Archive for July, 2012

Recently, my roommate decided to clean out her bathroom. I was chatting with her in her room, and watched as she brought out a cocktail of cleaning agents, determined to come out with a sparkling bright bathroom. Not too long after she started applying the preliminary doses(!) of cleaning agents, I began to cough. A couple minutes later, I felt distinct chest pain and tightening, requiring me to leave her room. Only a few minutes later, the entire apartment became an entrapment of toxic fumes that hurt our eyes, noses and chests. We had to open all the windows and doors for a while to let it all out, and then quickly rinse all of the stuff away.
Which brought me to ask the question: How safe are our cleaning chemicals?

Only a couple of weeks ago, a colleague mentioned about how a particular brand of cleaning agent was used to wipe a counter top in her kitchen, and a few minutes later, some flies that perched on the table were found dead.

How safe is safe? These agents are used in almost every home, you can find them in a wide variety in many shops, all promising to clean away dirt, germs, and every promise in the book. But at what cost?

Just how safe is safe?


Read Full Post »


I’ve always heard that dentists had the highest suicide rate compared to all other occupations.  I always found this odd and thought I would do a little research on it.  I found several websites they claimed different occupations as the highest suicide rates and research to back up those claims.  They ranged from food batchmakers, engineers, dentists, to physicians.  With so much conflicting claims and little evidence, its hard to believe that any of these are true.  After little luck in a literature search, I stumbled across an article by the American Psychological Association about suicide by profession.  They talk about what I have already discovered, that there is little conclusive evidence on any one profession having risk for suicide.  APA states that most studies are only done in certain geographic areas or have holes in their research.  In addition to this, there is much room for error in death certificates.  Not all suicides may be reported as suicides and not all professions may be documented accurately or at all.  The largest study conducted on this matter was performed by the NIOSH.  They concluded that the highest suicide rate was actually among workers in the medical field.  I thought this was very interesting and thought I would share.  Hopefully more accurate research will come up in the future! 

Here is a link to the APA website article:  http://www.apa.org/monitor/jan01/suicide.aspx

Read Full Post »

It is not the typical 9-5, but I wanted to talk for a minute about occupational risks associated with combat service. Thankfully, the US mortality rate during OIF and OEF has not climbed over 0.42%.1 However, the number of soldiers wounded in action is relatively large comparatively at 2.3%.1 When the individual stories are counted, there’re over 23,000 wounded warriors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.1  78% of these soldiers are affected by blast injuries caused by improvised explosive devices.2 The American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons reports that the odds of survival for a soldier wounded in action have increased from 76.4% in Vietnam to 90.4% during the Iraq and Afghanistan era due to improvements in both medical care and military equiptment.4 However, survival has not come at a small price: 70% of war wounds are musculoskeletal injuries; 55% of these are extremity wounds.4 Approximately 17% of our soldiers are affected by mild traumatic brain injury, and 12% suffer with mental health issues like post traumatic stress disorder.3 This makes .023 seem like a huge number.


1.  Matthew S. Goldberg, PhD

Death and Injury Rates of U.S. Military Personnel in Iraq

MILITARY MEDICINE, Vol. 175, April 2010 4:220

2. Combat wounds in operation Iraqi Freedom and operation Enduring Freedom.

O J Trauma. 2008 Feb;64(2):295-9.wens BD, Kragh JF Jr, Wenke JC, Macaitis J, Wade CE, Holcomb JB.

4.  A brief background of combat injuries

Peter Pollack and Carolyn Rogers


3. Mild traumatic brain injury (concussion), posttraumatic stress disorder, and depression in U.S. soldiers involved in combat deployments: association with postdeployment symptoms.

Wilk JE, Herrell RK, Wynn GH, Riviere LA, Hoge CW.

Psychosom Med. 2012 Apr;74(3):249-57. Epub 2012 Feb 24.

Read Full Post »

Way to go US Department of Labor! A recent ruling by the United States Department of Labor (DOL) actually promoted reporting of work injuries. In 2008, two “whistle-blowers” were terminated from employment at a railroad company after reporting their work-related injuries. OSHA investigated the incidents and determined that both workers followed proper safety and injury-reporting procedures. Furthermore, OSHA found that the workers were terminated for reporting their injuries. Based on the results of the OSHA investigation, the DOL decided that the railroad company illegally fired these employees and ordered the railroad to pay back wages and damages to the former employees.

Unfortunately, it is relatively common for workplace injuries to be underreported. Some of this lack of reporting is due to fear of retaliation. Certain workers fear that they may lose their job or be punished for reporting an injury that occurred at work. Other injuries may be underreported due to lack of knowledge about reporting procedures. However, in the railroad incident, this was not the case. These workers were clearly fired for reporting their injuries.

Accurate and complete reporting of work injuries is important for workplace injury metrics and studying causes of occupational injuries. If workers are not reporting their injuries, they may not be protected from these hazards in the future.

Hilkevitch, J. (2012, July 20). U.S. rules against Illinois Central railway in whistle-blower injury cases. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-07-20/news/ct-met-railroad-whistleblowers-0720-20120720_1_rail-cars-damages-conductor.

–Laura B.

Read Full Post »

Late last night on my way home, I saw several people being pulled over by police officers and thought to myself “How do they manage dealing with all sort of people breaking the law and doing crazy stuff at all hours of the day?  That would seriously wear me out.”  Then today, I found this article from the Huffington Post investigating why police officers may face increased health risks than the normal public.

The article mentions that police officers are worn out, and constant job stressors such as working night shift often and being exposed to hostile, violent, and/or gruesome situations are the greatest culprits increasing health risks to obesity, high suicide risk, and metabolic syndrome. “Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist or abnormal cholesterol levels — that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes” (Mayo Clinic, 2011).

Additionally, the article mentions the interesting idea of how the classification of health disparities might have to be expanded to include occupation, since the health disparities seen among in this situation are occupationally related and not based on the typical socioeconomic, racial/ethic, or gender disparities normally seen.

The article link is below:



Mayo Clinic. “Metabolic Syndrome.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 08 Oct. 2011. Web. 15 July 2012. <http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/metabolic%20syndrome/DS00522&gt;.

– Nicole

Read Full Post »

A good night’s sleep makes one ready to take on the day (or your job!) which makes it logical to say that not getting enough sleep makes one have a very “long and sleepy” day. Many studies have documented the impact of sleep deprivation on the society particularly among workers. It has been linked to vehicular crashes, work-related injuries impaired performance, weight gain and obesity and death.  

Consequences of shift work such as insufficient sleep and poor sleep quality have been linked to several health outcomes such as the development and exacerbation of insulin resistance, appetite and adiposity increase. Pan et al showed that the risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases as the duration of work life as a shift worker increased. Sleep deprivation can also lead to weight gain which is a mediator for type 2 diabetes. It has been suggested that sleep deprivation could lead to fatigue resulting in reduced activity. Experimental studies also suggest that sleep deprivation could alter serum leptin and ghrelin levels and the alteration of these two protein hormones ultimately results in increased hunger and appetite. Patel at al. concluded that short sleep duration was associated with a modest increase in future weight gain and incident obesity among participants enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study. Obese workers are at a higher risk of falls, sprains, strains and occupational injury. They also have higher sick leave or disability use and health care costs.

Although the sleep duration of 7-9 hours a day is recommended for healthy adults, the CDC found that at least 30.0 % of civilians employed U.S. do not get this recommended duration. Among all workers, the prevalence of short sleep duration was higher among night shift workers (44.0%) than among other shift workers (31.6%). Other shift workers were those who worked regular evenings, rotating shift or some other schedule. A prevalence of 69.7% and 52.3% was reported among night shift workers in the transportation and warehousing industry and health-care and social assistance industries respectively.

Shift work will become more common as the world becomes a global village and it is important that we address the challenges faced by these workers. According to the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) of 2010, 3.7% of civilian employed U.S. adults work a regular night shift while 23.5% work some other shift. Research findings imply that increasing sleep duration among those sleeping less than 7 hours per night may represent a new approach to obesity prevention. This is a much needed intervention since it is estimated one out of every three adults in the United States are obese.  One approach as recommended by the CDC is the implementation of an evidence-based shift system design and sleep training programs to protect the health and safety of workers and the entire public.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012). “Short sleep duration among workers–United States, 2010.” MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 61(16): 281-285.

Kivimaki, M., G. D. Batty, et al. (2011). “Shift work as a risk factor for future type 2 diabetes: evidence, mechanisms, implications, and future research directions.” PLoS Med 8(12): e1001138.

Lombardi, D. A., A. Wirtz, et al. (2012). “Independent Effects of Sleep Duration and Body Mass Index on the Risk of a Work-Related Injury: Evidence From the US National Health Interview Survey (2004-2010).” Chronobiol Int 29(5): 556-564.

Pan, A., E. S. Schernhammer, et al. (2011). “Rotating night shift work and risk of type 2 diabetes: two prospective cohort studies in women.” PLoS Med 8(12): e1001141.

Patel, S. R., A. Malhotra, et al. (2006). “Association between reduced sleep and weight gain in women.” Am J Epidemiol 164(10): 947-954.



Read Full Post »