Occupational Health News Roundup

With growing rates of public transit usage nationwide, it’s a good time to see if transit systems are providing workplaces that will keep employees healthy.

In this week’s news, the DC area’s transit agency has unveiled seats with more back support and better seat belts for its bus drivers; the improved seats will initially appear in 203 new electric-hybrid buses, adding $200 to the $1,500 cost of a standard bus-driver seat.

In New York City, the picture is less rosy: 18 bus drivers are suing 13 manufacturers of diesel engines used by NYC Transit, claiming a link between diesel-fume exposure and illnesses including cancer and heart problems. (Plaintiffs’ descriptions make it sound like the design and practices of the transit facilities also contributed to their exposure, but of course it’s difficult for workers to sue their employers.)

In other news:

Associated Press: Thousands of children, some as young as age 4, are mining gold in West Africa.

On Point (NPR/WBUR): A reporter, interpreter, union official, and local pastor speak about the massive immigration raid at a meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa.

Fresno Bee: A University of California Davis study of immigrant farmworkers’ health includes an educational component to address diabetes, alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence, and breast cancer.

Business Week: Some hospitals are improving ventilation systems and switching to non-toxic cleaning products in an effort to improve indoor air quality.

NIOSH: The National Institute for Environmental and Occupational Health will be hosting a workshop on “No Fit Test” Respirator research, as part of an effort to improve current and future respirator designs including the long-term possibility of moving away from current fit-testing requirements, while preserving user protection.

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