Occupational Health News Roundup

Job losses don’t just leave families struggling to afford their monthly expenses; in many cases, the loss of a job also means the loss of health insurance. (For those whose employers still exist and still offer health coverage, COBRA coverage is an option for up to 18 months – but you have to be able to cover the share of the premium your employer was paying, as well as your usual contribution.)

In some cases, employers are choosing to cut employees’ hours rather than lay them off – but in that case, they may also cease to qualify for health benefits, which are often available only to full-time employees. The Washington Post’s V. Dion Haynes reports that the hotel chain Marriott International has decided to stop requiring that employees log a minimum number of hours to maintain health coverage through the end of the year. The company’s chairman and chief executive, J.W. Marriott Jr., explained on his blog, “For a business to be healthy, employees and their families need to have access to quality health care.”

In most advanced countries, losing a job doesn’t mean losing healthcare. Healthcare reform should makes it easier for people to get non-job-based coverage, so the next recession won’t be so devastating when it comes to healthcare.

In other news:

Salon.com: A new army study says harsh combat in Iraq contributed to brutal murders by returned Fort Carson soldiers – but Army officials deny that the report establishes cause-and-effect relationships between violence in Iraq and back in the U.S.

Los Angeles Times: A judge’s finding of fraud by plaintiffs’ lawyers in two cases involving the pesticide DBCP could imperil the cases of hundreds of former banana plantation workers who are seeking compensation for health effects related to DBCP exposure.

Telegraph (UK): Researchers have linked a component of the pesticide Lindane to Parkinson’s disease, and their research may help lead to earlier detection and treatment of the disease.

California Nurses Association: Nurses have filed requested help from Cal-OSHA in getting a hospital to supply proper safety equipment to nurses caring for patients with the swine flu virus.

Washington Post: Hundreds of men and boys in Accra, Ghana spend their days scavenging through electronic waste – much of it from the US and Europe – without equipment to protect them from toxic substances.

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