Christine Oliver, MD was our guest on this week’s episode of IAQradio. Dr. Oliver is a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and an Associate Clinical Professor at Harvard Medical School. Her primary specialty is Occupational and Environmental Medicine. In addition to caring for patients and teaching; she has done research, published and testified before Congress on work related health issues and risks.
Nuggets mined from today’s episode:
While working in her medical residency in an urban hospital she realized that she wanted to get ahead of illness and disease by preventing it from occurring. While she couldn’t positively effect change in lifestyle and what was occurring in homes that caused illness and disease, she focused on occupational causes of illness and disease.
Environmental medicine is growing in recognition and becoming increasing important. Environmental medicine and occupational medicine have merged.
Asbestos, silica, cobalt, tungsten carbide, beryllium, concrete & cement, and VOCs are some of the occupational hazards that she has been involved in.
She has also carried out IAQ evaluations. Buildings which she has investigated and done epidemiological surveys include: office buildings, schools, healthcare facilities, court houses, and residences. While able to locate the areas of concern during walk through inspections, she commonly works with an Industrial Hygienist who is responsible for sampling.
PELs and TLVs are used in industrial settings as guidelines for workplace exposure to specific chemicals or other agents. However, PELs and TLVs were never meant to draw a line between what’s safe and unsafe. Rather they were designed to protect the most vulnerable workers. Exposures below the TLVs and PELs are not necessarily safe. PELs and TLVs are related to workplace exposure in the industrial setting. They don’t translate to nor are they appropriate for offices, health care facilities, schools, and residences. Are factory workers immune to hazardous substances and office workers not immune? The EPA has responsibility for setting exposure guidelines in nonindustrial settings where members of the general population are at risk for exposure. The EPA has lagged behind in fulfilling its responsibilities and, for example,has not established exposure guidelines for mold or VOCs.