PM2.5 pollution - No safe level

Australian researchers say there is "no safe level" of PM2.5 air pollution after a large-scale study found a significant association between cardiac arrest and exposure to fine particles – levels of which have recently and frequently soared beyond "hazardous" in south-eastern Australia as a result of bushfire smoke. 

An article in today's Age reports on the Sydney University-led study (published in The Lancet Planetary Health yesterday) which analysed Japanese air quality data against 249,372 cases of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests. The study found that even short-term exposure to low levels of PM2.5 leads to an elevated risk for people over 65.

The study found the risk of cardiac arrest increased by 4 per cent for every 10-unit increase in PM2.5 levels – but more than 90 per cent of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occurred at levels below the Australian standard of 25 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3). In other words, at air quality levels deemed "fair", "good" or "very good" under Australian standards.

In another recent article, also in The Lancet Planetary Health, researchers from Monash University in Melbourne explore the general health effects of bushfire smoke.

Read more: Researchers found a link between PM2.5 pollution and increased risk of cardiac arrest. The Age. 
Kazuaki Negishi, et al: Short-term exposure to ambient fine particulate matter and out-of-hospital cardiac arrest: a nationwide case-crossover study in Japan [Full text]DOI: The Lancet Planetary Health 
Pei Yu, et al: Bushfires in Australia: a serious health emergency under climate change [Full text] DOI: The Lancet Planetary Health 

Britain: One in six have been bullied recently at work

A quarter of employees think their company turns a blind eye to workplace bullying and harassment, according to a report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in the UK. Although 15 per cent have experienced bullying in the past three years, more than half of them did not report it to the firm. The report by the CIPD, which represents human resources (HR) professionals, was based on two online surveys carried out by polling organisation YouGov. One canvassed the views of more than 2,000 workers, while the other surveyed HR professionals and decision makers.

The CIPD also conducted an online focus group with workers who had experienced bullying and harassment. Some people said they suffered from stress, anxiety, insomnia, heart palpitations and suicidal thoughts. The most common form of bullying or harassment was “being undermined or humiliated in my job,” reported by 55 per cent of women affected and 50 per cent of men. This was followed by “persistent unwarranted criticism” and “unwanted personal remarks.” Around 4 per cent of employees said they had been sexually harassed over the past three years, the CIPD said. It described the problem as “stubborn,” despite decades of equalities legislation. But it said there had been “positive change” in the past two years in employees’ willingness to stand up to sexual harassment, with 33 per cent feeling more confident to challenge it.

Rachel Suff, senior employment relations adviser at the CIPD, said the survey was “a wake-up call to employers to put training managers at the heart of efforts to prevent inappropriate workplace behaviour.” She added: “Our research shows that managers who've received training can help to stop conflict from occurring and are much better at fostering healthy relationships in their team. And when conflict does occur, they can help to resolve the issue more quickly and effectively.”
Read more: CIPD news release and Managing conflict in the workplace report, 21 January 2020. BBC News Online. Source: Risks 931. More information on Bullying

Lack of job control linked to increased risk of death

A major Australian study has found that low job control, such as not having the freedom to decide when and how to work, is associated with a 39 per cent increased risk of death from any cause. The University of Melbourne School of Population and Global Health researchers used data from more than 18,000 workers who participated in the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey.

The researchers say that with high numbers of Australian workers being exposed to low job control, this association could have considerable public health consequences.  Psychosocial work stressors resulting from changes in the structure, organisation and management of work in recent decades are increasingly being recognised as causes of physical and mental illness, sickness absence, presenteeism and poor organisational outcomes.

The researchers also found that the increased risk of all-cause mortality among low job control workers was independent of demographic, socioeconomic, health and behavioural factors.  They found that for each one-point score increase in job control, the risk of death fell by two per cent. Job control was assessed using three self-reported measures: freedom to decide how to work, freedom to decide when to work and having a lot of say about what happens at work.

The researchers also found "some suggestion" of a reduced risk of mortality associated with high job demands, but say the results were "not conclusive". Other stressors like job insecurity and unfair pay did not appear to be associated with mortality, they found.
Read more: Yamna Taouk, et al, Psychosocial work stressors and risk of mortality in Australia: analysis of data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey.[AbstractOccupational and Environmental Medicine, online first January 2020, doi: 10.1136/oemed-2019-106001. Source: OHSAlert


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