TO: All worker health and safety advocates, seekers of justice and protections for working people, and friends of healthy work environments:
The American Public Health Association’s (APHA) OHS Section has not, and will not, forget about the deadly and disabling illnesses caused by workplace exposure to the butter flavoring agent diacetyl. Our solidarity with workers is demonstrated through our scientific research, teaching and policy practice, and advocacy—and most recently, in song.
The “Popcorn Lung Roadhouse Blues,” with lyrics written and sung by Luis Vazquez, was performed [a loose interpretation of the word "performed"] at the APHA’s annual meeting (San Diego, Nov 2008) by the OHS Thespian Collective. Sung to the tune of Roadhouse Blues by Jim Morrison and the Doors, the lyrics include:
At the factory I work at I breathe diacetyl.
Inhaling a chemical I did not know could kill.
The doctors they don’t me that what made me ill.
Watch the video here on YouTube. The whole segment runs 0:05:25 with the Popcorn Lung Roadhouse Blues song beginning at 0:01:30.
APHA’s OHS Section is a 725-person diverse and dynamic group of public health advocates who are committed to ensuring—-through research, practice and policy—-workers’ fundamental right to healthy and safe workplaces. OHS Section members are part of the larger 50,000 member American Public Health Association. One of the highlights of each year’s Annual Meeting is OHS Section’s Award Lunch, with feature entertainment provided by the OHS Thespian Collective.
Membership and involvement in APHA’s OHS Section gives us a voice in national policymaking on workplace health, safety and labor rights issues. Most recently, for example, when Labor Secretary Chao was proposing rules to change in a very bad way the manner in which OSHA and MSHA prepare health risk assessments, APHA’s Executive Director, Georges Benjamin, MD, wrote promptly to her, urging her to withdraw the proposal. This is just one example of the vital contribution that APHA’s OHS Section can make in our struggle for healthy and safety workplaces.
So, although the APHA’s OHS Section gets silly once a year —mostly to relieve our frustration at the current state of OHS in the U.S. and around the globe—the rest of the year, we value our APHA membership to advance a progressive agenda for health and safety.
Celeste Monforton, MPH, DrPH is a research instructor at the George Washington University School of Public Health. She is the current chair of the APHA OHS Section and is a member of the OHS Thespian Collective.