Cadmium Exposure Tied to Lung Disease

September 02, 2008

The metal cadmium plays a major role in causing emphysema, and even low-level exposure through secondhand smoke and other sources can increase the risk of lung disease, a new study says.

The University of Michigan School of Public Health research also suggests that people with high levels of cadmium in their bodies may have as much as double the risk of developing a pulmonary disease such as emphysema or chronic bronchitis.

In this study, principal investigator Howard Hu and his colleagues tested the lung function of 96 men. Those with higher levels of cadmium in their urine had a reduced ability to exhale. This association was most evident among current and former smokers.

"The study suggests that the critical ingredient in smoking that may be causing emphysema is cadmium, a well-known contaminant of cigarette smoke. The worry is if you are exposed to this (cadmium) through other sources, you can also be at risk for emphysema," Hu said in a university news release.

Nonsmokers can be exposed to cadmium through secondhand smoke, by eating contaminated foods, or in the workplace. Cadmium is widely used in batteries and pigments, and is present in sludge and crop fertilizers, the researchers said.

Cadmium is difficult for the body to expel, because the kidneys tend to retain cadmium, which is recycled into the body, said Hu, chairman of the School of Public Health's department of environmental health sciences.

The next phase of this research will involve a much larger, population-based study with more people and multiple measurements of cadmium exposure and lung function over an extended period of time.

"With a larger population, we will be able to better disentangle the independent effects of cadmium and smoking, and whether dietary cadmium or other non-cigarette sources may also influence lung function," Hu said.

Fatal Injuries Drop 6%

A preliminary total of 5,488 fatal work injuries were recorded in the United States in 2007, a decrease of 6% from the revised total of 5,840 fatal work injuries reported for 2006. Based on these counts, the rate of fatal injury for U.S. employees last year was 3.7 fatal work injuries per 100,000 employees, down from the final rate of 4.0 recorded for 2006, and the lowest annual fatality rate ever reported by the BLS fatality census. "We are pleased to see both the number and rate of fatal work injuries continue to decline," Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Edwin G. Foulke Jr. said. "These numbers show that OSHA's balanced approach to improving safety is working. However, we will continue to work to eliminate all fatalities since one fatality is one fatality too many."

"This is continued evidence that the initiatives and programs to protect workers' safety and health, designed by and implemented in this administration, are indeed working. In addition to a decline in the overall number of fatalities, the rate for 2007 declined to 3.7 fatalities per 100,000 workers. This is the lowest fatality rate in recorded OSHA history."

The BLS report will be released in April 2009, the preliminary figure for 2007 is 5,488 fatal injuries recorded in the United States compared to 5,840 reported for 2006.

OSHA Initiates National Emphasis Program for Workplace Lead Exposures

These efforts meet the department’s Strategic Plan goals in addressing the requirements of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA). As a result of this act, federal agencies must demonstrate improved performance and devise a system for measuring results. As stated in the DOL’s Strategic Plan 2006–2011 “…DOL will continue to direct inspections and outreach at establishments and industries with the highest injury, illness, and fatality rates and will respond to complaints of serious workplace hazards. …These efforts will be supplemented by National and Local Emphasis Programs designed to target unsafe conditions or high hazard industries.” The reduction of occupational illnesses and employee exposures to lead continues to be one of the agency’s goals.

Cal/OSHA Targets Areas for Compliance With Heat Illness Prevention Rules as Temperatures Soar

With triple-digit heat consuming much of California recently, Cal/OSHA investigators are targeting Fresno, Stanislaus, San Joaquin, Napa, Sonoma, Yolo, and Santa Clara counties for heat illness prevention inspections of outdoor workplaces.

Enforcement sweeps will continue next week in Kings, Tulare, and Kern Counties in addition to other areas of the state. For employees working outdoors, the hot sun with high temperatures can be life-threatening.

“California is the first state in the nation to have regulations to protect outdoor workers from exposure to heat,” said John Duncan, Director of the Department of Industrial Relations. “We have done an extraordinary job in raising awareness of what heat illness is and in ensuring that outdoor employers are trained to detect and respond to heat illness.”

OSHA Mines Matrix Metals $96,000 for Alleged Safety and Health Violations

OSHA has cited Matrix Metals LLC's Richmond foundry for allegedly failing to protect its employees from safety and health hazards and has proposed penalties totaling $96,000.

"This company has exposed its employees to unsafe working conditions," said Dean McDaniel, OSHA's regional administrator in Dallas. "It is fortunate in this case that no one was injured."

Following a health inspection that began March 5 and a safety inspection on March 12 at the company's facility on Collins Road in Richmond, Va., OSHA issued 33 serious and 7 other-than-serious violations. The Houston-based company, a supplier of castings for steel valves, and oilfield, locomotive, and construction equipment, has about 325 employees at its Richmond Foundry.

Serious health violations include failing to perform a personal protective equipment (PPE) assessment and not providing appropriate PPE to protect against hazards, including silica, total dust, and open flames; train employees on the hazards of excessive exposure to noise and the use of hearing protection; and perform an evaluation of respiratory hazards. A serious violation is one with the potential to cause death or serious physical harm to employees when the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.

Serious safety violations include failing to provide machine guarding on a band saw, bench grinder, and other power-driven tools; implement procedures and training for safe, permit-required confined space entry; provide specific energy control procedures; ensure the safe operation and condition of powered industrial trucks; and perform frequent inspections of overhead cranes.

The other-than-serious violations relate to the company's failure to complete OSHA injury and illness logs, and not labeling and identifying hazardous chemicals. Other-than-serious violations are issued when a violation has a direct relationship to job safety and health but is not serious in nature.

“We have a zero tolerance when it comes to failure to protect your workers from workplace hazards, which includes the summer heat for outdoor workers,” added Len Welsh, Cal/OSHA chief. “Our actions taken since the heat illness protection law became effective reveal this and our efforts are only intensifying.”

So far this year, Cal/OSHA has conducted 1,298 heat illness inspections in all outdoor industries compared with 1,018 for all of last year. Also more than 347 citations for heat illness prevention violations have been issued, and there are many cases still open that will result in more violations.

In a recent action taken by Labor Commissioner Angela Bradstreet against Merced Farm Labor Contractor, the company surrendered its license three days before a license revocation hearing was scheduled to be held. Another farm labor contractor, Solis Farm Labor Contractor remains shut down until company officials can provide the necessary protections from the heat for their workers.

In addition to the enforcement activities, Cal/OSHA has conducted more than 649 heat illness seminars, on-site consultations, and outreach events throughout the state this year. Growers and Cal/OSHA continue to host supplemental heat illness training sessions for farm labor contractors statewide.

Cal/OSHA and DIR have also partnered with the California Department of Education’s Migrant Education Program statewide so that program teachers and administrators can educate students and their families about heat stress and their rights.

Employees with work-related questions or complaints, including heat illness, may call the California Workers’ Information Hotline at 1-866-924-9757.

New OSHA Guidance Document on Working With Portland Cement

Portland cement is a generic term used to describe a variety of building materials valued for their strong adhesive properties when mixed with water. Employees who work with portland cement are at risk of developing skin problems, ranging from mild and brief to severe and chronic. 

OSHA Cites Designer’s Stone Company for Serious, Repeat Violations

OSHA has cited Designer's Stone Co. of Watertown, Mass., for alleged repeat and serious safety and health violations and failing to correct hazards cited during a previous OSHA inspection. A total of $40,600 in fines is proposed.

The latest citations and fines result from an OSHA inspection opened Feb. 13 to verify correction of hazards cited by OSHA in August 2007. The follow-up inspection found that 4 of 17 cited conditions remained uncorrected. These included inadequate or incomplete hazard communication training for employees working with chemicals, flammables, and silica produced during stone grinding; unlabeled containers of hazardous chemicals; ungrounded fans; and unmarked circuit breakers. These conditions resulted in the issuance of four failure-to-abate notices carrying $21,000 in fines.

Eight repeat citations, with $14,800 in fines, were issued for hazards similar to those cited in 2007. These citations encompass lack of eye protection; no annual fit-testing for respirators; unguarded rotating saw blades; unguarded grinders; electric tools used without ground fault circuit interrupters; exposed live electrical parts; extension cords used in place of fixed wiring; and failure to provide prompt access to employees of their records of exposure to silica.

Finally, six serious citations, with $4,800 in fines, were issued for lack of respirator training; water containers covered with silica dust; unmounted, discharged, and/or uninspected fire extinguishers; unguarded saw blades; damaged power cords; and other electrical hazards. A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

"These additional penalties point to the need for this employer to implement effective and continuous corrective action to eliminate existing hazards and prevent their recurrence," said Jeffrey A. Erskine, OSHA's acting area director in Methuen.

The company has elected to contest its citations and fines before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. This inspection was conducted by OSHA's Methuen Area Office; telephone 617-565-8110.

OSHA to Host Training on Safe Resident/Patient Handling for Caregivers

The four OSHA Wisconsin offices are offering a one-day training conference scheduled for September 9 in Wisconsin Dells, Wis., to advise professional caregivers on how to avoid ergonomic injuries, falls, and work-related illnesses.

The conference, to begin with registration at 7:30 a.m. and adjourn at 4:15 p.m., Central time, at the Chula Vista Resort, is the third in as many years created by OSHA's Wisconsin offices in a continuing effort to help caregivers understand how to protect themselves and work safely as they help others. Registration is available on the website of the Wisconsin Health Care Association, one of several co-sponsors for the conference, at (click on "Education & Events Calendar").

"It's imperative that we reach out to these special people who care for our loved ones," said OSHA Area Director Kimberley Stille in Madison. "This effort will provide health care employees with the information they need to return home safe and healthy at the end of the workday."

The National Continuing Education Review Service has reviewed and approved the program for educational credit. The conference was designed with the cooperation of professional associations and state and federal agencies, as well as several insurance agencies concerned with nursing and long-term care facilities.

Nursing homes and residential care facilities employ approximately 2.8 million employees at 21,000 worksites nationwide. Many nursing home tasks require considerable lifting and other strenuous physical labor. Historically, the injury rate for employees in these facilities is double the injury rate for all full-time employees in other occupations.

OSHA Cites Orlowski Co. Inc. for Willful Workplace Violations

OSHA has cited Orlowski Co. Inc., a building masonry company based in Chicago, for multiple alleged willful and serious violations of federal workplace safety and health standards.

As a result of an inspection initiated in February, OSHA has issued citations for five willful violations with proposed penalties totaling $175,000. The willful violations address Orlowski Co. Inc.'s failure to provide fall protection on scaffolds and hoist equipment and its failure to provide fall protection for employees working at or near floor holes at the construction site. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

OSHA also issued a citation for a serious violation with a proposed $600 fine for failing to initiate and maintain a safety and health program.

"Falls at construction sites are preventable," said Gary Anderson, director of OSHA's area office in Calumet City, Ill. "They are tragedies that can be avoided if an employer is dedicated to protecting employees. Employers must remain vigilant to ensure a safe and healthful workplace. Failure to do so will result in close scrutiny by this agency."

Orlowski Construction, reportedly a predecessor company to Orlowski Co. Inc., has a judgment pending in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, for $409,195 for unpaid OSHA penalties from 17 previous inspections. Also pending before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission is a citation involving Orlowski Co. Inc. for alleged violations of OSHA's fall protection standard with penalties totaling $56,600 involving an investigation that occurred in November 2007. Orlowski Co. Inc. has approximately 23 employees who perform masonry work on building exteriors.

OSHA Cites Foundry for Willful and Repeat Violations

OSHA has proposed $152,500 in fines against Waukegan Steel Sales Inc. in Waukegan, Ill., for alleged multiple willful, serious, and repeat violations of federal workplace safety standards.

OSHA opened an inspection at the steel support manufacturing company in February 2008 and issued citations alleging 2 willful, 12 serious, and 2 repeat violations. The willful violations carry proposed penalties of $112,000 and address hazards associated with energy control procedures not being utilized and failure to guard the press brakes point of operation.

Alleged serious violations, with $28,500 in proposed penalties, address hazards associated with stair access to work areas, use and storage of liquefied petroleum tanks, welding curtains, and machine guarding.

Repeat violations, with $12,000 in proposed penalties, alleged training deficiencies regarding lockout/tagout issues and failing to remove unsafe forklifts from service. Waukegan Steel Sales was previously cited for similar violations that became final orders in February 2006 and for which the company had provided documentation that corrections had been completed.

"Steel fabrication work should not compromise the safety and health of employees, and when hazards are identified, they must be corrected," said Diane Turek, area director of the OSHA district office in Des Plaines, Ill. "Employers must remain dedicated to keeping the workplace safe and healthful or face close scrutiny by this agency."

OSHA Proposes $138,500 in Penalties Against Metal Fabricator

OSHA is proposing $138,500 in penalties after an inspection at AAR Summa Technology's Cullman, Ala., manufacturing plant revealed 26 safety and five health violations.

"The hazards found during this inspection endanger both the safety and the long-term health of the 170 employees at this facility," said Roberto Sanchez, OSHA's area director in Birmingham.

Inspectors identified 24 serious safety violations including unsafe storage of reactive chemicals, cryogenic tanks exposed to damage from moving equipment, an improperly equipped paint booth that lacked a fire suppression system, and improper storage and handling of flammable liquids. Employees lacking the proper protective equipment and work areas presented safety and fire hazards. Two repeat safety violations have been cited for failing to post danger signs in appropriate areas and failing to develop and utilize lockout/tagout procedures, which are required to prevent unintended machine startup. The company had been cited for similar violations after a 2005 inspection at its Huntsville, Ala., plant.

In addition, OSHA has identified three serious health violations that address hazards associated with over-exposure to silica and zinc oxide fumes and occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens. Two other-than-serious health violations have been cited for deficiencies with the respiratory protection program.

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