Accomplishments 2001-2003

2003 CROET Highlights


Workplace fatality surveillance in Oregon produces hazard alerts, interactive website

CROET and the Oregon Departments of Human Services and Consumer & Business Services received a cooperative agreement from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to identify, investigate, and develop prevention strategies for traumatic occupational fatalities in Oregon. Oregon joins 13 other U.S. states in the NIOSH-sponsored Fatality Assessment & Control Evaluation (FACE) program. In the first year of the program (2003), Dr. Gary Rischitelli (Principal Investigator) and Dr. Joan Rothlein have conducted in-depth investigations of over 30 occupational fatalities in Oregon and developed industry-specific recommendations for prevention. For example, one hazard alert focused on electrocutions in Oregon companies using the same equipment (truck-mounted guard rail installer). These hazard alerts and other reports are available at http://www.ohsu.edu/croet/face. This interactive website provides current information on demographic factors in Oregon fatalities.

Computer-based training effective in people with limited formal education

CROET’s cTRAIN computer-based training, developed by Dr. Kent Anger, continued to grow in 2003. Content programs on safety in food service and drywall finishing have increased worker knowledge and safe work practices. In addition, the content programs have been well received by workers in those industries. The food services research has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Safety Research. Begun in November, a collaboration between CROET and Medford’s Bear Creek Corporation demonstrated that cTRAIN computer-based training can be used to provide critical safety training (ladder safety) to the entire agricultural workforce of orchard workers, including some who had no formal education. Work began on a new grant to use cTRAIN in Oregon vineyards.

CROET website adds second home page to improve access

CROET’s website was divided into two separate, but complementary, websites in July. One site (http://www.ohsu.edu/croet/) contains information about CROET faculty and staff projects, while the other is devoted exclusively to CROET’s popular and well-regarded occupational safety and health resource directory (http://www.croetweb.com). This change provides easier access to both the resource directory and to CROET research capabilities, outreach, and education. CROET’s occupational safety and health resource directory, organized into 46 topic areas, contains links to over 1,000 resources and serves as a major source of safety and health information for working Oregonians and their families. All resources are now stored in a database resulting in new functionality. For example, the website can be sorted for Oregon-specific or Spanish-language materials, and a new search tool allows for specialized searches. Another added functionality of the website is the ability to accept online registrations for CROET’s annual health and safety symposia. This resulted in increased efficiency and decreased expenditures for paper and mailing. All of CROET’s newsletters dating back to 1999 have been made available online, also reducing mailing costs.

Toxicogenomics, a cutting-edge technology, begins at CROET

Toxicogenomics is a new technology that promises to revolutionize understanding of chemical risk, disease mechanisms, and even treatment options. The heart of the technology is the microarray, a glass plate containing up to 20,000 “spots” of genetic material obtained from an animal such as the mouse. These spots can be used to interrogate molecules derived from animals that have been exposed to test chemicals. The resulting pattern of microarray response indicates which cellular networks are affected. In 2003, Dr. Peter Spencer and colleagues completed development and initiated research operations of this new laboratory. OHSU and CROET thus became part of NIH National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Toxicogenomics Research Consortium; this consortium includes the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, University of Washington, Duke University, and University of North Carolina. CROET is using the microarray technology to assess the neurotoxicity of organic solvents, including those used as cleaners and degreasers. (http://www.ohsu.edu/croet/research/centers/toxicogenomics/)

New mechanism of organophosphate pesticide damage reveals very low-concentration effects

Nervous system damage follows high-concentration exposures to organophosphate (OP) pesticides such as chlorpyrifos. A metabolite of the pesticide reduces the activity of the enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE) which normally acts as a brake on repeated, uncontrolled firing of nerve cells. AChE reduction is therefore widely used as a biomarker or internal measure of exposure to OP pesticides. However, recent animal studies suggest that pesticide concentrations that do not inhibit the AChE may still cause damage to the nervous system in very young or still-developing animals. Learning, memory, and motor behavior are implicated. Assessing risk to children has been complicated by the fact that the mechanisms by which organophosphate pesticides disrupt the developing nervous system are not understood. CROET’s Dr. Pamela Lein recently found that chlorpyrifos blocks the effect of AChE in growing nerve cell (axon) processes, and at levels below those required to reduce AchE activity. Since disruption of axon growth has been associated with functional deficits, these findings reveal a mechanism that explains how exposure to very low levels of OP pesticides could cause behavioral problems in children. Since many of the same mechanisms that regulate axon growth in the developing nervous system also influence axon regrowth following injury, Dr. Lein’s work raises the possibility that exposure to low levels of pesticides may also interfere with nerve regeneration in adults following work-related injuries. Further, these data raise questions of the sensitivity of AChE activity for monitoring damage following exposure to OP pesticides. (http://www.ohsu.edu/croet/faculty/lein/)

One more piece of the sleep-wake jigsaw puzzle

A significant number of Oregonians work nontraditional hours. They are staying awake and working while a part of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) is telling them it is time to sleep. Nerve cells in the SCN contain a “molecular clock” that keeps 24-hour time. Through the work of Dr. Charles Allen, CROET is studying how these nerve cells translate the molecular clock information into an output signal that regulates activities such as sleep and wakefulness. Before now, it was believed that “rhythmic” neurons—that cycle on and off during the day and night—controlled our circadian rhythm and thus caused us to sleep and wake. However, in 2003, Dr. Allen discovered a group of SCN neurons that are important for driving behavioral and hormonal rhythms, but that are not rhythmic — they do not cycle on and off over time. These findings suggest that the molecular clock that controls sleep and wakefulness is an interaction between rhythmic and non-rhythmic neurons. These observations add another piece of information to complete the puzzle of how the brain generates timing information. A better understanding of the brain timing mechanism will help develop more effective strategies for workers to handle the health and performance challenges arising from rotating or night work schedules. (http://www.ohsu.edu/croet/faculty/allenc/)

Nerve repair: Protein promotes nerve development

Nerves regenerate imperfectly following injury in adults. Nerve formation requires growth of the nerve fiber process (axon), multiplication of attendant Schwann cells to match the length and number of axons, and the formation by Schwann cells of an axon ensheathment that is called myelin. These steps occur on a precise schedule during development and are recapitulated during nerve regeneration after injury. The molecular mechanisms that control the developmental schedule are still largely unknown. Genetic defects in children with a congenital neuropathy have provided a clue. There is a protein missing in these children, called laminin, which normally covers the surface of Schwann cells in the nerve. Working with laboratory mice, Dr. Bruce Patton’s research group found that Schwann cells actually make multiple versions or types of laminin. Mice engineered to lack two versions of the laminin protein were completely unable to produce myelin and unable to walk. They tested the feasibility of genetic therapy for these myelin defects by re-engineering the mice to make large amounts of a third version of laminin, which is normally present at very low levels in nerves. The additional protein stimulated myelin formation and enabled the mice to walk. (To see a movie of these mice, visit http://www.ohsu.edu/croet/research/highlights/nerverepair.html.) By increasing the output of this protein in children with neuropathy, or in injured patients, nerve development and regeneration might be improved. Perhaps more importantly, future studies aimed at discovering how the laminins promote myelin formation by Schwann cells may allow the development of drugs that act like laminins, to promote myelination without genetic engineering. (http://www.ohsu.edu/croet/faculty/patton/)

Reducing ultraviolet light exposure to prevent skin cancers

Exposure to solar radiation is the single most significant risk factor associated with the development of skin cancer. More than half of all new cancers are skin cancers, with the total number of new cases exceeding 1 million annually. Occupational exposure to deleterious amounts of natural ultraviolet (UV) sunlight (for example, enough to cause a sunburn) occurs in the farming, maritime, and construction industries, and all of these workers are classified as high-risk groups for skin cancer. This type of skin cancer is named “non-melanoma,” and it is the most common type of skin cancer. Fortunately, it is usually not malignant or life-threatening. In an effort to prevent or at least delay the onset of non-melanoma skin cancers, research in the laboratories of Dr. Amanda McCullough and Dr. Stephen Lloyd has focused on novel ways to enhance the capacity of skin cells to repair DNA damage caused by sunlight overexposure. If skin can rapidly repair damage from sun overexposure, most skin cancer will not develop. Their research has shown, in a test system consisting of human cells, that the application of a specific type of enzyme repairs the damage caused by UV light by as much as 10 times faster than the skin’s natural repair enzymes. They have been issued a patent for enzymes that have the potential to reduce or prevent non-melanoma skin cancers and suppression of the body’s immune system, another danger that follows UV overexposure. This technology will allow the development of new DNA repair enzymes that can be introduced into human epidermal (skin) cells through a skin lotion, to rapidly initiate the repair of damage to DNA caused by exposure to UV light. This new DNA repair system is expected to reduce the frequency and rate of onset of non-melanoma skin cancer and prevent or greatly alleviate UV-induced suppression of the immune system. (http://www.ohsu.edu/croet/faculty/mccullough/)

Motor proteins and muscle strength

In order to grow and maintain nerve processes, special molecules called motor proteins transport molecules from the nerve cell bodies, where they are made, out into the axon and dendritic processes, where they do their work. The neuronal transport system is particularly important for motor nerve cells that control muscles, because their axons reach all the way from the the spinal cord out into the arms and legs, where they supply muscles. Loss of motor nerve cells results in profound muscle weakness, as seen in poliomyelitis and Lou Gehrig's disease. Two CROET groups are studying the role of motor proteins in nerve cells. The Banker lab is developing imaging methods to visualize the movement of motor proteins and nutrients in living cells. They have found that some motor proteins are “smart”— they take their cargoes only to a specific location in the cell — unlike their “dumb” colleagues that can’t distinguish between axons and dendrites. Smart motors may be important for ensuring that key cellular molecules always go to the right destination. (http://www.ohsu.edu/croet/faculty/banker/).A second team, led by Dr. Mohammad Sabri, has been investigating how certain solvents used in industry may lead to adverse effects on the nervous system. They discovered that solvent-derived chemicals react with motor and other proteins, causing them to accumulate in swellings that disrupt function and cause muscle weakness. (http://www.ohsu.edu/croet/faculty/sabri/ and http://www.ohsu.edu/croet/faculty/spencer/)

New health effects of pesticides—oxidative stress studied

Most studies involving pesticide exposures compare reported exposure to health effects, such as evidence of damage to the brain and nervous system. However, the amount and frequency of “exposure” is based on statements by the exposed individuals. Dr. Glen Kisby is studying the biological mechanisms of pesticide exposure to health effects. With former CROET faculty member Dr. Linda McCauley, Dr. Kisby is studying potent organophosphate pesticides (OPs) such as those used in Oregon. OP pesticides have been found to produce oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs when oxygen free radicals (oxygen molecules) combine with other molecules in a way that damages those molecules or prevents them from performing their normal function. Dr. Kisby and Dr. McCauley compared pesticide applicators with farmworkers who do not apply pesticides and with people who do not work on farms (controls). The levels of oxidative stress as measured in urine (DNA damage), blood (oxidized lipids), and white blood cells (activity of a DNA repair protein) were much higher in farmworkers and pesticide applicators than in controls. Additional research is under way to confirm and expand these findings in the laboratory and in the field in Oregon. (http://www.ohsu.edu/croet/faculty/kisby/)


2002 CROET Highlights


Nanotechnology: Guidance Proteins Control Growth of Neurons

Drs. Gary Banker and Bruce Patton are exploring the application of nanotechnology—the technology used in the semiconductor industry to make computer chips—to study how growing nerve fibers interact with physical and chemical features in their environment. The goal is to produce interactions between living nerve cells and silicon chips bearing microelectronic circuits, leading to the development of neural prosthetic devices that could restore function of damaged nerves or damaged brain tissue. One of the key challenges in this work is to adapt nanofabrication methods to allow patterning of proteins, including the proteins that guide growing axons, without destroying their biological activity. In 2002, these investigators developed a novel two-step approach that allows formation of accurate patterns while preserving protein function. They have gone on to show that, by preparing patterns combining two different guidance proteins, the growth of axons and dendrites can be controlled independently. This project, which involves collaborations with scientists at Cornell University, is part of one of ten Science and Technology Centers in the country funded by the National Science Foundation to encourage technology transfer and innovative approaches to interdisciplinary activities. (http://www.ohsu.edu/croet/faculty/banker/index.html) (http://www.ohsu.edu/croet/faculty/patton/)

cTRAIN: Ergonomics Training for Drywall Finishers and Food Service Workers

CROET’s program to develop effective individual training methods for occupational safety and health continued to grow in 2002. Our computer-based training program, cTRAIN, was developed by Dr. Kent Anger, CROET Associate Director, and Dr. Diane Rohlman in collaboration with Mr. John Kirkpatrick of the Painters District Council. Research continued on the basic principles underlying training, an area almost devoid of research in working adults, demonstrating again the superiority of interactive training(quizzing during training with immediate feedback on answer accuracy). Quiz frequency appeared to be important for some material, with accuracy on the post-test declining in a program with up to 17 screens of information prior to a quiz, but not in programs with more frequent quizzes. Interestingly, open-book quizzes during training produced slightly better recall than closed-book quizzes, when evaluated later by a closed-book test. New programs for drywall finishing (ergonomic and other issues), lab safety, and food handling were developed and began field testing. The food services safety and health content program increased knowledge of fire safety and hazards such as those leading to slips and falls. (http://www.ohsu.edu/croet/faculty/anger/)

Superfund Grant: Findings and Impacts

Now in its third year, CROET’s federally funded Superfund Basic Research Center (SBRC) conducts research important to the health of Oregon workers and their environment. Scientists at CROET, Oregon State University, and Battelle Pacific Northwest are working together on a broad range of biomedical and environmental engineering projects. CROET scientists Dr. Mohamed Sabri and Dr. Peter Spencer are studying chemicals that damage the nervous system. Their work has uncovered a potent nerve axon toxin, 1,2-diacetylbenzene (DAB), which is found as a minor component in a number of organic solvent mixtures, including gasoline. 1,2-DAB reacts with proteins to form a blue pigment that can be found in urine, where it may provide a marker of exposure to this and chemically related solvent chemicals with neurotoxic potential. Dr. Jennifer Field, an SBRC scientist based at Oregon State University, is studying ways to enhance microbial transformation (degradation) of trichloroethylene (TCE), a common toxic contaminant at Superfund sites. Natural degradation of TCE in groundwater can be quite inefficient and slow, and toxic metabolic products including vinyl chloride can accumulate if degradation does not proceed to completion. Dr. Field and her colleagues are developing a technology that can speed degradation rates and help prevent accumulation of toxic metabolites. With further refinement, this technology may one day produce an inexpensive, non-toxic chemical additive mixture that will dramatically speed up the rate of groundwater decontamination in comparison to currently existing remediation strategies. (http://www.ohsu.edu/croet/sbrc/)

Toxicology Information Center: TIC Focus Expands

CROET’S Toxicology Information Center (TIC) is a special purpose library with holdings relevant to CROET’s mission and with access to the world’s electronic resources on the Internet. The TIC, under the directorship of Fred Berman, DVM, PhD, responds to inquiries from professionals and the lay public regarding chemicals encountered inthe workplace, home, or other environments. Examples from the more than 250 phone and Internet queries received last year include: health risks from carbon monoxide, chlorine, freon, trichloroethylene (TCE), benzene, diesel and aviation fuel, and childhood lead exposure. The TIC has also been fielding an increasing number of questions about the broad area of occupational health, beyond its initial scope of toxicology. Just as CROET’s research, education, and website have expanded over the years to broad areas of occupational safety and health, the TIC now responds to all occupational health inquiries. The resources of the TIC, including computers, are available to the public Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. For more information or to join the CROET mailing list, visit our website or contact CROET by phone at 503-494-4273. (http://www.ohsu.edu/croet/outreach/tic.html)

CROETweb Evolves: Site Redesign, Electronic Newsletter, Movies, Larger Focus Group

CROETweb is a major source of occupational safety and health information for all Oregonians, as well as a repository of information about the Center’s many activities. Designed as a directory, the resource area of CROETweb contains links to hundreds of resources for health and safety professionals. Pages are dedicated to all major Oregon industries and occupations, as well as to a variety of safety and health topics that are updated on a regular basis. CROETweb was redesigned in 2002 to improve the navigation and usability of the website. A monthly email newsletter was begun to provide information about “what’s new” on the CROET website, as well as upcoming events. Subscriptions to the newsletter are received daily. Six short movies were created that feature CROET scientists describing their research and how it benefits Oregon. They are available at CROET’s home page. Several Oregon safety and health professionals were recruited as new members to CROET’s Web Focus Group, which provides feedback about the website and makes content recommendations for the occupation and industry pages. Activity on CROETweb continued to increase. Hits on the site grew to over 190,000 in 2002 (up nearly 80 percent from 2001) with more than 50,000 visitors (up 72 percent from 2001). Oregon safety and health specialists tell
us they visit CROETweb frequently. (http://www.croetweb.com)

Education: Responding Across the Full Spectrum of Educational Needs

CROET’s education program has a broad scope. The focus of our training programs ranges from occupational safety and health professionals to graduate students and postdoctoral trainees (funded by grants), and from college students in our summer student program to high school students visiting for one or more days in a CROET laboratory. In 2002, we held seminars targeted at the occupational safety and health community: (1) Developing More Effective Training, and (2) Office Workers, the latter as part of our collaboration with Portland State University’s Occupational Health Psychology Program. CROET also staffed Brain Awareness Week at OMSI, providing neurobehavioral testing for many attendees, from children to post-retirement adults. CROET continued to participate actively in Oregon’s Saturday Academy program, including mentoring young women as part of the Advocates for Women in Science, Engineering and Mathematics (see award for Dr. Mohammed Sabri in Selected 2002 Accomplishments). (http://www.ohsu.edu/croet/outreach/)

Chemical Risk Information Service: Expanded Services to Oregon Business

CROET’s fee-based Chemical Risk Information Service is a 24/7 toxicological risk information program designed to help business and industrial clients comply with the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard. Directed by Greg Higgins, PhD, the program expanded services during 2002 by adding LaserJet printer products to the family of Hewlett Packard (HP) products already drawing on CROET’s unique service. Worldwide access is now provided for customers needing MSDSs for HP inkjet and LaserJet printer cartridges and inks. The chemical risk program also began upgrading database management capabilities this year by converting website operations to Microsoft SQL Server. This change is expected to streamline operations, improve customer response time, and provide the infrastructure necessary for continued growth. (http://www.ohsu.edu/croet-cris)


CROET 2001 Highlights

Toxicology Information Center: Responding to Oregonians’ Questions

CROET’S Toxicology Information Center (TIC) is a special purpose library with holdings relevant to the mission of CROET, its scientists and staff, and with access to the world’s electronic resources on the Internet. The TIC’s printed collection is centered on current publications in industrial, occupational, environmental, and epidemiological research, as well as a core group of basic science journals selected by CROET faculty and staff. Among the TIC resources are special collections of information about occupational and environmental issues assembled from a wide variety of scientific literature, governmental reports, and Internet resources (reviewed). Under the directorship of Fred Berman, DVM, PhD, the TIC is a valuable public information resource, as demonstrated by an ever-increasing number of inquiries from people concerned about the risks of exposure to chemicals encountered in the workplace or home environment. Most inquiries come via telephone, but an increasing number of interested parties are contacting the TIC by email through the CROET website. The TIC is now offering a monthly Internet Sleuthing Workshop. This hands-on Internet information course is available in the TIC the second Friday of each month from 1-3 p.m. The resources of the TIC, including the use of several computers, are available to the public Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. (http://www.croetweb.com)

CROETweb: Visitors and Hits Continue to Grow

CROETweb, the Center’s website, serves as a major source of occupational safety and health information for all working Oregonians. Designed as a resource directory, the website contains links to hundreds of resources for health and safety professionals. The website has pages dedicated to all major Oregon industries and occupations as well as a variety of safety and health topics. Oregon safety and health specialists visit CROETweb frequently. The most popular occupational safety and health pages in 2001 were semiconductors, restaurant and kitchen safety, artists, back injuries and prevention, and cell phones/EMF safety. New topics/web pages were added in 2001: bioterrorism, ergonomics, evaluating health-related websites, and shiftwork. In September, 2001, Holly Sherburne, MS, joined CROET as the new full-time Web Manager. Ms. Sherburne has a background in toxicology outreach and education, as well as extensive website design and coding experience. In 2001, the home page was revised, reducing loading time by two-thirds, and the update schedule was accelerated. Increasingly, websites from Oregon and around the world link to CROETweb. The number of “visitors” to the website increased to more than12,000, and hits exceeded 100,000 (up over 15 percent from 2000). (http://www.ohsu.edu/croet or http://www.croetweb.com)

Chemical Risk Information Service: Helping Oregon Business

CROET’s Chemical Risk Information Service is a 24/7 toxicological and risk information program designed to help business and industrial clients comply with the OSHA Hazard Communication standard. Directed by Greg Higgins, PhD, with Sundii Moser Gillespie, RN, BA, CSPI, as Program Manager, this program provides client employees and consumers a centralized source for round-the-clock access to Material Safety Data Sheets(MSDSs). Our Worker Right-to-Know Program helps employers give their employees access to MSDSs for the hazardous chemicals
present in their workplace. We provide toll-free phone access to the program, and MSDSs are available via fax and through our website. Clients also have immediate access to advice from licensed health care professionals via the Oregon Poison Center. Our Product Stewardship program provides a toll-free number for clients to place on their product labels or packing information as a resource for customers who have safety questions concerning the product. This program offers a convenient way for companies to provide their customers with global access to
product safety information and product MSDSs. Our client list of Oregon businesses served by the Chemical Risk Information Service continues to grow, and during 2001 we added eight new clients from the construction and high-tech industries. (http://www.ohsu.edu/croet-cris/)

Superfund Grant: Supports Worker Safety and Health

CROET’s federally funded Superfund Basic Research Center continued its studies of toxic environmental chemicals important to working Oregonians. Scientists at CROET are investigating the neurotoxic effects of aromatic solvents, studying how chlorinated solvents can interact with DNA to cause mutations, and examining how exposure to trace levels of toxic chemicals can affect the early development and maturation of the brain. Collaborating scientists at Battelle are performing cutting-edge computational chemistry studies to characterize the interaction of aromatic solvents with nerve cells and studying how toxic chemicals are absorbed by the body and to what extent they reach particularly vulnerable organs such as the brain. Consortium partners at Oregon State University are pursuing a parallel line of research that investigates how chlorinated solvents behave once they enter the environment and contaminate groundwater. The work conducted by our Superfund Center will lead to a greater understanding of how toxic environmental chemicals can impact nearby residents and workers and will also develop improved cleanup methods. The CROET-led Superfund Center is directed by Peter Spencer, PhD, FRCPath and Greg Higgins, PhD. (http://www.ohsu.edu/croet/sbrc/home_page.html)

Responding to State Requests: Hepatitis C and Public Safety Workers

Last year, CROET researchers prepared a literature review for the Oregon Legislature regarding the risks associated with Hepatitis B and C in police, fire, Emergency Medical Services, and correctional personnel. Because we found important gaps in the scientific literature regarding the prevalence of hepatitis among police, fire, and correctional officers, the Legislature asked CROET researchers to conduct a study to estimate the prevalence of, and risk factors for, Hepatitis C among public safety workers in Oregon. Testing was conducted in Spring, 2001, in Salem, Portland, Corvallis, Keizer, Independence, Monmouth, Dallas, Albany, McMinnville, and Newberg. Of the 719 public safety workers who volunteered to have their blood tested, 710 (98.8 percent) were negative and seven (1.0 percent) were positive. Thus, seroprevalence rates in Oregon are below that reported in the general population and lower than, or similar to, those published for other public safety officer populations. These data suggest that the occupational contribution to risk for hepatitis is small and that, in the absence of data demonstrating a significant association with occupational risk factors, non-occupational risk factors probably predominate. Nonetheless, employers and employees should continue to seek to reduce opportunities for exposure to blood and body fluids through the implementation of exposure control methods.(http://www.ohsu.edu/croet/faculty/rischitelli/index.html)

Collaborative Training Information Repository: A Practical Demonstration

CROET’s Dr. Mitchell Altschuler worked closely with Portland’s Painters District Council and their associated contractors to design a secure web-based database containing records of member training, medical evaluations, and respirator fit testing. The database, named the Collaborative Training Information Repository (cTIR), can be updated by the District Council and accessed by signatory contractors to confirm and document employee training. Updates trigger automatic recalculation of items such as current-year training hours, important for proper
calculation of pay rates. Prior to the cTIR, contractors telephoned the District Council data specialist who reviewed records for the worker and mailed documentation to the contractor, adding personnel costs to the District Council and delays for the contractor. The cTIR Internet system allows the contractor to verify training records 24/7,and it eliminates the need for redundant training that was often repeated when records could not be obtained and time was of the essence. Both the District Council and construction contractors have praised the system. The design elements of this demonstration program are available and can be modified for any occupational specific issue. A generic demonstration is available on CROETweb for review, in 2002. (http://www.ohsu.edu/croet/faculty/anger/index.html)

Partnerships in Surveillance and Prevention: New Workers’ Compensation Data

CROET scientists are engaged in a collaborative project with the Oregon Department of Health and Human Services and workers’compensation insurers in the state, which will demonstrate the value of working with insurers to recognize injury trends and opportunities for prevention strategies. Currently, Oregon data on work-related injuries and illnesses are only reported for those injuries/illnesses that are serious enough to cause more than three days of work loss (defined as “time-loss” injuries). Private and public workers’ compensation (WC) insurers, however, maintain databases of all injuries, both time-loss and those in which employees return to work within three days (defined as “medical-only” cases). This project is testing the feasibility of merging WC claims data from multiple insurers into a common database that will provide information on differences in the disabling “time-loss” and “medical-only” claims among different insurers according to type of injury/illness, age and gender of claimants, type of industry and occupation. Comparisons will be made in the profile of occupational injury and illness available in state WC databases and the profile available in data from insurers. This project will demonstrate the utility of complete insurer databases in monitoring clusters of illness and injury, trends and patterns of claims, and identifying new intervention opportunities as they emerge. (http://www.ohsu.edu/croet/faculty/mccauley/index.html)

cTRAIN: Computerized Training Program Expands

CROET’s interactive training program to develop effective individual training methods for occupational safety and health continued to grow in 2001 with initiation of two new federal grants to CROET and an OR OSHA grant to the Painters and Drywall Finishers. cTRAIN was developed by CROET Associate Director Dr. Kent Anger in collaboration with Mr. John Kirkpatrick of the Painters District Council. In 2001, the basic principles underlying cTRAIN were examined to determine how frequently quizzes and feedback are needed for maximum recall and learner acceptance. A collaboration with Monrovia, a wholesale plant nursery in Dayton, Oregon, led to the development of new system training instructions (“how to use” cTRAIN) presented in Spanish that were effective for Latino migrant workers with limited education. Collaborations to create new content in cTRAIN were also developed with the Oregon Association of Nurserymen, a labor and industry consortium involving drywall finishers, and OHSU offices responsible for food handling and lab safety. (http://www.ohsu.edu/croet/faculty/anger/index.html)

What Muscles Tell Their Nerves: New Signal for Proper Synapse Function Found

Recovery from traumatic injury requires accurate, functional reconnection of nerves with their targets. Nerves do form synapses on appropriate targets during embryonic development, and these synapses contain microdomains called active zones, where the chemical neurotransmitter is secreted. At the neuromuscular junction, the large synapse between motor neuron and muscle fiber, multiple active zones are positioned very precisely across the synapse from the folds in the postsynaptic surface of the muscle cell. This arrangement has been preserved over several hundred million years of vertebrate evolution, showing the importance of carefully controlling the site of neurosecretion. Mice were genetically engineered to lack a muscle protein, causing their motor nerves to locate active zones randomly in the nerve terminal. The discovery that this protein is a key factor in guiding nerves to reconnect with the proper muscle area will guide efforts to improve recovery from neuromuscular injury. (http://www.ohsu.edu/croet/faculty/patton/index.html)

Risk Assessment for Multnomah County Divers: Addressing Local Concerns

On December 1, 2000, the Portland Harbor was listed as an EPA Superfund site because Willamette River sediments are contaminated with metals, pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, and petroleum products. Several months later, CROET researcher Joan Rothlein, PhD, was asked by the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office to assist with an evaluation of potential occupational exposures to contaminants in the Portland Harbor among members of the department who dive and patrol in the Portland Harbor as part of their search and rescue activities. With the cooperation of Oregon Department of Environmental Quality(DEQ), EPA, and ATSDR, Dr. Rothlein and other CROET scientists are addressing the health and safety concerns of members of the Sheriff’s Office by: (1) Identifying microbial and chemical hazards in the water and sediment in the Portland Harbor and other dive locations from federal reports; (2) Evaluating personal protective equipment options; (3) Calculating possible human health risk using reported contaminant levels and information on the location and duration of each dive extracted from individual dive logs. (http://www.ohsu.edu/croet/faculty/rothlein/index.html)

2008-2009 Highlights

2006-2007 Highlights

2004-2005 Highlights