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Selected Category: Environment/Green Jobs

Occupational Exposures at Electronic Scrap Recycling Facilities

Categories: Environment/Green Jobs, Lead

escrap

Employee manually dismantling cathode ray tubes from televisions. Photo by NIOSH.

Go Green! Recycle! We have all heard the call to be more environmentally conscious. However, not everyone is aware of the many health and safety hazards facing employees who handle the recycling of electronics. Many recycled electronics can contain hazardous materials such as lead, cadmium and other toxic metals. In 2011, the U.S. e-scrap recycling industry contributed approximately $90 billion to the U.S. economy, compared with less than $1 billion in 2002 [ISRI 2014]. The ‘e-scrap’ recycling industry is also called ‘e-waste’ or ‘e-cycle.’ This industry sector generated about 138,000 direct jobs in 2011, up from 6,000 employees in 2002, and recycled more than 130 million metric tons of materials in 2010 [ISRI 2014]. To better document the hazards, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has completed exposure evaluations at several electronics recycling facilities and conducted a survey of electronics recycling facilities across the United States.

Climate Change and Occupational Safety and Health

Categories: Environment/Green Jobs

 

cc4Weather and climate patterns are changing, causing increasingly frequent and severe heat waves, drought, flooding, and extreme weather events, as well as a rise in sea levels, a report released in May by the U.S. Global Change Research Program concluded (National Climate Assessment). Global climate change has become one of the most visible environmental concerns of the 21st century and these changes have the potential to affect human health both directly and indirectly.

Green Buildings and Human Health

Categories: Construction, Environment/Green Jobs, Prevention Through Design

Earlier this year I participated in the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Summit on Green Buildings and Human Health. At USGBC’s invitation, I authored a blog that appears on their website. We are co-posting the blog on the NIOSH Science Blog. The Summit was very successful, and USGBC is open to including worker issues into their initiatives. Please share your thoughts on this important issue in the comment section below.

 

Tackling the many challenges of making the construction and occupation of commercial and residential buildings in the United States green and sustainable is not an easy one, but the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is to be congratulated for working aggressively to address them. Championing commitments to environmental sustainability, energy reduction, social equity, and human health demonstrate the commitment of the USGBC to take steps that will benefit both the environment and the businesses that construct, as well as occupy, these structures. LEED[1] has evolved over time on a trajectory towards true sustainability. USGBC is to be commended further for looking introspectively at how health is considered in LEED, and the relative priority given to energy and environmental factors.

Help Wanted: Spray Polyurethane Foam Insulation Research

Categories: Chemicals, Construction, Engineering Control, Environment/Green Jobs, Exposure, Personal Protective Equipment

walls insulated with spray polyurethane foamEnvironmentally friendly doesn’t necessarily mean worker friendly. In many cases, new “green” technologies and products have reached the market without being adequately evaluated to determine whether they pose health or safety risks to workers in manufacture, deployment, or use. Spray polyurethane foam—commonly referred to as SPF—is a case in point. Its use as insulation has been on the upswing because of the laudable aim of builders and property owners to improve energy efficiency. As popular as it has become, however, much remains unknown about spray polyurethane foam—specifically the health implications of its amines, glycols, and phosphate upon workers.

Polyurethane foam has a high R-factor (or R-value), so it resists the flow of heat and, when used as insulation, increases a building’s energy efficiency. Because of this, it has become a favorite in the world of energy-conscious construction and renovation. While better insulation clearly means less energy consumption, what’s not clear is the level of protection and ventilation workers need so that they remain safe during the installation process.

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