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Understanding Noise Exposure Limits: Occupational vs. General Environmental Noise

Categories: Hearing Loss

 

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is 100% preventable; however, once acquired, it is permanent and irreversible [NIOSH 1998]. Understanding and minimizing the risks associated with noise exposures are the keys to preventing noise-related hearing loss.  NIOSH has a long history of leadership in conducting research, advancing control measures, and recommending noise-exposure limits to prevent job-related hearing loss.  Sometimes, observers ask whether our recommended limits for occupational exposure can be applied to exposures in the general environment from sources such as street noise, consumer appliances, and recreational pastimes. 

Coffee Workers at Risk for Lung Disease

Categories: Respiratory Health

 

RoastedCoffeeBeans

Roasted Coffee Beans

Obliterative bronchiolitis, an irreversible form of lung disease in which the smallest airways in the lung (the bronchioles) become scarred and constricted, blocking the movement of air, was previously identified in flavoring manufacturing workers and microwave popcorn workers who were occupationally exposed to diacetyl (2,3-butanedione) or butter flavorings containing diacetyl. Now, NIOSH research finds that workers at coffee processing facilities may also be at risk.

Diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione (a diacetyl substitute) are volatile organic compounds known as alpha-diketones. Diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione are produced commercially by chemical manufacturers as ingredients in flavorings that are added to some food products (e.g., microwave popcorn, bakery mixes, flavored coffee). However, diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione are also naturally produced when coffee beans are roasted. Grinding roasted coffee beans produces greater surface area for the off-gassing of these and other chemicals. Coffee roasting facilities package newly roasted coffee in bags fitted with one-way valves or in permeable bags to allow for off-gassing. Alternatively, newly roasted coffee is placed in containers and allowed to off-gas, which can contribute to worker exposures.

New NIOSH Study Supports the OSHA Annual Fit Testing Requirements for Filtering Facepiece Respirators

Categories: Respirators

circle head 4

Results of a recently completed NIOSH study confirm the necessity of the current Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) respirator fit testing requirement, both annually and when physical changes have occurred. The study’s conclusions emphasize that respirator users who have lost more than 20 pounds should be re-tested to be sure that the current size and model of respirator in use still properly fits. For over three years, NIOSH researchers followed a cohort of 229 subjects measuring N95 filtering facepiece respirator (FFR) fit and physical characteristics (e.g., face size, weight) every six months.  Prior to this study, very little research existed looking at the relationship between respirator fit over an extensive period of time and the change in facial dimensions, as could be caused by weight gain or loss. OSHA requires FFR users to undergo an annual fit test, which is vital to ensuring continued proper respirator fit. In addition to annual fit testing, OSHA requires that fit testing be repeated “whenever an employee reports, or the employer or the physician or other licensed health care professional makes visual observations of changes in the employee’s physical condition that could affect respirator fit (e.g. facial scarring, dental changes, cosmetic surgery, or an obvious change in body weight.” (OSHA, 1998)

The Opioid Overdose Epidemic and the Workplace

Categories: Drugs, Workers' Compensation

 

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released troubling statistics on the growing epidemic of drug and opioid overdose deaths in the United States.  The origins of this epidemic have been linked to prescription opioids.  While it is unknown how many drug and opioid overdose deaths are associated with workplace injuries and illnesses, it is clear that this national epidemic is impacting workers and employers.

A May 2014 NIOSH blog noted that injured workers are frequently treated with powerful prescription drugs. The blog reported on studies demonstrating that narcotics account for 25% of prescription costs in workers’ compensation systems and that those costs are rising.

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