Everyone Has a Personal Pollution Cloud

July 01, 2019
When ozone and skin oils meet, the resulting reaction may help remove ozone from an indoor environment, but it can also produce a personal cloud of pollutants that affects indoor air quality, according to a team of Penn State researchers.
In a computer model of indoor environments, the researchers show that a range of volatile and semi-volatile gases and substances are produced when ozone, a form of oxygen that can be toxic, reacts with skin oils carried by soiled clothes, a reaction that some researchers have likened to the less-than-tidy Peanuts comic strip character.
"When the ozone is depleted through human skin, we become the generator of the primary products, which can cause sensory irritations," said Donghyun Rim, assistant professor of architectural engineering and an Institute for CyberScience associate, Penn State. "Some people call this higher concentration of pollutants around the human body the personal cloud, or we call it the 'Pig-Pen Effect.'"
The substances that are produced by the reaction include organic compounds, such as carbonyls, that can irritate the skin and lungs, said Rim. People with asthma may be particularly vulnerable to ozone and ozone reaction products, he said.
According to the researchers, who reported their findings in a recent issue of Nature's Communications Chemistry, skin oils contain substances, such as squalene, fatty acids and wax esters. If a person wears the same clothes too long -- for example, more than a day -- without washing, there is a chance that the clothes become more saturated with the oils, leading to a higher chance of reaction with ozone, which is an unstable gas.
"Squalene can react very effectively with ozone," said Rim. "Squalene has a higher reaction rate with ozone because it has a double carbon bond and, because of its chemical makeup, the ozone wants to jump in and break this bond."
Indoors, ozone concentration can range from 5 to 25 parts per billion -- ppb -- depending on how the air is circulating from outside to inside and what types of chemicals and surfaces are used in the building. In a polluted city, for example, the amount of ozone in indoor environments may be much higher.
"A lot of people think of the ozone layer when we talk about ozone," said Rim. "But, we're not talking about that ozone, that's good ozone. But ozone at the ground level has adverse health impacts."
Wearing clean clothes might be a good idea for a lot of reasons, but it might not necessarily lead to reducing exposure to ozone, said Rim. For example, a single soiled t-shirt helps keep ozone out of the breathing zone by removing about 30 to 70 percent of the ozone circulating near a person.
"If you have clean clothes, that means you might be breathing in more of this ozone, which isn't good for you either," said Rim.
Rim said that the research is one part of a larger project to better understand the indoor environment where people spend most of their time.
"The bottom line is that we, humans, spend more than 90 percent of our time in buildings, or indoor environments, but, as far as actual research goes, there are still a lot of unknowns about what's going on and what types of gases and particles we're exposed to in indoor environments," said Rim. "The things that we inhale, that we touch, that we interact with, many of those things are contributing to the chemical accumulations in our body and our health."
Rather than advising people whether to wear clean or dirty clothes, the researchers suggest that people should focus on keeping ground ozone levels down. Better building design and filtration, along with cutting pollution, are ways that could cut the impact of the Pig-Pen Effect, they added.
To build and validate the models, the researchers used experimental data from prior experiments investigating reactions between ozone and squalene, and between ozone and clothing. The researchers then analyzed further how the squalene-ozone reaction creates pollutants in various indoor conditions.
The team relied on computer modeling to simulate indoor spaces that vary with ventilation conditions and how inhabitants of those spaces manage air quality, Rim said.
In the future, the team may look at how other common indoor sources, such as candle and cigarette smoke, could affect the indoor air quality and its impact on human health.
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Oregon OSHA Offers New Online Fall Protection Training
Oregon OSHA has launched a free online course to help employers and workers across the state meet the agency’s requirements to eliminate fall hazards, prevent falls, and ensure that workers who do fall do not die.
The two-hour course, “Fundamentals of Fall Protection,” which includes six parts with 28 videos, is designed to supplement employers’ fall protection training programs. It provides an overview of the rules, features interviews with experts, and provides links to additional information. Moreover, the course defines what fall protection means; walks viewers through fall protection options; delves into equipment inspection and maintenance; and shows viewers how to begin using fall protection.
It also brings into sharp focus the broken lives that result from failing to address fall hazards. One of the videos features a husband and wife, Russ and Laurel Youngstrom, who share their story of Russ Youngstrom’s fall in 1995 from a scaffold. The accident severed his spinal cord, left him a paraplegic, and changed his family’s life forever.
The Youngstroms have dedicated their lives to speaking out and advocating for safety. “Think of your kids,” Russ Youngstrom said. “Put a picture of them on your hard hat, on your excavator, something to remind you why you’re at work.”
Fall hazards are present at nearly every workplace. The human and economic costs of ignoring them cannot be overstated: 
  • One in five workplace deaths are due to slips, trips, and falls, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • From 2013 to 2018, there were 7,195 accepted disabling claims in Oregon due to falls to a lower level.
  • In 2018, fall protection was the most commonly cited violation for Oregon’s construction industry, with 443 total violations and initial penalties of $902,990.
  • In one year, fall injuries cost the U.S. economy more than $13 billion, according to the National Safety Council.
“We encourage employers and workers in Oregon to add this flexible, user-friendly online tool to their fall protection toolbox,” said Roy Kroker, consultation and public education manager for Oregon OSHA. “There’s more to come, too, as we roll out our entire online suite of fall protection courses.”
Indeed, “Fundamentals of Fall Protection” is the first of five online courses about fall protection that will be released during the summer and fall of 2019. The additional courses will address specific industries. When published, all five courses will offer more than 100 videos.
For now, the “Fundamentals” course – which includes the opportunity to receive a certificate of completion – is available online.
PCBTF Classified as a Carcinogen
P-Chloro-a,a,a-Trifluorotoluene (Para-Chlorobenzotrifluoride, or PCBTF) has been listed as a chemical that is known to the State of California to cause cancer. Effective June 28, 2019, California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) added the chemical to the list of chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer for purposes of Proposition 65.
The listing of p-chloro-α,α,α-trifluorotoluene is based on formal identification by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), that the chemical causes cancer.  The criteria used by OEHHA for the listing of chemicals under the “authoritative bodies” mechanism can be found in Title 27, Cal. Code of Regs., section 25306.
The documentation supporting OEHHA’s determination that the criteria for administrative listing have been satisfied for p-chloro-α,α,α-trifluorotoluene is included in the “Notice of Intent to List: p-Chloro-α,α,α-trifluorotoluene (para-Chlorobenzotrifluoride, PCBTF)” posted on OEHHA’s website and published in the November 23, 2018 issue of the California Regulatory Notice Register (Register 2018, No. 47-Z).  The publication of the notice initiated a public comment period that closed on January 23, 2019.  OEHHA received one public comment.  The comment and OEHHA’s response is also posted with the Notice of Intent to List.
Federal Judge Upholds Safety and Health Citations, Penalties Against Jersey City, New Jersey Medical Center
An administrative law judge with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) has issued a decision affirming all safety and health citations issued by OSHA against Jersey City Medical Center. OSHA cited the medical center – based in Jersey City, New Jersey – for electrical hazards after a maintenance employee's fatal fall after receiving an electric shock. The judge also affirmed OSHA's proposed penalties totaling $174,593.
In June 2016, the decedent - who was untrained in electrical safety work practices - was repairing a ceiling light fixture when the incident occurred. The judge found that the employer willfully failed to train the employee for the hazardous electrical work he was directed to perform. A three-day hearing was held in New York City in April 2018, and the decision from OSHRC issued on June 17, 2019.
"The outcome of this case shows the employer will be held accountable for willfully exposing employees to serious hazards, and the U.S. Department of Labor stands ready to litigate such issues when employers refuse to accept responsibility," said the Department's Regional Solicitor Jeffrey S. Rogoff, in New York.
Kentucky Trucking Company Ordered to Reinstate Driver Who Refused to Operate Vehicle During Inclement Weather
OSHA has ordered Freight Rite Inc. – based in Florence, Kentucky – to reinstate a truck driver terminated after he refused to operate a commercial motor vehicle in hazardous road conditions caused by inclement winter weather. OSHA ordered the company to pay the driver $31,569 in back wages and interest, $100,000 in punitive damages, $50,000 in compensatory damages, and reasonable attorney fees, and to refrain from retaliating against the employee.
OSHA inspectors determined that the employee advised the company's management of his reasonable apprehension of danger to himself and to the general public due to the hazardous road conditions. The termination is a violation of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA).
In addition to reinstating the employee and clearing his personnel file of any reference to the issues involved in the investigation, the employer must also post a notice informing all employees of their whistleblower protections under STAA.
"Forcing drivers to operate a commercial motor vehicle during inclement weather places their lives and the lives of others at risk," said OSHA Regional Administrator Kurt Petermeyer, in Atlanta, Georgia. "This order underscores the agency's commitment to protect workers who exercise their right to ensure the safety of themselves and the general public."
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of STAA and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, motor vehicle safety, healthcare reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, and securities laws. For more information on whistleblower protections, visit OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Programs webpage.
Illinois Metal Treating Facility Cited for Electrical Hazards
OSHA has cited Hudapack Metal Treating of Illinois Inc. – based in Glendale Heights, Illinois – for 21 serious health and safety violations. The company faces penalties of $181,662.
OSHA inspected the company in December 2018 after an employee was electrocuted while using a damaged portable lamp when cleaning the inside of a metal tank. A second employee suffered electrical shock injuries in an attempt to assist the injured co-worker. Inspectors determined that the lamp's cord had exposed bare conductors, and the lamp was unsuitable for use in wet locations. They also found a damaged extension cord used to connect the lamp to power.
OSHA cited the employer for failing to use electrical safety work practices, provide appropriate personal protective equipment, train employees about electrical hazards, and repair damaged electrical outlets. OSHA also cited the company for exposing employees to falls, and failing to implement lockout/tagout procedures and a permit-required confined space program.
"This tragedy underscores the requirement that companies provide training on working safely with electricity and conduct regular assessments of existing work conditions to eliminate potential safety hazards," said OSHA Area Director Jacob Scott in Naperville, Illinois. 
Jacksonville Zoo Cited After Rhinoceros Injures Zookeeper
OSHA has cited the Jacksonville Zoological Society Inc. for exposing employees to workplace safety hazards at the Jacksonville, Florida, zoo. The animal park faces $14,661 in proposed penalties.
OSHA launched an inspection after a rhinoceros seriously injured a zookeeper. OSHA cited the zoo for failing to protect workers from recognized hazards when employees train and feed the rhinos, and for not notifying OSHA within 24 hours of the employee's hospitalization, as required.
"Zoos and animal parks must ensure safety measures include proper design to protect employees when training and caring for animals," said OSHA Area Office Director Michelle Gonzalez, in Jacksonville, Florida.
Georgia Distributor Cited for Chemical and Struck-by Hazards
OSHA has cited Woodgrain Millwork Co. – operating as Woodgrain Distribution, Inc. – for exposing employees to chemical and struck-by hazards at the company’s distribution facility in Lawrenceville, Georgia. The company faces $125,466 in penalties.
OSHA cited the wood molding, window, and door distributor for failing to provide employees with eye, face, and hand protection to prevent exposure to chemical injuries, and provide a functioning eyewash station for employees handling corrosive chemicals. The company was also cited for exposing employees to struck-by hazards from powered industrial trucks, and not removing powered industrial trucks in need of repair from service.
“An employer’s obligation to provide a safe workplace includes supplying workers with personal protective equipment to protect them from identified hazards,” said OSHA Atlanta-East Area Director William Fulcher. “Employers are required to correct hazards before they cause injury or illness.”
AG's Office Resolves Claims of Illegal Asbestos Work at Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree
A general contractor, two subcontractors, and the Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree (defendants) have agreed to provide worker training and undertake additional remedial actions to settle allegations that they engaged in or allowed illegal asbestos work at the school during the replacement of its heating system in 2014, Attorney General Maura Healey announced. As part of the settlements, the contractors have also agreed to pay up to $145,000 in penalties and the school has agreed to a fully suspended penalty. 
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston, a Corporation Sole (Archdiocese), which owns the school building, has also agreed as part of a separate settlement with the AG’s Office to undertake a comprehensive review of the presence and management of asbestos-containing material in its primary and secondary schools located in Boston and certain surrounding communities.
“Asbestos is a serious public health risk and any work on buildings with asbestos must prioritize safety, particularly for young people,” AG Healey said. “These settlements require the defendants to take important measures to ensure their workers and the public are not put at risk of asbestos exposure in the future.”
The four consent judgments with the defendants, entered in Suffolk Superior Court, settle two lawsuits that the AG’s Office filed against the defendants over the alleged illegal asbestos work at the school.
In December 2017, the AG’s Office filed a lawsuit against Columbia Construction Co., North Mechanical Services, Inc., and General Contracting Services, LLC, alleging that the companies violated the state’s clean air law and regulations when their workers failed to properly and safely handle and remove asbestos-containing pipe insulation material associated with the school building’s existing heating system. The lawsuit also alleges that North Mechanical violated the state’s worker safety laws.  
In December 2018, the AG’s Office filed a lawsuit against the Archbishop Williams High School, Inc. alleging that, as the operator of the school and the entity who hired the contractors, it failed to follow through with its responsibilities to prevent those violations. 
In May 2019, the AG’s Office reached a separate settlement agreement with the Archdiocese resolving claims related to its obligations as the owner of the school building.
“This case resolved a serious environmental issue while protecting the school community,” said Commissioner Martin Suuberg of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). “Under this settlement, the defendants are required to implement a comprehensive training program for staff and contractors so that future issues associated with asbestos-containing material in the workplace can be readily identified and resolved in a manner that protects human health, safety and the environment.”
“The Department of Labor Standards was pleased to work with our partner agencies, MassDEP and the AG’s Office, to ensure that students have a safe and healthy school environment,” said Bill McKinney, Director of the Department of Labor Standards. “We also continue to work with schools to make sure they have up-to-date asbestos management plans.”
The AG’s Office alleges that during May and June 2014, North Mechanical Services and General Contracting Services workers removed and spread asbestos-containing pipe insulation material throughout the school while they were dismantling and removing the building’s existing heating system and installing components of the new system. 
The AG’s Office also alleges that the contractors and the school failed to complete an asbestos survey of the work area, as required by federal law. The same type of survey is now also required by state law.
Under the terms of the settlements, the contractors will provide additional asbestos awareness and management training to their workers and develop standard operating procedures for identifying and lawfully handling asbestos-containing material and releases at future projects. The subcontractors will also provide free medical screenings to workers who were present during the work.
The school and the Archdiocese have also agreed to train school staff to identify and avoid disturbing asbestos-containing material and implement other measures to ensure they are complying with state and federal regulations governing asbestos in schools.   
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that is used in a wide variety of building materials, from roofing and flooring, to siding and wallboard, to caulking and insulation. If asbestos is improperly handled or maintained, fibers can be released into the air and inhaled, potentially resulting in life-threatening illnesses, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.
AG Healey has made asbestos safety a priority, as part of the office’s “Healthy Buildings, Healthy Air” Initiative that was announced in March 2017 to better protect the health of children, families, and workers in Massachusetts from health risks posed by asbestos. Since September 2016, the AG’s Office, with the assistance of MassDEP, has successfully brought asbestos enforcement cases that together have resulted in more than $3 million in civil penalties.
For more information on asbestos and asbestos-related work, visit MassDEP’s website outlining asbestos construction and demolition notification requirements. For more information about asbestos-related worker safety and school safety requirements, visit the Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards’ website for its asbestos safety program as well as its specific website for asbestos in schools.
This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Tracy Triplett and Paralegal Jessica Young of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division, and Investigator Anthony Crespi of AG Healey's Civil Investigations Division, along with Cynthia Baran and Daniel d’Hedouville of MassDEP’s Southeast Regional Office in Lakeville and Avelina Correia and Michael Flanagan of the Department of Labor Standards.
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