Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health2015, 12(12), 15040-15057; doi:10.3390/ijerph121214960 (registering DOI) - published 27 November 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: At hazardous waste sites, volatile chemicals can migrate through groundwater and soil into buildings, a process known as vapor intrusion. Due to increasing recognition of vapor intrusion as a potential indoor air pollution source, in 2015 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a new vapor intrusion guidance document. The guidance specifies two conditions for demonstrating that remediation is needed: (1) proof of a vapor intrusion pathway; and (2) evidence that human health risks exceed established thresholds (for example, one excess cancer among 10,000 exposed people). However, the guidance lacks details on methods for demonstrating these conditions. We review current evidence suggesting that monitoring and modeling approaches commonly employed at vapor intrusion sites do not adequately characterize long-term exposure and in many cases may underestimate risks. On the basis of this evidence, we recommend specific approaches to monitoring and modeling to account for these uncertainties. We propose a value of information approach to integrate the lines of evidence at a site and determine if more information is needed before deciding whether the two conditions specified in the vapor intrusion guidance are satisfied. To facilitate data collection and decision-making, we recommend a multi-directional community engagement strategy and consideration of environment justice concerns.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health2015, 12(12), 15028-15039; doi:10.3390/ijerph121214966 (registering DOI) - published 27 November 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: With regard to the size of China’s freshwater lakes, Taihu Lake ranks third and it plays an important role in the supply of drinking water, flood prevention, farming and navigation, as well as in the travelling industry. The problem of environmental pollution has attracted widespread attention in recent years. In order to understand the levels, distribution and sources of heavy metals in sediments of Taihu Lake, random selection was carried out to obtain 59 samples of surface sediment from the entire lake and study the concentrations of Pb, Cd, Cu, Zn, Cr and Ni. Toxic units were also calculated to normalize the toxicities caused by various heavy metals. As a result, Cd and Cu in sediment were considered lower than the effect range low (ERL) at all regions where samples were gathered, while Pb and Ni were categorized into ERL-effect range median (ERM) at over 22% of the regions where samples were obtained. Nevertheless, all average concentrations of the samples were below the level of potential effect. According to the findings of this research, significant spatial heterogeneity existed in the above heavy metals. In conclusion, the distribution areas of heavy metals with higher concentrations were mainly the north bays, namely Zhushan Bay, Meiliang Bay as well as Gonghu Bay. The distribution areas of Cu, Zn, Cr and Ni with higher concentration also included the lake’s central region, whereas the uniform distribution areas of those with lower concentrations were the lake’s southeast region. In addition, it was most probable that the spatial distribution of heavy metals was determined by river inputs, whereas atmospheric precipitation caused by urban and traffic contamination also exerted considerable effects on the higher concentrations of Pb and Cd. Through evaluating the total amount of toxic units (ΣTU), it was found that higher toxicity existed primarily in the north bays and central region of the lake. If the heavy metals were sorted by the reduction of mean heavy metal toxic units in Taihu Lake in descending order, it would be Pb, Cr, Ni, Cd, Zn and Cu. Generally speaking, these result of analyses are conducive to alleviating the contamination of heavy metals in Taihu Lake.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health2015, 12(12), 15022-15027; doi:10.3390/ijerph121214968 (registering DOI) - published 27 November 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Background: The widespread use of lead and elevated risk of lead exposure in South African children justifies a need for high levels of awareness of the sources, exposure pathways, and measures to reduce this risk in children. This study aimed to determine the levels of knowledge of lead hazards among pregnant women in an area where children had already been established to be at a high risk of lead exposure and poisoning. Methods: Following informed consent, a structured questionnaire was administered to 119 pregnant women attending antenatal clinic services at Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital, west of central Johannesburg. Questions were asked about social, demographic and residential characteristics, as well as knowledge, perceptions, behaviours and practices in relation to child lead hazards. Conclusion: Overall awareness of the dangers of lead in pregnancy was low (11%). Amongst those who had heard of it, only 15% thought that lead could cause detrimental health effects. A consequence of this low level of awareness of lead hazards is a high potential for the participants and their children to unwittingly be exposed to environmental lead from various sources, thereby undermining preventative approaches.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health2015, 12(12), 15007-15021; doi:10.3390/ijerph121214961 (registering DOI) - published 27 November 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: An engineered nanomaterial (ENM) may actually consist of a population of primary particles, aggregates and agglomerates of various sizes. Furthermore, their physico-chemical characteristics may change during the various life-cycle stages. It will probably not be feasible to test all varieties of all ENMs for possible health and environmental risks. There is therefore a need to further develop the approaches for risk assessment of ENMs. Within the EU FP7 project Managing Risks of Nanoparticles (MARINA) a two-phase risk assessment strategy has been developed. In Phase 1 (Problem framing) a base set of information is considered, relevant exposure scenarios (RESs) are identified and the scope for Phase 2 (Risk assessment) is established. The relevance of an RES is indicated by information on exposure, fate/kinetics and/or hazard; these three domains are included as separate pillars that contain specific tools. Phase 2 consists of an iterative process of risk characterization, identification of data needs and integrated collection and evaluation of data on the three domains, until sufficient information is obtained to conclude on possible risks in a RES. Only data are generated that are considered to be needed for the purpose of risk assessment. A fourth pillar, risk characterization, is defined and it contains risk assessment tools. This strategy describes a flexible and efficient approach for data collection and risk assessment which is essential to ensure safety of ENMs. Further developments are needed to provide guidance and make the MARINA Risk Assessment Strategy operational. Case studies will be needed to refine the strategy.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health2015, 12(12), 14988-15006; doi:10.3390/ijerph121214958 - published 26 November 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Introduction and objective: A new instrument to measure quality of work was developed in three languages (German, French and Luxembourgish) and validated in a study of employees working in Luxembourg. Methods and results: A representative sample (n = 1529) was taken and exploratory factor analysis revealed a six-factor solution for the 21-item instrument (satisfaction and respect, mobbing, mental strain at work, cooperation, communication and feedback, and appraisal). Reliability analysis showed satisfying reliability for all six factors and the total questionnaire. In order to examine the construct validity of the new instrument, regression analyses were conducted to test whether the instrument predicted work characteristics’ influence on three components of well-being—burnout, psychological stress and maladaptive coping behaviors. Conclusion: The present validation offers a trilingual inventory for measuring quality of work that may be used, for example, as an assessment tool or for testing the effectiveness of interventions.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health2015, 12(12), 14974-14987; doi:10.3390/ijerph121214962 - published 26 November 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Human mortality is closely related to natural climate-determined levels of thermal environmental stress and the resulting thermophysiological strain. Most climate-mortality research has focused on seasonal extremes during winter and summer when mortality is the highest, while relatively little attention has been paid to mortality during the transitional seasons of autumn and spring. The body acclimatizes to heat in the summer and cold in winter and readjusts through acclimatization during the transitions between the two during which time the body experiences the thermophysiological strain of readjustment. To better understand the influences of weather on mortality through the acclimatization process, the aim here is to examine the periods that link very cold and very warms seasons. The study uses the Acclimatization Thermal Strain Index (ATSI), which is a comparative measure of short-term thermophysiological impact on the body. ATSI centers on heat exchange with the body’s core via the respiratory system, which cannot be protected. The analysis is based on data for a major city in the climatic region of the Russian Far East characterized by very hot summers and extremely cold winters. The results show that although mortality peaks in winter (January) and is at its lowest in summer (August), there is not a smooth rise through autumn nor a smooth decline through spring. A secondary peak occurs in autumn (October) with a smaller jump in May. This suggests the acclimatization from warm-to-cold produces more thermophysiological strain than the transition from cold-to-warm. The study shows that ATSI is a useful metric for quantifying the extent to which biophysical adaptation plays a role in increased strain on the body during re-acclimatization and for this reason is a more appropriate climatic indictor than air temperature alone. The work gives useful bioclimatic information on risks involved in transitional seasons in regions characterized by climatic extremes. This could be handy in planning and managing health services to the public and measures that might be used to help mitigate impacts.