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1.  Tuberculosis in healthcare workers – a narrative review from a German perspective 
Despite the decline of tuberculosis in the population at large, healthcare workers (HCW) are still at risk of infection.
In a narrative review the TB risk in HCW and preventive measures are described, with the focus on epidemiology and Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) regulations in Germany.
There is an increased risk of infection not only in pneumology and laboratories with regular contact with tuberculosis patients or infectious materials. Epidemiological studies have also verified an increased risk of infection from activities that involve close contact with patients’ breath (e.g. bronchoscopy, intubation) or close contact with patients in need of care in geriatric medicine or geriatric nursing. In occupational disease claim proceedings on account of tuberculosis, the burden of proof can be eased for insured persons who work in these or other comparable fields. Forgoing evidence of an index person as a source of infection has led to a doubling of the rate of cases of tuberculosis recognised as an occupational disease and has halved the duration of occupational disease claim proceedings in Germany. For several years now, it has been possible to use the new interferon-y release assays (IGRAs) to diagnose a latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) with significantly greater validity than with the traditional tuberculin skin test (TST). However, variability of the IGRAs around the cut-off poses problems especially in serial testing of HCWs. At around 10%, LTBI prevalence in German healthcare workers is lower than had been assumed. It can make sense to treat a recent LTBI in a young healthcare worker so as to prevent progression into active tuberculosis. If the LTBI is occupational in origin, the provider of statutory accident insurance can cover the costs of preventive treatment. However, little is known about disease progression in HCWs with positive IGRA sofar.
TB screening in HCWs will remain an important issue in the near future even in low incidence, high income countries, as active TB in HCWs is often due to workplace exposure. The IGRAs facilitate these screenings. However, variability of IGRA results in serial testing of HCWs need further investigations.
PMCID: PMC3984703  PMID: 24625063
Tuberculosis; Provision; Occupational disease; Assessment; Healthcare; Prevention
2.  Use of alcohol and drugs among health professionals in Norway: a study using data from questionnaires and samples of oral fluid 
Working under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol may affect safety and job performance. However, the size of this possible problem among health professionals (HPs) is unknown. The aim of this study was threefold: (i) to analyze samples of oral fluid and self-reported data from questionnaires to investigate the prevalence of alcohol and drugs among a sample of HPs in Norway, (ii) to study self-reported absence from or impairment at work due to alcohol and/or drug use, and (iii) to examine whether such use and absence/impairment due to such use depend on socio-demographic variables.
A total of 916 of the 933 invited HPs from hospitals and pharmacies participated in the study (participation rate = 98.2%), and 81.1% were women. Associations were analyzed in bi-variate cross tables with Chi-square statistics to assess statistical significance.
Alcohol was not detected in any of the samples. Ethyl glucuronide, a specific alcohol metabolite, was found in 0.3% of the collected samples. Illicit drugs and medicinal drugs were identified in 0.6% and 7.3% of the samples, respectively. Both analytical results and self-reported use of alcohol and drugs during the past 12 months indicate that recent and past year alcohol and drug use was lower among HPs than among workers in other business areas in Norway, Europe and US. Nevertheless, several HPs reported absence from work due to alcohol (0.9%) and medicinal drug use (0.8%) during the past 12 months. A substantial part (16.7%) of the self-reported medicinal drug users reported absence from work because of use of medicinal drugs during the past 12 months, and more than 1/4 of those reported in-efficiency at work because of the use of medicinal drugs during the past 12 months. Reduced efficiency at work due to alcohol use during the past 12 months was reported by 12.2%.
This sample of HPs seldom used illicit drugs, few had a high level of alcohol consumption, and few tested positive for medicinal drugs. Absence or hangover related to the use of medicinal drugs or alcohol appeared to be a bigger issue than the acute intoxication or the use of illicit drugs.
PMCID: PMC3973962  PMID: 24612541
Ethanol; Illicit drugs; Medications; Prevalence; Psychoactive substances; Saliva; Self-report; Workplace drug testing
3.  Low myelinated nerve-fibre density may lead to symptoms associated with nerve entrapment in vibration-induced neuropathy 
Prolonged exposure to hand-held vibrating tools may cause a hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), sometimes with individual susceptibility. The neurological symptoms seen in HAVS are similar to symptoms seen in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and there is a strong relationship between CTS and the use of vibrating tools. Vibration exposure to the hand is known to induce demyelination of nerve fibres and to reduce the density of myelinated nerve fibres in the nerve trunks. In view of current knowledge regarding the clinical effects of low nerve-fibre density in patients with neuropathies of varying aetiologies, such as diabetes, and that such a low density may lead to nerve entrapment symptoms, a reduction in myelinated nerve fibres may be a key factor behind the symptoms also seen in patients with HAVS and CTS. Furthermore, a reduced nerve-fibre density may result in a changed afferent signal pattern, resulting in turn in alterations in the brain, further prompting the symptoms seen in patients with HAVS and CTS. We conclude that a low nerve-fibre density lead to symptoms associated with nerve entrapment, such as CTS, in some patients with HAVS.
PMCID: PMC3974023  PMID: 24606755
Vibration exposure; Nerve compression; Carpal tunnel syndrome; Neuropathy; Cerebral plasticity
4.  Particulate emissions from diesel engines: correlation between engine technology and emissions 
In the last 30 years, diesel engines have made rapid progress to increased efficiency, environmental protection and comfort for both light- and heavy-duty applications. The technical developments include all issues from fuel to combustion process to exhaust gas aftertreatment. This paper provides a comprehensive summary of the available literature regarding technical developments and their impact on the reduction of pollutant emission. This includes emission legislation, fuel quality, diesel engine- and exhaust gas aftertreatment technologies, as well as particulate composition, with a focus on the mass-related particulate emission of on-road vehicle applications. Diesel engine technologies representative of real-world on-road applications will be highlighted.
Internal engine modifications now make it possible to minimize particulate and nitrogen oxide emissions with nearly no reduction in power. Among these modifications are cooled exhaust gas recirculation, optimized injections systems, adapted charging systems and optimized combustion processes with high turbulence. With introduction and optimization of exhaust gas aftertreatment systems, such as the diesel oxidation catalyst and the diesel particulate trap, as well as NOx-reduction systems, pollutant emissions have been significantly decreased. Today, sulfur poisoning of diesel oxidation catalysts is no longer considered a problem due to the low-sulfur fuel used in Europe. In the future, there will be an increased use of bio-fuels, which generally have a positive impact on the particulate emissions and do not increase the particle number emissions.
Since the introduction of the EU emissions legislation, all emission limits have been reduced by over 90%. Further steps can be expected in the future. Retrospectively, the particulate emissions of modern diesel engines with respect to quality and quantity cannot be compared with those of older engines. Internal engine modifications lead to a clear reduction of the particulate emissions without a negative impact on the particulate-size distribution towards smaller particles. The residual particles can be trapped in a diesel particulate trap independent of their size or the engine operating mode. The usage of a wall-flow diesel particulate filter leads to an extreme reduction of the emitted particulate mass and number, approaching 100%. A reduced particulate mass emission is always connected to a reduced particle number emission.
PMCID: PMC3973853  PMID: 24606725
Diesel engine technology; Diesel engine emissions; Particulate mass emission; Particle number emission; Technological progress
5.  Upper limb disability in Norwegian workers with hand-arm vibration syndrome 
Hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) is a well-known disease among workers using hand-held vibrating tools. These patients experience major symptoms from their upper limbs. However, there are few studies on disability in this patient group. In this study we wanted to describe the disability of HAVS patients.
All HAVS patients diagnosed at Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen, Norway in a five-year period were invited. The disabilities of the arm, shoulder and hand (DASH) questionnaire was sent by mail. Clinical data were extracted from their hospital journals. Descriptive statistics and regression analyses were performed.
Thirty-eight patients were recruited. Mean DASH score was 41.2, while the mean of a normal population is 10. Ability to perform tasks related to work and everyday life was affected in these patients. We found a significant association between the DASH score, hand grip strength and tendinitis, also after adjustment for age and smoking in pack-years.
HAVS patients demonstrate a high level of upper limb disability as assessed by the DASH score. Ability to perform tasks related to work and everyday life was affected. We found a significant association between the DASH score, hand grip strength and tendinitis. This should be focused upon in future research.
PMCID: PMC3926262  PMID: 24517340
HAVS; Hand-arm vibration; DASH questionnaire; Tendinitis; Stockholm Workshop scales
6.  Psychological stress and strain on employees in dialysis facilities: a cross-sectional study with the Copenhagen Psychosocial Questionnaire 
Work in dialysis facilities involves long term contact with chronically ill patients. International comparisons make it clear that dialysis work is being concentrated, staff is being reduced and more patients are being treated. It is more than 20 years since the last German publication on job strains and job satisfaction experienced by dialysis staff was published. The present study examines the stress and strain currently experienced by the staff of German dialysis facilities.
The staff of 20 dialysis facilities were surveyed with the Copenhagen Psychosocial Questionnaire (COPSOQ). The questionnaire was extended by adding dialysis-specific questions. The data from the dialysis facilities were assessed by comparison with other professions in medical care - nurses and geriatric nurses - using data recorded in the German COPSOQ database.
A total of 367 employees took part in the study, corresponding to a response rate of 55%. For almost all psychosocial aspects, the dialysis staff regarded the stress and strain as being more critical than did the geriatric nurses. There were some positive differences in comparison to hospital nursing, including less conflict between work and private life. However, there were also negative differences, such as fewer possibilities of influencing the work.
The results of the study show that dialysis work exhibits both positive and negative aspects in comparison with other healthcare professions. The results in the different facilities were highly variable, indicating that the deficits found in the individual scales are not inevitable consequences of working in dialysis in general, but are influenced and might be favourably altered by the individual facilities.
PMCID: PMC3918173  PMID: 24499468
Belastung; Beanspruchung; Dialyse-Beschäftigte; Gesundheitsberufe; psychosoziale Arbeitsbedingungen; COPSOQ; Stress; Strain; Dialysis staff; Health occupations; Psychosocial factors; COPSOQ
7.  Anicteric hepatoxicity: a potential health risk of occupational exposures in Nigerian petroleum oil refining and distribution industry 
Literature abounds linking one’s job to certain unpalatable health outcomes. Since exposures to hazardous conditions in industrial environments often results in sundry health effects among workers, we embarked on this study to investigate the hepatic health effects of occupational activities in the petroleum refining and distribution industry.
Biochemical markers of liver functions were assayed in plasma, using Reflotron dry chemistry spectrophotometric system. The study was conducted on randomly selected workers of Port Harcourt Refining Company (PHRC) and Pipelines and Petroleum Product Marketing Company (PPMC) both in Alesa-Eleme near Port Harcourt, Nigeria, as well as non-oil work civil servants serving as control subjects.
Result and conclusion
Results showed that, bilirubin ranged 0.3-1.6 mg/dl with a mean of 0.66±0.20mg/dl among the oil workers as against 0.5-1.00mg/dl with a mean of 0.58±0.13mg/dl in non-oil workers, Alkaline phosphatase ranged 50.00-296.00u/l (mean: 126.21±39.49u/l) in oil workers as against 40.20-111u/l (mean: 66.83±18.54u/l) for non-oil workers, Aspartic transaminases (AST) ranged 5.80-140.20u/l (mean: 21.81±11.49u/l) in oil workers against 18.00-44.00u/l (mean: 26.89±6.99u/l) for non-oil workers, while Alanine transaminases (ALT) ranged 4.90-86.00u/l (mean: 22.14±11.28u/l) in oil workers as against 10.00-86.60u/l (mean: 22.30±10.22u/l) for the non-oil workers. A close study of the results revealed that although the mean values for all the studied parameters were still within the parametric reference ranges, however, relative to the referents, there were significant increases (P<0.05) in plasma bilirubin (though anicteric) and alkaline phosphatase that was not matched with a corresponding increase in the plasma transaminases, suggesting a possibility that toxic anicteric hepatoxicity is part of the potential health effects of sundry exposures in the Nigeria petroleum oil refining and distribution industry. Gender differentiation data showed that though the mean values for the parameters were higher in males than females, the increases were not significant in most cases (P>0.05), whereas data for age and exposure period classifications revealed that irrespective of the age of the worker, the effects are likely to start after the first five years, manifesting fully after the first decade of occupational exposures. Thus, an update of industrial/occupational health measures is necessary for a safer and healthier work environment.
PMCID: PMC3901343  PMID: 24457023
Anicteric hepatoxicity; Occupational exposures; Petroleum refining and distribution industry; Nigeria
8.  Silicosis: geographic changes in research: an analysis employing density-equalizing mapping 
A critical evaluation of scientific efforts is needed in times of modified evaluation criteria for academic personnel and institutions.
Using scientometric benchmark procedures and density-equalizing mapping, we analysed the global scientific efforts on “silicosis” of the last 92 years focusing on geographical changes within the last 30 years, specifying the most productive authors, institutions, countries and the most successful cooperations.
The USA as the most productive supplier have established their position as center of international cooperation, followed in considerable distance by the United Kingdom, Germany and China. Asian countries, particularly China, catch up and are expected to excel the USA still in this decade.
The combination of scientometric procedures with density-equalizing mapping reveals a distinct global pattern of research productivity and citation activity. Modified h-index, citationrate and impact factor have to be discussed critically due to distortion by bias of self-citation, language and co-authorship.
PMCID: PMC3906744  PMID: 24438527
Silicosis; Scientometria; Density-equalizing mapping; H-Index; Citationrate
9.  Physical activity and health-related quality of life among physiotherapists: a cross sectional survey in an Australian hospital and health service 
Physiotherapists are a professional group with a high rate of attrition and at high risk of musculoskeletal disorders. The purpose of this investigation was to examine the physical activity levels and health-related quality of life of physiotherapists working in metropolitan clinical settings in an Australian hospital and health service. It was hypothesized that practicing physiotherapists would report excellent health-related quality of life and would already be physically active. Such a finding would add weight to a claim that general physical activity conditioning strategies may not be useful for preventing musculoskeletal disorders among active healthy physiotherapists, but rather, future investigations should focus on the development and evaluation of role specific conditioning strategies.
A questionnaire was completed by 44 physiotherapists from three inpatient units and three ambulatory clinics (63.7% response rate). Physical activity levels were reported using the Active Australia Survey. Health-related quality of life was examined using the EQ-5D instrument. Physical activity and EQ-5D data were examined using conventional descriptive statistics; with domain responses for the EQ-5D presented in a frequency histogram.
The majority of physiotherapists in this sample were younger than 30 years of age (n = 25, 56.8%) consistent with the presence of a high attrition rate. Almost all respondents exceeded minimum recommended physical activity guidelines (n = 40, 90.9%). Overall the respondents engaged in more vigorous physical activity (median = 180 minutes) and walking (median = 135 minutes) than moderate exercise (median = 35 minutes) each week. Thirty-seven (84.1%) participants reported no pain or discomfort impacting their health-related quality of life, with most (n = 35,79.5%) being in full health.
Physical-conditioning based interventions for the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders among practicing physiotherapists may be better targeted to role or task specific conditioning rather than general physical conditioning among this physically active population. It is plausible that an inherent attrition of physiotherapists may occur among those not as active or healthy as therapists who cope with the physical demands of clinical practice. Extrapolation of findings from this study may be limited due to the sample characteristics. However, this investigation addressed the study objectives and has provided a foundation for larger scale longitudinal investigations in this field.
PMCID: PMC3896696  PMID: 24405934
Physical activity; Work related musculoskeletal disorders; Physiotherapists; Prevention; Injury; Attrition; Quality of life; Workforce; Australian
10.  Occupational accidents in professional dance with focus on gender differences 
Classical dance comprises gender specific movement tasks. There is a lack of studies which investigate work related traumatic injuries in terms of gender specific differences in detail.
To define gender related differences of occupational accidents.
Basis for the evaluation were occupational injuries of professional dancers from three (n = 785; f: n = 358, m: n = 427) state theatres.
The incidence rate (0.36 per year) was higher in males (m: 0.45, f: 0.29). There were gender specific differences as to the localizations of injuries, particularly the spine region (m: 17.3%, f: 9.8%, p = 0.05) and ankle joint (m: 23.7%, f: 35.5%, p = 0.003). Compared to male dancers, females sustained more injuries resulting from extrinsic factors. Significant differences could specifically be observed with dance floors (m: 8.8%, f: 15.1%, p = 0.02). There were also significant gender differences observed with movement vocabulary.
The clearly defined gender specific movement activities in classical dance are reflected in occupational accidents sustained. Organisational structures as well as work environment represent a burden likewise to male and female dancers. The presented differences support the development of gender specific injury prevention measures.
PMCID: PMC3878499  PMID: 24341391
Traumatic injury; Dancer; Ballet; Male; Female
11.  Work-related complaints and diseases of physical therapists – protocol for the establishment of a “Physical Therapist Cohort” (PTC) in Germany 
Only few studies deal with the workload of physical therapists and the health consequences, although this occupational group is quite important for the health care system in many industrialized countries (e.g. ca. 136 000 people are currently employed as physical therapists in Germany). Therefore, the current state of knowledge of work-related diseases and disorders of physical therapists is insufficient. The aim of the "Physical Therapist Cohort" (PTC) study is to analyze the association between work-related exposures and diseases among physical therapists in Germany. This article describes the protocol of the baseline assessment of the PTC study.
A cross-sectional study will be conducted as baseline assessment and will include a representative random sample of approximately 300 physical therapists employed in Germany (exposure group), and a population-based comparison group (n = 300). The comparison group will comprise a sample of working aged (18–65 years) inhabitants of a German city. Variables of interest will be assessed using a questionnaire manual including questions regarding musculoskeletal, dermal, and infectious diseases and disorders as well as psychosocial exposures, diseases and disorders. In addition to subjective measures, a clinical examination will be used to objectify the questionnaire-based results (n = 50).
The study, which includes extensive data collection, provides a unique opportunity to study the prospective association of work-related exposures and associated complaints of physical therapists. Baseline results will give first clues with regard to whether and how prevalent main exposures of physiotherapeutic work and typical work areas of physical therapists are associated with the development of work-related diseases. Thereby, this baseline assessment provides the basis for further investigations to examine causal relationships in accordance with a longitudinal design.
PMCID: PMC3878737  PMID: 24330548
Study protocol; Cohort study; Physical therapist; Occupational exposure; Occupational health; Occupational disease
12.  Validation of the German version of the Nurse-Work Instability Scale: baseline survey findings of a prospective study of a cohort of geriatric care workers 
A prospective study of a cohort of nursing staff from nursing homes was undertaken to validate the Nurse-Work Instability Scale (Nurse-WIS). Baseline investigation data was used to test reliability, construct validity and criterion validity.
A survey of nursing staff from nursing homes was conducted using a questionnaire containing the Nurse-WIS along with other survey instruments (including SF-12, WAI, SPE). The self-reported number of days’ sick leave taken and if a pension for reduced work capacity was drawn were recorded. The reliability of the scale was checked by item difficulty (P), item discrimination (rjt) and by internal consistency according to Cronbach’s coefficient. The hypotheses for checking construct validity were tested on the basis of correlations. Pearson’s chi-square was used to test concurrent criterion validity; discriminant validity was tested by means of binary logistic regression.
396 persons answered the questionnaire (21.3% response rate). More than 80% were female and mostly work full-time in a rotating shift pattern. Following the test for item discrimination, two items were removed from the Nurse-WIS test. According to Cronbach’s (0.927) the scale provides a high degree of measuring accuracy. All hypotheses and assumptions used to test validity were confirmed: As the Nurse-WIS risk increases, health-related quality of life, work ability and job satisfaction decline. Depressive symptoms and a poor subjective prognosis of earning capacity are also more frequent. Musculoskeletal disorders and impairments of psychological well-being are more frequent. Age also influences the Nurse-WIS result. While 12.0% of those below the age of 35 had an increased risk, the figure for those aged over 55 was 50%.
This study is the first validation study of the Nurse-WIS to date. The Nurse-WIS shows good reliability, good validity and a good level of measuring accuracy. It appears to be suitable for recording prevention and rehabilitation needs among health care workers. If, in the follow-up, the Nurse-WIS likewise proves to be a reliable screening instrument with good predictive validity, it could ensure that suitable action is taken at an early stage, thereby helping to counteract early retirement and the anticipated shortage of health care workers.
PMCID: PMC3892029  PMID: 24330532
Nurse-work instability scale; Nurses; Musculoskeletal disorders
13.  Expression of VPAC1 in a murine model of allergic asthma 
Vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) is a putative neurotransmitter of the inhibitory non-adrenergic non-cholinergic nervous system and influences the mammalian airway function in various ways. Hence known for bronchodilatory, immunomodulatory and mucus secretion modulating effects by interacting with the VIP receptors VPAC1 and VPAC2, it is discussed to be a promising target for pharmaceutical intervention in common diseases such as COPD and bronchial asthma. Here we examined the expression and transcriptional regulation of VPAC1 in the lungs of allergic mice using an ovalbumin (OVA) -induced model of allergic asthma. Mice were sensitized to OVA and challenged with an OVA aerosol. In parallel a control group was sham sensitized with saline. VPAC1 expression was examined using RT-PCR and real time-PCR studies were performed to quantify gene transcription. VPAC1 mRNA expression was detected in all samples of OVA-sensitized and challenged animals and control tissues. Further realtime analysis did not show significant differences at the transcriptional level.
Although the present studies did not indicate a major transcriptional regulation of VPAC1 in states of allergic airway inflammation, immunomodulatory effects of VPAC1 might still be present due to regulations at the translational level.
PMCID: PMC3852716  PMID: 24107483
VIP; VPAC1; Neurotransmitter; Asthma; Allergy
14.  Mercury vapour exposure during dental student training in amalgam removal 
Amalgam that is used for dental fillings contains approximately 50% elemental mercury. During dental student training, amalgam is often removed by drilling without the use of water spray and suction, which are protective measures in preventing mercury aerosol. In this study we measured mercury vapor levels in ambient air during amalgam removal as is typically performed in dental training.
Mercury vapor levels in ambient air were measured in a dental school laboratory during removal of amalgam fillings from artificial teeth set into a dental jaw simulator. Mercury vapor was measured under three conditions (25 measurements each): with the simultaneous use of water spray and suction, with the use of suction only, and with the use of neither suction nor water spray. These three conditions are all used during dental student training. Results were compared to Alberta occupational exposure limits for mercury vapor in order to assess potential occupational risk to students. Analysis of variance testing was used to compare data obtained under the three conditions.
When water spray and suction were used, mercury vapor levels ranged from 4.0 to 19.0 μg/m3 (arithmetic mean = 8.0 μg/m3); when suction only was used, mercury vapor levels ranged from 14.0 to 999.0 (999.0 μg/m3 represents the high limit detection of the Jerome analyzer) (arithmetic mean = 141.0 μg/m3); when neither suction nor water was used, the vapor levels ranged from 34.0 to 796.0 μg/m3 (arithmetic mean = 214.0 μg/m3).
The Alberta Occupational Health and Safety threshold limit value for mercury vapor over an eight-hour time-weighted period is 25.0 μg/m3. The absolute ceiling for mercury vapor, not to be exceeded at any time, is 125.0 μg/m3. When both water spray and suction were used, mercury vapor levels were consistently below this threshold. When suction without water spray was used, mercury vapor levels exceeded the safety threshold 8% of the time. When neither water spray nor suction was used, 36% of the mercury vapor readings exceeded the absolute ceiling value. To maximize safety, dental schools should train students to remove amalgam only while using water spray and high volume suction. Alternatively, students should use appropriate occupational hygiene personal protective equipment during amalgam removals.
PMCID: PMC3850894  PMID: 24090056
Mercury; Mercury vapor; Dental amalgam; Occupational exposure to mercury; Amalgam removal
15.  A case report of adult lead toxicity following use of Ayurvedic herbal medication 
Ayurvedic medications consist of herbs that may be intentionally combined with metals, such as lead, mercury, iron, and zinc. Ayurvedic practitioners and their patients believe that the toxic properties of the metals are reduced or eliminated during preparation and processing.
Case report
A 69 year old Caucasian male retired professional with a prior history of stroke presented for evaluation of new onset depression, fatigue, generalized weakness, constipation, anorexia, and weight loss. History revealed that his symptoms were temporally related to initiation of an Ayurvedic herbal medication. The patient had been previously admitted to another hospital for these symptoms and was found to have a severe anemia for which no etiology was found. Laboratory tests revealed an elevated blood lead level and a diagnosis of symptomatic lead toxicity was made. The patient was treated with intramuscular, intravenous, and oral chelation therapy to promote lead excretion. Because of complaints of continued poor mental function, neuropsychological tests were administered before and after one of the chelation treatments and showed improvement in measures of attention and other cognitive domains. In addition, the patient was able to discontinue use of antidepressant medication after chelation.
A high index of suspicion of metal toxicity is necessary among persons with characteristic symptoms and signs in the absence of occupational exposure. Despite limited evidence for chelation in adults and in those with modest blood lead levels, this patient appeared to benefit from repeated chelation therapy. Both allopathic and alternative medicine practitioners and public health specialists need to be aware of the potential for contamination of and side effects from alternative pharmacologic and herbal therapies.
PMCID: PMC3850721  PMID: 24083830
Lead poisoning; Clinical toxicity; Ayurvedic medicine; Metals; Chelation
16.  The effects of a medical hypnotherapy on clothing industry employees suffering from chronic pain 
Problems associated with pain in several body regions due to work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMDs), repetitive movement and negative stress at work are quite common in many manufacturing industries of Latvia, clothing industry. The aim of this study was to evaluate efficiency of the psychotherapeutic intervention using medical hypnotherapy (MH) program for mind-body relaxation with pain-blocking imagery, cognitive restructuring of unpleasant physical and emotional experience.
300 sewers and 50 cutters with chronic pain were involved in the study. Self-rated WRMDs symptoms, pain intensity and interference were assessed using the extended version of Nordic Musculoskeletal Questionnaire and Brief Pain Inventory Scale. Assessment of the functional state of muscles was carried out using myotonometric (MYO) measurements. Work heaviness degree was estimated via heart rate monitoring (HRM). The MH program was composed of cognitive hypnotherapy and self-hypnosis training. Sunnen Trance Scale was used to determine person’s hypnotic susceptibility. Life quality assessment before and after MH program was carried out using Quality of Life Scale.
At the beginning of MH program sessions both sewers and cutters reported on pain interference with general activities, mood, sleep, normal work, etc., but after MH the interference of pain significantly decreased. HRM data confirmed that work heaviness degree of sewers and cutters can be referred to as light and moderate work (energy expenditure for their tasks varies from 3.4 till 4.7 kcal/min). Using MYO measurements it was stated that before MH 22% of workers involved in the study fell under III MYO category indices, consequently, their muscle tone was increased, which is associated with muscular fatigue. After MH muscle tone remained within the normal range meaning that they were able to adapt to the existing workload (II MYO category) or fully relax (I MYO category).
MH program including exercises-workouts, cognitive hypnotherapy and self-hypnosis training sessions is an effective method to decrease composite chronic pain intensity for sewers and cutters, as well as to decrease psychogenic tension and muscle fatigue (proved by objective measurements of muscles tone) and to increase the life quality.
PMCID: PMC3849799  PMID: 24066847
Muscle fatigue; Work heaviness; Psychotherapeutic intervention; Quality of life
17.  Self-perceived sleepiness in emergency training physicians: prevalence and relationship with quality of life 
Sleep deprivation among training physicians is of growing concern; training physicians are susceptible due to their prolonged work hours and rotating work schedules. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of self-perceived sleepiness in emergency training physicians, and to establish a relationship between self-perceived sleepiness, and quality of life.
Prospective survey in Ibn Sina University hospital Center in Morocco from January to April 2011 was conducted. Questionnaires pertaining to socio-demographic, general, and sleep characteristics were completed by training physician who ensured emergency service during the month preceding the survey. They completed the Epworth sleepiness scale (ESS) which assessed the self-perceived sleepiness, and the EuroQol-5 dimensions (EQ-5D) scale which assessed the general quality of life.
Total 81 subjects (49 men and 32 women) were enrolled with mean age of 26.1 ± 3.4 years. No sleepiness was found in 24.7% (n = 20), excessive sleepiness 39.5% (n = 32), and severe sleepiness in 35.8% (n = 29) of training physicians. After adjusting for multiple confounding variables, four independent variables were associated with poorer quality of life index in training physician; unmarried (ß −0.2, 95% CI −0.36 to −0.02; P = 0.02), no physic exercise (ß −0.2, 95% CI −0.39 to 0.006; P = 0.04), shift-off sleep hour less than 6 hours (ß −0.13, 95% CI −0.24 to −0.02; P = 0.01), and severe sleep deprivation(ß −0.2, 95% CI −0.38 to −0.2; P = 0.02).
Nearly two third of training physicians had suffered from sleepiness. There is an association between poor quality of life and severe sleepiness in unmarried physicians, sleeping less than 6 hours in shift-off day, and doing no physical activity.
PMCID: PMC3850676  PMID: 24053730
Emergency; Quality of life; Sleepiness; Training physicians
18.  Professional exposure to basaltic rock dust: assessment by the Vibrio fischeri ecotoxicological test 
A recent study demonstrates that inhalation of airborne particulate from Mount Etna eruptions may induce fibrotic lung disease. The occupational exposure of construction workers from the Etna area, who excavate building sites and use basalt dust to make mortar, has never been assessed.
Samples of basalt, volcanic ash, basalt + cement and cement dust were collected on the construction site of a subway tunnel, ground to dust and subjected to the Microtox® solid-phase test to evaluate the toxicity of dust suspensions. Samples were investigated by scanning electron microscopy equipped with energy dispersive X-ray analysis (EDX). Minerals were identified and characterized by their morphology and elemental composition.
The elements found most frequently were C, Na, Mg, Al, Si, K, Ca, Ti, Mn, Fe and O. All four dusts were toxic: basalt and ash were significantly less toxic than basalt + cement and cement, which shared a similar and very high degree of toxicity. Higher Fe, Ca and Mg concentrations were associated with greater toxicity.
The risk related to long-term occupational exposure to various dusts on constructions sites in the Mount Etna area should be further assessed.
PMCID: PMC3766014  PMID: 24128058
Vibrio fischeri; Microtox®; Basaltic stone; Ecotoxicological test; Ash; Mount Etna
19.  The association between amalgam dental surfaces and urinary mercury levels in a sample of Albertans, a prevalence study 
The objective of this study was to quantify the relationship between number of dental amalgam surfaces and urinary mercury levels.
This study uses participant data from a large philanthropic chronic disease prevention program in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Urine samples were analysed for mercury levels (measured in μg/g-creatinine). T-tests were used to determine if differences in urine mercury were statistically significant between persons with no dental amalgam surfaces and one or more dental amalgam surfaces. Linear regression was used to estimate the change in urinary mercury per amalgam surface.
Urinary mercury levels were statistically significantly higher in participants with amalgam surfaces, with an average difference of 0.55 μg/g-creatinine. Per amalgam surface, we estimated an expected increase of 0.04 μg/g-creatinine. Measured urinary mercury levels were also statistically significantly higher in participants with dental amalgam surfaces following the oral administration of 2,3-dimercaptopropane-l-sulfonate (DMPS) and meso-2,3-dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA) which are used to mobilize mercury from the blood and tissues.
Our estimates indicate that an individual with seven or more dental amalgam surfaces has 30% to 50% higher urinary mercury levels than an individual without amalgams. This is consistent with past literature that has identified seven amalgam surfaces as an unsafe level of exposure to mercury vapor. Our analysis suggests that continued use of silver amalgam dental fillings for restorative dentistry is a non-negligible, unnecessary source of mercury exposure considering the availability of composite resin alternatives.
PMCID: PMC3766055  PMID: 23984857
Mercury; Urinary mercury; Dental amalgam; Canada
20.  Urinary 2,5-hexanedione excretion in cryptogenic polyneuropathy compared to the general Swedish population 
2,5-hexanedione (2,5-HD) is the main neurotoxic metabolite of methyl-n-butyl ketone (MBK) and n-hexane, and known to cause polyneuropathy. The aim of our study was to compare the urinary levels of 2,5-HD between cases with cryptogenic polyneuropathy and the general Swedish population, and to elucidate the role of certain external factors.
Morning urine samples were collected from 114 cases with cryptogenic polyneuropathy (77 men and 37 women) and 227 referents (110 men and 117 women) randomly selected from the population registry. None had any current occupational exposure to n-hexane or MBK. The urine samples were analysed by a gas chromatographic method based on acidic hydrolysis.
Cases had statistically higher urinary levels of 2,5-HD (0.48 mg/L) than the general population (0.41 mg/L) and men higher excretion than women (0.48 mg/L and 0.38 mg/L, respectively). There was no difference in 2,5-HD levels between current smokers and non-smokers. Occupational exposure to xylene, alcohol consumption and ever exposed to general anaesthesia were associated with lower excretion in men while for occupational exposure to nitrous oxide in women higher excretion was seen. Higher excretion of 2,5 HD was inversely related to increasing age.
Significantly higher levels of urinary 2,5-HD were seen in men and cryptogenic polyneuropathy cases seemingly unexposed to n-hexane. Hypothetically, this might be due to either differences in metabolic patterns or some concealed exposure. The difference in means between cases and the general population is small and can therefore not allow any firm conclusions of the causality, however.
PMCID: PMC3733657  PMID: 23898939
Polyneuropathy; Cryptogenic; Urine; 2,5-hexanedione; General population; Sweden; Occupational exposure
21.  Reduction of needlestick injuries in healthcare personnel at a university hospital using safety devices 
Healthcare personnel (HCP) is exposed to bloodborne pathogens through occupational risk factors. The objective of this study was to compare the incidence of needlestick injuries (NSIs) before and after the introduction of safety devices in all departments of our hospital.
Data was extracted from mandatory needlestick report forms of the hospital’s Occupational Health Service. Serological results of patients and healthcare personnel (HCP) were reviewed in the laboratory information system.
In 2007, the year before the introduction of safety devices, 448 needlestick injuries were self-reported, corresponding to an annual rate of 69.0 NSIs per 1 000 full-time HCP. The highest incidence was observed among medical staff in the surgery department and internal medicine with 152 (33.9%) and 79 (17.6%) NSIs, respectively. Of all occupational groups, nurses (36.2%) had the highest risk to sustain NSIs. In 2008 safety devices were introduced across the hospital, e.g. peripheral venous catheter, hypodermic needle and stapling system for wound sealing providing active or passive protection. In 2009, the year after introduction of safety devices, only 350 NSIs were reported, the annual rate of NSIs decreased to 52.4 per 1 000 full-time HCP. Thus an overall reduction of 21.9% for NSIs was achieved when safer devices were applied. The number of NSIs was reduced by even 50% for blood withdrawal, for use of peripheral venous catheters and application of hypodermic needles.
The application of safety devices led to a reduction of NSIs and significantly reduces the risk of bloodborne infections.
PMCID: PMC3728001  PMID: 23895578
Bloodborne infection; Needlestick injury; Safety device; Healthcare personnel; Occupational exposure
22.  “Inclusive working life in Norway”: a registry-based five-year follow-up study 
In 2001, the Norwegian authorities and major labour market partners signed an agreement regarding ‘inclusive working life’ (IW), whereby companies that participate are committed to reducing sickness absence. Our main aim was to determine the effect of the IW program and work characteristics by gender on long-term (>8 weeks) sickness absence (LSA).
Self-reported data on work characteristics from the Oslo Health Study were linked to registry-based data on IW status, education and LSA. From 2001–2005, 10,995 participants (5,706 women and 5,289 men) aged 30, 40, 45 and 60 years were followed. A Cox regression was used to compute hazard ratios (HR) for LSA risk. The cohort was divided into an IW group (2,733 women and 2,058 men) and non-IW group (2,973/3,231).
43.2% and 41.6% of women and 22.3%/24.3% of men (IW / non-IW, respectively) experienced at least one LSA. In a multivariate model, statistically significant risk factors for LSA were low education (stronger in men), shift work/night work or rotating hours (strongest in men in the non-IW group), and heavy physical work or work involving walking and lifting (men only and stronger in the non-IW group). Among men who engaged in shift work, the LSA risk was significantly lower in the IW group.
Our results could suggest that IW companies that employ many men in shift work have implemented relevant efforts for reducing sickness absence. However, this study could not demonstrate a significant effect of the IW program on the overall LSA risk.
PMCID: PMC3706356  PMID: 23829467
Sickness absence; Sick leave; Long-term sickness absence; Work environment; Occupational factors; Intervention
23.  Solving a methodological challenge in work stress evaluation with the Stress Assessment and Research Toolkit (StART): a study protocol 
Stress evaluation is a field of strong interest and challenging due to several methodological aspects in the evaluation process. The aim of this study is to propose a study protocol to test a new method (i.e., the Stress Assessment and Research Toolkit) to assess psychosocial risk factors at work.
This method addresses several methodological issues (e.g., subjective vs. objective, qualitative vs quantitative data) by assessing work-related stressors using different kinds of data: i) organisational archival data (organisational indicators sheet); ii) qualitative data (focus group); iii) worker perception (questionnaire); and iv) observational data (observational checklist) using mixed methods research. In addition, it allows positive and negative aspects of work to be considered conjointly, using an approach that considers at the same time job demands and job resources.
The integration of these sources of data can reduce the theoretical and methodological bias related to stress research in the work setting, allows researchers and professionals to obtain a reliable description of workers’ stress, providing a more articulate vision of psychosocial risks, and allows a large amount of data to be collected. Finally, the implementation of the method ensures in the long term a primary prevention for psychosocial risk management in that it aims to reduce or modify the intensity, frequency or duration of organisational demands.
PMCID: PMC3703449  PMID: 23799950
Stress; Psychosocial risk evaluation; Mixed methods; Study protocol
24.  Diagnostic approach in cases with suspected work-related asthma 
Work-related asthma (WRA) is a major cause of respiratory disease in modern societies. The diagnosis and consequently an opportunity for prevention are often missed in practice.
Based on recent studies and systematic reviews of the literature methods for detection of WRA and identification of specific causes of allergic WRA are discussed.
Results and Conclusions
All workers should be asked whether symptoms improve on days away from work or on holidays. Positive answers should lead to further investigation. Spirometry and non-specific bronchial responsiveness should be measured, but carefully performed and validly analysed serial peak expiratory flow or forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) measurements are more specific and confirm occupational asthma in about 82% of those still exposed to the causative agent. Skin prick testing or specific immunoglobulin E assays are useful to document allergy to high molecular weight allergens. Specific inhalational challenge tests come closest to a gold standard test, but lack standardisation, availability and sensitivity. Supervised workplace challenges can be used when specific challenges are unavailable or the results non-diagnostic, but methodology lacks standardisation. Finally, if the diagnosis remains unclear a follow-up with serial measurements of FEV1 and non-specific bronchial hyperresponsiveness should detect those likely to develop permanent impairment from their occupational exposures.
PMCID: PMC3716794  PMID: 23768266
Asthma; Occupational disease; Diagnosis; Work-related
25.  Involvement of occupational physicians in the management of MRSA-colonised healthcare workers in Germany – a survey 
Colonisation of healthcare workers (HCWs) with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus strains (MRSA) is a challenge for any healthcare facility. Persistent carriage of MRSA among HCWs causes special problems, particularly in occupational-medical care. German occupational physicians responsible for healthcare facilities were therefore asked about their experience in managing MRSA-colonised HCWs.
In May 2012, 549 occupational physicians were asked in writing about in-house management of MRSA-colonised HCWs. The semi-standardised survey form contained questions about collaboration between the infection control team and the occupational physician, the involvement of the occupational physician in in-house management of MRSA carriers and the number of persistently colonised HCWs in 2011. The answers were intended to apply to the largest facility cared for by the occupational physician.
207 occupational physicians took part in the survey (response rate 38%). In 2011, 73 (35%) occupational physicians were responsible for the occupational-medical management of an average of four MRSA-colonised HCWs. Eleven doctors (5.3% of 207) managed a total of 17 persistently colonised HCWs. One of these 17 employees was dismissed. In the case of MRSA carriage among HCWs, most occupational physicians cooperated with the infection control team (77%) and 39% of occupational physicians were responsible for the occupational-medical management of the affected carrier. 65% of facilities had specified policies for the management of MRSA-colonised HCWs. After the first MRSA-positive screening result, 79% of facilities attempt to decolonise the affected employee. In 6% of facilities, the colonised HCWs were excluded from work while receiving decolonisation treatment. In 54% of facilities, infection control policies demand the removal of MRSA carriers from patient care.
Not all facilities have policies for the management of MRSA-colonised HCWs and there are major differences in occupational consequences for the affected HCWs. In order to protect both the employees and the patients, standards for the in-house management of MRSA colonisation in HCWs should be developed.
PMCID: PMC3668962  PMID: 23710905
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus; Colonisation; Persistent carriage; Healthcare worker; Occupational disease

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