Washington Seeks Comment on Plan to Reduce Lead Exposure

September 15, 2008

Lead is highly toxic to most living things. Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of the bluish-grey metal used in an increasing number of products. While a naturally occurring element, lead is known for being soft, malleable, and resistant to corrosion. In the past, lead was used extensively in paints, gasoline, plumbing, and pesticides. Exposure to old lead-based paint is the most frequent cause of lead poisoning in children today.

While many uses of lead have been phased out, lead is still found in many new products. The largest use of lead currently is for automotive lead-acid batteries. Computers, solder, and other alloys (including brass plumbing fixtures), vinyl, ammunition, fishing tackle, wheel weights, optical glass, and stained glass also use lead.

However, lead is released into the environment by large sources such as industrial facilities.

People also can be exposed to lead as a result of product disposal. For example, lead in landfills can leach into wastewater treatment plants and be released in wastewater or sewage sludge.

The Lead CAP was developed with the help of the state Department of Health, seven other state agencies, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and an advisory committee of 17 representatives of business, health, environmental, and local government organizations.

The CAP recommends a variety of actions, including public education, increased blood lead testing, continued environmental testing, removal of existing exposure sources, and preventing new exposure sources.

Bottled Water Must Be Better Tested, Labeled, and Regulated

The bottled water that millions of Americans drink each day is allowed to contain higher levels of a toxic chemical associated with birth defects and cancer than tap water, according to a bottled water expert from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) who will testify before the Senate today.

In her testimony before the subcommittee responsible for drinking water quality, NRDC Attorney Mae Wu will stress that Americans have the right to know what toxic chemicals and other contaminants are in their bottled water. Currently, water utilities are required to report annually to customers about the contaminants they have tested for and whether any health standards have been violated. There is no such requirement for bottled water.

“The public should not assume that water purchased in a bottle is better regulated, more pure, or safer than most tap water. Water utilities are required to tell the public more about their tap water than bottled water companies are,” Wu said. “We need better standards and stronger reporting requirements for bottled water. Everyone deserves safe and affordable drinking water. The best way to get there is to invest in our tap water systems, not turn to bottled water.”

The hearing, before the Senate Subcommittee on Transportation Safety, Infrastructure Security, and Water Quality, is scheduled for 3 p.m. in Dirksen 406. 

OSHA Proposes $137,000 in Penalties for Violations Found at Overhead Doors Corp.'s Georgia Facility

OSHA is proposing $137,000 in penalties for 32 serious health and safety violations uncovered during an inspection of Overhead Doors Corp.'s manufacturing facility in Athens, Ga.

"The large number of violations we found at this one location shows that employee safety and health is not this management's top priority," said Gei-Thae Breezley, director of OSHA's Atlanta-East Area Office.

OSHA found 25 serious safety violations resulting in $112,500 in proposed penalties. Safety deficiencies identified include an improper material handling process; failure to ensure proper guards on machines; an inadequate lockout/tagout program to prevent accidental start-ups of machinery; and deficiencies in the company's forklift operations. Employees at the plant were exposed to fire, electrical, and tripping hazards.

An inspection of possible occupational health violations revealed seven serious hazards associated with the company's hearing conservation program, storage of flammable materials, personal protective equipment, and its hazard communication program. The agency is proposing a total of $24,500 in penalties.

OSHA issues a serious citation when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

OSHA Cites Travel Centers of America Truck Service Garage for Multiple Violations

OSHA has cited the Travel Centers of America (TCA) truck service garage in Limon for 16 alleged serious and repeat violations of federal health and safety standards. The agency is proposing penalties totaling $181,500.

OSHA initiated its inspection on April 7 after receiving a formal complaint alleging employee exposure to electrical, combustible liquids, and compressed gas hazards at the facility. The inspection was limited to the truck servicing bays where the violations were confirmed.

"Our inspection revealed that TCA failed to protect its employees," said John Healy, OSHA's area office director in Englewood, Colo. "Employers must correct known hazards to keep their employees safe at all times."

OSHA cited the TCA facility, proposing $39,000 in fines, for nine serious violations that addressed hazards associated with floor openings, egress, housekeeping, compressed gas, and electrical hazards. Serious violations exist when there is a substantial probability that death or serious harm could result, and the employer should have known of the hazard.

The repeat violations, with proposed penalties totaling $142,500, address a variety of hazards associated with electrical, stairways, exit signage, flammable/combustible liquids, and the storage of oxygen cylinders. Over the past 10 years, TCA, which operates 1,632 sites across the nation with approximately 11,900 employees, has been inspected 37 times by OSHA and cited for similar violations. Repeat violations exist where the employer has been cited for similar conditions in the past three years.

$108,000 in Penalties Following Avoidable Collapse at Palm Beach Jobsite

OSHA has identified 18 safety violations with proposed penalties totaling $108,700 against seven companies involved in the demolition and renovation of the Palm House Hotel in Palm Beach, Fla.

An employee of American Cutting and Drilling Co. died in February after part of the structure failed and collapsed while employees were cutting concrete floor and wall sections. American Cutting is being cited with one willful violation and a $49,000 penalty for failing to conduct frequent and regular inspections of the jobsite. OSHA is also proposing four serious violations carrying penalties of $15,750.

"American Cutting and Drilling stands out in its failure to provide the training and supervision required to assure that its employees would recognize when they were being exposed to a hazardous situation," said Darlene Fossum, OSHA's area director in Fort Lauderdale.

The other companies being cited for serious safety violations with proposed penalties include Louie's Laborers ($15,300), Foster's Masonry Improvements ($9,800), Holeman Homes ($9,450), Carrier Concrete Cutting ($4,900), Roman Structures ($3,000), and Greg's Masonry ($1,500).

Safety News Links