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NIOSH eNews – February 2012

Volume 9 Number 10 February 2012


From the Director’s Desk

John Howard, M.D.
Director, NIOSH
February eNews 2012

Stay Safe…It’s a cold one out there…

Many know of Roald Amundsen for being the first person to reach the South Pole. However, few likely know who was second in a disastrous expedition one hundred years ago.

It was Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his crew who reached the South Pole just 33 days after Amundsen in what became known as the Terra Nova Expedition. After arriving at the pole, Scott saw Amundsen’s flag already placed and knew that they had lost the race and began the 800–mile return journey through deteriorating weather, struggling with frostbite, snow blindness, and exhaustion along the way. One of the men fell multiple times, likely suffered a concussion, and died near the foot of a glacier. Another man, barely able to walk on his frostbitten feet and slowing the others’ progress, voluntarily left the tent and walked out into the snow to die. The final three explorers were unable to finish the journey after becoming trapped by a severe blizzard. Over the next nine days, they ran out of food and succumbed to hypothermia, dying in their sleeping bags. The hazards of extreme Polar weather took a serious and final toll on these brave explorers. However, it should be remembered that hypothermia and frostbite do not only occur on Antarctic expeditions in obviously dangerous conditions. Workers can have similar risks in many workplaces whether the cold conditions are man-made, such as in freezers, or natural, such as while working outdoors.

Winter has arrived and its low temperatures, icy precipitation, and cold winds have been felt by many around the country. For most of us, inclement weather means minor or occasional inconveniences, such as longer commutes. For some workers, the risk of cold stress is a constant danger throughout their workday. Workers who work outdoors, with or without shelter, or in unheated environments may be exposed to extreme cold and may be at risk for health emergencies relating to cold stress. Workers in many industries—including agriculture, forestry, fishing, construction, and services—are at risk of cold stress.

What constitutes cold stress and its effects can vary across different areas of the country. In regions relatively unaccustomed to winter weather, near-freezing temperatures are considered factors for cold stress. Whenever temperatures drop decidedly below normal and as wind speed increases, heat can more rapidly leave the body. These weather-related conditions may lead to serious and potentially life-threatening problems, such as hypothermia and frostbite.

photo of workers outside using a crane with snow on the ground

Photo by Elaine Cullen

Hypothermia can cause a person to become confused or disoriented or to lose consciousness. With further exposure to the cold, as the body continues to lose heat, death is a very real risk. With frostbite, permanent damage to body tissue can occur. Advanced frostbite raises the risk of gangrene in the extremities as tissue dies, and if that occurs, amputation of the affected areas (usually fingers or toes) may be necessary. NIOSH recommends that employers take appropriate precautions to protect workers, beginning where necessary with changes to work schedules or working conditions, and that workers be aware of the risks of cold stress and follow safe practices and procedures. Workers should be trained about cold stress and prevention of cold stress illnesses and injuries, and all workers should be monitored for symptoms by supervisors and coworkers. For work that must be completed on cold days, the coldest jobs should be scheduled for the warmest part of the day. Warm liquids and warm break areas should also be provided to workers. When possible, NIOSH recommends that employers schedule routine maintenance for warmer months.

Appropriate clothing can protect workers who are at risk. Several layers of clothing will provide insulation, and accessories such as gloves, hats, and waterproof boots will help keep extremities dry and warm. Extra accessories and a change of clothes, blankets, and chemical hot packs are good to keep nearby in case of an emergency.

What can you do to keep yourself and your workers safe this winter? NIOSH has produced a Fast Facts card on cold stress that can be used to train workers who work in cold conditions on basic information about hypothermia, frostbite, trench foot, and chilblains. It is available at /niosh/docs/2010-115/. Additional information and resources for employers and workers can be found on the NIOSH “Cold Stress” web page at /niosh/topics/coldstress/. Finally, NIOSH is currently running a “Working In Cold” social media campaign through the end of winter, so follow @NIOSH on Twitter or like us on Facebook to get more tips on how to stay safe in the cold.

Join Us for the 2012 Isocyanates Conferences

NIOSH and partners invite you to register and/or submit papers for Isocyanates and Health: Past, Present and Future, November 1–2 in Bethesda, Maryland. See a personal invitation from Dr. James Lockey, scientific chair, at More information on the conference or call for papers is available at

Environmental Monitoring Journal Showcases NIOSH Research

cover of publication

A NIOSH research study was showcased on the December 2011 cover of the Journal of Environmental Monitoring. The article discussed the development of an improved methodology for use of the NIOSH bioaerosol sampler to detect infectious airborne influenza virus. This new methodology makes the influenza virus more readily detectable, which could potentially save time in identifying and collecting infectious airborne viruses in studies involving the transmission and spread of influenza. Read the full article at

New Surface and Dermal Sampling Document Available

cover of publication

An ASTM International Special Technical Publication on surface and dermal sampling is now available at
. This monograph contains twenty peer-reviewed papers discussing sampling techniques, analytical measurement technologies, reference materials, standardization, occupational hygiene, decontamination methods, and quality assurance. These papers constitute two-thirds of the presentations that were given at the 2010 ASTM-sponsored symposium on surface and dermal sampling in San Antonio, Texas. Kevin Ashley of NIOSH and Michael Brisson of the Savannah River Site, South Carolina, co-organized the symposium and also served as guest editors of this publication.

New Meth Monitoring Methods for Law Enforcement

Three newly approved sampling and analytical methods (9106, 9109, 9111) for the determination of methamphetamines on surfaces have been posted on the NIOSH Manual of Analytical Methods at /niosh/docs/2003-154/new.html. These methods provide tools that law enforcement officers can employ to detect the presence of surface methamphetamine contamination in suspected clandestine meth lab sites and may also be used to assess whether such areas are safe for human reoccupation.

Collaborators Wanted for Engineering Control Technology Projects

NIOSH is looking for partnerships with construction companies willing to provide site access for conducting studies on the engineering control technologies listed below. Interested companies should contact the project officer for more information:

  • Dowel drilling (gang drilling) in concrete pavement with either of the original equipment manufacturers’ dust collection systems in use. Contact Alan Echt (
  • Evaluation of a portable spray booth for containment and removal of overspray fumes and vapors during spray polyurethane foam insulation application. Contact David Marlow (

Nurses’ Miscarriages Linked to Chemicals at Work

A new NIOSH study finds a greater-than-expected risk of miscarriages among nurses, associated with occupational exposures to hazardous drugs. The full study is available at

Upcoming Webinar on Workers’ Compensation Among Health Care Workers

Dr. Jim Collins of NIOSH will present a webinar on February 15 from 12–1pm at the West Virginia University Grand Rounds on using intervention evaluation research to address the leading causes of workers’ compensation among health care workers. Access the webcast at

NIOSH Congratulates….

Alberto Garcia, CDC/HHS Engineer of the Year

Congratulations to Alberto Garcia, associate service fellow in the NIOSH Division of Applied Research and Technology, who has been selected as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (CDC/HHS) Engineer of the Year! Alberto will receive this award for his hard work and dedication to engineering control technology research.

Matt Gillen, ENR’s Top 25 Newsmaker of 2011

Congratulations to Matt Gillen, senior scientist, NIOSH Office of the Director, who has been selected as one of Engineering News-Record’s Top 25 Newsmakers of 2011! The award recognizes outstanding individuals who “provide the essential ingredient, the idea, the leadership, the spark or the energy that drives a team to success.” More information can be found at

Matt Dahm, CDC Employee of the Month

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Employee of the Month Award for January 2012 recognizes Matthew Dahm, associate service fellow, NIOSH Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations, and Field Studies, for exceptional performance. Matthew is a rising young scientist in NIOSH’s pioneering research program on the occupational health and safety implications of nanomaterials.

CDC Connects’ Public Health in Action Photo Calendar for 2012

photo of calendar cover

A photo taken by Brenda Jones, a NIOSH visual information specialist, is featured on the cover of the CDC Connects’ Public Health in Action Photo Calendar for 2012. The photo, taken during a NIOSH Bring Your Child to Work Day, shows a youngster trying the motion capture system used for analyzing lifting and repetitive motion jobs. Brenda commented, “It felt like being on the cover of Vogue magazine.” Aaron Sussell, NIOSH health scientist, and Darlene Weaver, NIOSH technical information specialist, also have photos featured in the calendar.Joel Haight, ASSE’s New Board of Director’s Trustee

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) Foundation announced the appointment of new trustee to its board of directors, Joel M. Haight. Dr. Haight is the branch chief in the NIOSH Office of Mine Safety and Health Research, where he manages the NIOSH branch that does human factors, ergonomics, behavioral and training research for the mining industry.

News from Our Partners

New Hampshire Tracks Core Occupational Health Indicators

The New Hampshire Occupational Health Surveillance Program has partnered with the New Hampshire Environmental Public Health Tracking (NH EPHT) Program to share important occupational indicators on the NH EPHT Environmental Health Data Integration Network (EHDIN). Malignant mesothelioma is the first of many indicators to be included. To learn more, please go to

Texas Holds Chemical Exposure Workshop

The Texas Department of State Health Services’ Environmental and Injury Epidemiology and Toxicology Unit responded to a training need in the medical community by bringing together professionals from the Texas Institute of Occupational Safety and Health® (located at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler) and the Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (a NIOSH-funded ERC located at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston) to create a four-hour, fully accredited workshop for physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers in West Texas. The objective of the Occupational and Environmental Medicine: Assessing Chemical Exposures workshop is to advance the practical skills of medical providers as they treat patients who experience undesirable effects from occupational and environmental exposures. For more information, please visit
or call Janelle Rios at 713.500.9477 or toll-free at 866.394.8700.

Colorado Studies Work-related Poisonings

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) is partnering with the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center to conduct an epidemiologic review of occupational poisonings from all substances. The final report will soon be published on at For more information or to request a direct notice of publication, please contact

Researcher Recommends Expanded Prevention Measures to Reduce Harm to Workers

In the first comprehensive review of its kind since 1992, Dr. J. Paul Leigh at the University of California at Davis has estimated the national annual price tag of occupational injuries and illnesses at $250 billion, much higher than generally assumed. The study, which was published in the December issue of the Milbank Quarterly: A Multidisciplinary Journal of Population Health and Health Policy was funded by NIOSH and highlights how greater attention to workplace safety and health could have broad economic benefits. A copy of the study, “Economic Burden of Occupational Injury and Illness in the United States,” can be downloaded at

January 2012 Collaborating Centre Connection Newsletter Available

The January 2012 edition of Collaborating Centre Connection has been posted online, summarizing the closing of the 2009–2012 work plan for the World Health Organization’s Global Network of Collaborating Centres in Occupational Health and highlighting impacts in several countries. This quarterly e-newsletter aims to communicate successes, opportunities, and developments in the Network while linking the various projects, Centres, project managers, and initiative leaders. For the most recent issue of the newsletter or to subscribe, please see: /niosh/ccc/.

Highlighting Hearing Loss Prevention Research

NIOSH and the National Hearing Conservation Association (NHCA) are highlighting hearing loss prevention through a special supplemental issue of the International Journal of Audiology. The issue features research from the 2011 NHCA 36th Annual Conference, as well as NIOSH-supported work, and the history and impact of the Safe-in-Sound Excellence in Hearing Loss Prevention Award. You can view the special supplemental issue at To learn more about the Safe-in-Sound Excellence in Hearing Loss Prevention Awards, which will be presented on February 24th at the 37th NHCA Annual Conference, visit

New Health Hazard Evaluation Reports Now Available

HHE logo Evaluation of Exposures among Rail Yard Employees

HHE Program investigators evaluated concerns about prostate cancer and exposures to diesel exhaust, radio frequencies, and vibration at a rail yard. Investigators found that the number of prostate cancer cases among employees was not unusual and that the cases were likely not the result of working in the rail yard. Investigators determined that it is unlikely that transportation department employees were overexposed to radio frequencies. Investigators observed an inconsistent use of hearing protection and recommended annual hearing tests and posting signs that hearing protection is required in the hump yard. Investigators also recommended additional air sampling for elemental carbon to assess diesel exhaust exposures. /niosh/hhe/reports/pdfs/2011-0045-3149.pdf

Exposures to Pharmaceutical Dust at a Mail Order Pharmacy

HHE Program investigators evaluated employee exposures to pharmaceutical dust and noise at a mail order pharmacy. Investigators found that dust was released into the air when cells were cleaned and canisters were filled with tablets. Lactose (a common pill ingredient) and active pharmaceutical ingredients were found in the airborne dust, suggesting that some of the airborne dust was from pharmaceuticals. Investigators determined that most of the noise in the pharmacy came from the release of compressed air by pharmacy equipment; one employee had a noise exposure above the NIOSH recommended exposure limit of 85 A-weighted decibels. Investigators recommended installing tabletop ventilation booths and movable capture hoods, installing mufflers on the exhaust ports of solenoid valves and actuators, fixing any leaks in the compressed air lines, and providing hearing protection with a noise reduction rating of 15–20 decibels. /niosh/hhe/reports/pdfs/2010-0026-3150.pdf

Evaluation of Carbon Monoxide Exposures during Rescue Operations Using Personal Watercraft

HHE Program investigators evaluated carbon monoxide exposures from personal watercraft used by fire rescue department personnel during rescue operations. Investigators determined that personal watercraft can create hazardous levels of carbon monoxide, finding the highest levels when the personal watercraft was stationary or moving at slower speeds. Some firefighters’ exposures to carbon monoxide were above the peak occupational exposure limits. Investigators found that using a rescue board helped direct exhaust away from the personal watercraft, so investigators recommended that a rescue board be required during responses and training. Investigators also recommended that the department replace older personal watercraft with newer models that have emission controls.

New Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program Reports Now Available

Solid Waste Driver Dies after Single Vehicle Rollover

To prevent similar incidents, investigators recommend that commercial vehicle carriers implement and enforce a workplace policy that requires a driver to wear a seat belt while operating a commercial vehicle, companies implement a supervisory system to oversee remote drivers on a daily basis, and companies perform random verification of commercial drivers’ motor vehicle records. /niosh/face/stateface/ky/08ky074.html

A Groundsman Working on a Tree Trimming Crew Dies When He is Dragged or Propelled onto a Wood Chipper Feed Table

To prevent similar incidents, investigators recommend that tree service companies ensure that cut tree branches are staged and free of obstacles before being fed into wood chippers and an employee is assigned as a safety watch whenever cut tree branches are being fed into wood chippers. /niosh/face/stateface/ca/10CA010.html

Railcar Worker Dies After Being Crushed by a Reach Stacker Lifting a Wind Tower Section

Investigators identified the key factors contributing to this railcar worker fatality were failure to recognize hazards that included use of a loading procedure that placed workers on foot in areas near operating mobile equipment with limited clearance, the use of a loading procedure that required workers to manually disconnect slings from hoisted loads, and the locations of nearby equipment that limited the operator’s ability to visually detect the presence of workers on foot. /niosh/face/in-house/full201101.html

New Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program Reports Available

Paid-on-call Fire Fighter Killed by Exterior Wall Collapse during Defensive Operations at a Commercial Structure Fire

Investigators identified the key factors contributing to this fire fighter fatality: a fire burning for over 45 minutes in a 96–year old structure, limited experience entering a collapse zone in close proximity to the master stream of water being directed onto the roof, and limited visibility and lack of training on structure collapse hazards. /niosh/fire/reports/face201115.html

WTC Health Program Updates

Next Face-to-Face Meeting of WTC STAC Planned for February

The next face-to-face meeting of the WTC Scientific/Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) is planned for February 15–16 in New York City. A formal meeting announcement will be published in the Federal Register and the WTC website will be updated in the coming weeks with further information on the location of the meeting and the agenda. More information is available at

New Enrollment Site Now Available

The WTC Health Program unveiled a new enrollment site at in January. The new site is focused on making navigating the enrollment process as simple as possible for responders and survivors who worked, lived, or volunteered in the New York City disaster area. Future plans for the site include expanding the content to include information about the benefits of the program as well as contacts for new applicants and current members to find additional support services.


Mid-Decade Review

As part of continuous improvement efforts, NIOSH conducted a review of the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) by interviewing NORA sector council members about their experiences and expectations. Public comments were also welcomed. The purpose was to make mid-decade improvements to maximize NORA’s impact by 2016. A report is available at /nora/MidDecadeReview2012.html. Contact with comments or questions.

r2p Corner

r2p logo NIOSH Partnership Continues with AAOHN

On December 9, 2011, the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses, Inc. (AAOHN) and NIOSH renewed their collaborative partnership. Both groups are committed to working together to network with interested parties to address goals of the National Occupational Research Agenda, the Healthy People Initiative, and other integral projects. The partnership was signed by NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard and AAOHN President Catherine Pepler and will continue through December 2016. For more information, contact John Decker at (404) 498-2582 or

NIOSH Partnership Continues with AOHP

On December 13, 2011, the Association of Occupational Health Professionals in Healthcare (AOHP) and NIOSH renewed their collaborative partnership. NIOSH and AOHP agree to work collaboratively to promote best practices associated with workplace safety and health issues in the healthcare setting. The partnership was signed by NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard and AOHP Executive President Dee Tyler and will continue through December 2017. For more information, contact John Decker at (404) 498-2582 or

What’s new on the NIOSH Science Blog?

NFL Players’ Health – a Research Update

The NIOSH Science Blog discusses findings from a newly published update of research on the health of players in the National Football League.

A Comprehensive Approach to Workforce Health

The health of the U.S. workforce is an issue of importance to both workers and their employers. Historically, work and personal factors have been considered separately related to occupational safety and health. NIOSH welcomes comments on a NIOSH Science Blog discussion of the importance of taking a comprehensive approach to the health of working people.

Federal Register Notices

Proposal to Modify Regulations for Coal Miner Medical Examinations

NIOSH proposes to modify its regulations on specifications for medical examinations of underground coal miners.

For a full listing of NIOSH official publications for rules, proposed rules, and notices for 2011, go to /niosh/fedreg.html.

New Communication Products

Dust Control Handbook for Industrial Minerals Mining and Processing

Now Available in Spanish!

Effects of Skin Contact with Chemicals: Guidance for Occupational Health Professionals and Employers (Efectos de las sustancias químicas al contacto con la piel, Guía de salud ocupacional para profesionales de la salud y empleadores)

Effects of Skin Contact with Chemicals: What a Worker Should Know (Efectos de las sustancias químicas al contacto con la piel, Lo que deben saber los trabajadores)

NIOSH Field Effort to Assess Chemical Exposure Risks to Gas and Oil Workers (Hoja de Datos de NIOSH: Esfuerzo de campo de NIOSH para evaluar los riesgos de la exposición a sustancias químicas en los trabajadores de la industria de extracción de petróleo y gas)

Call for Abstracts

National Conference for Workplace Violence Prevention & Management in Healthcare Settings
Call for papers, posters, and symposia. Deadline for submission is February 17.

Isocyanates and Health: Past, Present and Future
Early bird abstract deadline for submission is July 15. Late breaking papers and posters deadline for submission is September 7.

Upcoming Conferences & Workshops

Manual Materials Handling Workshop: Engineered Solutions for Manual Handling Jobs
February 8–9, 2012, Atlanta, GA

Personal Protective Equipment Selection, Use, and Expectations: NIOSH PPT Stakeholder Meeting
March 20–21, Pittsburgh, PA

30th International Congress on Occupational Health, Occupational Health for All: From Research to Practice
March 18–23, 2012, Cancun, Mexico

Association of periOperative Registered Nurses 59th Annual Congress—Look for us Booth 6053!
March 24–29, 2012, New Orleans, LA

A comprehensive list of upcoming conferences can be found at /niosh/exhibits.html.

Word of the Month

Methamphetamine— The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines methamphetamine as a central nervous system stimulant drug that is similar in structure to amphetamine. Due to its high potential for abuse, methamphetamine is classified as a Schedule II drug and is available only through a prescription that cannot be refilled. Although methamphetamine can be prescribed by a doctor, its medical uses are limited, and the doses that are prescribed are much lower than those typically found when the drug is abused.

Please send your comments and suggestions to us at

This newsletter is published monthly via email by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to inform members of the public health community as well as interested members of the general public of Institute related news, new publications, and updates on existing programs and initiatives.