severe winter storms beginning on Feb. 11 and continuing. Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

White House Newsroom

Awardee Highlights/Online LearningBack to Top

WTP Clearinghouse Fact Sheets on COVID-19 Vaccines Now Available in Spanish

Given the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, information about health and safety for workers is in high demand. In response, WTP and the National Clearinghouse for Worker Safety and Health Training developed three new fact sheets. The fact sheets are now available in both English and Spanish.

COVID-19 Toolbox

How Manufacturers Are Responding to PPE Shortages and President Biden’s Use of the Defense Protection Act

The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) podcast "5 on the Frontline" with AIHA's Director of Government Relations Mark Ames has a new episode with Chuck Johnson, President of the International Safety Equipment Association, about how manufacturers are responding to personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages and President Biden's use of the Defense Protection Act.


Job OpeningsBack to Top

UMD Seeks Environmental and Climate Justice Outreach and Policy Specialist

University of Maryland, College Park is hiring an Environmental and Climate Justice Outreach and Policy Specialist, who will work closely with the various members of the Community Engagement, Environmental Justice and Health (CEEJH) lab to assist in a wide variety of tasks related to community outreach, engagement, education, and environmental health and justice.

Job Posting

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