AIHA Connect 2024 was held May 20–22 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. Conference news from The Synergist is published on this page.

Brain Hacks for OEHS Professionals

Our brains may be lazy, but they got a strenuous workout from Helena Boschi’s closing session on May 22. Boschi, a psychologist who specializes in applying neuroscience to the workplace, briskly explained how our brains evolved into erratic, work-avoiding rationalization machines that are both easily duped and stubbornly resistant to what’s good for us, like wearing our respirators. READ MORE

Amended TSCA Brings Challenges in Compliance, Documentation
On May 21, Jason Lotter, CIH, informed attendees of an AIHA Connect educational session that companies will need to adjust to new EPA chemical regulations and the challenges that come with them. With Lori Zemen, CIH, he advised session attendees on chemical monitoring, risk management, and interpreting, anticipating, and preparing for significant new EPA regulations. READ MORE

Hazards for Women in Mining
In 2021, men comprised an estimated 85 percent of the global mining workforce of 214 million workers, according to the International Labor Organization. But although women’s participation in the mining industry remains low, data from the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development show their numbers are gradually increasing in many countries. And as the presence of women workers becomes more common at mining work sites, employers need to address the occupational health and safety issues that disproportionately affect women, including reproductive hazards. READ MORE

NIOSH Investigates Unusual Outbreak of Fungal Disease at Paper Mill
On Tuesday at an AIHA Connect pop-up session, NIOSH's Ryan LeBouf, PhD, CIH, shared details about an ongoing health hazard evaluation involving a blastomycosis outbreak among paper mill workers in northern Michigan. This rare fungal infection is "tricky" because it can take three weeks to three months after exposure for a person to develop symptoms, LeBouf said. The outbreak of blastomycosis was first identified after healthcare providers reported 15 cases of blastomycosis to the local health department by Feb. 28, 2023. READ MORE

The Benefits of Collaboration: Infection Prevention and Industrial Hygiene
An infection prevention professional and an industrial hygienist discussed their collaboration in a May 21 session that illustrated how organizations can benefit from the two professions working together. READ MORE

Editors Present New Edition of AIHA Odor Threshold Publication
In an educational session on May 21, the editors of this new edition outlined major differences between its contents and those of previous versions. These changes, such as the removal of predictive odor thresholds, aim to better represent varying odor detection abilities and to provide practitioners with data while allowing them more latitude to make decisions. READ MORE

How Models Improve Exposure Judgments
The limitations of professional judgment in occupational and environmental health and safety have been well established, but many OEHS professionals still resist using modeling tools that could significantly improve the accuracy of their professional judgments. A presentation delivered by Brent Altemose, PhD, CIH, CSP, yesterday at AIHA Connect 2024 offered some explanations for the limited uptake of modeling in the profession and presented brief case studies of instances where Altemose had used modeling in his consulting practice. READ MORE

An OEHS Approach to Correctional Facilities
Correctional facilities require a custom approach to maintain building health as well as a safe environment for employees, adults in custody, and the wider community, Daniel Farcas, PhD, CIH, CSP, CHMM, said this morning at AIHA Connect 2024. Such settings come with unique challenges, including the risk of violence and assault among incarcerated people and toward staff. READ MORE

How Good Are Chatbots at Summarizing OEHS Regulations?
Since ChatGPT was introduced in November 2022, occupational and environmental health and safety professionals have sought ways to use chatbots for OEHS purposes. In a short "pop-up" session, Benjamin Roberts, PhD, MPH, CIH described one potential practical application of the technology: to read and summarize OEHS regulations. To test chatbots' usefulness for interpreting OEHS regulations, Roberts and other researchers uploaded PDF copies of OSHA's noise and silica standards into several tools. The chatbots' answers to these questions were recorded, and four reviewers graded the answers on a four-point scale. READ MORE

Researchers Evaluate 3D Printing Hazards in Educational Settings
Postdoctoral researcher Qian Zhang and environmental health scientist Mark Wilson, CIH, presented their evaluation of hazards associated with three-dimensional printing today at AIHA Connect 2024. 3D printing is a “kind of additive manufacturing that joins materials in consecutive layers to build up a defined structure,” Wilson explained. The technology is widely used to facilitate interactive learning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education, although it also has applications in the dental and medical fields. READ MORE

Inhalation Exposure and Surface Contamination Concerns from E-Cigarettes
While researchers have learned much about e-cigarettes in recent years, “we still don’t know everything,” Cheri Marcham, PhD, CSP, CIH, CHMM, FAIHA, told AIHA Connect attendees on Monday morning. Marcham, who led the team that developed AIHA’s white paper on e-cigarettes in the indoor environment, joined fellow team member Evan Floyd, PhD, CIH, for a presentation on topics ranging from how e-cigarettes have evolved over time to related guidelines and legislation. READ MORE

The Potential of Low-Cost Dust Monitors in Mining
On Monday at AIHA Connect 2024, NIOSH researcher Justin Patts presented the results of an ongoing project that explores the feasibility of using low-cost dust sensors in mines to monitor, and ultimately control, exposures to respirable crystalline silica. READ MORE

Opening Session: Embrace Your "Peculiarity"
Opening Keynoter Sammy Ramsey, PhD, introduced himself as an entomologist—he studies insects, particularly bees and bee parasites. But Ramsey would not go on to discuss the occupational hazards of working with “clouds of stinging insects.” Instead, his keynote encouraged attendees to embrace the qualities that give them unique perspectives on the world around them as sources of potential creative and scientific breakthroughs. READ MORE