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New chem info database is by workers, for workers

September 11, 2012
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www.chemhat.orgA team comprised of the Industrial Division of the Communications Workers of America (IUE-CWA ), the BlueGreen Alliance (BGA) and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)  has launched a new internet database designed to help worker protect themselves from hazardous chemicals.

ChemHAT, the Chemical Hazard and Alternatives Toolbox, offers up easy to use information intended to answer two questions: “Can this chemical in my workplace affect my health?” and “Are there safer alternatives?”

A chemical can be looked up from a product or MSDS either by its chemical name or its CAS (Chemical Abstracts Services registration) number. Icons indicate the chemical’s potential to affect health,as well as specifics about what kind of health effect the chemical could cause.

Users of the database will also find information on:

  • How a chemical is commonly used and workplaces where exposure is likely
  • Workplaces where exposure is likely
  • How exposure might occur (e.g., though breathing it or having it touch the skin)

Additionally, there are links to supporting research data and to safer alternatives.

“Our goal for the immediate future is to link chemical hazard information in ChemHAT with information on safer alternatives wherever that information is available,” according to the ChemHAT website. “Where information on safer alternatives isn’t available, we’d like to recruit you, the users of ChemHAT to help us find or create that information. We’d like the next version of ChemHAT to include information on the top ten or more chemicals of greatest concern in your workplace or industry, and safer alternatives to those chemicals, including information on the cost and availability of those alternatives.”

The creators of ChemHAT say that OSHA PELs and NIOSH RELs intended to safeguard workers from chemicals are based on 40-year-old science that is out of date.

“The labor movement, the environmental movement and their allies have tried to convince Congress and the courts to give OSHA, NIOSH and EPA the authority to modernize and strengthen their agencies effort to protect worker health using the latest science,” according to a statement on www.chemhat.com. “But, to date, Congress hasn’t been willing to add new protections for workers’ and the public’s health.

“While the federal programs that are supposed to protect us stay lost in the 1970s, every day, another study adds to what we already know about how chemicals can harm human health. Over the last 25 years, new science has shown that chemical exposures, often at levels once considered ‘safe,” can interfere with our bodies’ ability to stay healthy.”

Visit www.chemhat.org for more information.

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