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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Taking a Health Hazard Home

Taking health problems home from work is not new to Americam society. It is long known that bringing toxics substances home can contaminate your home and subject your family to disease. Today's post is shared from the

A new study of a small group of workers at industrial hog farms in North Carolina has found that they continued to carry antibiotic-resistant bacteria over several days, raising new questions for public health officials struggling to contain the spread of such pathogens.

Although the bacterium, Staphylococcus aureus, is common and does not always cause illness, it can contaminate food and give rise to skin infections and respiratory diseases. Its methicillin-resistant variation, known as MRSA, has wreaked havoc on hospital systems, causing life-threatening complications.

The study focused on hog farms because previous research had found the highest incidence of S. aureus among workers in those settings.

As of 2012, the most recent year for which data is available, there were an estimated 75,309 serious infections from MRSA and an estimated 9,670 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Improved hospital procedures have helped reduce the incidence of infection, officials say, but researchers are now concerned about strains of S. aureus resistant to a variety of antibiotics like tetracycline, ampicillin and ciprofloxacin.

Among the 22 workers tested in the new study, reported in the Sept. 8 edition of the journal...

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Airplane Crew May Face Increased Melanoma Risk

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Airline pilots and crews may be at increased risk for melanoma, a new review has found.

Melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer that starts in the melanocytes, the cells that produce skin pigment. According to the National Cancer Institute, there are about 76,000 cases and 10,000 deaths a year from the disease in the United States.

The analysis, online at JAMA Dermatology, used data from 19 studies that included more than 266,000 subjects. It found that airline crews had about twice the incidence of melanoma as the general population, and a melanoma death rate 42 percent higher.

The authors acknowledged that all the studies were observational, and that most were retrospective. In addition, they did not account for skin type; it may be that fair-skinned people, who are more subject to melanoma, are more likely to work in flight-related occupations.

The reason is unclear, but ultraviolet A radiation exposure, which at 30,000 feet is twice what it is on the ground, is a well-established risk factor for melanoma, and airplane window glass blocks it only minimally.

“At 30,000 feet, the amount of UVA radiation that gets through is considerable,” said the senior author, Dr. Susana Ortiz-Urda, a director of the melanoma center at the University of California, San Francisco. “Sunscreen protection is important, and skin checks once a year should be a part of health screening.”

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Fracking: Are elevated levels of hydrocarbon gases in drinking-water aquifers near gas wells natural or anthropogenic?

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Hydrocarbon production from unconventional sources is growing rapidly, accompanied by concerns about drinking-water contamination and other environmental risks. Using noble gas and hydrocarbon tracers, we distinguish natural sources of methane from anthropogenic contamination and evaluate the mechanisms that cause elevated hydrocarbon concentrations in drinking water near natural-gas wells. We document fugitive gases in eight clusters of domestic water wells overlying the Marcellus and Barnett Shales, including declining water quality through time over the Barnett. Gas geochemistry data implicate leaks through annulus cement (four cases), production casings (three cases), and underground well failure (one case) rather than gas migration induced by hydraulic fracturing deep underground. Determining the mechanisms of contamination will improve the safety and economics of shale-gas extraction.
Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have enhanced energy production but raised concerns about drinking-water contamination and other environmental impacts. Identifying the sources and mechanisms of contamination can help improve the environmental and economic sustainability of shale-gas extraction. We analyzed 113 and 20 samples from drinking-water wells overlying the Marcellus and Barnett Shales, respectively, examining hydrocarbon abundance and isotopic compositions (e.g., C2H6/CH4, δ13C-CH4) and providing, to our...
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Maker of Costly Hepatitis C Drug Sovaldi Strikes Deal on Generics for Poor Countries

Prescription costs are increasing and it is contributing to higher workers' compensation costs. Today's post is shared from
The maker of one of the costliest drugs in the world announced on Monday that it had struck deals with seven generic drug makers in India to sell lower-cost versions of the medicine — a $1,000-a-pill hepatitis C treatment — in poorer countries.
Gilead Sciences, which is based in California, also said it would begin selling its own version of the drug in India and other developing countries at a fraction of the price it charges in the United States.
The company intends to provide greater access to the medicine, Sovaldi, for most of the nearly 180 million infected worldwide with hepatitis C who do not live in rich countries. Some 350,000 people die every year of hepatitis C infections, most of them in middle- and low-income nations.
Sovaldi, in only its initial year on the market after gaining approval in the United States in December, is on pace to exceed $10 billion in sales in 2014, becoming one of the world’s best-selling drugs. Its high price has led to intense criticism even in the United States, where officials say it could drain Medicaid budgets and insurers say it could cause increases in private insurance premiums.But executives at Gilead say its price is similar to those of other hepatitis C treatments and is a bargain compared with the costs of liver failure and liver cancer, which it may prevent.
The high price of some drugs in the United States, particularly those that treat cancer, has led some of the nation’s most...
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Monday, September 15, 2014

Temp workers organize for change in an industry rife with reported abuses: ‘They would treat people as disposable’

Today's post is shared from
For eight years, Dora worked at a frozen pizza factory in Romeoville, Illinois, called Great Kitchens. For eight hours a day — sometimes seven days a week — she assembled pizza boxes or arranged cheese and other toppings on pizzas. The consequences of years of such repetitive work surfaced in October 2012, when her hands would go numb and a painful cyst formed on her left wrist. She told her supervisor about the problem, but he said he couldn’t do anything about it — Dora was a temporary worker hired through a staffing agency and so Great Kitchens wasn’t responsible for addressing her injury.
“I went to the temp agency and they told me to just put a bandage around it and use ice and they would send me to work the next day,” said Dora, 36, who asked me not to use her last name. “It was seven months later that they sent me to a doctor because I couldn’t work anymore.”
Unfortunately, Dora’s experience has become a typical one among temporary workers, as more and more corporations outsource their hiring to temporary staffing agencies and effectively absolve themselves of the legal responsibility of ensuring safe and healthy workplaces that adhere to labor laws. In other words, Dora and other temporary workers are considered employees of the staffing agencies, not the factory or office in which they actually work. That means it’s the staffing agency that takes on the workers’ compensation liability,...
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Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis cases linked with asbestos exposure

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A proportion of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) cases may be linked with asbestos exposure, according to the results of a new study. If confirmed, the findings would mean that current treatment strategies need to be altered as people with a history of asbestos exposure are not currently able to access new treatments for IPF.
The research, which was presented at the European Respiratory Society's International Congress, provided new mortality data for IPF, asbestosis and mesothelioma.
Asbestosis is the name given to the lung disease developed by people with a known history of exposure to asbestos. The symptoms and presentation of this disease can be identical to IPF; the only difference between the two diseases is whether a patient knows about their exposure to asbestos. People with asbestosis are not currently eligible for new treatments for IPF, despite the fact that these treatments work on curing an identical disease.
Researchers have suggested that a proportion of IPF may be due to unknown exposure to asbestos. They analysed mortality rates for IPF, asbestosis and mesothelioma across England and Wales. Data were obtained from the Office of National Statistics on the annual number of deaths due to IPF, mesothelioma and asbestos for the period 1974-2012, broken down by age, sex and region.
The analysis revealed national and regional correlations between the three diseases, which supports the theory that a proportion of IPF cases are due to unknown exposure to asbestos....
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Thank You Truck Drivers!

Today's post is shared from and was authored by W. Karl Sieber, Ph.D.:

When you eat lettuce from California or purchase a new couch, consider how these goods got to your local grocery store or home. Nearly 2 million heavy or tractor-trailer truck drivers cross the nation every year to bring us the goods we are used to finding on our store shelves or to deliver our online purchases [BLS 2012External Web Site Icon]. In honor ofTruck Driver Appreciation WeekExternal Web Site Icon(September 14-20), we want to thank all truck drivers for their hard work and dedication.
Truck drivers are essential to the United States. It is important that safety and health professionals and truck drivers and their employers work together to keep truck drivers safe and well. A recent NIOSH survey found that when compared to the U.S. adult working population, more long-haul truck drivers (heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers whose freight delivery routes require them to sleep away from home) were obese, cigarette smokers, and diabetic. For example, obesity and current smoking were twice as prevalent.
These results suggest that the job itself, which can include long hours sitting, stress factors like traffic and demanding schedules, and limited access to healthy foods, may contribute to a higher chance for health problems. This gives our partners and us an opportunity to use the work setting to identify and stimulate changes that can lead to better health. To do so, it is essential that we communicate effectively with truckers and trucking companies.
NIOSH is exploring different ways to share health information with the trucking industry. We are seeking your input to help us determine:
  • What is the best way to get our information out to long-haul truck drivers?
  • Who would long-haul truck drivers listen to?
  • What health and safety topics are important to long-haul truck drivers?
W. Karl Sieber, Ph.D.
Karl Sieber is a NIOSH Research Health Scientist with the Surveillance Branch of the Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations, and Field Studies. He is the Project Officer for the National Survey of U.S. Long-Haul Truck Driver Health and Injury. The survey was supported by NIOSH with partial funding from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation.