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Volume 16, Number 10 (February 2019)

From the Director’s Desk

John Howard, M.D.
Director, NIOSH

NIOSH Shows Our Love for PPE by Asking, “How Clean is Clean?”

It’s February, which means that Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and love is in the air. At NIOSH, we like to use this time of year as an opportunity to show our appreciation for the personal protective equipment (PPE) that keeps the people we love safe.

In this spirit, NIOSH recently set a goal to improve the safety and health of fire fighters by reducing their exposure to harmful contaminants due to unclean or inadequately cleaned PPE. Fire fighter exposure to soiled or contaminated PPE is an increasing concern for long-term fire fighter health. The second leading cause of death across the U.S. is cancer and other diseases that result from chronic exposures; and fire fighters face a greater risk than most. One risk can be associated with fire ground exposures relating to protection and hygiene practices and persistent harmful contamination found in fire fighter PPE. Typically, fire fighter gear is washed by independent service providers. But how do you know that the gear is truly clean?

In order to establish the scientific background necessary to answer this question, NIOSH partnered with the Fire Protection Research Foundation to establish clear and definitive guidance for applying cleaning and decontamination procedures that effectively remove both chemical and biological contaminants from fire fighter PPE. This study, which is part of what we call the How Clean is Clean project, will help determine if PPE is truly free of harmful contaminants after using typical cleaning methods.

Already the project is making an impact. NIOSH researchers developed laboratory contamination, extraction, and analysis methods for heavy metals and semivolatile organic compounds. They then established a standardized method that can be used to determine the effectiveness of the cleaning techniques to decontaminate the PPE. Based on the results, NIOSH made recommendations to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards committees and established fire service guidance for maintaining contaminant-free PPE. This has translated into changes to the NFPA 1851 Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting.

Looking to the future, the How Clean is Clean team researchers have determined the same sort of lack of scientific evidence for another important fire fighter PPE question—How long does the gear remain reliable if well maintained or not often used? Answering this question will allow us to know how long turnout gear should stay in use when it is used often or in particularly hazardous scenarios. Thus, this next project is going to verify the testing performance requirements through the different stages of the gear’s life to verify that it’s still working properly.

NIOSH’s love affair with PPE is everlasting, and we will continue to identify areas where additional research is necessary to keep our PPE users safe.


Join Us Today for a Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon on Hearing Loss

NIOSH is leading one of the many ongoing World Hearing Day 2019 activities by supporting a Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon to help increase the contribution of hearing-related content into Wikipedia in several languages. The theme of the 2019 campaign, organized by the World Health Organization (WHO), is “Check your hearing,” as data from both developed and developing countries indicate that a significant part of the burden associated with hearing loss comes from unaddressed hearing difficulties. Editing is open through March 31. Join today!

New Mold Assessment Tools Available

Mold Assessment Tools

NIOSH recently released two documents Dampness and Mold Assessment Tool for Schools and General Buildings (covers shown at right). The tool provides a hardcopy data collection instrument to help address areas of dampness and mold in buildings. The tool’s intent is to help the user identify and determine the severity of known and unknown areas of dampness and mold, prioritize repair and remediation, and track past and present problems.

New Info on Protective Glove and Gown Use when Administering Antineoplastic Drugs

Female nurses who administer antineoplastic drugs—medications used to treat cancer—don’t always wear protective clothing, according to a new NIOSH study published online in the American Journal of Nursing; a video abstract accompanies the published study. This is one of the first studies to explore the use of antineoplastic drugs and personal protective equipment among pregnant and nonpregnant female nurses. Learn more.

Call for Comments Reopens for PPE Database Information

The public comment period for the opportunity for manufacturers to list personal protective equipment that protects workers again fentanyl exposure in a public database (PPE-Info) has reopened.  PPE-Info is a collection of national personal protective equipment (PPE) information. The database provides PPE standards setting organizations, manufacturers, suppliers, purchasers, and end users with the ability to conduct general- or advanced-criteria searches of (1) relevant standards, (2) associated product types, (3) target occupational groups, (4) basic conformity assessment specifications, and (5) additional pertinent information. PPE-Info is the only U.S. database that is maintained with comprehensive information about national PPE standards and select product information. To view the notice and related materials, visit (Docket ID: CDC-2018-0085). For further information contact

super blood wolf moon eclipse composite

Composite of images taken during the Jan. 20 total lunar eclipse, aka Super Blood Wolf Moon, showing the progression of the Earth's umbra (darker core of the shadow). Credit: Dwight Werren, NIOSH

NIOSH eNews is Brought to You By:
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  • Christina Spring, Editor in Chief
  • Tanya Headley, Story Editor
  • Kiana Harper, Monthly Features Editor
  • Cheryl Hamilton, Copy Editor
  • Glenn Doyle, Technical Lead
  • Tonya White, Web Developer
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Monthly Features


Final NORA Agenda Available

The final National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) for Respiratory Health is now available. The 10 strategic objectives are organized into three sections. Strategic objectives 1­–4 address occupational respiratory diseases. Strategic objectives 5­–7 address occupational respiratory exposures. Finally, strategic objectives 8­–10 focus on the fundamental activities of surveillance, exposure assessment, and communications that are needed for a comprehensive research and prevention program.

Webinar Recordings Now Available

The NORA Healthcare and Social Assistance (HCSA) Council held a workshop on healthy work design in the HCSA sector in December 2018. The objective was to summarize the current work being done to improve health and safety culture in the healthcare sector. Another objective was also to identify opportunities for the NORA HCSA Council to become more engaged. Recordings of several of the presentations are available on the NORA HCSA Council webpage.

News from Our Partners

New Safety Info for Using Wearable Lithium Battery Powered Devices

In January, OSHA released a safety and health bulletin on preventing fire and/or explosion injury from small and wearable lithium battery powered devices. While lithium batteries are normally safe, they may cause injury if they are designed with defects, made of low quality materials, assembled incorrectly, used or recharged improperly, or damaged. The bulletin identified specific hazards and provides prevention, training, and resource information.

New Ergonomics 2019 Webinar Series

On February 8, the NIOSH-funded Education and Research Centers (ERCs) will kick off a new 2019 Ergonomics Webinar Series. The series offers free monthly webinars on occupational safety and health topics related to human factors and ergonomics. The first webinar features a presentation on Analysis of Work Tasks From a Cognitive Ergonomics Perspective: Concepts, Models, and Methods by Dr. Katia M. Costa-Black, New York University Adjunct Professor.

Occupational Health Internship Program—Apply Now for Summer 2019

Do you know a student who might be interested in learning more about occupational health—a student currently studying public health, nursing, medicine, industrial hygiene, or ergonomics or an energetic and curious student interested in economic and social disparities or environmental issues? If so, please encourage them to apply for the paid summer 2019 Occupational Health Internship Program (OHIP) internship. The application deadline is February 15 at 11:59 pm PT (Pacific Time). More information is available in the OHIP flyer.

New Resources Available for Workers on Asbestos Hazards

To encourage worker awareness of both recognized and emerging, lower-level sources of occupational asbestos hazards the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (WDHS) created a fact sheet in English and Spanish, presented a poster at the Wisconsin Asbestos Conference in December, and added asbestos resources to the WDHS occupational health webpage. For more information go to the WDHS website.

New FACE Reports

Laborer Injured in a Fall when a Portable Platform Ladder Overturned—Massachusetts

A laborer was injured in a fall from a platform ladder. The laborer and a coworker were dusting crown molding inside a municipal city hall. When the laborer finished dusting, the ladder needed moving. The coworker started to move the ladder while the laborer was on the ladder’s platform. When the ladder wheels were engaged, the ladder tipped, and the laborer fell. The laborer was paralyzed, and he died six months later from complications.

Tree Trimmer Is Electrocuted while Trimming a Palm Tree—California

A tree trimmer was electrocuted while trimming palm trees at a private residence. The trees were in close proximity to the utility power pole and high voltage lines. The tree trimmer was working alone. Although unwitnessed, it is likely that a trimmed palm frond contacted the high voltage line and conducted electricity to and through the victim.

Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Program Update

A Law Enforcement Officer’s Unintentional Occupational Exposure to Illicit Drugs

HHE Program investigators determined that a law enforcement officer was exposed to fentanyl during a traffic stop. Shortly after the exposure, the officer experienced disorientation, lightheadedness, and blurry vision. Investigators suggested that the police department follow existing recommendations for first responders and continue to revise work practices and procedures on the basis of lessons learned from this incident to reduce the possibility of exposure. Read the HHE report to learn more.

IEQ Concerns Among Hospital Employees Working in a Radiology Department

HHE program investigators found exhaust particles entering the workspace, air bypassing the filtration systems, and outdoor air intakes at or below ground level. They recommended improving preventative maintenance on the ventilation systems and working with a mechanical engineer to ensure air supplied to the workspace meets current Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) guidelines for health care facilities. Read the HHE report to learn more.

Federal Register Notices of Public Comment

Notice of Closed Meeting—Safety and Occupational Health Study Section (SOHSS); National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
The notice was posted on December 21, 2018. The meeting will be held on February 20–21 from 8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.

Notice of Closed Meeting—Disease, Disability, and Injury Prevention and Control Special Emphasis Panel (SEP)—PAR 13-129; NIOSH Member Conflict Special Emphasis Panel
The notice was posted on December 21, 2018. The meeting will be held on February 26 from 12:00–4:00 p.m.

Upcoming Seminars/Conferences

National Hearing Conservation AssociationLook for Us!
February 7–9, Grapevine, TX

2019 Fire PPE Symposium
March 11–13, Raleigh, NC

Pennsylvania Association of Occupational Health Nurses 57th Annual Conference
March 13–14, Monroeville, PA

2019 National HIV Prevention Conference
March 18–21, Atlanta, GA

AAA (American Academy of Audiology)Look for Us!
March 27–30, Columbus, OH

29th Annual Art & Science of Health Promotion Conference
April 1–5, Hilton Head, SC

2019 Wisconsin Health Literacy Summit
April 2–3, Madison, WI

Advancing the Science and Practice of Science Communication: Misinformation About Science in the Public Sphere
April 3–4, Irvine, CA

American Association of Occupational Health Nurses National Conference
April 8–10, Jacksonville, FL

American Occupational Health ConferenceLook for Us! Booth #308
April 28–May 1, Anaheim, CA

National Safety Council Northeast Conference & ExpoLook for Us! Booth #205
May 1–3, Pittsburgh, PA

2019 American Industrial Hygiene Conference & Expo
May 20–22, Minneapolis, MN

Ohio Tactical Officers Association Conference
June 3–7, Sandusky, OH

Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology ConferenceLook for Us! Booth #1638
June 12–14, Philadelphia, PA

Fraternal Order of Police 64th Biennial Conference & ExpoLook for Us! Booth #800
August 12–15, New Orleans, LA

2019 National Conference on Health, Communication, Marketing, and Media
August 13–15, Atlanta, GA

International Association of Firefighters Redmond Health and Safety Symposium
August 19–22, Nashville, TN

Association of Occupational Health Professionals in Healthcare National Conference
September 4–7, Baltimore, MD

Twenty-Fourth International Symposium on Shiftwork & Working Time
September 9–13, Coeur d’Alene, ID

Working Hours, Sleep & Fatigue Forum: Meeting the Needs of American Workers & Employers
September 13–14, Coeur d’Alene, ID

National Association of Occupational Health Professionals 33rd Annual National Conference
September 15–17, Phoenix, AZ

Work, Stress and Health Conference 2019
November 6–9, Philadelphia, PA

7th International Conference on the History of Occupational and Environmental Health
May 27–29, 2020, Durban, South Africa

A comprehensive list of upcoming conferences is available on the NIOSH website.

This Month in History

Ten years ago this month, NIOSH and a university partner identified issues related to studying workplace exposure to engineered nanoparticles. These issues stemmed from the unique characteristics and properties of engineered nanomaterials, their relatively new status, and their use by workers in different industries and jobs. More information is available: Issues in Developing Worker Epidemiological Studies Related to Engineered Nanoparticles.