Dust exposures on the London Underground system have the potential to cause serious illness to station staff, research has revealed. The first study on the impact of particulate matter (PM) from an underground railway found exposure increased the risk of pneumococcal infections such as pneumonia. Professor Jonathan Grigg, who led the Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) research team, called for a new study comparing the health of Tube drivers and platform staff with those working closer to the surface. He said the investigation made the “remarkable finding” that there was increased mortality from pneumococcal infection in mice exposed to the dust and demonstrated the ability of bacteria to enter the body. Laboratory tests were also done using human cells, which confirmed the ability of the dust to harm humans.

Sources: Risks, Lisa Miyashita and others. Underground railway particulate matter and susceptibility to pneumococcal infection, The Lancet eBioMedicine, volume 80, 104063, 1 June 2022. Evening Standard.


A University of South Florida study whose findings will surprise absolutely no-one has confirmed Americans who could not work from home and had low-paid jobs without paid sick leave or health insurance, suffered a much higher rate of deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic’s first year.

The study found that 68% of COVID-19 deaths the first year of the pandemic were low socioeconomic position adults, employed in labour, service and retail jobs requiring on-site attendance and prolonged close contact with others. 

The findings point to the urgent need to implement population-based infection control efforts, especially for those in low socioeconomic positions.

Historically, data shows low socioeconomic status workers are disproportionate exposed to risk and increased burden of disease.  COVID-19 proved no different. The research team confirmed hazardous conditions, like working in close proximity with others, were primary drivers of disparities in COVID-19 mortality rates.

Source: Confined Space A newsletter of workplace safety and labour issues


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