Occupational Health News Roundup

Back in August, events and exhibits marked the one-year anniversary of learning that 33 miners who were trapped underground in Chile's San Jose mine were alive. The rescue, which involved drilling a 2,000 foot shaft and lifting out the miners who'd endured 69 days underground, captivated viewers around the world.

The New York Times' Alexei Barrionuevo takes a look at how the miners have fared since their rescue, and reports that the trauma of being trapped underground continues to afflict many of them. Their situations are not what one might expect for international celebrities:

One year after their globally televised rescue, after the worldwide spotlight faded and the trips and offers have dwindled, the miners say that most of them are unemployed and that many are poorer than before.

Only a handful of them have steady jobs, they say. Just four have returned to mining. Two others, Víctor Zamora and Darío Segovia, are trying to make ends meet by selling fruits and vegetables, one from a stall, the other out of his truck.

"They made us feel like heroes," said Edison Peña, another miner, who is now in a psychiatric clinic. "In the end, we are selling peanuts. It's ironic, isn't it?"

Some miners have been paid to do interviews or give motivational speeches. But those opportunities proved fleeting for most.

This is yet another reminder that mines need to be safer so workers don't face these traumatic experiences. The fact that all 33 men emerged physically whole is worth celebrating, but it doesn't erase the substantial damage the explosion caused to the miners and their families.

In other news:

TIME's Ecocentric Blog: "[T]he bright white facade of Jobs's dream had a dark side as well, that in between his faultless designs and his legions of dedicated fans was the often harsh reality of globalized manufacturing, one that can be tainted in blood."

Medical News Today: A Baylor University study identifies several different factors associated with Gulf War Illness in veterans from the 1991 Gulf War; they include serving in a high-risk area, using pills intended to protect against a nerve gas attack, proximity to oil fires, and pesticide use.

The Oregonian: Just as the EPA released a health assessment classifying the industrial degreaser TCE as a known human carcinogen, an unofficial survey finds more than 200 cancers among people who worked at a Beaverton View-Master plant where TCE was found in the drinking-water supply at 320 times the concentration allowed by federal standards.

CIDRAP: Between 2003 and 2009, 395 "potential release events" occurred in US government labs. These included animal bites, needle sticks, and equipment failures.

MedlinePlus: Researchers at Queen's University in Ontario studied hospital shift workers and found that modern shift patterns may not pose the same cancer risks as shift-work schedules in the past.


More like this

All 33 of the miners who were trapped in Chile's San José mine have been safely lifted to the surface, as have the six rescuers who descended into the mine during the operation. Shift supervisor Luis Urzua was the last miner lifted to safety in the specially designed capsule that traversed the…
Last week, I was fortunate to be able to attend the opening of a Smithsonian Museum of Natural History exhibit dedicated to the rescue of 33 miners from the San José mine in Chile, and meet two of miners whose story captivated the world as they endured 69 days underground following a mine…
Sixty-nine days after an explosion trapped 33 miners 2,000 feet underground in the San José copper and gold mine in Copiapó, Chile, rescuers have begun lifting miners to the surface. As of 6am this morning, eight miners have been pulled to safety: Florencio Avalos, Mario Sepulveda, Juan Illanes,…
An August 5th collapse at the San Jose gold and copper mine in Chile's Atacama region trapped 33 miners hundreds of meters underground. Rescue teams had been drilling toward a refuge site, where it was hoped the miners had been able to take shelter - and earlier today, a probe sent down into the…