May 16, 2018

EPA extends deadline to apply for $5.5 billion in water infrastructure projects loans.

WASHINGTON  –– Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt announced at a meeting with water sector associations that the deadline to submit letters of interest for Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loans has been extended to July 31, 2018. Administrator Pruitt also sent a letter highlighting the deadline extension to governors of 56 states and territoriesas well as tribal leadership.

"By extending the deadline to apply for a WIFIA loan, even more entities will be able to bring critical water infrastructure improvements to their communities, including projects that keep lead and other contaminants out of drinking water," said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. "These projects create jobs, protect public health, and help ensure that all Americans continue to have access to clean and safe water."

EPA's announcement comes as part of Infrastructure Week and highlights the importance of working together with the water sector on a variety of topics, including affordability, governance, and the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs).

Also in conjunction with Infrastructure Week, the Agency released a new interactive website that showcases leading efforts by states, public water systems, and communities to replace lead service lines.

Background

Established by the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014, the WIFIA program is a federal loan and guarantee program at EPA that aims to accelerate investment in the nation's water infrastructure by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental loans for regionally and nationally significant projects. WIFIA can provide up to 49 percent of the financing for a project and a state SRF could provide additional financing for the remaining eligible project costs. The WIFIA program received $63 million in funding in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 23, 2018. 

On April 4, 2018, EPA announced the availability of additional WIFIA funding that could provide as much as $5.5 billion in loans, leveraging over $11 billion in water infrastructure projects. This year's WIFIA Notice of Funding Availability highlights the importance of protecting public health, including reducing exposure to lead and other contaminants in drinking water systems and updating the nation's aging infrastructure.

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May 9, 2018

Free Webnar on Indoor and Outdoor Air Quality Assessment and Monitoring Trends

Stay up-to-date with outdoor and indoor air quality and monitoring trends. When:  Tue, Jun 5, 2018 8:00 AM - 9:00 AM CST
 Webinar will cover: - legislation governing air quality in the U.S. and Europe; - how the air quality compares in the two regions; - basics of the major pollutants and main industrial sources; - outdoor air quality assessment by industry; - indoor air quality assessment; and - how to choose an air monitoring device. Who should attend: - managers responsible for air emissions compliance; - Environmental Health & Safety personnel; and - anyone responsible for indoor and outdoor air quality; cities, municipalities, organizations.


Register here:

May 8, 2018

EPA announces applicants selected for FY18 Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training Grants

EPA is Pleased to Announce the Selection of $3.3M in FY18 Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) Funding


EPA is selecting approximately $3.3  million in grant funding to 17 communities across the country to recruit, train, and place unemployed and underemployed individuals with the skills needed to secure long-term employment in the environmental field. Each recipient will receive funds to develop and operate environmental job training programs that advance environmental justice by providing opportunities for residents living in areas impacted by contaminated lands. EPA EWDJT grants Transform Lives and Advance Economic Opportunities. Local residents will secure employment within their communities conducting brownfields remediation, Superfund cleanup, wastewater management, solid waste recycling and cleanup, integrated pest management, chemical safety, solar installation, and other environmental work.

Read on at:

May 7, 2018

EPA Releases Five-Year Review of the 2012 Recreational Water Quality Criteria



The EPA has released its Five-year Review of the 2012 Recreational Water Quality Criteria (RWQC), as required by the BEACH Act amendments to the Clean Water Act (CWA). The review report describes the state of the science since the release of the 2012 RWQC, related to the protection of human health in water bodies designated for primary contact recreation (e.g., swimming) in these areas:
  • Health studies;
  • Indicators and performance of qPCR methods;
  • Microbial source tracking;
  • RWQC implementation tools; and
  • Criteria adoption by states, territories and authorized tribes.

Based on the EPA's review of the existing criteria and developments in the available science, and consistent with CWA Section 304(a)(9)(B), the EPA has decided not to revise the 2012 Recreational Water Criteria during this review cycle. The Agency believes, however, that further research and analysis as identified in this report will contribute to EPA's future review of the 2012 RWQC. The EPA will work with the environmental public health community as it moves forward with its research efforts. The use of qPCR and ongoing research in methods and indicators continue to strengthen and augment the tools available to support the current criteria.

May 4, 2018

Fire Surge: Why Are We Witnessing A 93% Increase In Waste & Recycling Facility Fires In First 4 Months of 2018

.............March's number of 37 fire incidents is not only one of the highest months on record but is more than the number of fires that occurred in both March of 2016 and 2017 combined. March 2018 could merely be an anomaly. But then comes April. Aprils's number of 36 fire incidents is not only one of the highest months on record as well but is more than the number of fires that occurred in both April of 2016 and 2017 combined.
 
The Scope of the Problem:
In the past 12 months, we have seen 347 unique reported waste and recycling facility fire incidents in the US & Canada. When you factor in my extremely conservative assumptions that we are under-reporting waste and recycling facility fires by about 5:1, (Source:https://www.linkedin.com/post/edit/how-many-recycling-fires-have-occurred-us-canada-within-ryan-fogelman) we are looking at a reasonable number of fire incidents in the US and Canada at 1700+.
 
In the same time period (May 2016-Apr 2017) we encountered 277 waste and recycling facility fire incidents in the US and Canada. Using the Environmental Research & Educations Foundations data, EREF's Municipal Solid Waste In The US, published in 2016: In 2013 there were 3,913 recycling facilities and 81 WtE facilities. That would equate to 40% of Waste & Recycling Facilities have had a "Fire Incident" in the past 12 months, increasing from the 30% I had shared at WasteExpo in 2017. I realize this number might seem high to some, but when put in the context of Rumpke's reporting, of 12 fires in 2017 reported in just two of their facilities, you can see the numbers start to add up quickly.
 


Read on at:
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-many-recycling-fires-have-occurred-us-canada-within-ryan-fogelman/
 

Fukushima: Melted nuclear fuel still clinging to the walls where radiation levels are so high even robots cannot enter

INSIDE the heart of Fukushima's deadly reactor: JAW-dropping footage from the heart of the Fukushima nuclear disaster zone reveals the devastation inside its destroyed reactor. The scenes were captured by a camera attached to a 16-metre rod and inserted into reactor 2 at the doomed Japanese power plant.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5686951/INSIDE-heart-Fukushimas-deadly-reactor.html

Apr 30, 2018

Particulate Matter Assessment for Construction Activities

Particulate Matter Assessment for the Construction Industry

As the public is getting aware of the health implications of Dust/Particulate Matter and other pollutants, governments are expecting better pollutant management from industries. This guide provides a brief overview of a Dust pollution risk management plan for the Construction industry as well as some best practices to help mitigate the impacts.

Introduction

Construction, an important industry for global economic growth, also contributes significantly to air pollution in the form of dust. Although the exhaust from the construction vehicles and machinery adds to the NO2 levels as well, its impact is not as strong as Dust.

In scientific terms, Dust is referred to as Particulate Matter or PM. Other than being an annoyance by soiling surfaces (explanation), PM has major health and environmental implications. The WHO and the governments all around recognize PM10 and PM 2.5 (size in microns)  among the most harmful pollutants. While the larger and heavier PM more commonly affect the construction site vicinity, the wind carries the lighter PM10 and 2.5 thus affecting people and vegetation miles away. Construction vehicles on the open ground further dissipate PM and carry it to farther distances.

PM is emitted at all stages of construction:

  1. demolition;
  2. earthworks;
  3. construction; and
  4. track out (The transportation of dust and dirt from the construction site onto the public road network, where it may be deposited or suspended by vehicles using the network).

The PM impact depends on factors such as the size of the construction site, duration of activity, weather conditions, the direction of the wind, proximity of people and vegetation, etc.

Harmful effects of PM

Health effects from some particles are immediate while others take years to develop. Particles greater than 10 microns cause eye, mouth, and skin irritations but PM10 and smaller are much more harmful. Europe and U.S. attribute hundreds and thousands of deaths every year to PM 2.5 and PM 10.

PM10 affects the upper respiratory system by aggravating asthma and bronchitis. PM 2.5 penetrates deeper into the respiratory tract, dissolves into the blood and compromises immunity. When dust originates from activities on a formerly contaminated site, PM10-2.5 combine with heavy metals present in soil and cause toxicity in addition. Lead and asbestos toxicity from PM is fairly common.

PM also affects the ecosystem by wilting plants as dust on leaves prevents photosynthesis.

Major construction projects over a long duration also increase the long-term PM10 concentrations in cities.

An effective assessment forms the basis of a well-planned and environment friendly construction.

But you can drastically reduce dust emission with proper measures. The mitigation controls depend on the effective assessment of dust emission prior to construction activities. An effective assessment forms the basis of a well-planned and environment friendly construction.

PM Assessment for construction

Source: Guidance on the Assessment of dust by Institute of Air Quality Management

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Apr 25, 2018

$54.3 Million in Brownfield Grants to Assess and Clean Up Brownfields

EPA is pleased to announce that 144 communities will receive 221 grants totaling $54.3 million in EPA Brownfields funding through our Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup (ARC) Grants to assess, clean up and redevelop underutilized properties while protecting public health and the environment. These funds will expand the ability of communities to recycle vacant and abandoned properties for new, productive reuses.

In addition, communities can use Brownfields funding to leverage considerable infrastructure and other financial resources. For example, EPA's Clean Water State Revolving Fund and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund can be used, under certain conditions, to address the water quality aspects of brownfield sites and the assessment and construction of drinking water infrastructure on brownfields, respectively. EPA's Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program may also serve as a potential source of long-term, low-cost supplemental financing to fund brownfields project development and implementation activities to address water quality aspects of brownfields.


FARMER Program to help farmers upgrade equipment, $135 million for purchase of cleaner agricultural trucks, pump engines, tractors and more

SACRAMENTO — Funds will soon be available to expedite the purchase and use of cleaner agricultural equipment to help farmers reduce their exposure to harmful diesel exhaust, improve local air quality, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the California Air Resources Board has announced.

The "Funding Agricultural Replacement Measures for Emission Reductions" (FARMER) Program provides $135 million for farmers to acquire cleaner heavy duty trucks, harvesting equipment, agricultural pump engines, tractors and other equipment used in agricultural operations.  The funds, available this summer, will be administered through California's regional air districts.

"Emissions from agricultural equipment are a significant source of air pollution, especially in the San Joaquin Valley.  Reducing that pollution is necessary to protect public health and meet air quality standards," CARB Executive Officer Richard Corey said.  "Although tough new engine standards are in effect now and will eventually lower emissions, most agricultural equipment lasts for decades.  We cannot wait for the older dirtier equipment to phase out naturally, so we are taking action to improve air quality sooner by helping farmers to buy cleaner farm equipment now. This will help improve air quality throughout the state, but particularly in the San Joaquin Valley which suffers from unacceptably high levels of fine particle pollution."

FARMER funding allocations come from proceeds from the state's cap-and-trade program ($85 million), the Air Quality Improvement Fund ($15 million) and the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Fund ($35 million). The California Legislature directed funds from these three sources to reduce emissions from the agricultural sector through grants, rebates and other financial incentives.

Because the San Joaquin Valley has the vast majority of California's agricultural operations and experiences the greatest negative health impacts from agricultural emissions, 80 percent of the funding — $108 million — will be distributed by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to farmers in the region.

Legislators placed special emphasis on purchasing vehicles and equipment that use advanced technologies such as clean diesel or electricity in order to accelerate improvements in air quality.

More Information

Apr 16, 2018

FREE Webinar: Taking Safety to the Next Level with Lockout Leadership

An April 17 EHS Today-hosted webinar, sponsored by The Master Lock Company

Date: Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Time: 2:00 p.m. EDT (GMT -4, New York)
Duration: 1 Hour
Event Type: Live Webinar
Cost: Free

Register Today!

Description

Summary:  Lockout tagout is perennially one of OSHA's top 10 violations and a leading cause of serious injuries in the workplace. What makes the difference in influencing workplace safety culture is a mentor-based leadership program. Lockout leaders perform hands-on training, day-to-day coaching, and effective inspections.  This can make the difference by reinforcing the routine incorporation of energy control strategies into each task where sudden startup hazards exist.

Key Points:

  • How hands-on training makes the difference when delivered by instructors embedded on the work floor
  • Why having knowledgeable coaches keeping an ongoing eye on lockout practices drives continuous improvement
  • How to turn auditing from a difficult chore to manage to an ongoing method of positive reinforcement
  • Why lockout leadership skills can be a great start for a much broader Safety Champion program
    ​​

Apr 15, 2018

Sarcoidosis Among U.S. Navy Enlisted Men, 1965-1993

Sarcoidosis is a multisystem granulomatous disease of unknown etiology with highest incidence among young and middle-aged adults. In the United States, the risk for sarcoidosis is substantially higher among blacks than among other races (1,2); however, the reasons for this association are unknown. In response to the occurrence of a case of sarcoidosis in a U.S. Navy (USN) enlisted man, CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) analyzed USN data on cases of sarcoidosis diagnosed among active-duty enlisted personnel during 1965-1993. This report summarizes the findings of this analysis, which indicate that the incidence of sarcoidosis declined among USN enlisted men during 1965-1993, particularly among blacks, and that the risk for sarcoidosis was statistically associated with the assignment of USN enlisted men to aircraft carriers.

In 1974, a 21-year-old black enlisted man had sarcoidosis diagnosed based on a chest radiograph indicating bilateral hilar adenopathy without parenchymal disease; noncaseating granulomata were present on lymph node biopsy. He had a history of shortness of breath, cough, and chest and joint pain, which he related to his work of grinding antiskid materials from aircraft carrier decks during the preceding 2 years. He received a medical discharge for sarcoidosis in 1975. In 1987, physicians at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs diagnosed pneumoconiosis in this patient after mineral-dust deposits were identified in a lung biopsy; the mineral-dust deposits were attributed to the same work exposures aboard the aircraft carrier. In October 1992, the patient asked the USN to request NIOSH to investigate whether his sarcoidosis diagnosis and other cases diagnosed in persons with whom he had served in the USN may have been associated with environmental exposures during their USN service. Because of the possibility of an association between risk for sarcoidosis-like illnesses and environmental exposures during service in the USN and because the underlying cause(s) of sarcoidosis is unknown, in December 1992 the USN requested that NIOSH evaluate the potential relation between sarcoidosis and the USN work environment.

NIOSH obtained records from the U.S. Naval Health Research Center (NHRC) for all incident cases of sarcoidosis (defined as diagnosis of "sarcoidosis" by a USN health-care provider) identified among white and black enlisted men while on active duty at any time from 1965 through 1993 * (n=1121). Incidence rates were calculated using age-specific total denominator data for white and black enlisted men on active duty from 1971 through 1993 (denominator data were unavailable for the years before 1971). Numbers for other races were too small for meaningful analysis (no more than three incident cases of sarcoidosis were diagnosed among persons in any other racial category); women were excluded because none had been assigned to aircraft carriers -- an exposure of particular a priori interest -- during 1965-1993.


Apr 10, 2018

Cellphone Radiation Linked to Brain and Heart Tumors studies are reproducible

In 2011 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified cellphones as a Group 2B "possible carcinogen,"1 and the evidence supporting the theory that electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation from cellphones can trigger abnormal cell growth and cancer2,3 just keeps growing and getting stronger.

In February, the findings of two government-funded animal studies4 were published. Curiously enough, the published interpretation of this $25 million research (conducted by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), an interagency research program currently under the auspices of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) significantly downplays the actual findings of the studies.


Cellphone Radiation Linked to Brain and Heart Tumors

The NTP research includes two studies: one on mice and one on rats. Male rats were more likely to develop heart tumors, while female rats and newborns exposed to high levels of radiation during pregnancy and lactation were more likely to have low body weight. DNA damage and damage to heart tissue were also observed in both male and female rats, but not mice. Other types of tumors did occur in both types of animals, though, including brain, prostate, liver and pancreatic tumors.

According to the researchers, if these results can be confirmed, then cellphone radiation may indeed be a "weak" carcinogen. As you'll see below, that confirmation was delivered last month, in the form of published research by the Ramazzini Institute.

The animals in the NTP studies were exposed to cellphone radiation for nine hours a day for two years (basically the full life span of a rat). As noted by The New York Times,5 the heart tumors (malignant schwannomas) found in male rats are "similar to acoustic neuromas, a benign tumor in people involving the nerve that connects the ear to the brain, which some studies have linked to cellphone use."

The scientists also expressed surprise at the finding of DNA damage, as the conventional belief is that nonionizing radiofrequency radiation cannot harm DNA. "We don't feel like we understand enough about the results to be able to place a huge degree of confidence in the findings," John Bucher, Ph.D.,6 senior scientist at the NTP told reporters. Such statements fly in the face of warnings issued by NTP researchers two years ago.


NTP and Ramazzini Show Effects Are Reproducible

The NTP-funded studies found rats exposed to RF radiation began developing glial cell hyperplasias — indicative of precancerous lesions — around week 58; heart schwannomas were detected around week 70. Ramazzini's study confirms and reinforces these results, showing RF radiation increased both brain and heart tumors in exposed rats. This, despite the fact that Ramazzini used much lower power levels.

While NTP used RF levels comparable to what's emitted by 2G and 3G cellphones (near-field exposure), Ramazzini simulated exposure to cellphone towers (far-field exposure). In all, the Ramazzini Institute exposed 2,448 rats to 1.8 GHz GSM radiation at electric field strengths of 5, 25 and 50 volts per meter18 for 19 hours a day, starting at birth until the rats died either from age or illness.

To facilitate comparison, the researchers converted their measurements to watts per kilogram of body weight (W/kg), which is what the NTP used. Overall, the radiation dose administered in the Ramazzini study was up to 1,000 times lower than the NTP's — yet the results were strikingly similar. As in the NTP studies, exposed male rats developed statistically higher rates of heart schwannomas than unexposed rats.

They also found some evidence, although weaker, that RF exposure increased rates of glial tumors in the brains of female rats. As noted by Ronald Melnick, Ph.D., a former senior NIH toxicologist who led the design of the NTP study and current senior science adviser to the Environmental Health Trust:19

"All of the exposures used in the Ramazzini study were below the U.S. FCC limits… In other words, a person can legally be exposed to this level of radiation. Yet cancers occurred in these animals at these legally permitted levels. The Ramazzini findings are consistent with the NTP study demonstrating these effects are a reproducible finding. Governments need to strengthen regulations to protect the public from these harmful non-thermal exposures."

The NTP's conclusion that there's no cause for concern is also challenged by an independent review panel, which concluded its review of the two NTP studies March 28. According to this panel of experts, there's "clear evidence" linking RF radiation with heart schwannomas and "some evidence" linking it to brain gliomas. It remains to be seen whether the NTP will accept or reject the panel's conclusions in its final report.

Why Evidence of Rodent Schwannomas Could Spell Trouble for Human Health

As explained by Louis Slesin, Ph.D., editor and publisher of Microwave News, the increased incidence of schwannomas in rodents exposed to RF is no mere coincidence, and is of great concern for public health:20

"Schwann cells play a key role in the functioning of the peripheral nervous system. They make the myelin sheath, which insulates nerve fibers and helps speed the conduction of electrical impulses. There are Schwann cells just about everywhere there are peripheral nerve fibers. They are present in most organs of the body — whether mice, rats or humans. Schwann cell tumors are called schwannomas.

The NTP found schwannomas in many other organs, in addition to the heart, of rats chronically exposed to cellphone radiation. These included a variety of glands (pituitary, salivary and thymus), the trigeminal nerve and the eye … The NTP also saw schwannomas in the uterus, ovary and vagina of female rats. The brain has no Schwann cells —the brain is part of the central nervous system. There, glial cells play a similar function. In fact, Schwann cells are a type of glial cell …

Tumors of the glial cells are called gliomas. The NTP also saw an increase in glioma among the male rats exposed to GSM and CDMA radiation. Higher rates of glioma have been reported in a number of epidemiological studies of cellphone users. The other tumor linked to cellphone radiation in human studies is acoustic neuroma, a tumor of the auditory nerve … formally called a vestibular schwannoma.

While schwannomas and gliomas are commonly noncancerous tumors, they can develop into malignant schwannomas or glioblastomas … The implication is that instead of searching for consistency in RF's ability to cause cancer in specific organs, the emphasis should now be on specific cell types — beginning with Schwann cells in the periphery and glial cells in the brain."

Full information:



Apr 9, 2018

​​Phosphine Exposure Among Emergency Responders — Amarillo, Texas, January 2017

Investigation and Response
At approximately 5:00 a.m. on January 2, 2017, emergency responders were dispatched to a single-family residence following a 9-1-1 call reporting shortness of breath, loss of consciousness, and other symptoms among occupants. These health effects were initially thought to be the result of carbon monoxide exposure; however, air monitoring detected no carbon monoxide. Emergency responders discovered that a restricted-use pesticide containing ​​aluminum phosphide had been applied outside the residence several days before the 9-1-1 call. It was determined that phosphine had been released when the pesticide reacted with water, first from ambient humidity, and then when attempts were made to wash the pesticide away on January 1, 2017.

Because a hazardous substance was suspected, the City of Amarillo dispatched a hazardous materials (HAZMAT) team composed of fire department personnel and established a secure perimeter around the home. Persons found inside were assisted out of the residence, given emergency medical care, and transported to a nearby hospital. Domestic animals found on-scene were decontaminated by dry brushing and taken to a local animal welfare facility. The local health authority issued a health alert to inform medical care providers.

Later on January 2, the City of Amarillo requested a toxicologic consultation from DSHS related to the incident. Based on incident response activities described during the consultation, it was determined that emergency responders might have been exposed to phosphine at the scene. Therefore, DSHS investigated potential occupational phosphine exposures and associated health effects among all City of Amarillo personnel who participated in the emergency response.

DSHS reviewed Texas Poison Control Network call records related to the event, and then designed a standardized health questionnaire based on the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's (ATSDR's) Assessment of Chemical Exposures toolkit to interview potentially exposed emergency responders (2). Data collected included demographics, work history, role in the response, PPE use, potential exposure to phosphine and related acute health effects, emergency response training, and medical care received. Local health department personnel administered the questionnaire for DSHS via in-person and telephone interviews from January 23 through February 3, 2017. Data were analyzed by DSHS; data that could potentially identify an individual were suppressed if counts were fewer than five.

Fifty-one emergency responders participated on-scene in the response. Air monitoring data were limited, so all were considered potentially exposed to phosphine and contacted for a follow-up interview. All 51 (100%) responders participated, including fire, police, animal welfare, and emergency medical services personnel. The median emergency responder age was 31 years (range = 20–54 years) and the median length of time in their current job was 5 years (range = 2 months–30 years).

Eleven responders (21.6%), including seven firefighters and HAZMAT team members, reported use of respiratory protection while on-scene; none of these persons reported symptoms within 24 hours or sought medical care following the incident (Table 1). Fifteen (37.5%) of the 40 emergency responders who did not use respiratory protection received medical care for symptoms or as a precaution after the incident. Seven (17.5%) of these 40 reported new or worsening symptoms within 24 hours of the response. Symptoms included irritability, ocular pain or burning, headache, nausea, drowsiness, dizziness, burning of nose or throat, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, generalized weakness, trembling legs or hands, and trouble walking.

Among the 40 responders who did not use respiratory protection, 14 (35%) provided the following nonmutually exclusive reasons: did not know it was needed or were not told to use it (five); rescuing victims was more important (four); did not know the contaminant was present (four); was not required for the work performed (two); and did not have equipment (one).

Thirty-seven (72.5%) of the 51 responders stated that their agency had plans or standard operating procedures for responding to situations where hazardous materials are present. Forty (78.4%) reported receiving at least one emergency response training† before the incident (Table 2), including 29 (72.5%) of the 40 responders who did not use respiratory protection.

 67(13);387–389

Emily M. Hall, MPH1; Ketki Patel, MD, PhD1; Kerton R. Victory, PhD2; Geoffrey M. Calvert, MD3; Leticia M. Nogueira, PhD1; Heidi K. Bojes, PhD1(View author affiliations)

Apr 4, 2018

EPA Announces New Funding for Water Infrastructure Projects

WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of funding that could provide as much as $5.5 billion in loans, which could leverage over $11 billion in water infrastructure projects through the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program. Prospective borrowers seeking WIFIA credit assistance must submit a letter of interest (LOI) by July 6, 2018. 

"Thanks to the President's leadership, this WIFIA funding will spark new investments to repair our nation's crumbling water infrastructure," said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. "EPA will play a key role in the President's infrastructure efforts by incentivizing states, municipalities, and public-private partnerships to protect public health, fix local infrastructure problems, create jobs, and provide clean water to communities." 

The WIFIA program received $63 million in funding in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 23, 2018. This more than doubles the program's funding from 2017. Leveraging private capital and other funding sources, these projects could support $11 billion in water infrastructure investment and create more than 170,000 jobs. This year's Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) highlights the importance of protecting public health including reducing exposure to lead and other contaminants in drinking water systems and updating the nation's aging infrastructure.   

"An investment in water infrastructure is an investment in our communities," said Dr. Andrew Sawyers, director of the Office of Wastewater Management. "The WIFIA program helps improve water quality and protect public health while supporting the local economy." 

The WIFIA program will play an important part in making vital improvements to the nation's water infrastructure and implementing the President's Infrastructure Plan, which calls for increasing the program's funding authorization and expanding project eligibility.

Background

Established by the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014, the WIFIA program is a federal loan and guarantee program at EPA that aims to accelerate investment in the nation's water infrastructure by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental loans for regionally and nationally significant projects.

WIFIA credit assistance can be used for a wide range of projects, including:

  • Drinking water treatment and distribution projects;
  • Wastewater conveyance and treatment projects;
  • Enhanced energy efficiency projects at drinking water and wastewater facilities;
  • Desalination, aquifer recharge, alternative water supply, and water recycling project; and
  • Drought prevention, reduction, or mitigation projects.

EPA will evaluate proposed projects described in the LOIs using WIFIA's statutory and regulatory criteria as described in the NOFA. Through this competitive process, EPA will select projects that it intends to fund and invite them to continue to the application process. 

In 2017, for WIFIA's inaugural round, EPA invited 12 projects in 9 states to apply for more than $2 billion in WIFIA loans.

For more information about WIFIA and this funding announcement, visit: https://www.epa.gov/wifia   

​​

Apr 3, 2018

Improved Tool Decreases Dangerous Airborne Silica Dust


sand mover operator station

During sand transport, a visible cloud of dust containing crystalline silica floats past this top sand-mover operator station. Photo courtesy of Barbara Alexander, NIOSH.

An improved, NIOSH-developed tool, or engineering control, can help reduce the amount of dangerous, airborne crystalline silica dust generated during sand moving for oil and gas extraction, according to research published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene.

During hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas extraction, workers use equipment that pumps millions of pounds of water and sand into rock formations deep underground. The purpose of this pressurized mixture is to create and maintain cracks in the rock to extract the oil and gas trapped within. The problem is that the sand usually contains crystalline silica dust, which, when inhaled, can cause severe illness, including lung cancer and the deadly lung disease silicosis. During certain tasks, such as moving and mixing sand at hydraulic-fracturing sites, airborne crystalline silica dust poses a serious risk to workers' health.

Engineering controls are a critical part of preventing worker exposure to airborne crystalline silica dust. In fact, respirable crystalline silica standard 29 CFR 1910.1053 from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will require hydraulic-fracturing companies to adopt engineering controls for crystalline silica dust by June 23, 2021.

NIOSH investigators who study and develop these engineering controls showed in previous research that a NIOSH-developed control effectively reduced levels of airborne crystalline silica dust released from inspection hatches on top of sand movers. Known as the NIOSH mini baghouse, it comprises four large bags made of filter material and a baseplate that clamps to the openings on top of sand movers. It is unique in that it has no moving parts, requires no power source, and can retrofit to existing sand movers.

In a study of the third generation of the mini baghouse, investigators tested it at an Arkansas sand mine during May 19–21, 2015. They collected 168 air samples at 12 locations on and near a sand mover, both with the mini baghouse installed and without it, and then measured the levels of respirable crystalline silica dust in the air samples. The measurements showed that air samples taken with the mini baghouse installed contained 98%–99% less respirable crystalline silica dust than those taken without the mini baghouse. In addition, other tests showed that the crystalline silica dust probably contained freshly fractured quartz, which is an especially dangerous type of crystalline silica dust.

Compared to earlier versions, this third-generation mini baghouse performed significantly better due to improvements, such as a larger surface area of a "slipperier" filter fabric. Now, the investigators are studying additional design improvements, including a cover to offer protection from the weather. They also are planning future trials looking at long-term use of the mini baghouse.

More information is available:

Mar 20, 2018

Top Story OSHA Will Enforce Beryllium Standard Starting in May

OSHA will start enforcement of the final rule on occupational exposure to beryllium in construction, shipyard, and general industries on May 11, 2018. The start of enforcement had previously been set for March 12, 2018. In response to feedback from stakeholders, the agency is considering technical updates to clarify and simplify compliance. In the interim, if an employer fails to meet the new exposure limits, OSHA will inform the employer and offer assistance to ensure compliance. For more information, read the news release.

What Is The USEPA Revised Hazardous Waste Generator Rule And How It Affects You

Hazardous Waste Dates: Rule effective May 30, 2017 for EPA administered areas. Becomes effective in a RCRA authorized states when adopted by the state. What Happened The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) issued the November 2016 final rule that revised the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act's (RCRA) hazardous waste generator regulatory program. According to USEPA, the revisions reorganized the hazardous waste generator regulations to make them more user-friendly, address gaps in the existing regulations and, provide greater flexibility for hazardous waste generators to manage their hazardous waste. The final rule is effective initially in states where EPA runs the RCRA hazardous waste program. 

In a RCRA authorized state, the rule will become effective when the state adopts the federal requirements in its own state regulations. States generally have one to two years to adopt federal requirements (expected in most states in 2018). In addition, states can choose to customize the federal requirements to suit their needs by making them more stringent or not adopt them if less stringent than previously. To find out if the rule is effective in your state, check with your state environmental age agency and this web page: https://www.epa.gov/hwgenerators/where-hazardous-waste-generator-improvements-ruleeffect 

Impact When the rule becomes effective, the changes in the Federal rules will affect all hazardous waste generators. The extent of impact will depend on the site's generator category and how their state chooses to adopt the rule. Table 1 highlights the rule changes and impacts in more detail. Table 2 summarizes the updated regulatory requirements by generator type. 

Suggested Action
Find out when the rule will become effective in your state. 
Evaluate impacts, prepare for, and implement necessary changes. 
Evaluate whether you can take advantage of certain flexibilities allowed by the revised rule. For example, consolidation of waste generated at other sites at Large Quantity Generator site under common control, use Episodic Generation notification to maintain or downsize lower Generator status. 
Also, evaluate if any the hazardous wastes are eligible to be managed as universal waste in your state rules. States are authorized to add to EPA's lists of universal wastes. If you can reclassify a waste as universal waste, it's possible you can downsize your hazardous waste generator status in addition to using less burdensome requirements. 


Courtesy of: Prokopis Christou, PE, CHMM , March 19, 2018 

Preventing Illness from Pesticide Drift

As the breadbasket for the United States, California has many communities and workplaces surrounded by agriculture. Workers can become ill when pesticide drifts onto workplaces after it is applied incorrectly.

A new fact sheet and poster from the California Department of Public Health's Occupational Pesticide Illness Prevention Program (OPIPP) provides employers and workers with tips for preventing pesticide illness from drift incidents. The fact sheet will help workplaces located near pesticide applications to plan ahead and know who to contact to report drift. A case study illustrates the need to plan in advance and train workers on how to respond.

The companion poster reinforces what to do in a drift situation and provides an easy way to post the contact information for reporting drift.

You can find more information and resources about OPIPP on their website.

Email Occupational Health Watch with feedback about this update or change of address.


Resources

Plan Ahead to Prevent Pesticide Drift from Causing Illness – fact sheet

What to Do If Pesticides Drift onto Our Workplace – poster

Occupational Pesticide Illness Prevention Program website

Annual Death Toll From Opioid Epidemic Exceeds That of the Vietnam War

The opioid epidemic — which between 2002 and 2015 alone claimed an estimated 202,600 Americans' lives1 — shows absolutely no signs of leveling off or declining. On the contrary, recent statistics suggest the death toll is still trending upward, with more and more people abusing these powerful narcotics. The most common drugs involved in prescription opioid overdose deaths include2 methadone, oxycodone (such as OxyContin®) and hydrocodone (such as Vicodin®).

This dangerous class of drugs promises relief from pain and is filling a hole in human hearts and souls everywhere. According to the most recent data3 from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), overdose cases admitted into emergency rooms increased by more than 30 percent across the U.S. between July 2016 and September 2017. Overdose cases rose by:4

  • 30 percent among men
  • 31 percent among 24- to 35-year-olds
  • 36 percent among 35- to 54-year-olds
  • 32 percent among those 55 and older

In the Midwest region — Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin — overdose cases rose by 70 percent and opioid-related mortality by 14 percent. Large cities also saw a 54 percent increase in overdose cases in that same timeframe. According to CDC officials, the results are "a wake-up call to the fast-moving opioid overdose epidemic.''

'The Opioid Diaries'

Curiously, opioid abuse appears to be a uniquely American problem. As noted in a recent write-up in New York Magazine,5 the U.S. "pioneered modern life. Now epic numbers of Americans are killing themselves with opioids to escape it." I've written about opioid misuse and addiction on many occasions in recent years, and it seems one cannot discuss this issue enough. Many are still unaware of the dangers involved with filling that first prescription.

As an indication of the need for awareness, the March 5 issue of Time magazine, "The Opioid Diaries,"6 is aimed at exposing the national crisis. For the first time in the magazine's history, an entire issue is devoted to a single photo essay — the work of photojournalist James Nachtwey, who has documented stories for Time for over three decades. In "The Opioid Diaries," Nachtwey's photos detail the stark reality of this all-American crisis.

He and editor Paul Moakley spent months traversing the U.S., interviewing over 200 people along the way. As noted by a deputy sheriff who has seen more than his fair share of the fallout of this epidemic, opioid addiction doesn't discriminate. "It's not just the guy who's never worked a day in his life," he says. "It's airline pilots. It's teachers. I'm sure there's law enforcement, firemen out there hooked on it. It's Joe Citizen that's dying."

A Country in Crisis  

Here are some statistics about the U.S. opioid epidemic that really ought to get everyone's attention:

Leading cause of death for younger Americans

Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under the age of 50.7

Annual death toll greater than entire Vietnam War

Preliminary data for 2016 reveals the death toll from drug overdoses may be as high as 65,000,8 a 19 percent increase from 2015; the largest annual increase of drug overdose deaths in U.S. history, and a number that exceeds both the AIDS epidemic at its peak and the death toll of the Vietnam War in its entirety.9

That much-opposed war claimed the lives of 58,000 American troops. Now, we're suffering a death toll exceeding that of the Vietnam War each and every year, courtesy of a drug addiction epidemic created by the pharmaceutical industry.  

Deadlier than breast cancer

Opioids, specifically, killed 33,000 in 2015,10,11,12 and 42,249 in 2016, which is over 1,000 more deaths than were caused by breast cancer that same year.13

Synthetic opioid abuse skyrocketing

Deadly overdoses involving fentanyl, an incredibly potent synthetic opioid, rose by 50 percent between 2013 and 2014 and another 72 percent between 2014 and 2015. Over 20,000 of the drug overdose deaths in 2016 were attributed to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids.14 In Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, fentanyl was responsible for at least 70 percent of all opioid-related deaths between July and December 2016.15

While some users will buy fentanyl on purpose, others buy tainted wares and end up taking it without knowing the risks. This is a critical problem, as fentanyl is so potent just a few grains can be deadly.

An inexpensive fentanyl test strip can check for the presence of the drug, and trials where test strips have been given to users show they're more likely to cut back on the amount they're taking when they know it's tainted with fentanyl. As such, fentanyl testing can be employed as "a point-of-care test within harm-reduction programs" aimed at lowering the death toll.16

Significant factor in unemployment rates

Opioid abuse has been identified as a significant factor in rising unemployment among men, accounting for 20 percent of the increase in male unemployment between 1999 and 2015.17 Nearly half of all unemployed men between the ages of 25 and 54 are using opioids on a daily basis.18

Americans use vast majority of global opioid supplies

Americans consume 99 percent of the hydrocodone sold worldwide, and 81 percent of all oxycodone — approximately 30 times more than medically necessary for the population size of the U.S.19 A number of different statistics convey this massive overuse.

For example, in a five-year span, between 2007 and 2012, 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills were shipped to West Virginia, which has just 1.8 million residents.20 More than 1 in 5 Americans insured by BlueCross BlueShield were prescribed an opioid in 2015, and insurance claims involving opioid dependence rose by nearly 500 percent between 2010 and 2016.21

Declining life expectancy

Life expectancy for both men and women in the U.S. has declined two years in a row,22,23 and this decline is largely attributable to the opioid crisis. Just as the opioid epidemic, declining life expectancy is a uniquely American phenomenon. No other developed countries has experienced this decline in life expectancy.

A Story of Misery

There are compelling reasons to suspect the opioid epidemic was purposely engineered by the drug companies that make them, and that these same companies have, and continue to, shy away from doing what's necessary to curb the use of opioid pain killers for financially-driven reasons.

Moreover, while this was not likely planned, the industry's misleading promotion of narcotic pain relievers appears to have coincided with a growing trend of emotional pain and spiritual disconnect, and opioids satisfy people's need not only for physical pain relief but also psychological and existential pain relief. As noted by New York Magazine:24

"The scale and darkness of this phenomenon is a sign of a civilization in a more acute crisis than we knew, a nation overwhelmed by a warp-speed, postindustrial world, a culture yearning to give up, indifferent to life and death, enraptured by withdrawal and nothingness …

[U]nless you understand what users get out of an illicit substance, it's impossible to understand its appeal, or why an epidemic takes off, or what purpose it is serving in so many people's lives. And it is significant, it seems to me, that the drugs now conquering America are downers: They are not the means to engage in life more vividly but to seek a respite from its ordeals … And some part of being free from all pain makes you indifferent to death itself."

The article cites a number of firsthand accounts of the experience opioids provides — the blissful serenity of being able to stand apart from one's psychological pain in addition to physical pain; the sensation of being connected to some deeper wellspring of peace. These are experiences typically derived from spiritual practices, and hint at a widespread lack of connectedness to the divine in general.

Read on by By Dr. Mercola