Posts tagged with "public health":

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Opioids hitting construction workers hardest says new study

A new report from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) revealed that nearly a quarter of opioid-related deaths over a four year period occurred among people in construction-related jobs. The Boston Globe noted that the pain and pressure associated with such highly-physical roles is an “overlooked hazard” of the job. The study looked at information from Massachusetts death certificates from 2011 to 2015 to figure out how many opioid overdoses resulted in death across various industries and occupations. Construction and extraction workers accounted for over 24 percent of all opioid-related deaths among the state’s working population. Both professions had an equally high rate with 150.6 deaths per 100,000 workers and 1,096 fatal opioid overdoses out of 4,302 total deaths (with usable occupational information) in the state. Opioid overdoses occurring within the fields of agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting had the second highest rates of deaths while transportation, material moving occupations, maintenance and repair jobs, as well as service-related positions also reported significant fatality rates. The report infers that such deaths are higher among workers with jobs where the risk of a work-related injury or illness is high, and employees are often turning to prescription drugs to manage acute and chronic pain. Additionally, it stated that the fatality rate is higher in jobs that have less paid sick leave and substantially less job security. Men were also reported to suffer higher death rates from opioid misuse as opposed to women. The DPH said that further in-depth research needs to be done in order to clarify whether these complex factors as directly contributing to the opioid epidemic in the state of Massachusetts. According to the report, the state is committed to taking serious steps to address the issue by enacting education and policy interventions on overdose prevention and by improving workers' compensation systems. The DPH reported in May that opioid-related overdose deaths declined by an estimated five percent for the first three months of this year when compared to the first three months of 2017.  
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“Breaking New Ground” Competition Tackles Affordable Housing in the Coachella Valley

Architectural competitions with substantial cash prizes tend to focus on monuments, museums, and other high-brow concerns. Such is not the case for Breaking New Ground: Designing Affordable Housing for the Coachella Valley Workforce. Sponsored by The California Endowment, a Los Angeles–based private health organization, Breaking New Ground targets the gap between the people who come to the Eastern Coachella Valley to play and those who keep its $4 billion agriculture and tourism industries running. Home to resort communities including Palm Springs, Palm Desert, and Rancho Mirage, the Eastern Coachella Valley lacks affordable housing for the permanent and seasonal workers who harvest its crops and staff the local service industry. With annual salaries of just $15,000–$30,000, workers and their families are forced to live on the streets, in cars, or in one of more than 100 unpermitted mobile home parks, without access to adequate heat, hot water, sanitation, or ventilation. Breaking New Ground will offer a total of $350,000 in unrestricted awards, including prizes for four finalists in each of the Open and Student categories. The jury will evaluate submissions based not just on physical design, but also on their economic, social, and regulatory aspects, such as: market feasibility, the provision of integrated social services, and proposed policy changes. The competition will be based on an existing 9.4-acre vacant site, selected by the County of Riverside for competition purposes only. Though Breaking New Ground is a design and ideas competition, “The California Endowment does intend to fund a project inspired by the competition entries,” said Colin Drukker of PlaceWorks, the competition’s lead project coordinator. “Winning entries will not be guaranteed a chance to participate in a potential construction project, but they will obviously have an advantage in any subsequent RFP.” The competition begins October 21, with online registration open sooner. The first round will conclude December 19, at which point the jury will select four winners from the Student category as well as four finalists from the Open Category. The second round, to begin January 22, will conclude with live presentations and a celebration March 30–31. (All dates are subject to change until registration opens.)
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Chicago Mulls Zoning Changes To Ward Off Mountains of Petcoke

Piles of dusty, black waste from coal and petroleum processing have been piling up on Chicago’s southeast side, angering residents and prompting Mayor Rahm Emanuel to weigh in on the contentious environmental issue. The Sun-Times has reported that Emanuel will introduce an ordinance at next month’s City Council meeting banning new storage facilities for so-called petcoke—a byproduct of the oil refinery process that can be sold overseas. It’s a step back from an outright ban proposed in December by Alderman Edward Burke, whose constituents were outraged by black dust clouds wafting from uncovered piles of petcoke along the Calumet River. Southeast side communities like Calumet, South Chicago, and South Deering are no strangers to industrial zoning. The Illinois-Indiana border has long been a pastiche of brownfields, residential communities, natural areas, and heavy industry. But the swirling black dust incited a class-action lawsuit filed against three storage sites last year. Chicago’s Department of Public Health shares area residents’ concerns. “We know that petcoke is a respiratory irritant and the main concern is if the petcoke is inhaled,” Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Bechara Choucair told the Sun-Times. “If you have somebody with asthma or other respiratory problems, inhaling petcoke would really lead to more problems…We are advancing this ordinance to protect our residents.” The anticipated zoning ordinance would prevent new petcoke storage facilities from entering the city, and would keep current outfits from expanding. KCBX, the largest such facility in the area, says the ordinance is unjustified, a sentiment shared by some business groups:
Mark Denzler, vice president of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association called the ordinance “a solution in search of a problem.” … The Illinois Chamber of Commerce is also questioning the ordinance, calling it an “overreaction.” “We don’t understand what the mayor is trying to accomplish here. Petcoke and coal have been handled and stored in Chicago for decades with few issues. This seems like an overreaction to one incident – good policy rarely comes from overreacting,” Doug Whitley, Illinois Chamber of Commerce CEO said.
KCBX is an affiliate of Koch Industries, the business empire of brothers Charles and David H. Koch. Their company, Koch Carbon, came under fire last year for storing the same material along the Detroit River.