The latest medical research on Occupational & Environmental Medicine

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Lung cancer risk in painters: results from the SYNERGY pooled case-control study consortium.

Occupational and Environmental Medicine

We evaluated the risk of lung cancer associated with ever working as a painter, duration of employment and type of painter by histological subtype as well as joint effects with smoking, within the SYNERGY project.

Data were pooled from 16 participating case-control studies conducted internationally. Detailed individual occupational and smoking histories were available for 19 369 lung cancer cases (684 ever employed as painters) and 23 674 age-matched and sex-matched controls (532 painters). Multivariable unconditional logistic regression models were adjusted for age, sex, centre, cigarette pack-years, time-since-smoking cessation and lifetime work in other jobs that entailed exposure to lung carcinogens.

Ever having worked as a painter was associated with an increased risk of lung cancer in men (OR 1.30; 95% CI 1.13 to 1.50). The association was strongest for construction and repair painters and the risk was elevated for all histological subtypes, although more evident for small cell and squamous cell lung cancer than for adenocarcinoma and large cell carcinoma. There was evidence of interaction on the additive scale between smoking and employment as a painter (relative excess risk due to interaction >0).

Our results by type/industry of painter may aid future identification of causative agents or exposure scenarios to develop evidence-based practices for reducing harmful exposures in painters.

Identification of early-stage silicosis through health screening of stone benchtop industry workers in Victoria, Australia.

Occupational and Environmental Medicine

The popularity of high silica content artificial stone has been associated with emergence of severe, progressive silicosis as a major health issue affecting workers in the stone benchtop industry. This population-based health assessment programme has been implemented with the aim of identifcation of silica-associated disease at a preclinical stage.

All current and former workers from the stone benchtop industry in the State of Victoria are offered free health assessments. Primary evaluations include a standardised questionnaire, physical examination, spirometry and gas transfer assessment and International Labour Organisation-categorised chest X-ray. Secondary evaluations include high-resolution CT chest, blood tests and a respiratory physician evaluation.

At the end of the first 12 months, 86/239 (36%) workers who had completed secondary evaluation were diagnosed with silicosis (65 simple silicosis and 21 complicated silicosis). 22 had worked in the industry for less than 10 years at the time of diagnosis. Of those with simple silicosis, 80% of workers reported breathlessness only with strenuous exercise (modified Medical Research Council score of 0), and lung function was well preserved (prebronchodilator forced vital capacity mean 99.8% predicted (SD 13.6), diffusion capacity of the lung for carbon monoxide mean 96.2% predicted (SD 18.0)). Antinuclear antibodies were detected in 37% with silicosis and 24% without silicosis.

Early results from this comprehensive health assessment programme have indicated a high proportion of referred artificial stone benchtop workers have silicosis, including many with early-stage disease. The common finding of antinuclear antibodies suggest significant potential for autoimmune disease in this occupational group.

Exposure to occupational hazards and risk of sinonasal epithelial cancer: results from an extended Italian case-control study.

Occupational and Environmental Medicine

There is sufficient evidence for a causal association of sinonasal epithelial cancers (SNEC) only for exposure to wood and leather dusts, nickel compounds and employment in isopropyl alcohol production. The aim of this study was to assess whether other occupational hazards are associated with the risk of SNEC for the main histologic types, namely adenocarcinoma (AD) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).

The study population included 375 incident SNEC cases collected from 1996 to 2014 (79% of all diagnosed SNEC) throughout the Piedmont region by the regional Sinonasal Cancer Registry, and 408 hospital controls. Exposure to 17 occupational agents was assigned through expert assessment based on interviews to the subjects on jobs held throughout their working life. The relationship of SNEC with ever and cumulative exposure to the hazards was assessed through unconditional logistic regression models adjusted for age, sex, area of residence, smoking habit, year of enrolment and coexposures.

AD was associated with both ever and cumulative exposure to wood dust, leather dust and organic solvents, and with cumulative exposure to textiles dusts. SCC risk was significantly increased by ever exposure to nickel, chromium and welding fumes, as well as by cumulative exposure to welding fumes, arsenic and organic solvents. A mixed group of other histological types was associated with both ever and cumulative exposure to wood dust and textile dusts.

The associations of SNEC with wood dust, leather dust and nickel were confirmed, while some new associations were observed for other hazards, which merit further investigation.

Supportive supervisor training improves family relationships among employee and spouse dyads.

Journal of Occupational Health Psychology

Employee family relationships have been increasingly tied to job outcomes and are known to be a strong predictor of employee health and well-being....

A resources-demands approach to sources of job insecurity: A multilevel meta-analytic investigation.

Journal of Occupational Health Psychology

Today's workers around the world are experiencing growing uncertainty about their future employment. Living in the chronic threat to the continuity...

Australian smokers' experiences and perceptions of recessed and firm filter cigarettes.

Tobacco Control

While cigarette filter modifications have long been used to increase product appeal and assuage health concerns, tighter marketing restrictions, including plain packaging, have further spurred the growth of filter variants. We explored and assessed experiences and perceptions of smokers who had tried and/or currently use recessed filter cigarettes (RFCs) and firm filter cigarettes (FFCs).

In November 2018, we undertook eight exploratory focus groups of Australian adult factory-made cigarette smokers (total n=56). In July 2019, we surveyed 999 smokers aged 18-69 years to quantify ever and current use of these products and associated beliefs and sensory experiences.

Focus group and survey findings were consistent. Among 988 smokers who had at least tried factory-made cigarettes, 28.9% had tried FFCs and 11.1% currently smoked these, while 36.4% had tried RFCs and 7.5% currently smoked these. Smokers in both studies believed these filters may reduce harm and that FFCs increase appeal. In the survey, 58.9% of RFC triers agreed these hide the filter's brown stain and 48.9% agreed that RFCs keep harmful substances away from the mouth. Similarly, 58.4% of FFC triers agreed these trap more harmful substances than standard filters. Relative to standard filter cigarettes, more smokers experienced FFCs and RFCs as feeling clean (p=0.03) and more current FFC users experienced these as feeling smooth (p=0.01).

RFCs and FFCs undermine plain packaging legislation, which aims to reduce appeal and minimise misperceptions about the relative harms of different tobacco products. Like other filter modifications, these filter variants should be disallowed.

Changes in responses to nicotine vaping product warnings and leaflets in England compared with Canada, the US and Australia: findings from the 2016-2018 ITC Four Country Smoking and Vaping Surveys.

Tobacco Control

In May 2017, black-and-white text nicotine addiction warning labels ('warnings') and health and safety leaflets ('leaflets') became mandatory for nicotine vaping products (NVPs) in England, in accordance with the European Union's Tobacco Products Directive. We compared changes over time in noticing warnings and leaflets, recall of warnings about nicotine and concerns about using NVP due to noticing warnings in England, compared with Canada, the US and Australia, where no warnings and leaflets were mandated.

19 005 adult (aged 18+) NVP users, smokers and quitters of cigarettes and NVP from the 2016 and 2018 International Tobacco Control Four Country Smoking and Vaping Surveys in England, Canada, the US and Australia, recruited via probability and non-probability sampling.

Noticing warnings increased in England from 4.9% (2016) to 9.4% (2018) (adjusted OR/AOR=1.64, 95% CI=1.15-2.36); this change was larger than changes in Canada (AOR=2.51, 95% CI=1.71-3.69) and the US (AOR=2.22, 95% CI=1.45-3.39). Recall of a nicotine warning increased in England from 86% (2016) to 94.9% (2018) (AOR=5.50, 95% CI=1.57-19.27) but not significantly elsewhere. Noticing leaflets increased in England from 14.6% (2016) to 19.1% (2018) (AOR=1.42, 95% CI=1.15-1.74); this change was larger than in Canada (AOR=1.42, 95% CI=1.12-1.79), the US (AOR=1.55, 95% CI=1.17-2.06) and Australia (AOR=1.51, 95% CI=1.02-2.22). Among those noticing warnings, concern about NVP use did not change significantly between 2016 and 2018 (all countries p>0.081).

Introduction of mandatory NVP warnings and leaflets in England was associated with small increases in noticing them but not with changes in concerns about NVP use.

Socioeconomic inequalities in secondhand smoke exposure before, during and after implementation of Quebec's 2015 'An Act to Bolster Tobacco Control'.

Tobacco Control

To better understand whether tobacco control policies are associated with changes in secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure across socioeconomic groups, we monitored differences in socioeconomic inequalities in SHS exposure in households and private vehicles among youth and adults before, during and after adoption of Quebec's 2015 An Act to Bolster Tobacco Control.

Using data from the Canadian Community Health Survey, we examined the prevalence of daily exposure to SHS in households and private vehicles among youth (ages 12 to 17) and adults (ages 18+) across levels of household education and income (separately) in 2013/2014, 2015/2016 and 2017/2018. We tested differences in the magnitude of differences in outcomes over time across education and income categories using logistic models with interaction terms, controlling for age and sex.

We detected inequalities in SHS exposure outcomes at each time point, most markedly at home among youth (OR of SHS exposure among youth living in the 20% poorest households vs the 20% richest=4.9, 95% CI 2.7 to 6.2). There were decreases in SHS exposure in homes and cars in each education/income group over time. The magnitude of inequalities in SHS exposure in homes and cars, however, did not change during this period.

The persistence of socioeconomic inequalities in SHS exposure despite implementation of new tobacco control laws represents an increasingly worrisome public health challenge, particularly among youth. Policymakers should prioritise the reduction of socioeconomic inequalities in SHS exposure and consider the specific needs of socioeconomically disadvantaged populations in the design of future legislation.

Assessing United States County-Level Exposure for Research on Tropical Cyclones and Human Health.

Environmental Health Perspectives

Tropical cyclone epidemiology can be advanced through exposure assessment methods that are comprehensive and consistent across space and time, as these facilitate multiyear, multistorm studies. Further, an understanding of patterns in and between exposure metrics that are based on specific hazards of the storm can help in designing tropical cyclone epidemiological research.

a) Provide an open-source data set for tropical cyclone exposure assessment for epidemiological research; and b) investigate patterns and agreement between county-level assessments of tropical cyclone exposure based on different storm hazards.

We created an open-source data set with data at the county level on exposure to four tropical cyclone hazards: peak sustained wind, rainfall, flooding, and tornadoes. The data cover all eastern U.S. counties for all land-falling or near-land Atlantic basin storms, covering 1996-2011 for all metrics and up to 1988-2018 for specific metrics. We validated measurements against other data sources and investigated patterns and agreement among binary exposure classifications based on these metrics, as well as compared them to use of distance from the storm's track, which has been used as a proxy for exposure in some epidemiological studies.

Our open-source data set was typically consistent with data from other sources, and we present and discuss areas of disagreement and other caveats. Over the study period and area, tropical cyclones typically brought different hazards to different counties. Therefore, when comparing exposure assessment between different hazard-specific metrics, agreement was usually low, as it also was when comparing exposure assessment based on a distance-based proxy measurement and any of the hazard-specific metrics.

Our results provide a multihazard data set that can be leveraged for epidemiological research on tropical cyclones, as well as insights that can inform the design and analysis for tropical cyclone epidemiological research.

Drivers of and Obstacles to the Adoption of Toxicogenomics for Chemical Risk Assessment: Insights from Social Science Perspectives.

Environmental Health Perspectives

Some 20 y ago, scientific and regulatory communities identified the potential of omics sciences (genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics) to improve chemical risk assessment through development of toxicogenomics. Recognizing that regulators adopt new scientific methods cautiously given accountability to diverse stakeholders, the scope and pace of adoption of toxicogenomics tools and data have nonetheless not met the ambitious, early expectations of omics proponents.

Our objective was, therefore, to inventory, investigate, and derive insights into drivers of and obstacles to adoption of toxicogenomics in chemical risk assessment. By invoking established social science frameworks conceptualizing innovation adoption, we also aimed to develop recommendations for proponents of toxicogenomics and other new approach methodologies (NAMs).

We report findings from an analysis of 56 scientific and regulatory publications from 1998 through 2017 that address the adoption of toxicogenomics for chemical risk assessment. From this purposeful sample of toxicogenomics discourse, we identified major categories of drivers of and obstacles to adoption of toxicogenomics tools and data sets. We then mapped these categories onto social science frameworks for conceptualizing innovation adoption to generate actionable insights for proponents of toxicogenomics.

We identify the most salient drivers and obstacles. From 1998 through 2017, adoption of toxicogenomics was understood to be helped by drivers such as those we labeled Superior scientific understanding, New applications, and Reduced cost & increased efficiency but hindered by obstacles such as those we labeled Insufficient validation, Complexity of interpretation, and Lack of standardization. Leveraging social science frameworks, we find that arguments for adoption that draw on the most salient drivers, which emphasize superior and novel functionality of omics as rationales, overlook potential adopters' key concerns: simplicity of use and compatibility with existing practices. We also identify two perspectives-innovation-centric and adopter-centric-on omics adoption and explain how overreliance on the former may be undermining efforts to promote toxicogenomics.

Metabolomic profiling identifies plasma sphingosine 1-phosphate levels associated with welding exposures.

Occupational and Environmental Medicine

Despite a number of known health hazards of welding fume exposure, it is unclear how exposure affects the human metabolome.

We assessed the metabolic profiles of welders before and after a 6-hour welding shift, controlling for circadian rhythm of metabolism on a non-welding day.

Welders were recruited from a training centre in Quincy, Massachusetts, in 2006 and 2010-2012 and donated blood samples on a welding shift day before and after work, as well as on a non-welding day spent in an adjacent classroom. In total, we collected 509 samples from 74 participants. Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry quantified 665 metabolites from thawed plasmas. Metabolites with significant time (afternoon compared with morning) and day (welding/classroom) interactions were identified by two-way analysis of variance, and the overnight changes were evaluated.

Sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) and sphingasine 1-phosphate (SA1P) exhibited significant interaction effects between day and time with false discovery rate-adjusted p values of 0.03 and <0.01, respectively. S1P, SA1P and sphingosine shared similar trends over time: high relative levels in the morning of a non-welding day declining by afternoon, but with lower starting levels on a welding day and no decline. There was no obvious pattern related to current smoking status.

S1P and SA1P profiles were different between welding day and classroom day. The S1P pathway was disrupted on the day of welding exposure. The levels of S1P, SA1P and sphingosine were highly correlated over time. S1P is a signalling lipid with many vital roles; thus, the underlying mechanism and clinical implications of this alteration need further investigation.

Decade of variable progress: trends in fatal injury in workers in New Zealand from a national observational study.

Occupational and Environmental Medicine

Analyses of secular trends in work-related fatal injury in New Zealand have previously only considered the total working population, potentially hiding trends for important subgroups of workers. This paper examines trends in work-related fatalities in worker subgroups between 2005 and 2014 to indicate where workplace safety action should be prioritised.

A dataset of fatally injured workers was created; all persons aged 15-84 years, fatally injured in the period 2005-2014, were identified from mortality records, linked to coronial records which were then reviewed for work relatedness. Poisson regression modelling was used to estimate annual percentage change in rates by age, sex, ethnicity, employment status, industry and occupation.

Overall, worker fatalities decreased by 2.4% (95% CI 0.0% to 4.6%) annually; an average reduction of 18 deaths per year from baseline (2005). Significant declines in annual rates were observed for younger workers (15-29 and 30-49 years), indigenous Māori, those in the public administration and service sector, and those in community and personal service occupations. Increases in annual rates occurred for workers in agriculture and forestry and fisheries sectors and for labourers. Rates of worker deaths in work-traffic settings declined faster than in workplace settings.

Although overall age-standardised rates of work-related fatal injury have been declining, these trends were variable. Sources of injury risk in identifiable subgroups with increases in annual rates need to be urgently addressed. This study demonstrates the need for regular, detailed examination of the secular trends to identify those subgroups of workers requiring further workplace safety attention.