Occupational Health News Roundup

Last week, a 44-year-old soldier on his third deployment to Iraq opened fire at his U.S. military base near the Baghdad International Airport, killing five service members and wounding three others. Sgt. John Russell had been sent to the combat-stress clinic at Camp Liberty by his superiors, and two of the five people he killed worked at the clinic. The Christian Science Monitor’s Gordon Lubold writes about the role of deployment length and frequency in solders’ mental-health issues:

The case has focused further attention on the effect that multiple, extended deployments are having on soldiers.

Fifteen-month tours and repeated deployments are increasing the rate of suicide, divorce, and psychological problems, according to Pentagon data. The shootings at Camp Liberty in Iraq speak to the need “to redouble our efforts … in terms of dealing with the stress,” said Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a Pentagon press conference Monday.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is requesting to “institutionalize and properly fund” programs to help wounded troops, including those with psychological disorders. Roughly 300,000 veterans have been diagnosed with some form of post-traumatic stress disorder.

But a main source of the problem – the repeated, extended deployments – will probably continue.

Russell was arrested by military police shortly after the shootings and has been charged with murder.

In other news:

ProPublica: A National Cancer Institute study of nearly 25,000 men exposed to formaldehyde in industrial plants strengthens the link between formaldehyde exposure and blood and lymphatic cancers. 

New York Times: The investigation into the February crash of a Continental Connection flight outside of Buffalo draws attention to the grueling schedules of regional-airline pilots, who often commute long distances and earn too little to afford to stay in hotel rooms to catch up on sleep.

Shanghai Daily: More than 1,000 workers from a chemical company in China’s Jilin province have reported dizziness, vomiting, and other symptoms; doctors believe they’ve been poisoned by inhalation of some kind of gas, and workers suspect the source is a leak from a nearby aniline factory.

New York Times: A new international agreement regulating the recycling of ships may help improve conditions for workers in the dangerous shipbreaking industry.

Charleston Gazette: A trucking company that works as a contractor for coal company Massey Energy has been cited in the death of coal-truck driver William Wade, who was killed when his truck overturned. Investigators found that a brake hose on the truck had been bypassed and four of the six brake drums were worn out.