Archive for the 'Safety' Category

ExperTox Opens New Lab

Have you ever wondered how a true forensic lab runs? If you are in the Houston area, we would like to invite you to visit us at our Open House on June 16, 2011. See more information at the link below.

Open House Invite

Our state of the art laboratory was designed by President Loretta Anderson and RGR Partnership, LTD and constructed by Tribble and Associates Contractors. The new lab space has over 3100 square feet with the option to utilize an additional 5000 square feet of off-site storage as needed.

The lab was designed with optimal work flow, employee convenience and with environmental sensitivity in mind.  There are separate departments for accessioning, specimen preparation, screening, EIA, ELISA, Heavy Metals ICP-MS, GC/MC, LC/MS, extraction hoods and analyzing (test data). In addition, there is a dedicated department for Certifying Scientist for reporting results.

 

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ExperTox interviewed on KHOU about K2 and Spice.

ExperTox was interviewed regarding testing of the synthetic cannabinoids.  Are you concerned about K2 or Spice? See interview below at http://www.khou.com/home/KHOU-k2-pot-incense-high-98965774.html

Energy Drinks – Are they really good for you?

How energetic do we really need to be?

The popularity of energy drinks has introduced a whole world of problems for those of us in Occupational Health and Safety.  When we have a client come to us for physicals, PFT’s and fit tests and they have an elevated blood pressure or irregular heart rate our first question no longer is, “Do you have a history of heart disease?”  Our first question now is, “Have you had an energy drink today?”

In general energy drinks are considered safe for most people.  When used in moderation they do what they advertise.  They give a boost in stamina and energy.  A good night sleep will do the same thing and you don’t need to drink it out of a can and ingest things that can potentially harm some people.

As it turns out most of the “energy” from these drinks come s from two main ingredients: Sugar and caffeine.  A typical energy drink contains up to 80 milligrams of caffeine (About the same as a cup of coffee).  The amount of sugar varies from brand to brand but in general there is more sugar than a 12 oz can of soda.

Other than caffeine levels, how do these energy drinks differ from sodas or sports drinks?  Soft drinks are mainly water, sugar and flavoring.  They don’t do anything for you; their main function is to taste good.  Sports drinks are designed to replenish fluids lost during activity.  They contain water, sugar, and electrolytes. Energy drink manufacturers have gone a step further and added additional items to help “boost” stamina and energy.

Here are some of the ingredients you may find in popular energy drinks and what they do in the body:

  • Caffeine-Both a stimulant and a diuretic. As a diuretic caffeine stimulates your kidneys to remove extra fluid from your body.  If you consume energy drinks while sweating these effects can be extremely dangerous because you can become severely dehydrated quickly.  Energy drinks should be avoided in situations such as work or strenuous activities where dehydration could be an issue.
  • Ephedrine-A stimulant that works on the central nervous system.  It is common in weight-loss products and decongestants.  There are many concerns about its effect on the heart.
  • Taurine-A natural amino acid produced by the body that helps regulate heart beat and muscle contractions.  It is now produced synthetically. Studies have now linked it to a variety of illnesses from high blood pressure to strokes and other types of heart disease.
  • Ginseng-A root believed by some to have many medicinal qualities including reducing stress and boosting energy levels.
  • B-Vitamins-A group of vitamins that can convert sugar to energy and improve muscle tone.  Eating a well balanced diet can do the same thing safely.
  • Guarana Seed-A central nervous system stimulant that comes from a small shrub native to Venezuela and Brazil.
  • Carnitine-An amino acid that plays a role in fatty acid metabolism.
  • Creatine-An organic acid that helps supply energy for muscle contractions.  Some experts feel that this creates a feeling of alertness in people.  In reality it makes most people feel tense and unable to stay still.
  • Inositol-A member of the vitamin-B complex (not a vitamin itself, because the body can synthesize it) that helps relay messages within cells in the body.
  • Ginkgo biloba-Made from the seeds of the ginkgo biloba tree, thought to enhance memory.

Energy drinks come in variety of formulas.  An occasional energy drink may be safe for most people.  Most of them contain the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee and the same amount of sugar as a soda.  But some contain very high levels of caffeine, sugar and other herbal stimulants that can have a variety of serious effects.  They may cause markedly faster heart rates, elevated blood pressure, irritability, nervousness, insomnia and increased blood sugar levels. 

By itself large amounts of caffeine can increase your blood pressure and impair blood flow to the heart.  It can also trigger abnormal heart rhythms, which in some people can be life threatening.  It is very important to educate yourself about what goes into your body and how it can affect you.  It is important to read the labels on these drinks.  If you any conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes avoid them.  At the very least check with your physician to make sure they are safe for you.

The problems caused by energy drinks becomes very real when we cannot  complete pre-employment testing on  one of our clients because their blood pressure or heart rate are so elevated that it would not be safe to do a pulmonary function test.  There are times that we have to turn a client away to return the next day due to the effect of these drinks.  This can cause costly delays for employers who may be waiting for that individual to complete testing prior to starting a job.

Lou Ann Enis, Registered Nurse and Occupational Health Supervisor

How To Perform Nail Specimen Collections for Drug Testing

Did you know that fingernails and toenails make excellent specimens for drug testing?  The same drugs that can be detected in samples like urine, oral fluid and hair can also be detected in nails.  This means when that employee or candidate shows up for their drug test bald with their body completely shaved, we’ve got another surprise for them!

As you will see in this video, all ten fingernail or toenail tips are clipped first.  The detection period from clippings only is for 30 days, 6 months ago.  Do you want to know if someone was using drugs during the entire six month period?  If so, the collector will then lightly shave the surface of all ten nails.  The detection period between the lunula (the “white moon” of the nail) and where the clippings ended is about 5 months. 

Both the clippings and shavings are then submitted to ExperTox for testing.  Here is how the collection is performed:

Waiter, One Bottle of Hand Sanitizer, Please

Unless you are a seasoned connoisseur of fine Scotch or whisky, drinking a proper alcoholic beverage may be a scorching experience that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.  Now, can you just imagine drinking a few pumps of hand sanitizer?

It appears to be one of the drinks of choice for young people in middle school through college.  When the H1N1 “pandemic” erupted last year, many public facilities were placing hand sanitizer dispensers within their facilities to reduce the chances of spreading germs.  However, many had to take them out as quickly as they put them in.  Why?  Because people were stealing the hand sanitizer bottles and bags for consumption.

There is a word of warning on every bottle of hand sanitizer, “for external use only”.  This has yet to stop someone looking for a quick feeling of intoxication.  Hand sanitizer contains may contain ethyl alcohol and/or isopropyl alcohol, ranging from 60% to 95% alcohol content.  Purell’s website reflects a 65% alcohol content in its hand sanitizer, and GermX shows 62%.  Ethyl alcohol is the same alcohol found in drinking alcohol; however, it is also found in perfumes, shaving lotions and mouthwash.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, including our friend, the Southeast Texas Poison Control Center, there were nearly 12,000 cases of hand sanitizer ingestion poisonings in 2006.

Besides ingesting in a liquid form, hand sanitizer is also abused as an inhalant.  Young people are coating their hands with the hand sanitizer, covering their nose and mouth, then “huffing” deeply.  This is similar to inhaling spray paint or fingernail polish remover (see our prior blog on Substance Abuse In A Can – Inhalants).

Are you still having trouble believing this, knowing just the smell of hand sanitizer is bad enough, let alone the taste?  Check out these videos posted on YouTube – your eyes may be opened.

If you have experienced a situation involving hand sanitizer abuse, please share how you figured out what is going on.

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.

AltairStrickland Logo   www.altairstrickland.com

How To Collect a Hair Specimen for a Hair Drug Test

People are surprised when they have their first hair drug test.  They are unsure of the procedure and are surprised by the amount of hair that must be collected.  To complete both a drug screen and a confirmation on a presumptive positive screen result, we need a hair sample that is approximately the width of a Sharpie marker.  Lengthwise, 1/2″ of hair equals 30 days.  A common hair test is for 90 days, so the hair must be at least 1 1/2″ in length.  ExperTox can test for longer periods of time – it all depends on the length of the Donor’s hair.

We decided to show you how it is done so there will be no surprises if you must have this type of test completed.  Check out our own Lou Ann Enis, Registered Nurse and Occupational Health Supervisor, as she walks us through the steps.

Let us know if you have any questions or comments!


One Source…Numerous Options…Differences That Matter!

ExperTox® is a recognized forensic toxicology laboratory, combining advanced technology and science with a human heart.

We use our scientific expertise to provide our customers answers to their substance abuse, use and exposure questions.

We focus our personal character on supporting, caring for and understanding what our clients are going through as they contemplate and proceed through the testing process.

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