American Public Health Association
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Occupational Health and Safety
Section Newsletter
Winter 2005

Chair's Message

Section Web Site: <http://staff.washington.edu/oshalert/>

Leadership and Committee Chair List can be found at: <http://staff.washington.edu/oshalert/leadership.htm>


As I began to think about this column I checked Section member Jordan Barab’s Confined Space Weblog as I do every couple of days (<http://spewingforth.blogspot.com/>). Now I’m brimming over with ideas to share. However, before stealing from Jordan, there is some Section news that is not scandalous enough for Confined Space.

Section Update

Program planning for New Orleans is well under way. Abstracts for presentations were due on Feb. 11, however, if you have a great idea and missed the deadline, I encourage you to discuss your thoughts with Program Chair Janie Gittleman at(301) 578-8500 or <jgittleman@cpwr.com>. There may be a spot we can still fill.

Several leadership positions in our Section are up for election, with nominations due no later than Feb. 28. This year we are electing the Section Chair and Secretary for one-year terms in 2007 and two Section Councilors and one Governing Councilor for two-year terms starting in 2006. If you want to nominate a friend or colleague or even yourself for any of these spots, contact Nominations Chair John Morawetz at (513)621-8882 or <jmorawetz@icwu.org>.

For those who follow APHA politics closely, you will notice that two of our four Section representatives to the Governing Council end their terms this year, but we only get to elect one replacement for a new term. The reason for this loss is that representation is based on the size of our Section, and we have lost members over the past couple of years. A decrease from 873 in 2003 to 821 in 2004 resulted in a reconfiguration of the number of GC seats from four to three. The current count is even less (about 775); however, if we regain a modest number of members (about 65 more) by the official annual count on August 31, we will again be entitled to the four GC representatives we have enjoyed for several years. This is important because it is the GC that elects the APHA President and Executive Board members and adopts APHA policies and positions. Please talk to your friends and colleagues about the value of APHA membership in general and the OHS Section specifically.

There have been some exciting new developments in the area of international health. Garrett Brown and Tom O’Connor, co-chairs of our International Committee, have been working with representatives of several other APHA sections to get APHA more actively involved with issues of trade policy and health. The general concern is that public health interests have been consistently underrepresented in international trade negotiations.

One particular concern for our Section is that without provisions explicitly protecting worker safety and health across international boundaries, international trade agreements will “harmonize” conditions downward instead of upward. And without engagement and pressure from organizations like APHA, these explicit protections will never happen. With the support of APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, a new working group on trade and health has been established. Look for possible action on three proposals this working group has made to the Executive Board: 1) A plenary session in New Orleans on the "Public Health Impacts of Trade Treaties," including a speaker on occupational health impacts; 2) Joint scientific sessions on specific aspects on trade impacts on public health; 3) A meeting open to all APHA members interested in organizing within APHA, reaching out to other health organizations, public education and advocacy.

I am very happy that Sarah Tran, one of last year’s student scholarship recipients, has agreed to be the OHS Section’s official liaison to the APHA Student Assembly. If you have ideas about ways to increase student involvement in or impact on APHA, please contact Sarah at (408) 515-0345 or <sikola57@hotmail.com>.

APHA often seems to exist as an organization whose sole purpose is to convene an Annual Meeting. However, the organization adopts policies which provide the authority for the Officers, the Executive Board and the Sections to engage year round in the public process of public health. The OHS Section has always been full of concerned activists who have presented APHA positions and policies on workplace safety and health by public speaking, writing letters, testifying before Congress or lobbying their Congressional representatives. I am happy to say that as Section Chair I could not stop this activism even if I tried. However, much of what we do comes about through last-second scrambling because we have not had effective communication and organization between annual meetings. One recent big step forward has been our use of e-mail and the listserv, actively and effectively managed by Mary Miller (360-902-6041 or <marymiller@inwa.net>). In addition, this year we have added a new tool for communication, planning and coordination – bimonthly leadership conference calls for all elected Section representatives, many key committee chairs and others involved in special issues. I am optimistic that these regular calls will help us to become more effective participants in the public process for worker safety and health protection.

National Update

Here are just a few of the things to keep an eye on.

First, and perhaps most important, the Occupatoinal Safety and Health Administration is now in the hands of the most partisan (and extreme) political operative ever appointed as assistant secretary of labor. While retiring Assistant Secretary John Henshaw leaves a do-nothing legacy (if you don’t count the hundreds of “we all love each other” partnerships and alliances between OSHA and the business community), incoming Assistant Secretary Jonathan Snare arrives with a reputation for conservative action. Most notably as general counsel to the Texas Republican Party and to the Texas Senate Redistricting Committee he was a key player in Tom Delay's (and Enron’s) plan to swing legislative district boundaries to favor Republican loyalists and to disenfranchise Democratic voters. He also was the lobbyist for Metabolife, manufacturers of the diet pill ephedra until it was banned by the FDA in 2003.

With John Henshaw the big concern was that he would delay or halt important initiatives like the tuberculosis rule, the chromate rule or the requirement that employers pay for workers’ personal protective equipment. With Jonathan Snare the new danger is that he will actively attempt to dismantle our 35-year framework of worker safety and health protections by working with Congress to change OSHA’s statutory authority in fundamental ways. This bears close watching – and probably more.

Meanwhile, at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health things do not look a lot better, notwithstanding the fact that the Institute is directed by an occupational health professional, John Howard, who does know and care about workplace safety and health issues. Last year Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Julie Gerberding effectively demoted NIOSH within the CDC structure. As part of CDC’s “Futures Initiative,” the NIOSH director would no longer report directly to the director of CDC, and significant autonomy for budget and public affairs would be stripped away from NIOSH. There was a tremendous response in opposition to these actions from the occupational safety and health community, with many members of our Section signing a letter of protest. At last year’s Annual Meeting, the APHA Governing Council adopted a late breaker policy supporting NIOSH and recommending that the NIOSH director continue to report directly to the director of CDC and that CDC keep NIOSH's budget as a separate line item and make no changes in the agency's operating procedures. Probably more importantly, in its report accompanying last year’s appropriations bill, the U.S. Congress strongly advised Gerberding to reverse these actions.

After many weeks of silence following this congressional report, Gerberding has recently written a letter to Sen. Patty Murray stating: "We plan to adhere to the Congressional language and maintain the status quo in relationship to NIOSH, more specifically, making no changes to NIOSH's current operating procedures and organizational structure and ensuring that no funds or personnel are transferred from NIOSH to other components of CDC by means other than traditional reprogramming of funds. NIOSH will not be included in any organizational changes as the result of the Futures Initiative process at CDC."

This is certainly a very positive development, one that we and other friends of NIOSH can share some credit for. However, there is no indication that Gerberding means this as any more than a paper response to Congressional pressure. All the signals we’ve been getting about the way NIOSH is being treated within CDC indicate that NIOSH is being effectively cut out of the important budget and policy loops and that worker health is being devalued in many ways. We need to keep watching and working on this one.

Here’s another signal about the way CDC is devaluing workplace safety and health, as reported in a new Weblog run anonymously by a safety and health professional calling himself (or herself) Brooklyn Dodger: “BrooklynDodger just received a glossy 2005 calendar from CDC, with a letter signed by Julie Gerberding. She wrote: ‘I hope you will take a few moments to browse through the calendar and gain some insights into our work.’ The Dodger leafed through the pictures twice, to make sure not to miss anything. Opposite each month there was a glossy picture and some large text words, but there was no glossy picture related to the occupational environment. While March was cited as "Workplace Eye Health and Safety Month," April's observances did not include Worker Memorial Day.” By the way, take a look at this Weblog at<http://brooklyndodger1.blogspot.com/> and see if you can guess the identity of Brooklyn Dodger.

(Here’s another commentary on our priorities…when you type in "NIOSH appropriation" for a Google search, you get a response asking "Did you mean NIH appropriation?")

As reported by the Union of Concerned Scientists, we have been experiencing an unprecedented assault on scientific integrity in policy making from political litmus tests for federal scientific advisory committees to widespread interference with the ability of federal agency scientists to express their conclusions openly. More than 6,000 scientists, including 48 Nobel laureates, 62 National Medal of Science recipients, and 127 members of the National Academy of Sciences have signed a statement of concern. You can do the same, if you haven’t already, by going to <http://www.ucsusa.org/>.

Finally, it is worth reminding ourselves as often as we can of the fundamental reason for our Section’s 90-year history – workers continue to be killed and become injured and sick for entirely predictable and preventable reasons. Go to the Confined Spaces site to read the personal stories in the Weekly Toll. It will keep you focused and energized.

CHAIR
Michael Silverstein, MD
Clinical Professor
University of Washington School of Public Health and Community Medicine
Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences
Campus Box 357234
Seattle, WA 98195-7234
masilver@u.washington.edu
Phone: (206) 897-1652 Fax: (206) 616-0477

APHA News

APHA Concludes 132nd Annual Meeting
APHA concluded our 132nd Annual Meeting last week where thousands of public health professionals from around the world came together to share the latest in public health research and practice. To read highlights from the meeting, see <http://www.apha.org/news/press/2004/wrap_up111004.html>.

National Public Health Week 2005: Empowering Americans to Live Stronger, Longer!
Today, many individuals and their families, as well as communities and policy-makers, are not taking the preventive actions necessary to keep aging Americans stronger and healthier throughout their later years. As a result, older Americans often endure chronic physical and mental illnesses that could have been avoided or diminished if they were more proactively addressed. At APHA, we believe that it is never too late to address these issues. National Public Health Week 2005, to take place April 4-10, will focus on empowering Americans to live stronger, longer.

In the coming weeks, APHA will provide more planning information on NPHW. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please contact Lakitia Mayo at (202) 777-2515 or at <lakitia.mayo@apha.org>.

OHS Section Leadership Call

Leslie Nickels
University of Illinois/Chicago
<lnickels@uic.edu>

Following is a brief summary of the first OHS Section Leadership Call:

Student liaisons: Andrea Kidd Taylor & Karen Mulloy

Sarah Tran has officially agreed to be our student liaison. Sarah will offer a student column for upcoming newsletters with the help of other scholarship recipients and student members. Scholarship announcement sent via the wWb site for the application process is fair, and it was recommended that we keep it the same for this year. There are currently four scholarships. It was recommended that we have four student scholarships and two labor scholarships (sux for next year)—possibly allot one to go to OHIP student. Agreed to increasing scholarships.

Program committee report: Janie Gittleman & Celeste Monforton

We are planning a few new sessions, such as “evidence-based policy and practice.” It is the 35th anniversary of the OSHAct, so we will emphasize policy and economics and implementation strategies, research to practice: communication strategies, ergonomics, integrity in science, OSHA and MSHA, integrating health promotion, qualitative and quantitative methods, etc. There will be some invited sessions. Special sessions need to be organized by Section member planning committee. We hope to offer another session around the integration of occupational and environmental health; this time with a focus on joint policy/resolutions for both the Environment and Occupations Health and Safety Sections, and how we can work together to ensure protections for workers and the environment (together) when promoting policies to APHA. Karla Armenti is working on this with Craig Slatin and Polly Hoppin (Environment Section).

New Orleans host committee update: Rachel Rubin

There will be an Activists’ dinner – date to be determined. Social hour Monday or Sunday; luncheon on Tuesday; party Tuesday night. Planning committee will work with local union groups for locations. Requirements: $10 for lunch charge $20; space for 180 people, drama space, accessible, purchase enough lunches (180). Tickets arranged by planning committee, program done by Megan Roberts or awards person.

Section budget discussion: Michael Silverstein

Operating account from APHA $3.00 per member must be spent by June 30. If not, money is returned to APHA. Funds are used to pay for operating expenses, communications, costs for business meetings, newsletter, some of the costs for the luncheon. Celeste and Darius have about $400 outstanding. Loretta has about $100 from Washington. No other expenses identified. About $2,000 left.

Scholarship account From donors - currently $5,300 in account. Mary has about $1,000 or so to add to the account. Each scholarship costs about $500/person. Six awards will cost about $3000. Who are the donors? How do we ensure an ongoing stream of funds? The Section used to send out letters. We receive donations from individuals, poster sales, and the proceeds from the party and luncheon. We will send out a letter every year for scholarship fund.

Enrichment account $2,800 has historically been used for social hour (UAW donates for social hour). We will also send out letters to targeted groups for donations for social hour and letters to selected organizations for host activity. We can provide an option for donors to give to the scholarship fund or to a community group.

Other Issues

1) Section booth and banner: Mary Miller & Kerry Souza will keep working on this with money from operating budget.

2) NIOSH reorganization update
Senate language passed; no specific updates. We need to keep following this.
Michael will talk to Sharon Morris about putting something together for The Nation’s Health.

3) Update on Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner:
Information on Web at <www.deceitanddenial.org>. Five or eight people who reviewed the book were subpoenaed (including Dave Kotelchuck).
Dave will work on an article for The Nation’s Health.

4) Policy proposal deadline is Feb. 14. Jane Lipscomb & Mary Miller working on resolutions and position papers. Currently working on immigrant health and safety issues. Members should contact Mary or Janie if there is a resolution that should be developed. Mary will keep members informed through the listserv.

5) Other : Couple fired from NIOSH in Morgantown - we need to actively investigate the circumstances. Who at ACLU is working on this? What is NIOSH union doing? John Morewetz will contact Bob Park and report back.

It was decided that the phone meetings were useful and should be set in two month intervals. Next calls set for Feb. 10, April 21,
1 p.m. EST; 12 Noon CST, 10 a.m. WST

Jordan Barab’s Lorin Kerr Award Acceptance Speech

Mary Miller
Policy Committee Co-Chair

Occupational Health Nurse
Department of Labor & Industries
Employment Standards Program
Olympia, WA
Phone: (360) 902-6041
Fax: (360) 902-5300
<marymiller@inwa.net> or
<mmar235@lni.wa.gov>

Dear Friends,

Well, with the Solstice approaching it is getting toward the end of darkness and the end of the year. I wanted to share Jordan Barab’s wise words from his acceptance speech for this year's Lorin Kerr award, as perhaps motivation for the coming year(s). I have to say, the awards luncheon felt especially moving and so needed, even more than usual somehow. It was so important to be reminded (and inspired) by our awardees of all that we share with each other - those in the room and elsewhere, even around the world. In addition to Jordan, were our Alice Hamilton recipients - David Wegman and Chuck Levenstein - twin sons of different mothers sharing their lives and work with us with humor and grace - we look up to them for their long leadership in the field. Our international awardees, Rashida Bee and Champa Devi Shukla from Bhopal, now 20 years later, still struggle for justice with strength and resolve. They reminded us of the big picture and the many people around the world whose courage brings change.


“Thank you. I want to thank my wife, Jessie, for being amazingly supportive, especially over the last year, with my second job – Confined Space -- especially considering how well it pays. I want to thank Darryl Alexander, Gail Bateson and Tony Mazzocchi for taking a lost young International Relations major 25 years ago and getting him excited about workplace health and safety. James August for years of support at AFSCME, and Peg Seminario for her never-failing wisdom and advice. And I want to thank Charles Jeffress for a few very exciting years at OSHA, for letting me be me, (not an easy task as my previous employers know) and for really listening to workers and the labor movement and giving us one last glimpse – at least for a while-- of what the agency can do for workers.

I really can’t tell you how much it means to me to get this award from my peers and friends of decades. Despite the temptation, I’m not going to give you my analysis of the election or the political situation in this country. We’re depressed enough already. Suffice to say, the White House is bad, the Senate is worse, the House couldn’t be any worse and the Supreme Court will soon be worse.

The only thing I can offer in the spirit of hope is this quote from I.F. Stone that I’ve had on my Weblog for some time now. I had hoped to take it down last week, but now I’ll probably have to leave it up for the next few years:

'The only kinds of fights worth fighting are those you are going to lose, because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins.'

In order for somebody to win an important, major fight 100 years hence, a lot of other people have got to be willing -- for the sheer fun and joy of it -- to go right ahead and fight, knowing you're going to lose. You mustn't feel like a martyr. You've got to enjoy it.

And in that spirit we face the future together.

Nineteen months ago, I started Confined Space for two main reasons. The first was to have a personal outlet for the outrage that I constantly feel and, hopefully, to spread. The idea of writing a Weblog, or blog, came to me shortly after the Challenger disaster in January 2003 which killed seven astronauts.

You may remember that the media worldwide covered every detail of their lives. And I admit, I soon felt like I knew more about their lives than I know about my own parents.

At some point it dawned on me that the astronauts were really just workers – space workers – but not terribly dissimilar to the more than 100 other workers that tragically died that week on the job in the United States. They were all just doing their jobs. The only difference is that the other 100 only got a couple of paragraphs in the local newspaper. No outrage, no anger, no call to action. They weren’t glamorous enough. In fact, they were generally people who do ordinary, dirty jobs on construction sites, roads and factories. Most of them died alone, only noticed and remembered by their immediate family, friends and co-workers.

You will only need a few moments on Google to find the names, pictures, hometowns and dates of death of every American killed in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past three years. But you can search long and hard, and ultimately in vain for the names of the more than 5,000 Americans killed in the workplace last year. You’ll find the few that I can locate on Confined Space. But otherwise, they don’t exist, except in statistics.

Irving Selekoff once said, “Statistics are human beings with the tears wiped away.”

Well, our job is to put those tears back!

And while we’re at it, we need to put the politics and the organizing back as well.

Which brings me to the second reason I started Confined Space: to make sure that every worker understands that his or her vote is directly related to their chance of coming home from work alive and health at the end of each workday.

We knew in the very early days of the Bush administration that the Republicans were going to go after the ergonomics standard. My response was something like “Make My Day!" I had a vision of millions of American workers, having patiently waited a decade for an ergonomics standard, rising up in righteous anger to smite those who would snatch away their hard-won gains.

Needless to say, I was wrong. The time was too short to educate and then mobilize the American workforce—or even just the AFL-CIO. We need to have an American workforce that is already educated and pre-mobilized.

So how do we spread the outrage, put back the tears and politicize workers?

First, we need to take advantage of every teachable moment. Last year, we had 5,559 “teachable moments” when workers lost their lives in the workplace (not counting the 50,000 to 100,000 workers who die each year of occupational diseases). We need to take those moments to educate not just our members and our students, but also journalists. We will not be able to rely on Congressional hearings to bring out the truth. Our best hope is the media.

No longer can we tolerate headlines – even in a rural, low-circulation newspaper -- that claim that a workplace death resulted from a “freak accident” when the unprotected walls of a 12-foot trench cave in on top of a worker.

No longer can we let journalists get way with calling the death of a worker a “mystery” when he suffocates in an unmonitored, unventilated manhole.

No longer can we let journalists blame a severed limb or crushed head on “employee error” because someone accidentally turned on the machine while he was inside.

No longer can we let articles go unanswered that neglect to note that well-recognized safe practices were ignored, that laws were broken.

We need to call reporters up, write letters to the editor, send them copies of David Barstow’s New York Times articles and Andrew Schneider’s series on death by asbestos in Libby, Montana. We need to put them in touch with experts, teach workshops at their conventions, convince them that these are tragic tales of good versus evil, stories that journalistic careers are built upon.

We need to use those teachable moments not just for journalists, but also for politicians. Nov. 4, 2008 may be a bit too far in the future to start focusing on just yet, but Nov. 7, 2006 isn’t too far away. We need to make sure that every time a worker dies, someone in the local paper is quoted asking the local and state politicians what they are doing in Washington – or even in the statehouse – to make sure these tragedies don’t happen again. Are they supporting higher fines, jail terms, stronger standards, more inspectors?

We also need to mobilize families. Some of the most moving mail I’ve received as a result of Confined Space is from the wives, siblings and children of workers killed on the job. They are angry about the death of their loved ones. And they find some solace in knowing that there’s someone else out there who is just as angry.

We need to put that anger to good use. We need to spread that anger to the community, to the journalists and politicians. It not only advances the political struggle, but it helps the families know that the death of their loved ones may serve some higher purpose.

And, of course, we need to continue to remind workers that injuries, illnesses and deaths can be prevented, that an organized workforce is their best guarantee of a safe job; that a safe workplace is a right, not a privilege, to be enjoyed only when the company is making a good profit.

We need to make it clear that the right to a safe workplace wasn’t bestowed upon us by concerned politicians or employers who were finally convinced that “Safety Pays.” The right to a safe workplace was won only after a long and bitter fight by workers, unions and public health advocates. It was soaked in the blood of hundreds of thousands of coal miners, and factory and construction workers. And the current movement to transform the agency into nothing but a coordinator of voluntary alliances is a betrayal of that promise and those lives.

While I was searching for the meaning of life the other day I happened upon a list of Saul Alinsky’s rules for effective action. Two of them struck a note with me:

“Ridicule is man's most potent weapon.”

“A good tactic is one that your people enjoy.”

This was somewhat serendipitous. Earlier in the day I had overheard Mike Silverstein telling Jim Moran that he had found an audiotape of a very famous Philadelphia City Council hearing. I don’t know how many of you know about this. You “young-uns” out there probably weren’t even born yet, so I’ll summarize it briefly.

This was back in the days before we had a national Right-to-Know standard. Philaposh was attempting to pass a city ordinance and had to convince a skeptical City Council that workers really deserved the right to know what chemicals they were being exposed to. Jim brought a tank of compressed gas up to the city council desk and opened the valve. The City Councilors scattered, panicked, demanding to know what was in that tank; demanding to know what they were being exposed to!

Those are the kind of tactics we need to figure out how to use again. What we need to do is relax, find some tactics we enjoy, and show the world not just that they are wrong, but that they are ridiculous.

I will leave you with this thought that Jeff Faux, former President of the Economic Policy Institute used to say: “We don't get to decide who wins; history decides that. We only get to decide which side we fight on and how hard we fight.”

Be of good cheer. This too shall pass. Thank you.

Jonathan Bennett of NYCOSH Bestowed PHANYC Media Award - Presentation Set for March 31 in Manhattan

Jan. 19, 2005

Jonathan Bennett
Public Affairs Director
New York Committee for Occupational
Safety and Health (NYCOSH)
275 7th Avenue, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10001

Dear Mr. Bennett:

It is our pleasure to inform you that the Public Health Association of New York City (PHANYC) has selected you as the winner of its Media Award. Our Media Award is reserved for those in the media who have made major contributions to public health information and education both locally and nationally.

PHANYC is proud to recognize you for your work on behalf of NYCOSH in disseminating information about occupational and environmental health issues.

The award will be given at our Annual Meeting and Dinner on Thursday, March 31, 2005 at Sal Anthony's restaurant on Mulberry Street. Registration starts at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:30 p.m. The Meeting and Awards Ceremony follows.

Benjamin Chu, MD, MPH, outgoing President of NYC HHC, will be given the Haven Emerson Award, our lifetime achievement award. Other awardees include: Susan Waltman, Esq., senior vice president and general counsel for the Greater New York Hospital Association for the Special Merit Award; Bill Perkins, deputy majority leader of the NYC Council for the Legislator of the Year Award; and Mark Hannay, director of the Metro New York Health Care for All Campaign for the Public Health Advocate of the Year award. Our featured speaker for the Annual Dinner is Walter Tsou, MD, MPH, President of the American Public Health Association, who will discuss the challenges of and critical need for moving a public health agenda in this environment.

We know that there are many at NYCOSH, and throughout the public health field ,who would like to join us in recognizing your contributions by buying a table and placing a tribute to you in the Award Tribute Book. The PHANYC administration will be in touch with you regarding recommendations for those interested in purchasing a table and tribute.

We look forward to seeing you on March 31, and please contact PHANYC Executive Director Amy J. Schwartz at (212) 722-1063 to discuss arrangements.

Congratulations!

Sincerely,

Linda Young Landesman, DrPH, MSW
Hila Richardson, BSN, MPH, DrPH
President, Awards Committee Chair

New APHA “Trade and Public Health Working Group” Formed by Section Members

At the Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., last November, APHA Executive Director George Benjamin convened a meeting of several sections (OHS, International Health, Medical Care) to consider how APHA can address the public health issues, including occupational health, arising in the numerous international trade and investment treaties currently in negotiation and already proposed. Benjamin asked the three sections present to take the lead in pulling together an informal working group on this issue. Tom Connor and I, co-chairs of the Section’s International Committee, were asked by the Section leadership to represent OHS in the Working Group.

APHA already has a policy resolution of trade issues from 2001 (Policy Resolution 2001-21) and Immediate Past President Virginia Caine has been outspoken in her concern about the adverse health effects of NAFTA and its successors. The January 2005 issue of the American Journal of Public Health has an excellent article on the impact of trade agreements on global health written by Ellen Shaffer from the Medical Care Section and CPATH (<www.cpath.org>). Occ health-specific impacts of trade agreements have been analyzed by Section members Linda Delp <www.labor.ucla.edu/publications/nafta.pdf>) and Garrett Brown (<www.igc.org/mhssn>).

Since the Annual Meeting there have been two conference calls of the Working Group, and trade and health issues were to be discussed at the January meeting of the APHA Executive Board. The number of APHA Sections in the Working Group has grown to five, including Environment and the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs sections, and additional sections and state affiliates are being contacted to join the effort.

The goals of the Working Group at this moment are to educate the APHA membership on the issue, reach out to and involve more sections, affiliates and individual members, and to have APHA weigh in during the Congressional debates concerning the pending Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and the many other pacts now in negotiation. Longer-term goals include reaching out to other public health-related organizations for joint legislative and public education efforts.

Three immediate proposals for the 2005 APHA Annual Meeting in New Orleans are to dedicate one of the four large “plenary sessions” on Tuesday morning to the theme of “Public Health Impacts of Trade Agreements;” two back-to-back sessions jointly sponsored by the five Sections on the various aspects of the issue; and an organizational/business meeting of the Working Group open to all interested APHA members.

Any and all interested OHS Section members are invited to join this effort by contacting Garrett Brown (<gdbrown@igc.org>) or Tom Connor (<taoc123@bellsouth.net>). Among the tasks that need volunteers from our Section are:

1) Suggestions for speakers at the large “plenary session” at the 2005 APHA annual meeting;

2) Suggestions or volunteers for the two OHS Section speakers at the jointly sponsored scientific sessions in New Orleans. Linda Delp and Garrett Brown have already agreed to represent the Section, but might be persuaded to step aside if other possible speakers arise.

3) Contacting other APHA sections and state affiliates to involve more APHA members in the issue;

4) Mobilizing OHS Section members to contact Congress about CAFTA and other trade related issues;

5) Outreach to other national and international occupational health associations, such as organizations of industrial hygienists, safety professionals, occ nurses and physicians, epidemiologists and toxicologists, among many others.

There is plenty of work to be done, and this issue is definitely not going away anytime soon. So please do not hesitate to contact Tom Connor or Garrett Brown to get involved!

OHS Member June Fisher Honored on 70th Birthday

Dorothy Wigmore
E-mail: <dorothyw@mail.web.ca>
Winnipeg, Canada

On Saturday, Nov. 15, 2003, academic researchers, health and safety professionals and activists and union members gathered at the San Francisco General Hospital auditorium. Many attendees were from the local area, but others came across the country for the event, it was so important.

We were there to honor June Fisher on her 70th birthday and to celebrate her many achievements. It was a time for "June Fisher converts" (as a colleague calls herself) to recognize the physician's many contributions to the health and safety of health care workers and transit drivers in particular, and the field of participatory research in general.

Who is June Fisher? It depends on whom you ask. APHA OHS Section members know her as the 1999 Lorin Kerr Award recipient for her many activities, particularly to prevent needle stick injuries and related health effects. Others think of June Fisher as a leading advocate for, and practitioner of, participatory action research (PAR). The qualitative methods -- there are a range, with different histories and politics -- are becoming more common in OHS work, as we found out at the 2003 symposium.

Symposium organizers wanted to continue discussions about using PAR in our work, and to broaden the audiences exposed to the debate. As part of that effort, in the March, 2005 issue of the journal New Solutions, we try to capture some of the proceedings and the issues discussed at the celebration by mixing short notes from former colleagues and co-workers with articles about PAR theory and practices. The authors include Ray Antonio (former president of the San Francisco bus drivers union), Steven Deutsch, Jeff Johnson, Jane Lipscomb, Kate McPhaul, Susan Moir, Jonathan Rosen and Nina Wallerstein, many of them OHS Section members.

Look out for it this upcoming issue, and for New Solutions soon being indexed in Medline (Index Medicus), making these articles and the topic more accessible to more people.

Scholarship Recipients Express Thanks

From Sarah Tran <sikola57@hotmail.com>:
Hi Andrea, It was really nice to finally meet you at APHA. I feel very lucky to have been selected for the scholarship and given the opportunity to be surrounded by OHS brilliant professionals, which was very inspiring. It reinforced my desire to enter medical school for occupational medicine. Thank you (and the rest of the selection committee) for offering this valuable opportunity.
Best regards,
Sarah Tran

From Rebecca Kershnar:
I wanted to thank you and the rest of the Occupational Health section for offering me the Jim Keogh Scholarship. I enjoyed my first APHA meeting very much! It was great to learn more about occupational health and meet some of the leaders in the field.

Thank you for the warm welcome and encouragement. I look forward to continued participation in years to come.
Rebecca Kershnar

From Dora Tovar:
These past weeks have been so hectic returning from the conference to work and school, then the short work week due to the Thanksgiving day holiday. I hope it is not too late to send you my thoughts.

I want to say thank to the committee for granting me the opportunity to attend the APHA [Annual Meeting] as a Jim Keogh scholarship recipient.

It was my first time attending the Occupational Health and Safety Section meeting. I met and saw many people whose papers and documents I have read. It was great to finally put a face to all those people who have dedicated their lives to improving the health and safety of so many workers here and aboard. It was also great to see the diverse group of those in the OHS Section from college interns to professionals in the field of health and safety.

As a student we read so much but never get to meet the people who are writing and living the experiences, for example Jordan Barab. My advisor has sent me many things that Jordan has written, and now I can say that I met him.

It may seem silly but it means a lot to me when I can meet the people who are bringing about change: "I can put a face to the words."
Thank you,
Dora

A Lesson from Canaries

Joel Shufro
Executive Director
New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH)
Phone: (212) 627-3900 x 15
E-mail: <jshufro@nycosh.org>


Most occupational safety and health activists know how canaries were used in coal mines.

Back in the days before gas detectors, coal miners would take a caged canary down into the mine for protection from carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas. Canaries are much more sensitive to CO than humans, so the canary would die and fall to the bottom of its cage if a low concentration of CO was present, giving the miners a warning that they should get out and increase ventilation before returning. Today, we would say that the canary-equipped miners were practicing good hazard identification, one of the basic skills needed to work safely.

Currently we are faced with a deplorable example of how dangerous it is to ignore a fallen canary. Soon after Teflon-coated cookware was introduced more than five decades ago, bird owners discovered that the fumes from a scorched Teflon-coated pan were deadly to their pets. Today, most books about taking care of birds warn that they should not be kept in a kitchen if Teflon cookware is in use.

Because Teflon's manufacturer, DuPont, insisted that Teflon, even scorched Teflon, was non-toxic to humans, the death of some unfortunate birds were largely ignored, until recently, when it has become apparent that one ingredient of Teflon causes cancer in rats, and is associated with prostate, testicular, and pancreatic cancer in exposed DuPont workers. Most disturbingly, recent studies have shown 90 percent of people in the United States have some of that ingredient (which is not known to occur naturally) in their blood. Perhaps if the deaths of the birds had been fully investigated, the ingredient's toxicity would have been discovered in time to prevent it from becoming ubiquitous.

The use of birds as toxic sentinels carries an important lesson. It is far better to identify an occupational or environmental hazard and take corrective action than it is to use humans in place of canaries. Potentially toxic environments and chemicals ought to be considered hazardous until proved safe, and not vice versa.

Thousands of New York City workers are now caught up in another inexcusable hazard-identification fiasco. Almost as soon as the World Trade Center towers collapsed on 9/11, it was clear that the dust that filled the air of Lower Manhattan and lay in drifts on the ground was at the very least highly irritating to the eyes, throat and lungs. Of course, it wasn't possible to provide all the rescue workers with respiratory protection on 9/11, but there was time to provide it within several days or a week, and to make sure that it was worn. But those who should have identified the hazard did not do so, with the result that more than 6,000 workers have serious respiratory problems. Since no one knows exactly what and how much toxic material they were exposed to, their prognosis is unknown. As Steve Levin, the director of the World Trade Center Worker and Volunteer Medical Screening Program put it recently, "From a public health perspective, we failed horribly."

The need to identify hazards and take appropriate action is a major feature of another potential threat to public health and safety. According to a 2003 report by the federal Government Accountability Office, there are some 700 chemical facilities in the United States that could, in the event of a worst-case chemical release, hurt or kill more than 100,000 people. Many of those plants could be made much safer by substituting non-toxic or less-toxic chemicals for toxic ones, and by reducing the quantity of toxic chemicals stored on site. Now, more than
18 months after the GAO report came out, nothing has been done to reduce the hazard.

Hazard identification doesn't work by itself. When the miners' canary fell, the miners had to respond by going where the air was good. When Teflon fumes killed birds, the clear indication of an unknown hazard was ignored for decades, and now Dupont's workers and the public are suffering the consequences.

Workers and unions at facilities that process hazardous materials need to work with members of the neighboring communities to ensure that all government regulations concerning the storage and use of hazardous materials are scrupulously followed. All concerned should also familiarize themselves with federal, state and local community right-to-know regulations and ensure that all relevant information about potential hazards is properly disseminated.

For anyone who works or lives in the vicinity of one of the chemical plants spotlighted by the GAO, the publication of the report was the equivalent of the canary falling off its perch. The hazard has been identified, but that is only the first step in making workers and the public as safe as possible.

New reports on NAFTA, CAFTA and Trade Impacts on Worker Health

Garrett Brown
Phone: (510) 558-1014
E-mail: <gdbrown@igc.org>


TWO MAJOR REPORTS ON NAFTA, CAFTA AND TRADE AGREEMENT IMPACTS ON WORKPLACE HEALTH & SAFETY RELEASED

THIRD REPORT ISSUED ON DECEMBER 2004 TRAINING IN GUATEMALA FOR UNIONS, MONITORS CONFRONTING GARMENT SWEATSHOPS IN CENTRAL AMERICA


The Maquiladora Health and Safety Support Network (MHSSN) issued two reports today on the failure of the NAFTA treaty to protect Mexican workers' health and safety, and on what is actually needed to protect workplace safety in international trade and investment treaties.

The MHSSN is a 12-year-old network of 400 occupational health and safety professionals in the United States, Canada and Mexico who have donated their time and expertise to worker- and community-based organizations on the U.S.-Mexico border, in Central America and in Asia (China and Indonesia). The Network's goal is to increase the capacity of local, grassroots organizations seeking to protect the health of workers in the maquiladoras and other export processing zones. The Network's activities have included on-site trainings, technical assistance, and extensive collaboration with Mexican worker organizations filing complaints under the NAFTA "labor side agreement."

The reports issued today are:

(1) "NAFTA's 10 Year Failure to Protect Mexican Workers' Health and Safety," an 18-page report which includes photographs by award-winning photojournalist David Bacon and photos from the tri-national Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras. The report also contains three data tables.

The report is in down-loadable PDF format at: <http://mhssn.igc.org/NAFTA_2004.pdf>.


(2) "Why NAFTA Failed and What's Need to Protect Workers' Health and Safety in International Trade Treaties," a 15-page report which contains five data tables and extensive references.

The report is in down-loadable PDF format at: <http://mhssn.igc.org/trade_2004.pdf>.

(3) The final report of the "Central America Health and Safety Training Project in Guatemala City, Guatemala, December 2004." The report describes a follow-up workshop to a September 2003 training in Guatemala, both conducted by the MHSSN to build the capacity of Central American unions and independent monitoring groups to conduct health and safety inspections of the region's 900 maquiladoras producing garments and textiles for major U.S. clothing retailers. The second seminar in December 2004 is part of the preparations of region's pro-worker groups for dealing with the anticipated adverse impact of the CAFTA treaty, which is now before the U.S. Congress.

The report is in down-loadable HMTL format at: <http://mhssn.igc.org/CentralAm.htm>.

Additional information about the MHSSN and its activities in Mexico, Central America, Indonesia and China is also posted on the Web site at <www.igc.org/mhssn>.

NEW SERVICE: Health and Safety News on Your Union Web Site

Rory O’Neill
Health, safety and environment officer
International Federation of Journalists
Editor, Hazards magazine
<www.hazards.org>

Most union Web sites these days have some material on health and safety, but to keep the health and safety information up-to-date in order to keep members informed of breaking news in this important field would require a huge investment of time and effort. I'm pleased to tell you about a new trade union health and safety news service. You can now have - with the absolute minimum of effort and at no cost - the latest health and safety news provided via a newswire direct to your union Web site.

The free service, which provides health and safety news updated every 15 minutes, is produced by LabourStart, the trade union news service, and Hazards (edited by me, Rory O’Neill, the International Federation of Journalists’ health, safety and environment officer). See: <http://www.labourstart.org/hswire>.

This unique resource is the single best way for you to receive health and safety news. You can also view a health and safety news archive online. See <www.labourstart.org>.

I would recommend that as many of you as possible make use of this new resource. Given the absence of funds to support this work, the newswire is a more survivable and cost effective way to provide health and safety news to those who require and value it.

The newswire includes the 10 latest health and safety news stories. It is updated every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is very
easy to add to your Web site -- all you need to do is copy and paste a single line of code. And of course, it's completely free of charge.

For more details go here: <http://www.labourstart.org/hswire>.

If you do use the newswire on your Web site, please be sure to let us know by e-mailing <ericlee@labourstart.org>.

Call for Papers: Race and Genetics

Race and Genetics

The American Journal of Public Health, in collaboration with the National Minority Health Leadership Summit, intends to publish a collection of manuscripts on Race and Genetics in Public Health. We are interested in soliciting focused primary data and important review or commentary manuscripts concerning the relationship between race and genetics in determining health and health care. Emphasis will be directed at manuscripts that examine this subject in the context of the national effort to understand and address racial disparity in health care. Full (180-word structured abstract, 3,500-word text, up to four tables/figures) and brief manuscripts (80-word structured abstract, 800-word text, up to two tables/figures) in the journal format of “Research and Practice” are welcome. All manuscripts will undergo standard peer review by the AJPH editors and peer referees as defined by the AJPH policy.

To be considered for inclusion in this theme issue, manuscripts must be submitted by April 1, 2005, using the online submission system at <http://submit.ajph.org.> The AJPH Web site provides instructions for authors, including specific guidelines for various types of manuscripts. Please indicate at submission that your manuscript is intended for this call for papers by selecting “Race and Genetics” under the Theme Issue menu. For additional information about this theme issue, please contact the guest editors at <kimberlyhansen1@med.va.gov>.

Guest Editors:

Michael J. Fine, MD, MS
Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion, Pittsburgh

Stephen B. Thomas, PhD
University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health

Said A. Ibrahim, MD, MPH
Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion, Pittsburgh

CALL FOR ARTICLES: Association of Clinicians for the Underserved (ACU)

Nancy Kennedy
<Cap-Ar@worldnet.att.net>

ACU is a nonprofit, transdisciplinary organization of clinicians, advocates, and health care organizations united in a common mission to improve the health of America's under-served populations and to enhance the development and support of the health care clinicians serving these populations. The incoming APHA President, Pat Mail, is an original member of ACU. There will be an article about Pat in "The Clinician Newsletter" that is part of ACU. It can be downloaded from the Web or sent to you when a member.

Please visit the Web site, <www.clinicians.org>, for more information. ACU membership is open to all individuals and groups who are committed to the health and welfare of medically underserved populations.

Affiliated with ACU is The Journal of Healthcare for the Poor and Underserved. We would welcome OHS Section members to think about submitting articles to this journal. The editor, Virginia Brennan, is on our Board.

OHS TRAININGS: Northwest Center for Occupational Health & Safety

Kathy Hall, Senior Editor
University of Washington
Dept. of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences
4225 Roosevelt Way NE, Suite 100
Box 354695
Seattle, WA 98105-6099
Phone: (206) 685-6737
Web sites - Departmental: <http://depts.washington.edu/envhlth/>
Editor's corner: <http://staff.washington.edu/kjhall/>
----------------------

To confirm this schedule or find more information about these courses, call (206) 543-1069 or visit the Continuing Education Web site at <http://depts.washington.edu/ehce>. Courses are in Seattle unless noted.

Feb. 23, 2005: Managing Your Workers' Compensation Program
April 1, 2005: Controversies and Advances in Children's Environmental Health
April 12, 2005: Ergonomics IS Good Economics - new offering
April 21-22, 2005: Occupational Health Nursing Update: Mental Health and Physical Assessment
Skills
April 26-28, 2005: Hazardous Materials Incidents: Improving Interagency Response
April 29, 2005: Laboratory Health and Safety
June 13-17, 2005: Comprehensive Industrial Hygiene Review

The Occupational and Environmental Medicine Grand Rounds dinner series is held at the Faculty Club on campus at the University of Washington, Seattle.

More information at: <http://depts.washington.edu/ehce/>

Feb. 10, 2005 - "Whatever happened to Latex Allergy" - Dennis Shusterman, MD, MPH

March 10, 2005 - "Occupational Lung Disease: There's more than just Asthma." - Sverre Vedal, MD, MSc

April 14, 2005 - "Welding, Manganese, and Parkinson's: Not (yet) enough to shake a stick at." - Jordan Firestone, MD, PhD, MPH

May 12, 2005 - "The Americans with Disabilities Act: Where do we stand 10 years later?" - Gary Rischitelli, MD, JD, MPH