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Work Matters: Resources

The following resources can help you understand your rights and prevent or minimize your exposure to toxic chemicals.

Chemicals Harmful to Human Reproduction and Development

The Hazard Evaluation System and Information Service (HESIS) is an occupational health program in the California Department of Public Health.  HESIS evaluates the dangers of chemicals in the workplace and develops practical information for workers.  To see publications available online, including fact sheets on specific chemicals, go to: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/hesis/Pages/Publications.aspx.

The National Toxicology Program (NTP), Office of Health Assessment and Translation web site is a resource for the latest information about potentially hazardous effects of chemicals on human reproduction and development. You can find a list of the chemicals it has evaluated at: http://cerhr.niehs.nih.gov/evals/index.html

The Occupational Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (OLPPP), a program in the California Department of Public Health, answers questions about the health hazards of lead, including effects on reproduction and the developing fetus.  For more information, call (866) 627-1587 or visit: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/OLPPP/pages/Default.aspx

Proposition 65, a California initiative also known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, requires publication of a list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm. You can find it at: http://www.oehha.ca.gov/prop65.html.

The Occupational Health Branch of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has compiled a list of health and safety resources for workers.  For English, see: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/HealthInfo/workplace/Pages/WorkerLinks.aspx/; or in Spanish: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/HealthInfo/workplace/Pages/SpanishLinks.aspx.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has developed a Chemical Data Access Tool (CDAT) to help navigate the health and safety information submitted to EPA under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). This information is part of EPA's effort to increase transparency in TSCA information held by the agency and is intended for individuals interested in learning more about chemicals that are manufactured or imported into the United States. More info: http://java.epa.gov/oppt_chemical_search/

Tox Town, available in both English and Spanish, is an interactive guide to commonly encountered toxic substances, your health, and the environment. Tox Town helps users explore a Port, Town, City, Farm, or US-Mexico Border community to identify common environmental hazards.

Chemicals Known to Cause Cancer

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is part of the World Health Organization. IARC has international expert working groups that evaluate the evidence of the carcinogenicity of specific exposures and publishes these findings through the IARC Monographs Programme. You can find information about chemicals that cause cancer at: http://www.iarc.fr/en/publications/list/monographs/index.php

The National Toxicology Program’s (NTP) Report on Carcinogens (RoC) is a congressionally mandated, science-based, public health document that is prepared for the HHS Secretary by the National Toxicology Program. The report identifies agents, substances, mixtures, and exposure circumstances that are known or reasonably anticipated to cause cancer in humans. View the report: http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/go/roc12

Safer Chemical Alternatives

Health Care Without Harm has a site dedicated to safer chemicals that includes links to a number of additional resources as well as information on a variety of safe alternative topics, such as green chemistry, alternatives to pesticides and safer disinfectants. Learn more here: http://www.noharm.org/us_canada/issues/chemicals/resources.php

Practice Greenhealth is the source for environmental solutions for the healthcare sector and lends support to create better, safer, greener workplaces and communities. It is a nonprofit membership organization founded on the principles of positive environmental stewardship and best practices by organizations in the healthcare community. Got to Practice Greenhealth's website: http://practicegreenhealth.org/

The Lowell Center for Chemical Production aims to is to redefine environmentalism and occupational health and safety while also demonstrating how these concepts are compatible with new systems of production and consumption that are healthy for workers, environmentally sound, economically viable, and socially accountable. Learn more about their work on their website: http://www.sustainableproduction.org/

The Institute for Research and Technical Assistance is a nonprofit organization that develops safer alternatives to toxic solvents and helps users reduce or eliminate their use of toxic solvents.  IRTA can help companies identify and demonstrate ways to prevent solvent pollution.  Call (818) 244-0300 or go to: http://www.irta.us/.

The University Of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, the Public Health Institute, and the California Department of Health Services, Hazard Evaluation System and Information Service collaborated to develop informational and guidance documents on safer alternatives to clean up solvents for lithographic printers. For more info click: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/hesis/Documents/lithoIRTA.pdf



The Western Sustainability and Pollution Prevention Network also has a number of resources on safer alternatives to chemical solvents. Learn more at: http://wsppn.org/studies/irta-solvent-alternatives/

The National Healthy Nail Salon Alliance is working to raise the profile of salon worker health and safety issues, to connect and leverage the resources of concerned groups (including workers’ rights, labor, environmental and reproductive health and justice, and Asian Pacific Islander groups), to advocate that salon product manufactures reformulate and produce safer products, and to advocate for greater regulatory protection of salon workers. Read more here: http://nailsalonalliance.org/

The Boston Safe Nail Project aims to protect workers and the public from exposure to hazardous chemicals and air pollution in nail salons. Nail salon workers are exposed to an array of potentially hazardous compounds during nearly every service they provide. Safe Nail Salons will prevent or reduce disproportionate environmental and occupational health effects from the industry on workers and clients, as well as the surrounding neighborhoods. For more information, go to: http://www.bphc.org/programs/cib/environmentalhealth/environmentalhazards/safenailsalons/Pages/Home.aspx

OSHA offers a webpage dedicated to health hazards in nail salons with important information about these hazards and the steps that nail salon workers and employers can take to prevent injuries and illnesses.

The Hazard Evaluation System and Information Service (HESIS) is an occupational health program in the California Department of Public Health.  HESIS evaluates the dangers of chemicals in the workplace and develops practical information for workers.  To see publications available online, including fact sheets on specific chemicals and safer alternatives, go to: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/hesis/Pages/Publications.aspx.

The California Department of Public Health has created a series of resources to help prevent worker illness from indoor pesticide exposure. Because workers and members of the public can become ill from pesticide use indoors, steps must be taken to eliminate or reduce human exposures. In data collected by the Occupational Pesticide Illness Prevention Program (OPIPP) from 1998-2009, nearly one out of five people who reported work-related pesticide illnesses were exposed to pesticides in indoor air. For more information, go to: http://cdph.ca.gov/programs/ohsep/Pages/IndoorPest.aspx

Two independent organizations, EcoLogo and Green Seal, publish certification standards that define which attributes a safer cleaning product must have to receive their third-party approval.  The California Department of Public Health Occupational Health Branch participated in the development of cleaning product standards and successfully argued for the prohibition of ingredients known to cause allergic-type asthma. In addition, these EcoLogo and Green Seal criteria cover other health-based attributes, such as toxicity and corrosivity limits and the prohibition of carcinogens, reproductive toxicants, and some endocrine disruptors. Find out more at: http://www.greenseal.org/FindGreenSealProductsAndServices.aspx



ChemHAT, the Chemical Hazard and Alternatives Toolbox, is a new internet database designed by workers to offer up easy to use information that other workers can use to protect themselves, their families and their co-workers against the harm that chemicals can cause.

The BizNGO Guide to Safer Chemicals is a how-to resource for managing chemicals in products, processes, and feedstocks for downstream users of chemicals. This practical, easy-to-use guide is intended to revolutionize the way companies are able to move away from hazardous chemicals and replace them with safer alternatives. It is a resource of current and best practices of how organizations are implementing programs that advance safer alternatives to chemicals of high concern to human health or the environment.

Methylene chloride (dichloromethane) is a widely used solvent that can cause serious illness or death when used in enclosed spaces. It is a cancer-causing chemical used in paint strippers, in the production of polymer foams and as a degreaser. The Occupational Health Branch of the California Department of Public Health has developed a website with informational materials and other resources on methylene chloride to help employers, workers and consumers better understand the hazards and choose safer alternatives wherever possible.

Laws and Regulations - Federal

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is a federal agency that sets and enforces federal safety and health standards for the workplace.  OSHA investigates employee complaints; conducts inspections; and provides employers and employees with information, training, and assistance.  If you believe your workplace poses serious hazards or that your employer is violating OSHA standards, you can file a complaint with your regional or area OSHA office.  Your identity can be kept confidential upon request.

You can report unsafe working conditions, report safety or health violations, or file a complaint by calling (800) 321-6742 or going to www.osha.gov.  You can also find a directory of OSHA offices at: http://www.osha.gov/html/RAmap.html.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is a federal agency that enforces federal laws against discrimination in the workplace, including the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.  For more information or to file a complaint, call (800) 669-4000 or go to: www.eeoc.gov.  You can also find a directory of EEOC offices at: http://www.eeoc.gov/field/index.cfm.

The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor is a federal agency that enforces federal labor standards, including the Family and Medical Leave Act.  For more information or to file a complaint, call (866) 487-9243 or go to: http://www.dol.gov/whd/.  You can also find a directory of WHD offices at: http://www.dol.gov/whd/america2.htm.

Worker Advocacy

The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) is a leader in advocacy for workers' health and safety. It is comprised of a network of 21 local and statewide coalitions (COSHes) made up of unions, health and technical professionals, and individuals concerned about workers' rights to safety and health. For more information, and to see resources available, go to: http://coshnetwork6.mayfirst.org/node/1

The Chemical’s Policy and Science Initiative US State-Level Chemicals Policy Database is a database of passed and pending state level chemicals legislation. Legislation can be searched by state, region, status, year, chemical, policy category and/or product type. To use the database go to: http://www.chemicalspolicy.org/chemicalspolicy.us.state.database.php

Women’s Voices for the Earth released Beauty and Its Beast: Unmasking the impact of toxic chemicals on salon workers, a first-of-its-kind report that analyzes the unique chemical exposures that salon workers experience, the health impacts they suffer, and the need for greater research, regulation, and innovation to ensure improved health and safety in the salon industry. To coincide with the release of the report, this week WVE and the National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance are in DC along with nail and hair salon workers for our 3rd annual “Healthy Salon Week of Action”. Salon workers will be meeting with lawmakers and federal agencies to ask for stronger protections from harmful exposures to toxic chemicals in the workplace. You can read our press release about the report and week of action here.

Women's Voices has translated the factsheet on the Beauty and its Beast: Impacts of toxic chemicals on salon workers health report and a factsheet on recommendations for reducing exposure in salons into Vietnamese and Spanish. Please share widely. You can find the resources here:





Laws and Regulations in California

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), also known as Cal/OSHA, is a state agency that protects workers from safety hazards.  Cal/OSHA enforces safety and health standards for the workplace, investigating worker complaints and doing enforcement inspections.  Cal/OSHA also provides free consultations to employers to help prevent job-related injuries and illnesses.  California has some health and safety laws and Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) for chemicals that federal OSHA does not include.  See: http://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/

Worksafe is a California-based non-profit Legal Services Support organization that advises employment law and other legal aid groups about laws and rights related to health and safety on the job. See: www.worksafe.org or call 510-302-1021.

The Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center offers a toll-free Work & Family Helpline that provides free advice and counsel to over 1000 people per year about their rights under the various state and federal laws that deal with family and medical leave. The helpline number is 800-880-8047.

Laws Dealing With Job and Medical Rights While Pregnant

There are overlapping federal and state laws covering medical leave and job protection.  In some cases you can combine leave policies under more than one law to extend time away from the job while pregnant or in the weeks after childbirth. Non-profit employment law centers can be a helpful resource to navigate these laws.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that applies to employers with at least 50 employees.  It provides a right to unpaid leave for family and medical reasons such as inability to work due to pregnancy, prenatal care, and the birth and care of a newborn child.  For more information, see: http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/index.htm. For a poster outlining your rights and responsibilities under the FMLA, see: http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/fmlaen.pdf.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA)—Effective 12-30-12, the Fair Employment and Housing Commission (FEHC) updated its regulations implementing the Pregnancy Disability Leave Act (PDL). PDL requires employers with five or more employees to grant a woman up to 4 months leave when she is medically-disabled from working due to pregnancy or a related medical condition. This leave is not for baby bonding after the mother has medically-recovered from the pregnancy, although employers with 50 or more employees may have to grant baby bonding leave under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). Under the PDA, employers must treat pregnant women like other employees.  This means you have the right to work as long as you are able to perform your job. And if you are temporarily disabled due to pregnancy, you have the right to the same benefits and options that your employer gives other temporarily disabled employees. This could include accommodations such as a change in your duties or assignments, a temporary transfer, paid or unpaid leave, and the right to have your job held open for the same amount of time as your employer gives to other employees on sick or disability leave. PDL also grants employees the right to transfer to a less strenuous position or to reasonable accommodations needed to allow the employee to continue working during pregnancy in her current position. Learn more about PDA at:http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/pregnancy.cfm

So what is included in the new PDL regulations? https://www.niac.org/Pregnancy-Disability-Leave-Regulations.cfm

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act is a state law that makes it unlawful for an employer to deny a request for reasonable accommodation made by an employee affected by pregnancy. In addition, the Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) section of the law requires all employers to provide a leave of up to four months for pregnancy related disability, even if the employer has a policy or practice that provides less than four months of leave for other similarly situated temporarily disabled employees. For more information, see: http://workfamilyca.org/resources/pdf/ca_family_leave_guide.pdf

Resources for Health Professionals

Guided by the values and expertise of medicine and public health, Physicians for Social Responsibility works to protect human life from the gravest threats to health and survival. In 1992, PSR expanded its mission to include environmental health, addressing issues such as global climate change, proliferation of toxics, and pollution. Visit PSR's website for more info: http://www.psr.org/

The Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments is a national organization for nurses interested in environmental health. Learn more: http://envirn.org/pg/groups/4104/alliance-of-nurses-for-healthy-environments/

The Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics (AOEC) is a nonprofit organization that works to improve occupational and environmental health.  AOEC can:

  • Refer you to clinics that provide information about workplace health and safety.
  • Identify the health risks of work.
  • Provide advice on how to limit exposure.
  • Evaluate occupational injuries and diseases.

Call (888) 347-2632, email: aoec@aoec.org, or go to: http://www.aoec.org/.

Maryland Hospitals for a Health Environment is a technical assistance and networking initiative that promotes environmental sustainability in health care. Participants include hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, research laboratories, and other ancillary health care providers in Maryland. For more info go to: http://mdh2e.org/

The University Of Cincinnati Department Of Environmental Health offers a free online Pediatric Environmental Health Continuing Medical Education Course and Research Study for physicians. At the end of the course, participants will be able to discuss concepts of environmental health, describe health effects associated with environmental toxicants, and incorporate elements of an environmental history into practice. See: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/emes/health_professionals/pediatrics.html

A guidance document was developed by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) in order to provide occupational and environmental medicine (OEM) physicians, other health care professionals, labor, and management with a framework for evaluating and managing potential occupational reproductive and developmental health hazards. Several clinical scenarios that may be encountered by OEM professionals are discussed. A multidisciplinary approach may be required to assess each workplace for potential reproductive and developmental hazards and implement appropriate responses for managing such hazards. Learn more here: http://www.acoem.org/Reproductive_Developmental_Hazard_Management.aspx

Health Care Without Harm's leaflet, "Endocrine Disruptors in the Healthcare Sector" details the use of endocrine disruptors (EDCs) in the healthcare industry and provides recommendations for physicians and nurses who are interested in reducing the use of EDCs in their institution.

Work Matters Brochure

View Online or download a printable copy of the Work Matters brochure.

Work Matters and Your Health Care Professional

Find out how your health care professional can help protect you against harmful exposure to chemicals in the workplace.

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