Monday, September 26, 2016

Northwest Center Graduate Pursues First-of-its-kind Research on Health Risks among Marijuana Production Workers

"How did I get into marijuana research?", asks Max Chmielinski, a Northwest Center Exposure Sciences and Industrial Hygiene MS graduate who is now pursuing a PhD, "This is a story of being the lowest ranking employee."

"I was the UW intern working for the Washington State SHARP program during the 2015 summer. The same week I started, the marijuana growers association came to SHARP and asked for a site assessment. SHARP concluded that many exposures in this industry are different from any other industry. Exposures of interest included UV light, CO2, CO, inhalation of plant spores, and dermal exposure to plant oils. 

Since no one at SHARP could provide expertise across all exposures of concern, they gave the project to the intern. A literature review revealed that very little prior research has been performed on indoor UV light and chronic CO2 exposure. As a mechanical engineer, I was most familiar with UV radiation, and began to dig into this exposure. At the end of the summer, an exposure assessment on UVA, Broadband UV, and blue light was performed with SHARP.

Upon arrival back to school, I had a meeting with my preceptor, Dr. Edmund Seto, to discuss how to build my thesis. I presented him with my summer work. In 3 minutes he was on board and we began planning data analysis and further research into worker schedule and personal protection equipment." 

Little is documented for UV exposure to ‘grow’ lights used by indoor farms as well as the cannabis industry. The purpose of Max's thesis was to characterize UV light exposure for the eye in nursery and grow rooms in two medical cannabis production facilities using area and personal sampling.

Max assessed three different light spectrums: UV-Broadband (180 to 400 nm), UVA (315 to 400 nm) and visible light (400 to 700 nm). Area surveys were accomplished by consecutively mounting spectral sensors on a tripod at a fixed height of 1.6 meters and taking instantaneous measurements throughout the facility. In grow rooms, the tripod was systematically moved between 32 to 36 locations; in nurseries samples were taken from 4 to 6 locations. 

Personal sampling utilized sensors consecutively mounted on a helmet worn by the worker.  In each facility, one worker wore each sensor for 20 minute periods in the grow room. Occupational and nonprescription sunglasses' effectiveness were calculated by applying sunglasses reduction graphs, taken from manufacturer and previous literature, to exposure values. Because researchers did not have worker scheduling information, they investigated scheduling control via a scenario model.

Max and his fellow researchers found that in both area and personal sampling, the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) for UV Broadband exposure was exceeded.  

For area sampling in grow rooms, 12% of samples exceeded the UV Broadband TLV of 0.003 J/m2 in under 8 hours, and all area nursery room samples exceeded this TLV.  

Personal grow room sampling in the UV Broadband spectrum did not exceed the limit over a 20 minute sampling interval, but the worker would be projected to exceed the TLV in 446 minutes (less than an 8 hour shift).  

No sample from any facility or room type exceeded the ACGIH TLVs for UVA or visible light. Use of occupational sunglasses indicates exposure will not exceed the TLV in under 24 hours even if the highest measured exposure was constant, but it is unclear if use of some sunglasses models will allow under TLV exposures for 8-hours. 

The scenario model for worker scheduling indicates that scheduling control can be effective to reduce exposure, but it is based on weak assumptions due to limited personal sampling data.

Max concluded that additional assessment, particularly personal sampling, is needed to more fully characterize cannabis workers’ exposure to UV light.  Further research is needed to establish validated UV light sampling methods, to examine the effectiveness of protective equipment, and to establish employer best practices.

DEOHS was awarded SHIP grant with a proposal that was inspired by Max's MS thesis in June 2016. The grant will support the first half of his PhD work, where he will continue looking into occupational exposures in marijuana growing facilities.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Northwest Center Trainee is Studying the Occupational Health of Ugandan Livestock Farmers

Julianne Meisner is a veterinarian getting her MPH at the University of Washington Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, and is an Occupational Health at the Human-AnimalInterface (OHHAI) Training Scholar. Her practicum rotation has her looking at the occupational health of livestock farmers in Uganda.

The OHHAI program supports a small number of funded scholars in the development of competencies for research and provision of preventive occupational health services to workers in a wide range of animal contact settings including research facilities, veterinary hospitals, zoos, and agriculture from a One Health perspective. OHHAI Scholars complete the requirements for the MPH in Environmental and Occupational Health as well as coursework in zoonotic infectious disease and One Health.

Julianne’s field work in Uganda during the summer of 2016 had two objectives: (1) to assist in ongoing sampling for the Neglected Zoonotic Diseases in Uganda Study, which Veterinarians Without Borders has been implementing for over two years, and (2) to develop and implement the Uganda Animal Worker Health Survey.

The Neglected Zoonotic Diseases in Uganda Study study gathers survey data on household practices relevant to zoonotic disease transmission and samples human household members and their animals (cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs) for neglected zoonoses.

“We (myself, the Center for One Health Research faculty and staff, and Dr. Thomas Graham of Veterinarians Without Borders) developed the Animal Worker Health Survey earlier this year, and this summer I implemented it alongside of the zoonotic disease survey” said Julianne.

“Livestock agriculture in Africa, like most of the world, is trending towards more intensified production systems and away from traditional systems. While there is an ongoing debate as to the costs and benefits of this change, little attention has been paid to the occupational risks associated with traditional livestock keeping systems.”

The Animal Worker Health Survey collects data on delegation of livestock-associated tasks within households, hygiene practices associated with livestock work, frequency and nature of exposure to potentially infectious material, animal-related injury history, and potential risk factors for injury such as the keeping of uncastrated (intact) male animals.

Not only is Julianne an impressive scholar, but she is also an outstanding photographer. When she isn't busy with her research she is taking beautiful photos of her travels, which she shares on her travel photography website,!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Funding Available for Students through the Professional Training Opportunities Program

The University of Washington's Northwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety has new grant funding available for students in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska through the Professional Training Opportunities Program (PTOP).

Undergraduate, graduate, post-doctoral, and associate's degree seeking students from any field are eligible for grant funding to work on a project or activity that addresses occupational health and safety issues. This means health and/or safety issues in the workplace or for working populations. Since worker health is an interdisciplinary field, students from a broad range of disciplines are encouraged to apply (e.g. social work, engineering, public health, nursing, construction safety, kinesiology, medicine, toxicology, environmental studies, human physiology, chemistry, labor studies, human factors/ ergonomics).

The PTOP 2016 Request for Applications (RFA) has been published. All specific information relating to PTOP grants is included in the RFA, including supporting material requirements. The application deadline is December 1, 2016.

These documents are posted on the Northwest Center website

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Northwest Center Researchers are Studying the Exposure Hazards of Every Day Life

Imagine a FitBit, or Apple Health App, that informs you about the space you are occupying throughout the day. If it told you you're breathing in something toxic on your way to work, would you change your route? If it found that your mood improves when you spend time outdoors, would you fit more walks into your day? This is what DEOHS Associate Professor Edmund Seto, PhD, MS, wants to discover.

Dr. Seto has created a soda can-size sensor intended to measure the exposure hazards present in individuals' daily lives, and heighten their awareness of their surrounding micro environments throughout the day. Dr. Seto wants to know if raising this awareness through his handheld devices would cause individuals to make healthy changes based on the data presented.

In an interview with HSNewsBeat Edmund said, "It's about collecting and giving people information about the hazards they face personally. Air pollution is something we all understand, but this could apply to any toxin, noise, and so on. You are willing to track yourself and understand something about your world, but would you change?"

Dr. Seto's low-cost sensors clip to your belt and are able to measure air quality, noise exposure, temperature, and physical activity as the individual wearing it goes throughout their day.

He also created a mobile app called CalFit featuring short surveys that pop up throughout the day. The app will ask users things like, "Just before the beep, how stressed were you feeling?" The multiple choice answers selected by users are then overlaid with information about their location, the time, and their activity to determine the environment's impact on their mood.

One of Dr. Seto's devices, the Personal University Washington Particle Monitor (PUWPM), is being used in a study of adult twins in Washington State. The study currently involves more than 8,800 sets of twins. Edmund and his team hope to discover how environmental factors impact differing health outcomes among two individuals with nearly identical genetics and similar upbringing. Researchers are measuring environmental exposures to air pollution and noise, and lifestyle behaviors, such as diet and physical activity, to determine the association between these environmental factors and health outcomes.

Wonil Lee, MS Student in Occupational and Environmental Exposure Science, has been working with Dr. Seto on a project to evaluate wearable personal sensors as a viable tool for improving construction workers' safety and health. As the graduate research assistant on the project, Wonil was involved in the proposal development phase, and has conducted data collection, analyzed data, and written journal and conference manuscripts.

"We recently tested usability and reliability of the wearable sensors (e.g., physiological status monitor and activity tracker) for work stressors, physiological reactions, and worker’s health behavior and lifestyle measurements. Based on the concept of Total Worker Health® (TWH) which integrates occupational health and safety with the promotion of workers’ off-duty wellbeing, we believe wearable sensors have facilitated personalized objective measurement of workers’ health and wellbeing", said Wonil.

"Among construction workers, roofing workers encounter high on-duty health and safety risks and have poor off-duty lifestyles. Thus our study has examined the reliability and usability of wearable sensors for monitoring roofing workers’ on-duty and off-duty activities."

The research team is also hoping to use the sensors to analyze construction workers' trunk posture. Work-related musculoskeletal disorders are common in the construction population, their current research uses laboratory conditions to evaluate the best sensor placement for assessing the risks of non-neutral trunk postures.

Wonil has an MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering, and is rounding out his skills with his academic work in occupational health and safety. Wonil is also a PhD Student in the UW College of Built Environments where he works with program advisor Ken-Yu Lin, PhD, MS. Dr. Lin is a co-primary investigator with Dr. Seto on this project.

Photos top to bottom: Edmund Seto, Brian Donohue HSNewsBeat, Edmund Seto

Friday, September 2, 2016



Professor Joel Kaufman has been named interim dean of the UW School of Public Health, effective Sept. 24.
A long-time faculty member and researcher at the School, Kaufman is an internationally recognized expert in the relationship between environmental factors and cardiovascular disease, and in the health effects of exposure to ambient air pollutants, such as diesel exhaust.
He will succeed Howard Frumkin, who is stepping down Sept. 23 after six years as dean. A national search for a permanent dean will begin in summer 2017, with the goal of hiring a new dean by autumn 2018.
“We have enormous respect for Dr. Kaufman as a public health scholar, physician, teacher, mentor and leader,” said UW President Ana Mari Cauce and Provost Gerald Baldasty in a joint statement on Aug. 30. “He is exactly the right leader who can sustain the excellence that characterizes the School of Public Health.”
Kaufman is a professor of environmental and occupational health sciences, epidemiology and general internal medicine. He is principal investigator of the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis and Air Pollution, or “MESA Air,” and has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health since joining the UW faculty in 1997. Kaufman is also a highly respected UW Medicine physician.
“He understands that the health of communities relies on assuring healthy environments where people live, work, and play, in addition to accessible, affordable, evidence-based health care,” Cauce and Baldasty said. “In order to thrive, communities need clean air, excellent educational opportunities, safe and reliable transportation, and rich cultural experiences.”
Kaufman serves as chair of the SPH elected faculty council and was named by students in 2015 as the School’s outstanding faculty mentor. Under the UW’s new Population Health initiative, he will join other UW leaders across campus to bring together disciplines to advance population health here and around the world.
“It’s an honor to be asked to serve as the interim dean of our fantastic School of Public Health,” Kaufman said. “This is a world-class School thanks to our terrific faculty, staff, and students, and I look forward to building on the great work Dean Frumkin has accomplished in his six years of leadership.”
Kaufman earned his bachelor’s and medical degrees from the University of Michigan and his master’s degree in public health from the UW.
“This is an exciting time for the School as we work with our partners in Seattle and around the world to lead the way in teaching, research, and service to improve the health of populations,” Kaufman added.  “Every day our faculty, staff, and students show their passion through innovative approaches to improving health and well-being, and through working to end health disparities.”

Originally posted by UW SPH 8/30/16
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