An Industrial Hygienist's Perspective on the Trump Administration

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Industrial hygienist Monona Rossol discusses how the Trump administration is weakening protections on hazardous chemicals. She looks at how new appointments and legislation will affect the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Chemical Safety Board, and their ability to protect us from toxic substances in the workplace and the home.

After this segment aired, Monona responded to the questions asked in the comments below. Here are her answers to your questions:

Amy from Manhattan Q: Does what Ms. Rossol said about all organic dust being explosive mean that if a bag of flour breaks open in the kitchen while a gas burner is on & puts dust in the air, it could explode from the flame that's already on? (For some reason I couldn't post this from my computer--I'm glad Ms. Rossol checks the comments for q's to answer after her segment's over!)Jan 8, 2018, 12:50 PM

A: Amy, It certainly could cause a fire if the gas burner and the cloud of flour dust intersect. But there has to be enough suspended in the air to sustain the flame. And technically, the "explosion" is more correctly called "deflagration." It is a rapid burn that in an enclosed space will create enough increase in gas volume to blow out walls. There have been explosions in factories making baked goods from flour dust. And yes, that is true of any finely powdered organic material and most finely divided metal dusts.

One rather funny example was during the filming of a scene on a TV program of some years ago in which Burt Reynolds and Jeeter were cooking on a stove, a fire starts on a burner and Jeeter puts it out with a fire extinguisher. The fire extinguisher was filled with Johnson's baby powder which will put out a fire and also looks better on camera than real fire extinguisher powders. The scene was, as usual, first run by technical people to check out the effect and all went well. So the technical people recharged the extinguisher with baby powder to shoot the scene with the actors. They didn't notice that this box of baby powder was made of starch. Instead of putting out the fire, a fire ball was created. The only casualty, however, was Reynolds toupee.

-Monona

Miscellaneous from NYC Q: Can y'all please post a website or a list of the chemicals you are now discussing so that we can look for them and avoid them in products we buy? Thank you.Jan 8, 2018, 12:34 PM

A: The three we mentioned on the show were methylene chloride, n-methyl pyrrolidone and trichloroethylene. And just how would you know to avoid them in products? You would have to get the Safety Data Sheets from the manufacturer on each product and look through the various synonyms for these names since each chemical can be called by a flock of other trade names and chemical names.

And there are hundreds of chemicals you might want to avoid. And thousands more that have never been studied for toxicity at all and may be even worse! This is a big problem and it won't respond to getting a "list." What we need are the agencies I talked about to be fully staffed, doing research, enforcing the rules, and taking the bad stuff off the market. It's too big for you and I to tackle.

-Monona

Miscellaneous from NYC Q: Scott Pruitt is an idiot. The Traitor trump "administration" is a joke. Yet another case of appointing a fox to guard a hen house. Thank you, Ms. Rossol, for the good work you do. I hope you send a letter to the White House every single day outlining one particular chemical and the results of its use. Make sure that they can't say they didn't know, so when they get sued by people whose lives have been adversely affected by them, the "administration" and its various foxes can't use "I didn't know" on the witness stand.Jan 8, 2018, 12:14 PM

A: Let's both just keep giving them hell. If enough of us do, we can change this.

-Monona

Karol from NY, NY Q: Great to hear Ms. Rossol's voice on the radio. She brings a level of expertise and courage to the discussion!Jan 8, 2018, 12:13 PM

A: Karol, Aw shucks and many thanks!

-Monona

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