Occupational Health News Roundup

Shortly before the 48th Super Bowl, Hall of Famer and former Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Rayfield Wright acknowledged publicly for the first time that he suffers from dementia. “If something’s wrong with you, you try to hide it,” he told the New York Times’ Juliet Macur, explaining why he had concealed his problems.

Wright, who sustained more concussions than he could count during his football career, is one of more than 4,500 players who have sued the NFL for hiding what it knew about the health risks from repeated head trauma. The NFL has agreed to pay $765 million to settle the suit, but Judge Anita B. Brody is questioning whether that amount will be adequate to cover the players’ anticipated costs from dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurological problems. In another Times piece, Alan Schwarz summarizes some of the research findings on elevated rates of neurological conditions among former football players and calculates that the costs could reach $1 billion or more.

With football-related medical problems in the news, it’s hardly surprising that some college football players are seeking union representation. Players at Northwestern University have filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to gain union recognition. In These Times’ Alex Lubben notes that the NCAA’s emphasis on college players’ “student athletes” status has kept them from receiving wages or salaries and workers’ compensation for occupational injuries and illnesses. With union representation, players could bargain with the NCAA for a better deal.

In other news:

WVNSTV (West Virginia): The collapse of two cell towers at an SBA Communications site in Harrison County, WV, killed tower workers Kyle Kirkpatrick (32) and Terry Lee Richard, Jr. (27), as well as volunteer firefighter Michael Dale Garrett (28). The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating.

NPR: As industrial chemical incidents continue to kill workers and contaminate communities, the Chemical Safety Board still has a budget and staff that are tiny compared to those of other federal agencies. It doesn’t have the authority to issue citations, and its non-binding regulations often remain unimplemented.

Press & Sun-Bulletin (New York): Scientists from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and health presented new research findings about the health of former employees of the IBM plant in Endicott. They found that workers with greater exposures to the chemicals TCE and PCE had higher death rates from some cancers.

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health: Around 30% of injuries and illnesses involving days away from work are association with repetitive motion or overexertion. Many resources exist to help employers prevent musculoskeletal disorders.

The News (Pakistan): Advocates have mounted a national campaign to get asbestos banned in Pakistan. Worldwide, 150,000 people die each year due to asbestos-related diseases, according to the World Health Organisation.