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I came across this study while working on my final paper. We really haven’t discussed reproductive outcomes and occupational hazards, specifically pesticides, which was actually my focus. Researchers found an association between prenatal exposure to organophosphate insecticides and a decrease in gestational age as well as low birth weight in infants. What I found interesting about this particular study is that the investigators used urine samples to measure insecticide metabolite concentrations instead of questionnaires and interviews like other previous studies.

I have included the abstract:


Background: Prenatal exposure to organophosphate (OP) insecticides, a widely used class of pesticides, may be associated with decreased gestational age and lower birth weight. Single nucleotide polymorphisms in paroxanase (PON1) enzyme genotypes may modify the relationships between OP exposure and perinatal outcomes.

Objective: We examined the relationship of prenatal OP insecticide exposure, measured using urinary dialkyl phosphate (DAP) metabolite concentrations, with gestational age and birth weight.

Methods: We measured the concentrations of six nonspecific DAP metabolites of OP insecticides in two maternal spot urine samples collected in a prospective birth cohort. We performed multivariable regression to examine associations between the sum of six DAP concentrations (ΣDAP) with gestational age and birth weight. We also examined whether these associations differed according to infant PON1192and PON1–108 genotypes.

Results: Among 306 mother–infant dyads, a 10-fold increase in ΣDAP concentrations was associated with a decrease in covariate-adjusted gestational age [–0.5 weeks; 95% confidence interval (CI): –0.8, –0.1] and birth weight (–151 g; CI: –287, –16); the decrements in birth weight were attenuated after adjusting for gestational age. The relationship between ΣDAP concentrations and gestational age was stronger for white (–0.7 weeks; CI: –1.1, –0.3) than for black (–0.1 weeks; 95% CI: –0.9, 0.6) newborns. In contrast, there was a greater decrease in birth weight with increasing urinary ΣDAP concentrations for black (–188 g; CI: –395, 19) than for white (–118 g; CI: –296, 60) newborns. Decrements in birth weight and gestational age associated with ΣDAP concentrations were greatest among infants with PON1192QR and PON–108CT genotypes.

Conclusions: Prenatal urinary ΣDAP concentrations were associated with shortened gestation and reduced birth weight in this cohort, but the effects differed by race/ethnicity and PON1192/108 genotypes.


Citation: Rauch SA, Braun JM, Barr DB, Calafat AM, Khoury J, Montesano MA, et al. 2012. Associations of Prenatal Exposure to Organophosphate Pesticide Metabolites with Gestational Age and Birth Weight. Environ Health Perspect 120:1055-1060. http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1104615


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Construction is one of the most hazardous industries. 774 fatal on-the-job injuries occurred in 2010 in the construction industry and represented 17% of all work-related deaths in the U.S. There are numerous job hazards on the construction worksites, and working around earthmoving equipment such as dump trucks, scrapers, loaders, crawler or wheel tractors. Workers work with those equipments need to have ground workers near the moving equipment to perform their work. Accidents being struck by or caught in-between are associated with mobile equipment, and nearly half of the fatalities in the workers working in road construction were attributable to being struck by a vehicle or mobile equipment.

Incidents involving backing vehicles and equipment frequently cause deaths in construction. Construction equipment is typically large and causes large blind areas to the operator’s vision when backing up the equipment, which contributes to accidents involving the workers on foot on the job site. Although there are OSHA standards to reduce accidents from backing over workers, violations can be seen at construction job sites.

Except from the OSHA standards, there are also many proactive measures that can prevent vehicle and equipment backing accidents, which include: provide and require safety tailgate meetings regularly to emphasize the seriousness of the hazard and to keep employee awareness up; have all personnel on the job site wearing reflective vests that adhere to the ANSI/ISEA 107-1999; ensure only essential workers in the areas where equipment is operating; improve work site conditions and storage areas; control public access to the job site; ensure compliance with OSHA standards for vehicle and equipment backing. Also, modern technology can address the hazard by the use of a back-up camera or a radar motion sensing system. A combination of proactive measures and modern technology can better address the safety issues, and understanding the hazards, prevention methods, and the standards can help having a safer working site around construction equipment.

You can find more information here:




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Since my job requires visiting a variety of petrochemical facilities in the Houston area, we utilize the Chemical Safety Board’s (CSB) website to keep abreast of potential dangers at sites.  While each petrochemical facility provides a safety video and, more often than not, a quiz about the safety video, how realistic is it that this safety video will help you in the event of an emergency?

One of our recent viewings was about the Bayer CropScience Pesticide Waste Tank Explosion called “Fire in the Valley“.  The video goes through the events leading up the explosion.  It turns out that the operators on shift at the time skipped steps in the start up process and ignored safety alarms.  The CSB even noted how this was eerily similar to the incidents leading up the BP explosion in 2005.  Worse was that the facility did not provide information to the emergency workers or the local community, potentially putting them in danger.

When we go out into the field and on site, this is the kind of information that we have to keep in the back of our minds:

Are the facility representatives aware of safety issues at the site?

Do the facility representatives take safety seriously?

Have operators been properly trained and do they keep their training current?

Do the facility representatives have a good relationship with the operators?

Does the facility have a positive or negative culture of safety?

All of this comes into play when we are out on site visits.   While the facility representatives have the same safety training that the plant workers receive, they are not in the units everyday working in the same conditions as plant workers.

We are trained to stay safe and refuse what could be a dangerous situation.  We do not want to become part of a safety statistic at their site or our office.

You can view information about this investigation here: http://www.csb.gov/investigations/detail.aspx?SID=3



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While searching for studies related to depression and workplace injury I discovered the following pilot study which I found interesting. This is one of the few studies I’ve been able to find on the topic.
Objective: Even mild clinical depression can cause decreased vigilance, attention span, increased irritability, and insomnia-all well-known precursors to occupational injury. This pilot project explores the relationship between occupational injury and depression.
Method: One hundred twenty-one individuals with recent work-related injuries and 140 without work-related injuries completed a self-administered depression screening instrument (PHQ-9). We compared the two groups using bivariate analyses. The impact of depression on injury was examined using logistic regression analysis controlling for employment history, marital status, age, and sex.
Results: Overall, injured workers in this study were not more likely to be depressed than a comparison group of uninjured workers. However, injured women had significantly higher depression scores than noninjured women (P = 0.04); no such difference was found for men.
Conclusions: These data suggest that depression may serve as a precursor to occupational injury for women.
Peele, PB, Tollerud, DJ.(2005).Depression and Occupational Injury: Results of a Pilot Investigation. Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine. 47(4): 424-427.

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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?

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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

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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.

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