Archive for May, 2010

Are You Smoking Yourself Out of Job Opportunities?

Many employers have instituted smoke-free workplace policies, which means employees are not allowed to smoke within their facilities, and many times are limited to designated smoking areas.  There is now an increasing trend with employers refusing to hire people who smoke.  They have added continine testing (checking for a metabolite of nicotine) to their pre-employment screening process.

 You may be asking yourself, “What is up with that?”   Just take a look at some of these smoking statistics shared on the American Lung Association’s and American Cancer Society’s websites:

  • Cigarette smoke contains 4800 chemicals, 69 of which are known to cause cancer.  ExperTox tests for drugs, alcohol, poisons and toxic substances – this means we test for some of the stuff in cigarettes you want to prevent from putting in your body:
    • Acetone
    • Ammonia
    • Arsenic
    • Benzene
    • Cadmium
    • Formaldehyde
    • Lead
    • Methanol
    • Nicotine
    • Toluene
    • In 2004, smoking cost the United States over $193 billion, including $97 billion in lost productivity and $96 billion in direct healthcare expenditures. 
    • Smoking is responsible for 90% of all lung cancer deaths and 80% – 90% of COPD-related deaths.  There are about 443,000 lives claimed each year due to smoking-related diseases in the U.S.
    • Secondhand smoke involuntarily inhaled by non-smokers is classified by the U.S. EPA as a known human carcinogen

 Sure, the idea of companies not hiring people just because they smoke has caused some conflict but think about

  • Rising healthcare costs and what it is ultimately causing everyone to pay just because of about 25% of the population of smokers.
  • Declining productivity in this time where everyone is multi-tasking as the economy picks back up (“smoke breaks” can be time killers!)
  • What type of image is a smoker portraying to its customers, investors and other employees
  • And especially for health-related organizations such as hospitals and doctors’ offices, do employees of these types of companies that smoke give the impression of speaking out of both sides of their mouth?

 Bottom-line, we all know smoking is a bad habit that increases preventable disease and reduces mortality, and that cigarettes are filled with toxins.  Choosing to smoke is an informed decision by anyone – information is everywhere on its effects.

 What do you think of employers now performing pre-employment tests to determine if a candidate smokes?


Why We Do Hexavalent Chromium Testing

Guest Blog by Bennett Ghormley, Chief Safety Officer, AltairStrickland Group

A viewpoint from a leading company that includes hexavalent chromium testing as part of its company’s safety program.

From the moment in 2006 that the Department of Labor/OSHA issued a final standard addressing occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium, our company realized that we must take prompt action because our employees work around chromium dust caused by welding, grinding and gouging on stainless steel and other alloy metals.

 The standard revealed the facts that our welders and others in the welding area could be exposed to the hazards of chromium from the metallurgy.  In addition to use of engineering controls, workplace controls, PPE, and respirator selection and use, the company safety specialists knew that education would be the key to control and elimination of hazards that could expose employees.

 By 2007, AltairStrickland had developed and implemented the hexavalent chromium policy, employee training, field action plan and employee medical evaluations.  Without them all, the program would not have been as successful.  Because the company is proactive, hundreds of employees have remained risk-free from the hazards of chromium dust.

 Environmental and laboratory specialists from ExperTox were instrumental in aiding our company in developing the program and prior to the OSHA effective date, assisted AltairStrickland in field testing of welding setups.  The creation of dispersion studies on an actual jobsite helped the company know how to plan for future welding both in confined spaces and in outside fabrication areas.  The studies conducted early-on are still helping the company today.


Lessons learned—No new program is without hiccups.  Even with the best of intentions, our program had some learning curves, such as:

  • Demonstrating to all employees the seriousness of the program
  • Assuring training for all employees and subcontractors
  • Ventilation planning and engineering studies
  • Conducting employee health baselines and medical surveillance


 Thanks to ExperTox, AltairStrickland’s safety for alloy and hexavalent chromium welding is assured.

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What??? Are They Now Smoking Flowers From My Garden? – Salvia Divinorum

No, Salvia Divinorum is not your standard, pretty flower garden variety.  Salvia Divinorum, which we will refer to as “Salvia” was first used by the Mazatec Indian shamans in Oaxaca, Mexico during spiritual healing sessions.  It is a perennial herb native to the Sierra Mazatecas in Mexico, classified in the mint family that when ingested, temporarily gives the user hallucinogenic effects somewhat similar to LSD or psilocybin mushrooms.

Does it ever run through your head, “what are people going to think of trying next?”.  It does ours.  Add salvia to K2, Spice and other herbal incense products.  These herbs are being used to replace marijuana and other drugs because they are, for the most part, not regulated by U.S. drug laws.  However, there are some states that have passed laws banning the ingestion of salvia because of its psychoactive component, Salvinorin A.  SAMHSHA estimated that in 2006, 1.8 million people over the age of 12 had tried ingesting salvia, either by chewing or smoking it, at least once, an increase over the 2000 estimate of 750,000.

So why would anyone want to ingest salvia?  To begin with, in most cases it is not an illegal “drug”.  Interestingly, the high is very short term, generally lasting only a few minutes up to one-half hour, though the duration depends on the way it is ingested, the concentration of Salvinorin A, and how much is consumed.  Many parents are concerned with the use of salvia by their young teens and college-age children.  Symptoms parents should watch for include:

  • Psychedelic experiences
  • Uncontrollable laughter
  • Expressing past memories
  • Sensations of motion
  • A sense of merging with or becoming objects
  • Improved mood
  • Feelings of calmness

Salvia is not detected in a standard 5 or 10 panel drug test, so its use may not be known in many cases.  To add to the challenge, the detection period is very short, as it metabolized through the body rapidly.  Blood or urine are the most common specimens submitted for testing.  Blood must be collected within one hour after ingestion in a gray top tube; and urine within twenty-four hours or the likelihood of detection is minimal.  Specimens must be protected from light and frozen because salvia’s psychoactive components  break down quickly.

If you suspect our child or employee may be using salvia to get high, it is important to test them immediately for the greatest chance at detection.

Do What Your Mother Says…

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