Occupational Health News Roundup

An Institute of Medicine task force responsible for recommending protections for healthcare workers from the swine flu/H1N1 virus held a meeting last week, and CIDRAP reporters were there. Robert Roos reports that the first day focused on the efficacy of surgical masks and N95 respirators in shielding healthcare workers from respiratory illness:

The IOM panel learned, for example, that N95 respiratorsâwhether fit-tested or notâreduced respiratory illnesses in a recent multiple-hospital study in China, whereas surgical masks were not effective. But other studies, focusing on household transmission of flu, suggested that both surgical masks and N95-type respirators are valuable. 

Covering the second day of the conference, Lisa Schnirring highlights the differences between different surgical masksâ aerosol-blocking capabilities and concerns about whether and how healthcare workers will use protective equipment provided for them.

A post on the NIOSH Science Blog about the meeting attracted several comments, many of them noting the importance of proper cleaning of facilities and equipment (including ambulances) that flu patients come into contact with.

Associated Press: A massive explosion at a hydroelectric plant in Siberia has killed at least 13 workers; another 61 are missing and feared to be dead.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: A new study published in JAMA reports that the production of wind and solar energy poses fewer risks to workers than the production of fossil-fuel energy, given the dangers associated with fossil-fuel extraction.

Yale Alumni Magazine: In 2007, Yale School of Drama masters student Pierre-André Salim was killed by falling set materials; now, the drama school has created a full-time safety directorâs position.

CNN: Scientists are analyzing blood samples from pilots and flight attendants who suffer from illnesses that may be linked to exposure to contaminated cabin air.

New York Times: For the first time in our countryâs military history, tens of thousands of U.S. women are living and fighting alongside men. The feared disruption of discipline and disintegration of unit cohesion havenât happened, although problems with sexual harassment and assault remain. (Silbey at The Edge of the American West provides some context with a description of how desegregation happened in US forces.)

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Thanks for this article. I have been becoming increasingly anxious about what is going on. We need a change, but in reality if we get a health insuruance chang then maybe it will help.

I own a small business and we have been struggling mightily to keep our health insurance plan. Additionally, I have a son who is 22, just graduated from college and has been unable to find a job. He is also a type I diabetic. What are the choices for him? He goes off the family policy in November. If the things you listed come about, then maybe my son will be okay until he can find a job.

I'll keep my fingers crossed.

I think this comment might've been intended for a different post, but it raises an issue that lots of workers deal with. I hope conditions will improve - both for your son and for our country as a whole - but in the meantime, it's worth checking to see whether your state has a program to help people who have difficulty getting insurance due to financial circumstances or medical conditions.

Georgetown University has put out a useful state-by-state guide to insurance options: http://healthinsuranceinfo.net/