Source: Environmental Working Group
From blog post:
Since we released the new online EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning, with ratings of more than 2,000 different products, many consumers and several companies have asked us why some products get low grades.
The answer is different for every product. Our grading system is based on these factors:
- Hazardous ingredients that pose threats to human health
- Little or no specific ingredient information on the label
- Contains ingredients restricted in some states and the European Union
- Products that release volatile chemicals
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
A preliminary total of 4,609 fatal work injuries were recorded in the United States in 2011, down from a final count of 4,690 fatal work injuries in 2010, according to results from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) program conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rate of fatal work injury for U.S. workers in 2011 was 3.5 per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, as compared to a final rate of 3.6 per 100,000 for 2010.
Over the last 3 years, increases in the published counts based on additional information have averaged 166 fatalities per year or about 3 percent of the revised total. Final 2011 data from the CFOI program will be released in Spring 2013.
CRS — Pilotless Drones: Background and Considerations for Congress Regarding Unmanned Aircraft Operations in the National Airspace System
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
Growing interest in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), particularly for homeland security and law enforcement applications, has spurred considerable debate over how to accommodate these unmanned aircraft and keep them safely separated from other air traffic. Additionally, the use of these pilotless aircraft, popularly referred to as drones, for aerial surveillance and law enforcement purposes has raised specific concerns regarding privacy and Fourth Amendment rights and potential intrusiveness. These issues have come to the forefront in policy debate in response to provisions in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-95) that require the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to begin integrating unmanned aircraft into the national airspace system by the end of FY2015.
While drones have been used extensively by the military and small radio-controlled model aircraft have been around for more than 50 years, advances in more complex vehicle controls and imaging sensor capabilities are spurring public sector and commercial interest in unmanned aircraft for a variety of purposes, including law enforcement, homeland security, aerial imaging, and scientific research. FAA currently approves public entities (such as federal agencies, public universities, and local police departments) to operate UAVs on a case-by-case basis, but growing interest is making this approach increasingly untenable. Moreover, commercial users are seeking authorization to fly drones, but so far FAA has only allowed test and demonstration flights by manufacturers. FAA faces a number of challenges to address anticipated growth in demand for civilian UAV operations and develop regulations governing the certification and operation of unmanned aircraft systems in domestic airspace.
Congress has generally supported efforts to integrate unmanned aircraft into the national airspace system and foster growth in the unmanned aircraft industry. It enacted extensive provisions in P.L. 112-95 that are designed to streamline and accelerate the operation of unmanned aircraft in domestic airspace by both public entities and commercial operators. Notably, that law requires FAA to issue regulations pertaining to the operation of small UAVs (weighing less than 55 pounds) and requires FAA to create and implement a plan to begin the integration of unmanned aircraft into the national airspace system by the end of FY2015. Toward that goal, the act requires FAA to establish six test ranges throughout the United States to study unmanned aircraft integration technical issues.
The act establishes an ambitious timeline for FAA to grapple with and resolve a number of complex issues regarding the safety and security of unmanned aircraft operations. Furthermore, aircraft operators have expressed specific concerns that drone operations should not result in airspace restrictions or other measures that could limit accessibility to the national airspace system.
In addition to these various challenges, the privacy implications and potential intrusiveness of drone operations have emerged as a significant issue before Congress. Civil liberties and privacy groups have cautioned that voluntary industry measures, including a code of conduct to, among other things, respect privacy, are inadequate to assure that drones will not be misused in ways that could infringe upon the privacy of individuals and intrude upon their daily activities. Moreover, FAA’s authority over specific uses of civilian unmanned aircraft appears limited so long as safety and national security are not compromised, raising additional concerns that future drone operations could lead to complaints and lawsuits over noise, intrusiveness, and interference with the use and enjoyment of public or private property.
Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology
From press release:
The United States already has one of the highest direct fire loss rates among developed nations, and progress in reducing this tremendous burden is slowing.
Fires claim more than 3,000 lives a year, injure more than 90,000 firefighters and civilians, and impose costs and losses totaling more than $300 billion—equivalent to about 2 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.
Fire researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) believe that the devastating annual toll can be significantly reduced over the next two decades. Even better, they have a plan that prioritizes and details the research and other work needed to enable that goal.
Crafted with input from fire service organizations, standards and building-code developers, equipment manufacturers, insurers and others, NIST’s newly issued "strategic roadmap"* lays out a clear technological course for reducing the risk of fire in buildings and communities. It calls for tackling the nation’s fire problem on three fronts:
- Reducing fire hazards in buildings,
- Advancing firefighter technologies, and
- Reducing the risk of fire in communities bordering forests and "wildlands."
The new roadmap is NIST’s most comprehensive effort to establish fire-risk reduction goals for its programs since the influential America Burning report was published in the mid-1970s.
Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier Than Conventional Alternatives?: A Systematic Review
Source: Annals of Internal Medicine
Background: The health benefits of organic foods are unclear.
Purpose: To review evidence comparing the health effects of organic and conventional foods.
Data Sources: MEDLINE (January 1966 to May 2011), EMBASE, CAB Direct, Agricola, TOXNET, Cochrane Library (January 1966 to May 2009), and bibliographies of retrieved articles.
Study Selection: English-language reports of comparisons of organically and conventionally grown food or of populations consuming these foods.
Data Extraction: 2 independent investigators extracted data on methods, health outcomes, and nutrient and contaminant levels.
Data Synthesis: 17 studies in humans and 223 studies of nutrient and contaminant levels in foods met inclusion criteria. Only 3 of the human studies examined clinical outcomes, finding no significant differences between populations by food type for allergic outcomes (eczema, wheeze, atopic sensitization) or symptomatic Campylobacter infection. Two studies reported significantly lower urinary pesticide levels among children consuming organic versus conventional diets, but studies of biomarker and nutrient levels in serum, urine, breast milk, and semen in adults did not identify clinically meaningful differences. All estimates of differences in nutrient and contaminant levels in foods were highly heterogeneous except for the estimate for phosphorus; phosphorus levels were significantly higher than in conventional produce, although this difference is not clinically significant. The risk for contamination with detectable pesticide residues was lower among organic than conventional produce (risk difference, 30% [CI, −37% to −23%]), but differences in risk for exceeding maximum allowed limits were small. Escherichia coli contamination risk did not differ between organic and conventional produce. Bacterial contamination of retail chicken and pork was common but unrelated to farming method. However, the risk for isolating bacteria resistant to 3 or more antibiotics was higher in conventional than in organic chicken and pork (risk difference, 33% [CI, 21% to 45%]).
Limitation: Studies were heterogeneous and limited in number, and publication bias may be present.
Conclusion: The published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods. Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Little teapots with long spouts have become a fixture in many homes for reasons that have nothing to do with tea.
Called neti pots, they are used to rinse the nasal passages with a saline (salt-based) solution, and have become popular as a treatment for congested sinuses, colds and allergies, and for moistening nasal passages exposed to dry indoor air.
However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has concerns about the risk of infection tied to the improper use of neti pots and other nasal rinsing devices. The agency is informing consumers, manufacturers and health care professionals about safe practices for using all nasal rinsing devices, which include bulb syringes, squeeze bottles, and battery-operated pulsed water devices.
These devices are generally safe and useful products, says Steven Osborne, M.D., a medical officer in FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH). But they must be used and cleaned properly.
Most important is the source of water that is used with nasal rinsing devices. Tap water that is not filtered, treated, or processed in specific ways is not safe for use as a nasal rinse.
FAA Has Not Effectively Implemented its Wildlife Hazard Mitigation Program
Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General
On August 22, we issued a report on the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Wildlife Hazard Mitigation Program, which aims to reduce the risk of wildlife strikes to aviation. Under the Program, FAA requires airports to create and implement wildlife hazard management plans to assess and minimize the risk of future strikes. However, we found that FAA’s oversight and enforcement activities are not sufficient to ensure airports fully adhere to Program requirements or effectively implement their wildlife hazard plans. In addition, FAA’s policies and guidance for monitoring, reporting, and mitigating wildlife hazards are mostly voluntary, thereby limiting their effectiveness. For example, FAA recommends but does not mandate that airports and aircraft operators report all wildlife strikes to FAA’s strike database. As a result, FAA’s strike data are incomplete, which impacts the Agency’s ability to evaluate the effectiveness of its Program in reducing wildlife hazards. Finally, FAA coordinates effectively with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, its main partner in wildlife hazard mitigation, but its efforts to coordinate with other relevant Government agencies are limited and infrequent. We made 10 recommendations intended to improve FAA’s management and oversight of the Program. FAA concurred with six, partially concurred with three, and did not concur with one. We are requesting additional information or revised responses for five recommendations—particularly related to improving the quality and quantity of the Agency’s wildlife strike data.
Injuries from Batteries Among Children Aged <13 Years — United States, 1995–2010
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC)
Injuries to children caused by batteries have been documented in the medical literature and by poison control centers for decades (1,2). Of particular concern is the ingestion of button batteries,* especially those ≥20 mm in diameter (coin size), which can lodge in the esophagus, leading to serious complications or death (3–5). To estimate the number of nonfatal battery injuries among children aged <13 years, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) staff analyzed 1997–2010 data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS). To identify fatal battery exposures, other CPSC databases covering 1995–2010 were examined, including the 1) Injury and Potential Injury Incident File; 2) Death Certificate Database (DTHS); and 3) In-Depth Investigation File (INDP). From 1997 to 2010, an estimated 40,400 children aged <13 years were treated in hospital emergency departments (EDs) for battery-related injuries, including confirmed or possible battery ingestions. Nearly three quarters of the injuries involved children aged ≤4 years; 10% required hospitalization. Battery type was reported for 69% of cases, and of those, button batteries were implicated in 58%. Fourteen fatal injuries were identified in children ranging in age from 7 months to 3 years during 1995–2010. Battery type was reported in 12 of these cases; all involved button batteries. CPSC is urging the electronics industry and battery manufacturers to develop warnings and industry standards to prevent serious injuries and deaths from button batteries. Additionally, public health and health-care providers can encourage parents to keep button batteries and products containing accessible button batteries (e.g., remote controls) away from young children.
The Allstate Insurance Company (NYSE: ALL) today released its eighth annual "Allstate America’s Best Drivers Report™." The report, based on Allstate claims data, ranks America’s 200* largest cities in terms of car collision frequency to identify which cities have the safest drivers.
This year’s top honor of "America’s Safest Driving City" is Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the fifth time in the history of the report that the city has held the top spot. According to the report, the average driver in Sioux Falls will experience an auto collision every 13.8 years, which is 27.6 percent less likely than the national average of 10 years.
Lead Poisoning in Pregnant Women Who Used Ayurvedic Medications from India — New York City, 2011–2012
Lead Poisoning in Pregnant Women Who Used Ayurvedic Medications from India — New York City, 2011–2012
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC)
Lead poisoning still occurs in the United States despite extensive prevention efforts and strict regulations. Exposure to lead can damage the brain, kidneys, and nervous and reproductive systems. Fetal exposure to lead can adversely affect neurodevelopment, decrease fetal growth, and increase the risk for premature birth and miscarriage (1). During 2011–2012, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) investigated six cases of lead poisoning associated with the use of 10 oral Ayurvedic medications made in India. All six cases were in foreign-born pregnant women assessed for lead exposure risk by health-care providers during prenatal visits, as required by New York state law. Their blood lead levels (BLLs) ranged from 16 to 64 µg/dL. Lead concentrations of the medications were as high as 2.4%; several medications also contained mercury or arsenic, which also can have adverse health effects. DOHMH distributed information about the medications to health-care providers, product manufacturers, and government agencies in the United States and abroad, via postal and electronic mail. DOHMH also ordered a local business selling contaminated products to cease sales. Health-care providers should ask patients, especially foreign-born or pregnant patients, about any use of foreign health products, supplements, and remedies such as Ayurvedic medications. Public health professionals should consider these types of products when investigating heavy metal exposures and raise awareness among health-care providers and the public regarding the health risks posed by such products.
Facts of the catch: occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities to fishing workers, 2003–2009
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Fishers and related fishing workers1 deal with a set of working conditions unique among all other occupations. This occupation is characterized by strenuous work, long hours, seasonal employment, and some of the most hazardous conditions in the workforce.2 These workers are often at sea for weeks or months at a time, sometimes having to stand on deck, fishing for long periods with little or no sleep. They are constantly being tossed around by wind and rough seas, with water in their face and under their feet, which adds an element of balance to the skills needed to do their job safely. Weather does not stop production, and given that these workers do not work in a factory or office building, it increases the unpredictability of their working conditions. Access to on-site medical care for these workers is limited to the knowledge of those on the boat with them or the response of the Coast Guard.
Thanks to television shows such as Deadliest Catch, Lobstermen, Swords, Rajin Cajuns, Hook Line and Sisters, Wicked Tuna, Big Shrimpin’, and Toughest Tribes,3 viewers can see the hazards these workers face first hand. But what do the numbers show? Fishers and related fishing workers have had the highest fatal injury rate of any occupation since 2005. Their rate of fatal injury in 2009 was 203.6 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, more than 50 times the all-worker rate of 3.5. From 2003 to 2009, an average of 48 fishers and related fishing workers died each year as a result of an injury incurred on the job.
There were approximately 31,000 people employed as fishers and related fishing workers in 2009.4 This issue of Beyond the Numbers looks at data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities program on fishers and related fishing workers for the period from 2003 to 2009.Although this report focuses primarily on fatal injuries among workers in this occupation, for context, it begins with some information on the nonfatal injuries and illnesses experienced by these workers. This is followed by a detailed description of what the data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) show about fatal injuries to fishers and related fishing workers during the 2003–2009 period. The final section gives an overview of the fatal injuries that occurred among a subset of the fishers and related fishing workers in the private shellfish fishing industry, including crab fishing, lobster fishing, and shrimp fishing, in order to provide more insight into the special hazards these workers endure.
New GAO Report and Testimonies
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Mine Safety: Reports and Key Studies Support the Scientific Conclusions Underlying the Proposed Exposure Limit for Respirable Coal Mine Dust. GAO-12-832R, August 17.
1. L.A. Courthouse: Initial Project Justification Is Outdated and Flawed, by Mark L. Goldstein, director, physical infrastructure issues, before the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. GAO-12-968T, August 17.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/593800.pdf
A European Commission report published today shows that thanks to the EU’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) many food safety risks have been averted or mitigated and safety controls ensure our food is safe. RASFF plays a key role in ensuring safety from “farm to fork”, by triggering a rapid reaction when a food safety risk is detected. All members of the RASFF system1 are swiftly informed of serious risks found in food or feed so that together they can react to food safety threats in a coordinated way to protect the health of EU citizens.John Dalli, Commissioner in charge of Health and Consumer Policy, said: “European consumers enjoy the highest food safety standards in the world. The EU’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed is a key tool as it allows risks to be identified and removed from the European market. RASFF reinforces the confidence of our consumers in our food and feed safety system. In 2011, we dealt with a number of important crises such as the effects of the Fukushima nuclear incident, the dioxin and the E. coli crisis. The EU managed to tackle them and the lessons we all learnt will no doubt guide us to do even better in the future.”
Traffic Safety Facts – 2010 Data – Pedestrians (PDF)
Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
In 2010, 4,280 pedestrians were killed and an estimated 70,000 were injured in traffic crashes in the United States. On average, a pedestrian was killed every two hours and injured every eight minutes in traffic crashes.
A pedestrian, as defined for the purpose of this Traffic Safety Fact Sheet, is any person on foot, walking, running, jogging, hiking, sitting or lying down who is involved in a motor vehicle traffic crash. For the purpose of this Traffic Safety Fact Sheet a traffic crash is an incident that involves one or more vehicles where at least one vehicle is in-transport and the crash originates on a public traffic way. Crashes that occurred exclusively on private property, including parking lots and driveways, were excluded.
The 4,280 pedestrian fatalities in 2010 were an increase of 4 percent from 2009, but a decrease of 13 percent from 2001. In 2010, pedestrian deaths accounted for 13 percent of all traffic fatalities, and made up 3 percent of all the people injured in traffic crashes.
New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Defense Logistics: DOD Has Taken Actions to Improve Some Segments of the Materiel Distribution System. GAO-12-883R, August 3.
2. Patient Safety: HHS Has Taken Steps to Address Unsafe Injection Practices, but More Action Is Needed. GAO-12-712, July 13.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592405.pdf
OSHA issues two educational resources on protecting workers from mercury exposure in fluorescent bulbs
Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued two new educational resources to help protect workers from mercury exposure while crushing and recycling fluorescent bulbs. Compact fluorescent bulbs are more efficient than incandescent bulbs, but the shift to energy-saving fluorescents, which contain mercury, calls for more attention to workers who handle, dispose of, and recycle used fluorescent bulbs.
The OSHA fact sheet* explains how workers may be exposed, what kinds of engineering controls and personal protective equipment they need, and how to use these controls and equipment properly. In addition, a new OSHA Quick Card* alerts employers and workers to the hazards of mercury and provides information on how to properly clean up accidentally broken fluorescent bulbs to minimize workers’ exposures to mercury.
Fluorescent bulbs can release mercury and may expose workers when they are broken accidentally or crushed as part of the routine disposal or recycling process. Depending on the duration and level of exposure, mercury can cause nervous system disorders such as tremors, kidney problems, and damage to unborn children.
Identifying a Cost-Effective Aviation Fleet for the U.S. Forest Service
Source: RAND Corporation
Wildfires are dangerous and costly. They threaten population centers and wildlife habitats, degrade watersheds, and contribute to air pollution. At the same time, they are a natural part of the ecosystem in much of the American West. The cost of fighting these fires has risen dramatically over the past decade — to an average of $1.65 billion annually.
The U.S. Forest Service currently operates an aging fleet of contracted fixed-wing airtankers that provide aerial support for wildland firefighting. After two fatal crashes in 2002 led to more than half of the fleet being taken out of service, the Forest Service sought to replace its fleet with newer, safer aircraft. In support of this effort, the agency asked RAND to determine the composition of a fleet of airtankers, scoopers, and helicopters that would minimize the total social costs of wildfires, including the cost of large fires and aircraft costs.