October 2000

EDITORIAL: Are you ready for snow?

The weather is still nice, but fall is approaching and the leaves are just about ready to start turning colors.  You are probably not thinking snow, but if you are smart, you will start thinking snow.  It is not months away, and it may not even be weeks away.  Are you going to be ready??? If you are typical, probably not, but here are a few thoughts to get your mind on what is around the corner:

    ] Shovels or Snow blowers...do you know where they are, is the blower tuned up, and does it have gas?
    ] Is your car tuned up for winter, antifreeze ok, lighter weight oil, etc.?
    ] Are you turning your lights on in the morning to come to work because the days are shorter?
    ] Have you got an emergency survival kit in your car?
    ] How about salt or ice-melt for the steps and driveway?

  Just in case you have for gotten, or were not in the area when we had the big heavy wet snow, with all the leaves still on the trees, life in Omaha was miserable for many.  Some people in the area were out of electricity for days.  Are you ready for a possible major power outage?  Do you have flashlights and extra batteries and bulbs, candles, adequate food, money to go to a motel or what ever is necessary to survive.

  All of the above is just food for thought.  Hope it helps!

                                                             Paul Nichols
                                                             Director,  EH&S

New Seatbelt Law

As of July 13, 2000, it is illegal for children 15 and under to be unrestrained in a motor vehicle.  Children under the age of 5 years and weighing less than 40 pounds must be in a car seat.  The old law was 4 years and 40 lbs. Children ages 5-15 must be in an appropriate booster seat or seat belt.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that children remain in a high back, belt positioning booster seat until approximately 70 pounds or the seat belt fits properly across the collarbone and upper thighs.

Nebraska has not had a great track record of complying with the state's child restraint laws.  A 1999 survey indicated that 44 percent of Nebraska drivers failed to properly restrain children under the age of 4.

Failure to properly restrain a child is considered a primary offense in Nebraska and a driver can be stopped if a child under the age of 5 is not buckled up.  Violators who are caught face a $25 fine.  However, on a first offense the fine can be waived if proof of purchase can be shown for a child safety seat.

The EYES Have It ...

Every day an estimated 1,000 eye injuries occur in the workplace, costing businesses more than $300 million per year.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports one out of every five workers who receive eye injuries were not wearing eye protection at the time of the accident.  Other workers were harmed when they wore the wrong type of eye protection.  Impact goggles should not be worn in place of chemical splash goggles.  Many accidents have occurred when objects or chemicals went around or under the eye protection.

Fire Safety in Residence Halls

"How often do fires occur in school, college, and university dormitories and fraternity and sorority houses?"

In 1997, the latest year for which national fire statistics are available, an estimated 1,500 structure fires occurred in school, college, and university dormitories and fraternity and sorority housing.  These fires resulted in no death, 47 injuries, and $7million in direct property damage.  Between 1993 and 1997, there were an estimated average of 1,600 structure fires per year, resulting in no deaths, 66 injuries, and $8.9 million in direct property damage per year.

Note that these are statistical estimates from records on a sample of fires.  Because deaths are very rare, it is possible for the estimate to show no deaths in a year when a fatal fire did occur and is on NFPA's list of fatal campus fires.  In particular, the sample omitted eight fatal fires known to NFPA, representing a total of 16 deaths over the five years of 1993-1997.  Half of the fires and three-fourths of the deaths were in fraternity or sorority houses.

Between 1980 and 1997, the estimated annual average was 1,800 structure fires, 1 death, 69 injuries, and $8.1 million in direct property damage.  (The separate list of fatal fires known to NFPA averaged 2 deaths per year during this period.)

                              excerpt from "National Fire Safety Protection Agency (NFPA) Statistics"

Chemical Container Labeling

About 1985, laws were passed requiring manufacturers to label their products with an overview of the products associated hazards.  Therefore, all primary containers or containers which come directly from the manufacturer have all necessary hazard warnings.

Secondary containers (containers in which a chemical is transferred into) can become a labeling nightmare.  Secondary containers must be labeled with the same hazard warnings as found on the primary container.  Secondary containers must be labeled with the chemical name, concentration, and indicate any associated hazards.  This includes chemicals in both long term and short term storage.

Under law, chemical abbreviations or symbols do not adequately signify the hazards associated with the containers contents.  For stock solutions, working solutions, or reagents used on a continuous basis in the lab, abbreviations and symbols may be used only if signage is posted stating the symbol/abbrev. used, its complete chemical name and all safety information including target organs.  Otherwise the complete chemical name and safety information must be on the container.  Remember the following requirements:

  1) Containers that hold a carcinogen or potential carcinogen (>0.1 % conc.), must be labeled with a cancer hazard label or have the words "carcinogen" on the container.

   2) Store small containers such as vials in larger containers and place the hazard information on the outside of the storage container.

   3) Indicate the date of preparation and initial the label.


Pesticide Recall

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recalled two faulty "Pull 'n Spray" pesticide products.  Monsanto's Roundup, Ready-To-Use, Weed and Grass Killer, and Scott's Co. Ortho, Ready-To-Use, Home Defense.  The EPA states that there have been mechanical failures with the 1.33 gallon pump spray containers resulting in exposure to the pesticide.  Both companies are working to inform customers and remove the products from the market.


Mercury Hazards

Mercury is most commonly known as the silver liquid that is seen in thermometers.  Unknown to many is the fact that mercury is also a widely used substance in industrial production.  Although, the EPA for some time banned the use of mercury in latex paints, exterior paints (was used for a fungicide), and in pesticides, mercury can still be found in batteries, and in chlorine-alkali production.

Mercury is an odorless substance, which tends to easily vaporize when it comes in contact with a surface and is easily traced around or released into the air by such acts as vacuuming or being walked upon.  Mercury has been a hot topic in the media lately.  A recent edition of the the television show 60 Minutes highlighted concerns about mercury exposure in patients receiving silver dental fillings with mercury-containing amalgam.

Exposure to mercury can occur through inhalation, ingestion or dermal absorption.  The amount of mercury absorbed by the body, and thus the degree of toxicity, is dependent upon the chemical form of mercury. In the human body, mercury accumulates in the liver, kidney, brain, and blood.  Mercury may cause acute or chronic health effects.  Acute exposure (i.e., short term, high dose) is not as common today due to greater precautions and decreased handling. However, severe acute effects may include severe gastrointestinal damage, cardiovascular collapse, or kidney failure, all of which could be fatal.  Inhalation mg/m3 for 2-5 hours may cause headaches, salivation, a metallic taste in the mouth, chills, cough, fever, tremors, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, tightness in the chest, difficulty breathing, fatigue, or lung irritation.  Chronic effects include central nervous system effects, kidney damage and birth defects. Genetic damage is also suspected.

Sampling for mercury should be done carefully.  Since mercury can be readily absorbed through inhalation or skin contact, you must wear personal protective equipment to avoid exposure.  Sampling may be done by either air or surface methods.

excerpted from Aerotech Labs: IAQ Tech Tip #39

Facts and Stats

Facts and Stats that you may find of interest:  

1900:  46.3 years
2000:  73.6 years

1900:  9 per thousand
2000:  0.1 per thousand

1900:  48.3 years
2000:  79.7 years  

1900:  64 per 100,000
2000: 200 per 100,000

1900:  75,994,575
2000: 273,482,000  

1900:  0.3 percent
2000: 8.2 percent

1900:  32.3 births per thousand
2000: 14.2 births per thousand  

1900:  0.5 percent
2000:  10.3 percent