Archive for the ‘News’ Category

I recently received an email from an OSHA news release: Whistleblowers.gov

“The Web page will provide information about worker rights and provisions under each of the whistleblower statutes and regulations that OSHA enforces.  Additionally, program fact sheets and information are available that discuss how one can file a retaliation complaint with OSHA. This Web page will continue to be accessible through OSHA’s Web site, www.osha.gov, by clicking on the “Whistleblower Protection” link.”

The question is, of course, will workers use this website? Language barriers? What do you think?


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Despite all the gear, weapons, training, equipment and vehicles that save the lives of soldiers every day, sadly, there doesn’t seem to be much that can save them when they want to take their own life.

June 2010 had the highest number of suicides in the Army, which was the highest number in a single month since the Vietnam era. A total of 32 soldiers committed suicide, 21 of whom were on active duty and 11 were inactive (National Guard or Army Reserve). 7 of the 21 on active duty killed themselves while in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Why our troops are committing suicide at a record rate is a question on many people’s minds. Col. Chris Philbrick, who is head of the Army’s suicide prevention task force states that “There were no trends to any one unit, camp, post or station.”

This year so far (June numbers included), 145 soldiers have killed themselves. This is more than half of the total number for all of 2009. Sadly, 2009 itself was a record-breaking year during which 245 soldiers killed themselves.

My husband is an active duty member of the Army, and according to his experience during the past 5 years, there is a great effort on suicide prevention and awareness in all units. Unfortunately, much of this prevention is done like many other briefings –  where the atmosphere is structured, power point slides are used, and soldiers along with their superiors are present. Given this, it naturally makes it difficult for someone to reach out for help or raise a concern for someone else when confidentiality is a serious issue.

The Army has realized that more needs to be done, and has released a suicide prevention video, a follow up to a video that was released in 2009. This new video is designed to “hit home” with soldiers and instill the importance of getting help. It’s titled “Shoulder to Shoulder: I Will Never Quit,” and begins with the compelling story of a soldier whose wife said she was divorcing him.

Quoted from the article:  The soldier, Spc. Joseph Sanders, says his wife was his whole world. “I grabbed my rifle, put it under my chin and pulled the trigger,” Sanders says. The gun did not fire, he says, and when he took the rifle apart he discovered that a key part was missing. His Army buddy then tells viewers he removed the part because Sanders was showing signs that he could kill himself.

The new video is part of a series of efforts to reduce the suicide rate. In 2009, the Army required all soldiers, deplayed and at home to stop working for a day and watch the first video and receive suicide prevention training. Unfortunately, troops did not respond to it and some even laughed at it.

The Army believes the new video will be more effective at reaching out than the first one because soldiers can relate to it more. This is because the new video only has real soldiers telling their real stories. In comparison, the first video included a mix of actors and real soldiers.

The plan is to have the new video incorporated into the standard suicide prevention training immediately for new troops and the yearly training all soldiers go through.

This is the new video on the Army’s Suicide Prevention website.

Link to the CNN article.

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San Diego or bust

Dear Readers,

Lady Soeur Vaylons and I have the privilege of presenting this blog in poster format next month. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) hosts it’s annual conference in San Diego this February. This ambitiously themed conference — “Bridging Science and Society” — is meant to bring together folks interested in creative ways to bring science out of the lab and into the community. We will update you on our experience presenting, attending sessions and maybe some photos of the beach conference hall.

Thanks for your wonderful contributions and support of this blog!

– Ockie

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World COPD Day

Not to be confused with the stubborn, gray group of odd-toed ungulates known as the Consternation Of Perturbed Donkeys (COPD), COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Airway obstruction is due to inflamed, narrow bronchial tubes (chronic bronchitis) and deficient oxygen exchange (emphysema). Although smoking is the greatest risk factor associated with the disease, studies note exposure to workplace pollutants as an important factor.

The World Health Organization (WHO), in partnership with COPD groups and health professionals, is sponsoring World COPD Day this November 18th to raise awareness.


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Pioneer of the Smallpox vaccine. Edward Jenner

Pioneer of the Smallpox vaccine. Edward Jenner

Are you familiar with the historical event which links dairymaids to the eradication of smallpox? Don’t know the story?! Get it here.

The title of this post refers to a recent report about an 2008 incident involving a young lab worker in Virginia. In early July, the labworker began experiencing fever, eye swelling and lymph node tenderness that progressed over seven days. On July 2nd he visited a hospital to be evaluated. It was discovered that he had worked with Vaccinia virus (VAVC) on June 26 despite his earlier claim to the contrary. This early ommision caused physicians to priortize infection in the differential diagnosis throughout his 5-day treatment. Patient samples were sent to the Virginia Department of Health and Virginia Laboratory Response Network who were able to quickly identify the virus.

The academic institution underwent review and it was found that VAVC training was not mandatory for researchers who worked with the virus. As a result of the incident, vaccination is offered and VAVC training and counseling is mandatory for researchers working with the substance.

The full story.

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Dr. Gibson’s blogpost highlights two recent findings from the Whitehall II Study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology finding that long working hours in midlife are associated with decreasing  cognitive function and possibly dementia. It’s a short, interesting read that also discusses some of the limitations of the study.

Earlier studies from the Whitehall Study group and related evaluations reported that long working hours are associated with cardiovascular and immunologic disorders, reduced sleep quality and duration, unhealthy lifestyle choices, and overall adverse health outcomes. Data examining the association between work hours and cognitive function is scarce, but the current study attempted to evaluate the link, since risk factors in midlife are important predictors of dementia in late life.

Dementia Explained

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