March 14, 2002

. The label helps you buy the right amount of the right chemical; tells you how to use, store and dispose of it properly; gives first aid information; and provides other important information. In 2000 there were 2,168,248 human toxic exposures reported to 63 poison control centers in the United States. Nearly 53% of these exposures involved children younger than six years old. The Council has developed and posted a series of useful fact sheets on poison prevention to combat this serious public health problem. They include:


NSC is working with EPA to produce a poison prevention community action kit for release this summer.


A new bulletin by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends steps to protect fire fighters from fatal injuries resulting from tanker truck rollovers.

From 1977 to 1999, 73 fire fighters died of injuries after their trucks went out of control and rolled over, NIOSH reports in the document, "NIOSH Hazard ID: Fire Fighter Deaths from Tanker Truck Rollovers." From an analysis of the incidents, NIOSH found that a number of factors might contribute to the risk of rollovers. For example, tanker trucks' size, weight, configuration, and braking systems make them more difficult to control than passenger vehicles.

Among other recommendations developed with assistance from outside specialists in fire fighting and emergency vehicle safety, NIOSH suggests that:

  • Fire departments should develop, implement, and enforce standard operating procedures for emergency vehicles, including requirements for providing and using seat belts.
  • Fire departments should inspect and maintain tankers according to state and federal motor vehicle regulations, and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommended standards.
  • Fire departments should verify that vehicles are properly designed, ensure that their fully loaded weight does not exceed chassis and axle weight ratings, and ensure that water tanks are properly mounted and are properly baffled to control the movement of the water they contain.
  • Tanker truck drivers should wear their seat belts, take training to meet NFPA requirements, and follow the training with refresher courses at least twice a year.

Tanker trucks require much more stopping distance than automobiles, and their air brake systems take longer to activate than the hydraulic/mechanical brake systems on cars, NIOSH notes in the bulletin. The amount of water in the tank and whether the tank is baffled also affect the amount of control the driver has over the truck.

The NIOSH Hazard ID also includes two case studies of fatal rollover incidents, drawn from NIOSH's Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation Program. Under this program, NIOSH investigates incidents in which fire fighters died in the line of duty, identifies factors involved in the deaths, and issues findings and recommendations to prevent similar deaths and injuries in the future.

DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2002-111, is available by calling the NIOSH toll-free information number, 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674). 


The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) issued a final rule permitting the use of high-voltage longwall mining equipment in underground coal mines. Applicable to longwall equipment that uses between 1,001 and 4,160 volts, the rule contains provisions that will protect miners from electrical hazards as they use or work near the equipment.

Longwall mining is a technique to extract coal that uses machinery that shears coal along an underground wall approximately 1,000 feet wide and drops the coal on conveyor belts or other equipment to be transported up to the surface. Technological advances over the past quarter of a century have introduced high-voltage equipment on longwall mining systems, which has increased production of longwall systems.

Under current MSHA regulations, longwall mining equipment is only permitted when the equipment uses medium- to low-voltage electrical power. High-voltage longwall equipment is only permitted on a case-by-case basis through MSHA's petition for modification procedures.

In issuing the rule as final, MSHA has concluded that, based on the high-voltage equipment use experience under granted mine-by-mine petitions, that this equipment can be used safely, provided certain conditions are met. The new rule provides for, among other actions, the use of insulated cable-handling equipment; use of protective gloves to troubleshoot and test low- and medium-voltage circuits associated with high-voltage circuits; and the use of barriers and interlock switches to help guard against contact with energized circuits. The rule also requires the use of cables containing metallic shielding (SHD) around each power conductor.


Years of exposure to the high concentrations of tiny particles of soot and dust from cars, power plants and factories in some metropolitan areas of the United States significantly increase residents' risk of dying from lung cancer and heart disease, according to a study financed largely by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and conducted by scientists at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah; the University of Ottawa, Ontario, the American Cancer Society and New York University School of Medicine, Tuxedo, N.Y.

Arden Pope, professor of economics at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, the study's co-leader, said that while far less than the risks associated with active cigarette smoking, "we found that the risk of dying from lung cancer as well as heart disease in the most polluted cities was comparable to the risk associated with nonsmokers being exposed to second-hand smoke over a long period of time."

The study evaluated the effects of air pollution on human health over a 16-year period.

Previous studies have linked soot in the air to many respiratory ailments and even death, but the new findings "provide the strongest evidence to date that long-term exposure to fine particulate air pollution common to many metropolitan areas is an important risk factor for cardiopulmonary mortality," as well as lung cancer deaths, the authors said in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

George Thurston, Sc.D., associate professor of environmental medicine at NYU School of Medicine and study's co-leader, said, "This study provides the most definitive epidemiological evidence to date that long-term exposure to air pollution in the United States is associated with lung cancer deaths."

The study assessed the impact of particles smaller than 2.5 microns (called fine particulate matter) in cities across the United States. It analyzed data from some 500,000 adults who were followed from 1982 to 1998 as part of an ongoing cancer study. The data, which included cause of death, were linked to air pollution levels for cities nationwide using advanced statistical modeling to control for individual risk factors, such as age, smoking status, body mass, and diet, as well as for regional differences among the study populations.

The researchers calculated that the number of deaths from lung cancer increases by 8% for every 10 micrograms of fine particulate matter per cubic meter, according to the study. Larger particles and gaseous pollutants were generally not as associated with higher number of deaths.

The health dangers of tiny particles of soot in the air have been the focus of considerable controversy since 1997, when the Environmental Protection Agency issued new regulations tightening its standards to cover particles smaller than 2.5 microns (a human hair is 100 microns thick). Industry fought the regulations, but the EPA prevailed and the agency is now considering new rules for limiting the emission of the particles.

The EPA set annual average limits on fine particular matter to 15 micrograms per cubic meter in 1997. However, many cities presently exceed that standard. According to the study, from 1979 to 1983, the annual average was 24 ug/m3 in New York City, 27 ug/m3 in Los Angeles, 23 ug/m3 in Chicago and 26 ug/m3 in Washington D.C. The levels have come down over the years, and in 1999 and 2000 the annual average was in New York, 20 ug/m3 in Los Angeles, 18 ug/m3 in Chicago and 15 ug/m3 in Washington, D.C. Despite this improvement in levels, the study shows that the prevailing levels of fine particulate matter air pollution in the U.S. are still associated with significant risk of cancer and cardio-pulmonary deaths.

The new study extends previous studies that linked chronic exposure to the small particles to deaths from lung cancer and other causes, and addresses many of the criticisms of the earlier studies. It substantially extends the follow-up analysis of an earlier study by Dr. Pope and colleagues of this same cohort, for example. It greatly expands exposure data to include gaseous co-pollutant data on gaseous pollutants and the newest data on fine particulate matter collected nationwide in 1999 and 2000. It also incorporates extensive individual-level information on other cancer risk factors such as occupation and diet, including total fat consumption and consumption of fruit and vegetables.