The Department of Environmental Health works closely with local, state, and federal agencies and with other universities in fulfilling its teaching, research, and service missions. In this issue, you will read how the department has received funding from EPA to study the effects of particulate air pollution on human health, research that could well provide data that EPA will consider in setting new ambient air quality standards. Other partnerships involve agency officials or labor and management representatives teaching in our undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education programs, giving students the benefit of their practical experience. A prime example is Carl Osaki, the first student to receive a graduate degree from the department. He retired from his job only to return to the department part time to teach environmental health students what he had learned about organizational theory and practice during more than 30 years with local health departments. On-site continuing education classes are a good example of a service partnership. Our instruction can extend far beyond the walls of the university.
The Pacific Northwest has air quality problems, as does the rest of the country, but ours are different. For example, our air is more likely to carry particulate matter from vegetative burning, but less likely to carry sulfates from coal-fired power plants.
As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) develops new standards for particulate matter, researchers from the University of Washington's new EPA Northwest Center for Particulate Matter and Health are making a concentrated study of Northwest pollutants and their effects on human health.
The center began work in June under a five-year, $8.2 million EPA grant. It is one of five centers in the country established to study the health effects of particulate air pollution - small, discrete solid particles or droplets in the air.
The six-month-old program has set an ambitious goal of presenting a dozen papers at a January conference in Charleston, SC, entitled "PM2000: Particulate Matter and Health," said Dr. Jane Koenig, center director. The conference is a last chance to present peer-reviewed research for consideration in the EPA's review of proposed new standards for particulate matter under the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS).
"The standards should reflect regional variations," Koenig said. "In the Northwest, we have more agricultural burning and forest fires, people use wood for residential heating and, in Alaska, volcanoes add particulate matter to the air." The eastern United States has more sulfates from power plants and California as more urban pollutants. Control strategies should be tailored to the problem, Koenig said. "We're talking about a little bit of pollution from everybody's car, wood stove, barbecue, dry cleaners, chain saw. We can't just put a cork in the big pollution sources out here."
The EPA wants to regulate fine air pollutants (smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter) that generally come from combustion and exhaust. A PM2.5 standard was announced in July 1997; however, a district court remanded it back to EPA for reworking. Regulations are already in place for PM10 (particles 10 micrometers or less in diameter (a micrometer is one-millionth of a meter). This includes the fine particles (such as PM2.5), but also particles generated by blowing dust. Since the standards were last revised in 1997, numerous studies have linked the finer particles to health effects such as premature mortality, hospital admissions, and respiratory illnesses. Researchers hopes to identify the most susceptible populations, the toxic components of PM, and the mechanisms of the adverse effects.
The EPA PM center's research in Seattle and Spokane includes a study of fine particulate air pollution and daily mortality over the past decade; a study of sudden cardiac arrest and air pollution levels; a study of associations between lung function and air pollution in adults with asthma; a study of indoor, outdoor, and personal air pollution exposures in people over 65; and a study of associations between respiratory symptoms in children with asthma and air pollution.
Center researchers are looking at the health effects of pollutants, using both human studies and transgenetic mice. "We don't know why breathing particulate matter affects the heart, although it clearly seems to," Koenig said. Research will refine exposure data. For example, nobody has studied whether exposure patterns are different for healthy individuals and those with cardiac or respiratory disease. Other researchers from the 35-person center will look at mechanisms that cause heart and lung disease. "We know about the six criteria air pollutants, but we know almost nothing about their fellow travelers, such as nitrates," said Koenig.
The center has a new protocol to analyze semivolatile organic compounds of PM, which are difficult to quantify and, therefore, "almost never measured," Koenig said. "Our planned research, together with that of other groups around the world, will contribute to decisions about air quality standards and to the understanding of how we are affected by the air we breathe," Dr. Koenig said.
The other four EPA centers are at New York University School of Medicine, University of Rochester, University of California at Los Angeles, and Harvard University's School of Public Health. The five centers were selected from 22 applicants through a competitive award process.
In addition to Dr. Koenig, department researchers include Drs. Dave Kalman (the center's deputy director), Harvey Checkoway (joint with Epidemiology), Joel Kaufman (joint with Medicine), Terry Kavanagh, Sally Liu, Dan Luchtel, and Lianne Sheppard (joint with Biostatistics). Adjunct DEH faculty members Dr. David Covert (Department of Atmospheric Sciences) and Dr. Tim Larson (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering) are also on the research team. Other researchers are Drs. Thomas Lumley of Biostatistics, Candis Claiborn of Washington State University's Laboratory for Atmospheric Research, Lara Gundel at Lawrence Berkeley Labs, and Mary Ellen Gordian of the University of Alaska Institute for Circumpolar Health Studies.
Offices and laboratories are located in three buildings: the Health Sciences Center, Wilcox Hall in the engineering complex, and 1107 NE 45th Street, off campus. Wilcox Hall laboratories feature a state-of-the-art clean room, equipment for measuring the size and concentration of fine particles, and space for Sally Liu's health effect panel study of people with lung or heart disease, children with asthma, and healthy control subjects.
FOR FURTHER READING
Koenig, JQ. Health effects of ambient air pollution. Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1999.
While the EPA Northwest Center for Particulate Matter and Health is working to correlate health effects with detailed air monitoring data, the state of Washington is cutting its monitoring program by about 60%.
The Clean Air Excise Tax, which funded nearly half of the Department of Ecology's air quality program, was eliminated by Initiative 695. When voters reduced the motor vehicle excise tax in November, they also eliminated the yearly $2 fee on vehicles for air pollution control. The state program could lose about $12.3 million and 63 of its 126 employees, said Stu Clark, a policy analyst with the air quality program. The Legislature may make up some of the shortfall when it meets in January.
Clark said Ecology is working with the EPA to determine how to best use the limited federal dollars in Ecology's budget. State priorities, such as control of agricultural burning, will be severely cut or eliminated because they are lower priorities for the federal government.
Funding for the UW center is not affected by the loss of the excise tax; however, state-funded activities that complement the research will disappear. The result is that "it will take longer and could prove impossible to get good, solid scientific analysis of the pollution problem," Clark said.
Ancient Romans complained of odor and soot from oil lamps, wood stoves, and coal burning. Dirty air continued through the Middle Ages and worsened in the 15th and 17th centuries, when use of coal increased. The Industrial Revolution required even more fuel to run factories and heat homes.
In more recent history, particulate air pollution has proven deadly, especially in the winter when atmospheric temperature inversion can trap pollutants in low-lying areas.
That happened in 1930 in the Meuse River Valley of Belgium, where 60 people died and 6,000 became ill. It happened again in 1948 in Donora, Pennsylvania. For several days, fog trapped a deadly mix of particles from the valley's sulfuric acid, zinc, and steel factories. It killed 20 and sickened about 6,000. Nearly 40% of the population had respiratory problems.
The worst tragedy came in London in December 1952. London fog was nothing new; Conan Doyle wrote of it and Monet came to London especially to paint it. But the 1952 inversion was the worst in history, lasting four days and causing an estimated 4,700 more deaths than might have been expected.
Although conditions like the deadly 1952 London "black fog" are relatively rare, such incidents highlight the need for pollution control. The US Environmental Protection Agency and the Harvard School of Public Health estimate that up to 60,000 Americans die each year from exposure to soot.
Ergonomics has been in the news lately, with proposed rules at both the federal and state level. Ergonomics is the science of designing jobs, selecting tools, and modifying work methods to better fit workers' capabilities and prevent injury.
The Department of Environmental Health will conduct a training course, "Preventing Musculoskeletal Disorders," on Feb. 16 at the UW's Center for Urban Horticulture.
Course directors are Dr. Barbara Silverstein, research director of the Washington state Department of Labor and Industries Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP) program, and Dr. Eira Viikari-Juntura. Dr. Viikari-Juntura directs a group studying musculoskeletal disorders at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and is a visiting professor in our department's Industrial Hygiene and Safety program this year. She also is a visiting scientist with SHARP, where she is analyzing worker compensation claims for musculoskeletal injuries.
The all-day course, offered through the Northwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety, will focus on identifying the best assessment methods for occupational neck, shoulder, and back disorders; identifying problem jobs and alternative control strategies; and helping injured workers successfully return to work.
Other speakers are Janet Maines Peterson, president of the Physical Therapy Association of Washington and an ergonomic consultant, and Dr. Susan Stock, an occupational medicine physician and epidemiologist with the Montreal Department of Public Health and McGill University in Montreal, Quebec.
The course is designed for physical, occupational, and rehabilitation therapists; industrial chiropractors; ergonomists; industrial hygienists; physicians; nurses; and engineers, who can earn professional credit. Labor and management representatives are also encouraged to attend.
The course description is online or brochures can be requested by phone at (206) 543-1069.
The state ergonomics rule, proposed Nov. 15, is aimed at preventing work-related musculoskeletal disorders such as back strains, tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. Ergonomic hazards cripple and injure an estimated 50,000 Washington workers every year.
Details are available on L&I's web site. Public hearings will be held around the state in January and L&I will accept written comments until Feb. 14.
Meanwhile, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration also has proposed new ergonomics rules. They would not become final until next year at the earliest, after a public comment period.
More information is online.
The Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center will host a Forestry Safety Workshop at the UW Center for Urban Horticulture Feb. 3-4.
The workshop is part of larger project, Hazard Priority Ranking in Forestry. This project provides a forum for the forestry community in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington to identify the most significant safety and health research priorities for their industry.
Forestry is one of the most hazardous industries in the United States. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the fatality rate of loggers in 1997 was more than 25 times the national average for all workers. Data for nonfatal injuries from 1992 to 1996 show that more than 30% of the logging injury cases resulted in 31 or more lost work days.
An estimated 100 people are participating in telephone interviews, sharing their experiences with hazards in the woods and identifying new directions for research, training, and information programs. At the Forestry Safety Workshop, 60 representatives will participate in working groups to develop a regional agenda for research in forestry health and safety. Participants will include industry representatives, labor unions, academics, health care providers, tribal representatives, and government officials. The workshop will provide a valuable opportunity for researchers to hear the concerns of an experienced and diverse group, said center Director Richard Fenske.
The agenda will be completed next fall and will be posted on the center's Web site.
The University of Washington has become the coordinating agency for data from 30 research centers around the country studying the causes of Alzheimer's disease.
Dr. Gerald van Belle, professor of Environmental Health and Biostatistics, is co-principal investigator of the Alzheimer Disease Data Coordinating Center, funded July 1 by the National Institute on Aging (NIA).
Alzheimer's disease is a form of dementia that affects about four million Americans. The coordinating center is designed to foster collaborative research based on previously collected data and to design and coordinate new research projects. The NIA will provide about $3 million each year for five years.
"We will be responsible for encouraging joint research efforts among these centers,' said Dr. van Belle. "If a researcher at one center has an idea for work that cannot be done at that center alone, he or she can apply to us to get funds for joint research. We will also provide biostatistical, epidemiological, and database management support."
The NIA began efforts to coordinate data from all the Alzheimer's centers several years ago. An interim data center was established at Rush University Medical School in Chicago. This initial "minimum data set" has been moved to the 4225 Roosevelt Way building at UW.
The Public Health Department
When Carl Osaki retired in July as Chief of Environmental Health at the Seattle-King County Department of Public Health, he didn't opt for a rocking-chair retirement.
This fall, he is teaching the Environmental Health 470 class. He also is a member of the Washington State Board of Health, and still serves on numerous national public health committees.
Osaki, a clinical associate professor, went from leading a 170-member staff with a budget of $13.5 million to leading a seminar of undergraduates - and he seems energized by the change. He exemplifies the partnership between the Department of Environmental Health and the Washington State Department of Health.
He credits students with giving him a fresh perspective on the county's public health problems. "Students ask great questions," he said. "They are free from organizational or policy constraints." At the county, Osaki liked UW students to accompany his inspectors because their questions helped keep the inspectors "on their toes."
He considers the relationship between the UW and state and local health departments a "win-win" opportunity. The state can provide training and job opportunities, while the UW has research resources, a student job pool, and continuing education classes. He sees numerous bridges between academia and the world of practice. For example, the UW assists the health department by providing genetic fingerprinting to trace sources of E. coli 0157:H7 or other infections. Another example is health department officials who serve as advisors to UW continuing education courses.
Osaki was asked to be a member of the search committee for the department's new chair to provide the perspective of the public health practice community.
In Environmental Health 470, Osaki explores organizational theory and practice, budgeting, personnel management, program planning and evaluation, and community relations. He provides examples and lessons learned from more than 30 years of experience in the public sector.
Osaki was with King County's health department for more than 25 years, first as Environmental Health Specialist, then District Health Administrator, Principal Environmental Health Specialist, and - for the past six years - Chief of Environmental Health.
He sees challenges ahead for both the UW and the health department, particularly with the passage of Initiative 695, which reduces local health department funding.
Diversity is another challenge. Osaki would like to see staff and students "better reflect the people we serve." For example, he would like to see more women and minorities involved in community environmental health issues, particularly food safety, farm worker housing, and environmental justice.
He is a UW graduate, earning both bachelor's and master's degrees. He earned a Bachelor's of Science in Preventive Medicine in 1966, when the program was still part of the School of Medicine. In 1973, he became the first graduate student to receive a degree from the Department of Environmental Health. He wrote his Master's of Science in Public Health thesis on applying organizational development concepts to an environmental health section of a local public health agency.
After graduating, he spent two years as Director of Environmental Health for the Chelan-Douglas Health District in Wenatchee before returning to King County in 1975. That year, the Washington State Environmental Health Association chose him as the state's "Outstanding Sanitarian."
Teaching seems to come naturally to Osaki. He coached Little League for 13 years and also taught floral arranging at a community college. "I enjoy seeing how students improve over the season or quarter," he said.
He has been associated with the UW for 20 years in a variety of roles including teaching, serving on committees, and mentoring students. He said his education at UW helped him meet many of his professional goals, and said he wants to "give something back" to the school through his teaching. Thus he hopes, even in retirement, to maintain a partnership with the school, especially by helping students achieve their career goals.
Regulatory Agencies and Business
The UW OSHA Region X Education Center has begun offering certification for Safety and Health Specialists.
The program is designed for professionals in occupational safety and health who want to attain high-quality training in OSHA, WISHA, and other state standards. So far, 12 have graduated.
Becky Repp, a health-care risk management consultant for Physician's Insurance - a professional liability insurer - was one of the first graduates. She was attracted to the program because she sought a recognized level of education in health and safety from a respected institution.
She liked the regional focus of the Region X Education Center because Physician's Insurance provides coverage to insureds in Montana, Idaho, Alaska, and Oregon, as well as Washington.
She also liked the broad scope of the program.
consider patient safety, prevention of workplace violence, and staff safety
to be equally important," she said. Even though Physician's Insurance
does not provide coverage for worker injury, the program "allowed
me to study health and safety concepts applicable to all areas."
Another benefit, she said, was networking with fellow students and instructors, who generally gave students permission to call them. "It was wonderful to meet other people in the same field, as health and safety staff often work alone and rarely have a chance to get together in a group for problem solving."
She liked the immersion of the three- to four-day courses, and plans to take refresher courses.
Students take a core curriculum of three courses: OSHA 501, a trainer course in OSHA standards for general industry; 521, a guide to industrial hygiene; and either 500, a trainer course in OSHA standards for the construction industry, or 510, OSHA standards for the construction industry.
They also take three electives from among 201A, hazardous materials; 204A, machinery and machine guarding standards; 225, principles of ergonomics; 226, permit-required confined-space entry; 309A, electrical standards; and 600, collateral duty course for other federal agencies.
Five of the six courses must be taken through the University of Washington. Generally, completion takes a year.
The program has four goals, said Scott MacKay, continuing education manager. They are to increase awareness of changing state and federal regulations; provide a solid and broad-based foundation in safety and health; create a network of safety and health professionals; and enhance participants' opportunities for advancement.
More information is available from the continuing education program, at (800) 326-7568 or on the Web at http://depts.washington.edu/envhlth/conted/osha/certificate.html.
Workplace violence struck close to home on November 3, when a gunman walked into a shipyard near the University and shot four people, killing two.
Coincidentally, the department was scheduled to present a one-day course on preventing workplace violence two weeks later. The course, which had been in danger of cancellation because of low registration, was well attended by safety and health professionals, labor and management representatives, and others whose interest had suddenly become more than academic.
Those attending the class learned that work-related homicide is the second leading cause of death on the job nationally and the fourth leading cause in Washington state. Although coworker violence gets the most public attention, it accounts for less than 10 percent of all workplace homicide.
Workers at greatest risk are those who have routine contact with the public, handle money, work alone or in small groups, work late at night, or work in high-crime areas. Such workers include taxicab drivers, law enforcement personnel, gas station workers, and security guards. More than half of workplace homicides occur in retail trade and service industries.
Nonfatal workplace violence is often overlooked. Workers at risk for assault include those in psychiatric hospitals, residential care and nursing facilities, and social service agencies. Mike Foley, from the Department of Labor and Industries' Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP) program, reported that the drop in staffing levels at psychiatric hospitals may be at the root of increasing assault rates among these workers.
Despite these grim statistics, Lynn Jenkins, senior scientist at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), said that workplace homicide is decreasing, from just over 1,000 cases in 1992 to about 700 in 1998. At the same time, coworker or former coworker homicide has increased from 4% to 9% of the total.
Jenkins suggested steps employers could take to prevent violence. These include having violence prevention policies that outline how threats should be reported and assessed; taking precautions when handling money, including locked drop safes; and improving lighting, security devices, and employee training. Washington has a rule requiring these and other protections for workers in late-night retail establishments.
Jonathan Rosen from the New York State Public Employees Federation discussed how labor-management health and safety teams can implement violence prevention guidelines in mental health hospitals. Such guidelines include analyzing trends and incidents in each hospital; instituting engineering, administration, and work practice controls; and training workers, supervisors, managers, and security personnel.
Ellie Menzies from Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 119NW and Sharon Ness from United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), unions that represent health care workers, talked about steps they have taken to protect their workers. These include successfully supporting legislation in Washington to make assault on nurses, physicians, or health care providers a felony.
Other speakers included Elaine El-Askari from the Labor Occupational Health Program at the University of California at Berkeley; Kathleen Smith, director of security services at Safeway; Roger Yockey with the UFCW; and Chuck Holmquist with the Washington state Department of Labor and Industries.
Work-related homicide is the second leading cause of death on the job nationally and the fourth leading cause in Washington state
Dr. Scott Barnhart has been named medical director of Harborview Medical Center and associate dean of the UW School of Medicine. He received his MPH from the UW School of Public Health and Community Medicine in 1986 and has been on the Environmental Health faculty since 1987. He is an associate professor of environmental health and of medicine. He will continue to direct the Occupational and Environmental Medicine residency/fellowship program. Dr. Matthew Keifer will take over as interim director of the Occupational and Environmental Medicine program.
Graduate student Mike Box received a first-place award for a poster he presented at the National Environmental Health Association's annual education conference in Nashville. Mike received his undergraduate degree from our department and has interned with NIOSH.
Dr. Lucio Costa gave three lectures (biomarkers for neurotoxicity, genetic susceptibility to pesticides, and biochemical and molecular neurotoxicology) at the International Congress of Clinical Toxicology at the 11th Brasilian congress of toxicology in Guaruja, Brazil, in October.
Sharon Morris has been appointed a member of the Department of Labor and Industries Innovations Project Task Force, which will assist L&I in improving worker safety and health through increasing the clarity of their safety and health standards in Washington state.
Donald R. Peterson, MD, who served as interim chair of the department in the early 1970s, passed away July 19 at age 78. He also chaired the Department of Epidemiology and retired from the University in 1984. He survived by his wife Beverlee of Edmonds, four children, and nine grandchildren. Memorials may be sent to the Bellevue Congregational Church Memorial Fund or to the Emerald Heights Benevolent Fund, 10901 17th Circle NE, Redmond, WA 98052.
Chuck Treser is president-elect of the newly formed Association of Environmental Health Academic Programs. Associate Professor Emeritus Jack Hatlen is executive director of the new association, which serves as a forum and coordinating body for environmental health education. Treser also was elected to a four-year term on the National Environmental Health science and Protection Accreditation council, which accredits academic programs in environmental health.
INDUSTRIAL HYGIENE CONFERENCE
Fiberglass worker monitoring with Open Path Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy
R. Hahne, M. Keifer, S. Barnhart
Cooperative efforts between the Universidad Nacional and Instituto Tecnologica de Costa Rica and the University of Washington for the enhancement of occupational and environmental health training
Limitations of weight change technique for evaluation of passive dosimeters
R. Neitzel, J. Camp, N. Seixas, M. Yost
A comparison of exposure metrics for occupational noise exposures in the construction industry construction industry
Recipient of Alice Hamilton Award from AIHA board of directors
K. Teschke, S. Marion, T. Vaughan, M. Morgan, J. Camp
OSHA data on wood dust exposures in US industries and occupations from 1979 to 1997
M. Waters, A. Ruder, D. Echeverria
A new method for retrospective occupational exposure data collection a case-control study of cancer
Applying OP-FTIR with a radial beam geometry to locate a leak in indoor environments: improvements in temporal resolution
PUBLIC HEALTH ASSOCIATION
Perceptions on pediatric environmental health: A needs assessment survey questionnaire
R. Sechena, J. Sharpe, D. Lowenthal
Health and Environmental Resources for Educators at the UW (HERE@UW)
Environmental health education and agency jobs
To confirm this schedule or find more information about these courses, call (206) 543-1069 or visit the Continuing Education Web site
Unless noted, all classes will be in Seattle. Upcoming courses:
Jan 24, 25, 26 Annual Hazardous Waste Refreshers
Feb 11 Pesticide Medicine
Feb 16 Preventing Musculoskeletal Disorders
Mar 2 Psychosocial Factors in Occupational Health and Safety
OSHA Training Institute Educational Center
Jan 3-6 OSHA 510: OSHA Standards for the Construction Industry
Jan 10-13 OSHA 500: Trainer Course in Occupational Safety and Health Standards for the Construction Industry
Jan 24-27 OSHA 501: Trainer Course in OSHA Standards for General Industry
Feb 7-10 OSHA 600: Collateral Duty Course for Other Federal Agencies
Feb 22-25 OSHA 222A: Respiratory Protection (Portland)
Feb 28-Mar 1 OSHA 225: Principles of Ergonomics
Mar 6-8 OSHA 503: Update for General Industry Outreach Trainers (Richland)
Mar 6-9 OSHA 222A: Respiratory Protection
Mar 13-16 OSHA 501: Trainer Course in OSHA Standards for General Industry (Portland)
500: Trainer Course in Occupational Safety and Health Standards for the
CE begins on-Site Training
The Northwest Center for Occupational Health & Safety has begun taking its training to work sites in the Pacific Northwest.
The center is one of 15 education and research centers funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and is responsible for promoting safety and health training programs in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska.
The Northwest Center can tailor courses to meet the needs of each company or agency, said Scott MacKay, continuing education manager. He listed four advantages to on-site training:
Contact MacKay for more information or (206) 543-8068. More information is online at http://depts.washington.edu/envhlth/conted/ce/onsite.html
THE FINE PRINT
Environmental Health News is published three times a year by the Department of Environmental Health at the University of Washington. Inquiries should be addressed to Environmental Health News, Box 354695, 4225 Roosevelt Way NE, Suite 100, Seattle, WA 98105-6900.
Reprint permission is granted provided that copyright notice as given below is included. We would appreciate receiving a copy of your reprinted material.
Department of Environmental Health, University of Washington
Assistant Chair for Outreach - Sharon L. Morris
Senior Writer & Editor - Kathy Hall
Designer & Illustrator - Cathy Schwartz
Interim Department Chair - David A. Kalman