Occupational Health News Roundup

As David Michaels reported earlier today, Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey has introduced legislation that would force OSHA to issue standards for occupational exposure to diacetyl (an interim standard within 90 days and a final standard within two years). This artificial butter-flavoring substance has been linked to severe lung disease in workers exposed to it in airborne form. Workers from flavoring, microwave popcorn, and other food manufacturers have become ill, many after only a year or two of exposure.

As with other pressing issues, California’s legislature has decided not to wait for the federal government to act. A bill to prohibit the use of diacetyl in California workplaces, introduced by California Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, passed the state’s Assembly on June 4th.

In other news:

International Labour Organization: Organizers of World Day Against Child Labor (June 12th) focused on the elimination of child labor in agriculture – the sector where nearly 70% of the world’s child labor occurs. More than 132 million girls and boys aged 5 to 14 years old often work from sun up to sun down on farms and plantations.

Chicago Tribune: A plane crash claimed the lives of an organ transplant team rushing a donated organ to a patient in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

New York Times: A federal advisory panel has recommended that workers from the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant not be granted special exposure cohort status under the federal program designed to compensate workers who suffered illnesses related to their work in nuclear weapons facilities – dealing a setback to 2,682 former workers who’ve filed claims over their illnesses.

Institute of Medicine: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) needs to overhaul the tool it uses to determine the degree of disability suffered during military service to ensure that veterans receive appropriate compensation and other benefits. The agency also needs to establish a process for keeping this schedule up to date, to reflect current understanding of conditions such as traumatic brain injury that now occur more frequently.

Occupational Hazards: The World Health Organization recommends establishing 100% smoke-free workplaces as the only effective strategy to protect workers and the general public from the dangers of secondhand smoke exposure.

Reuters Health: New research suggests that agriculture workers with extensive exposure to pesticides may have an elevated risk of brain cancer.