Environmental Health News

People and Places 2016, Issue #3

Return to 2016, Issue #3 issue

PNASH Receives $9.2 Million Grant

Dairy farm worker

The Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center directed by Professor Richard Fenske received more than $9.2 million in grant funding from the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Center was established in 1996 through the NIOSH/CDC Agricultural Initiative and is dedicated to the prevention of illness and injury among agricultural producers, workers, and their families. PNASH partners with worker, industry, healthcare, government, academic, and community groups in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington to address key hazards and promote safe and sustainable workplaces.

Students Offer Recommendations to Improve Uber & Lyft Drivers' Safety

Car on the road

This past Spring, the School of Public health piloted an innovative new course, “Public Health Leadership, Planning and Advocacy Skills.” The course offered two five-week modules, each with a project for a community-based organization client.  For the “planning and evaluation” module, students planned a health and safety training program for City of Seattle app-based drivers (Uber and Lyft), and proposed an evaluation design to assess its effectiveness. The students came up with several recommendations to address health issues in app-based drivers. They presented those ideas to community partners from Teamsters 117 and Puget Sound Sage, both of which have been involved in recent efforts to organize these drivers. Faculty included Professor Noah Seixas, Jenn Hagedorn (Department of Health Services) and Trevor Peckham (PhD student and research scientist in the department).

EPA Awards UW Grant to Develop Low-Cost Sensors for Wood Smoke in Rural WA

Woodsmoke coming out of a chimney

The University of Washington received a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop low-cost air pollution sensors to help Native American and Latino communities in the Yakima Valley reduce their exposure to wood smoke. Funds from the EPA’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program will help researchers use next-generation air particle sensors that are portable and battery powered. Researchers will work with local students over the next three years to both understand and help reduce the community’s exposure to wood smoke. Learn more.

International Award for Young Exposure Scientist

PhD Student Marissa Baker was awarded the International Society of Exposure Science IPA/DGUV Award for Young Exposure Scientists. The award is sponsored by the Institute for Prevention and Occupational Medicine (IPA) and the Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung - German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV). The international award is given to a superior doctoral student working in an area of exposure sciences with linkages to biomonitoring. Baker also received a two-year grant worth nearly $87,000 from the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences to support her research in characterizing metabolites related to manganese exposure in metal workers. She is working with faculty Noah Seixas and Christopher Simpson in our department as well as researchers in Department of Pharmaceutics.

Josef Warkany Lecturer Award

Elaine Faustman

In June, Professor Elaine Faustman received the Josef Warkany Lecturer Award for the 2016 Teratology Annual Meeting in San Antonio, Texas, where she presented "Framing our birth defects questions with systems biology: Learning from our mentors." The award honors Teratology Society founding member Josef Warkany, and recognizes a scientist who has significantly contributed to the field of teratology during his/her career. Read more.

Best Student/New Researcher Abstract Award Finalist

Brittany Weldon

In September, PhD student Brittany Weldon's abstract "Urinary microRNA profiles as biomarkers of occupational pesticide exposure and early biological response" was a finalist in the Best Student/New Researcher Abstract Award for the Epidemiology in Occupational Health Conference in Barcelona, Spain. The conference and the award are sponsored by the Scientific Committee on Epidemiology in Occupational Health, which is part of the International Commission on Occupational Health.



International Union of Toxicology Merit Award

Curt Klaassen

In October, Affiliate Professor Curt Klaassen received the 2016 International Union of Toxicology (IUTOX) Merit Award in Merida, Mexico at the International Congress of Toxicology meeting. This award is bestowed only once every three years and is reserved for individuals who have served IUTOX and the greater toxicology community with distinction and over a long period of time.

Alumn Receives Chicago Medical School's Champion Award

On May 5, the Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science honored Robert J. Rogers as the 2016 recipient of their Champion Award. Rogers graduated with a BS in Environmental Health from our department in 1977 and then received his medical degree from the Chicago Medical School. He is now an anesthesiologist at Cedars - Sinai Medical Center in West Hollywood, California. The award is presented annually to a faculty member who embodies the values of civility, diversity, excellence, innovation, integrity, scholarship and teamwork in all parts of his or her professional life. Rogers was recognized for his mentorship of students interested in pursuing careers in anesthesiology over 30-plus years.

The Science Behind Building Materials and Impacts on Human Health

Professor David Kalman will speak on November 4 at an event in the "Materials Matter" series offered by the American Institute of Architects, Seattle and the Construction Specifications Institute - Puget Sound Chapter. Kalman will present at the session on Healthy People: Materials Science + Human Health, which delves into the science behind materials and human health to understand how material substances reach people and lead to health consequences.

Faculty Joins NORA's Transportation, Warehousing and Utilities Sector Council

Pete Johnson

Professor Peter Johnson was invited to participate in the Transportation, Warehousing and Utilities Sector Council, which is part of the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA). NORA is a collaborative program facilitated by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to identify issues critical to safe workplace practices.  Johnson is nationally and internationally recognized for his studies on vehicle operator exposures to whole body vibration and ways to reduce these exposures in the semi-truck, bus and mining industries. Learn more

Supporting Undergraduate Research Experiences in Environmental Health

Gabino Junior Abarca

Gabino Junior Abarca, a third-year student majoring in Public Health in the University of Washington School of Public Health, is among the undergraduates supported by Supporting Undergraduate Research Experiences in Environmental Health (SURE-EH) program offered by our department. The goal of the program is to increase the diversity of people studying and working in environmental health, particularly from traditionally underrepresented or low-income groups and who may be the first in their family to attend college. SURE-EH funds UW undergraduates to conduct their own environmental health research project with a faculty mentor. Abarca is working with Assistant Professor June Spector to investigate the connection between working in the heat and kidney disease. Professor Lianne Sheppard directs SURE-EH, which began in 2015. Learn more.

SustainableUW Festival

Sustainable UW Festival Flyer thumbnail

Our department participated in the SustainableUW Festival, held October 17-23, 2016. The annual festival organized by UW Sustainability celebrates sustainability efforts at the University of Washington. It highlights the breadth of contributions and leadership efforts across campus and encourages students, faculty and staff to get involved. Events are hosted by many departments, student groups, and organizations at all three University of Washington campuses during the festival. Our Continuing Education Programs participated in the exhibitor fair and PhD student Heather Fowler from the Center for One Health Research was a panelist for a program on changing global health ecosystems that affect humans, animals, and the environment. More here.

SHIP Grant For Research Investigating UV Radiation Exposure in Cannabis Production Facilities

Little is known about workers’ exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the ‘grow’ lights used by indoor marijuana farms and the cannabis industry.  So, Max Chmielinski for his master’s degree studied exposures in two cannabis production facilities and found that light intensities may exceed recommended safe exposure levels if safety controls weren’t used and workers didn’t wear protective eyewear. Now a PhD student, Chmielinski continues to study UV exposures in this industry and is joined in his effort by Trecia Ehrlich, a student in the Community-Oriented Public Health Practice MPH degree program (Department of Health Services). They are working with faculty Christopher Simpson and Tania Busch Isaksen on a project that partners with the Cannabis Alliance and that is funded by a Safety & Health Investment Projects (SHIP) grant from the Department of Labor & Industries’ Division of Occupational Safety and Health. Chmielinski, Ehrlich, and faculty will assess industry training needs and communication methods, as well as measure exposures in five facilities with a variety of lighting technologies and process workflows. They will also evaluate the effectiveness of UV sensors that can indicate workers’ exposures and the effectiveness of protective garments to reduce worker exposure to UV radiation. Findings will be shared with those who work in the marijuana industry as well as the general public.

OHHAI Scholar Spent Summer in Uganda

Julianne Meisner

Trained as a veterinarian, Julianne Meisner is an Occupational Health at the Human-Animal Interface Training scholar, a program in our Northwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety that financially supports students in occupational health research and training. Meisner is getting her master’s degree from the Department of Epidemiology. OHHAI scholars use a One Health perspective to study workers in animal-contact settings, including research facilities, veterinary hospitals, zoos, and agriculture. Meisner spent last summer in Uganda with Veterinarians Without Borders on a project investigating potential transmission routes for zoonotic disease. She surveyed households with livestock on their hygiene and animal-care practices. Read more about her.

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