Toxicology and OccHealth Info Ctr
The Toxicology Information Center (TIC), directed by Dr. Fred Berman, and the Occupational Health Resource Center, directed by Dede Montgomery, CIH, answer citizen and professional inquiries about workplace safety issues and hazards of exposure to chemicals and other agents. Individuals who have questions about chemical or other exposures, occupational safety and other issues can call or email the TIC director at the number/email listed at right.
Dr. Berman and Ms. Montgomery handle hundreds of requests from occupational safety and health professionals, business owners, government agencies, physicians and nurses, the media and general working public. The TIC is open to calls from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Dr. Berman also serves as consultant to the Oregon Department of Agriculture's Pesticide Analytical and Response Center (PARC), which is legislatively mandated to address pesticide-related incidents in Oregon that have suspected health or environmental effects, and is a co-investigator with the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC), a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-sponsored project operated cooperatively with Oregon State University. NPIC provides objective, science-based information about pesticides and pesticide-related topics to enable people to make informed decisions about pesticides and their use.
Ms. Montgomery also partners with a variety of organizations, including O[yes] (Oregon young employee safety), SAIF, Oregon OSHA and the Oregon Health Authority.
The Information Center also publishes various online and paper newsletters designed to provide up-to-date information about the Institute, as well as a series of Health Impact Safety Guides available online for use as health education tools in the workplace.
Indoor Air Quality
Poor indoor air quality (IAQ) is frequently an issue brought to the TIC. It has profound adverse effects on worker health, morale and productivity and should be addressed as soon as it becomes an issue. Recently, an owner of a business began experiencing respiratory symptoms whenever he entered his building. He reported that there had been no changes to the building’s interior, such as new carpeting, furniture, or remodeling activities. Nor had there been any adverse events, such as water leaks, which could create a problem with mold growth. He did not know whether there had been any changes to the building’s ventilation system or whether the heating system had been recently serviced.
In the situation described, the caller had wisely sought medical help and learned that tests of his pulmonary function were abnormal. The tentative diagnosis was occupational lung disease, which can include allergic sensitivity to airborne agents such as dusts, molds and volatile chemicals. If unresolved, chronic exposure to pulmonary-sensitizing substances can result in permanent lung damage. In this case, it was suspected that the inciting agent was dust from fabrics stored in his business; however, a proper IAQ evaluation would be necessary to reveal the true nature of the problem. It was advised that he seek the help of an industrial hygienist, since proper determination of a variety of air quality factors would provide a clearer picture of the problem and its possible solution. Moreover, consultation with an occupational physician, who could provide guidance on reducing or eliminating the health hazard, was also discussed.
Literature and Best Practice Searches
Frequent requests are made for information related to substances and health conditions that may be difficult for some workers or citizens to locate and understand. Findings are usually shared by email or phone. Examples of recent research requests have been related to endocrine disrupters, Bisphenol A, formaldehyde, Bells Palsy, and welding fumes. Findings are sometimes used to further enhance the OccHealthSci Resource Directory (for example, adding a sub-topic addressing endocrine disrupters).
A caller who lives adjacent to an agricultural field is concerned about pesticide applications that may be drifting onto his property and endangering livestock as well as contaminating his vegetable gardens. He had, in the past, experienced damage to trees and other vegetation, as well as contamination of livestock, due to pesticide drift from that agricultural operation. In that instance, the Oregon Department of Agriculture's Pesticides Division was able to document that drift had occurred and issued citations to the pesticide applicator. The land owner is concerned that similar inappropriate applications of pesticides may be occurring, and that his health, as well as the health of his neighbors may be in danger.
In instances where it is believed that pesticide use or misuse is causing adverse health or environmental impacts, we advise callers to contact the Oregon Department of Agriculture's (ODA) Pesticides Division. The ODA has the investigative authority for pesticide incidents in Oregon. The Pesticides Division houses the Pesticide Analytical and Response Center (PARC), whose mandate is to:
- Collect incident information
- Mobilize expertise for investigations
- Identify trends and patterns of problems
- Make policy or other recommendations for action
- Report results of investigations
- Prepare activity reports for each legislative session
Although the PARC board has no regulatory authority, it's primary function is to coordinate investigations by the appropriate member agencies (OR OSHA, DEQ, Oregon Health Authority, Dept. of Forestry, ODOT, Poison Center, ODFW, State Fire Marshal) and to collect and analyze information about reported incidents (http://www.oregon.gov/ODA/PEST/parc.shtml).
In this instance, the landowner had worked with ODA in the earlier incident. He was encouraged to continue his contacts with the Pesticides Division and to document his concerns with photographs, if possible, in order to aid investigators' determination as to whether pesticide violations had occurred. He was also advised to contact the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) for information about the specific pesticides being used near his property. NPIC (http://npic.orst.edu/) provides objective, science-based information about pesticides and pesticide-related topics to enable people to make informed decisions about pesticides and their use. NPIC is a cooperative agreement between Oregon State University and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.