Water Environment Federation lauds new NIOSH biosolids guidance

June 14, 2002
WEF recently welcomed the action of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to rescind Hazard ID No. 10 and replace it with guidance that better reflects the precautions that biosolids workers should be taking.

Alexandria, VA, June 14, 2002 - The Water Environment Federation recently welcomed the action of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to rescind Hazard ID No. 10 (Workers Exposed to Class B Biosolids During and After Field Application) and replace it with guidance that better reflects the precautions that biosolids workers should be taking.

According to WEF Deputy Executive Director, Dr. Albert Gray, "WEF is pleased that NIOSH was open to the discussion of our concerns about the inevitable misunderstanding and misrepresentation of its earlier Hazard ID #10 and used input from the water quality profession to prepare the revised document. WEF has always encouraged personal hygiene and the use of appropriate protective equipment in all aspects of wastewater treatment, including biosolids handling".

In March 2002, NIOSH extended an invitation to WEF to officially comment on NIOSH's draft guidance entitled Controlling Potential Risks To Workers Exposed to Class B Biosolids. The new guidance was written in response to criticism surrounding some misinformation stated in the August 2000 release of Hazard ID No. 10 (HID #10).

In response, Dr. Gray requested that NIOSH retract HID #10 and replace it with new guidance that reflects the need to follow common safe work procedures and use of personal protective equipment widely available to the wastewater profession. On June 12, 2002, NIOSH officially replaced HID #10 with the new guidance, which is a more refined, accurate, and useful document for those who work closely with Class B biosolids.

Since its release in August 2000, the HID #10 had been criticized by water quality and biosolids experts as alarmist and poorly researched. While the guidance recommended the use of standard personal hygiene practices and personal protective equipment to prevent potential health problems in workers handling Class B biosolids, WEF and other organizations found fault with aspects of HID #10 because it implied widespread potential health effects and failure within the wastewater profession based on the observance of only one biosolids land application and storage site.

The site used did not comply with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Class B requirements and workers were clearly not following good personal hygiene or using personal protective equipment. The organizations were also concerned that the guidance could be easily mischaracterized as a call for the prohibition of all Class B biosolids. Finally, WEF and others noted that the recommended practices in the report were already routinely administered at the vast majority of publicly owned treatment works.

As in the HID #10, the new guidance focuses on potential risks from close occupational exposure to Class B biosolids. It stresses that those working with Class B biosolids should avoid eating, drinking, smoking, and chewing gum on the job and should wash their hands thoroughly upon leaving the work site and remove clothing and footwear that could transport Class B biosolids off-site. The goal is to avoid possible ingestion or exposure through cuts, scratches, eyes, etc. to possible Class B biosolids pathogens.

The new guidance also corrects or leaves out some of the misinformation that had appeared in the HID #10, including assumptions made from one NIOSH investigation at a land application site in Ohio (further analysis at that site, conducted after the HID #10 was released, showed that the biosolids investigated had excessively high pathogen levels and were not even Class B). It incorporates far more of the known science and includes a more thorough list of references. The new NIOSH Guidance should be helpful to wastewater facility staff, Class B biosolids land application workers, and farmers who work with Class B biosolids.

It presents the full range of worker protection options, including the most conservative measures that might be considered. It encourages biosolids workers and managers to assess their particular Class B biosolids management environments and select those protective measures that are appropriate for the particular level of potential worker exposure.

For more information on biosolids management, visit the WEF website at www.wef.org. To view the new NIOSH Guidance, visit www.cdc.gov/NIOSH/docs/preprint/biosolidsb.html.

Founded in 1928, the Water Environment Federation (WEF) is a not-for-profit technical and educational organization with members from varied disciplines who work toward the WEF vision of preservation and enhancement of the global water environment. The WEF network includes more than 100,000 water quality professionals from 77 Member Associations in 31 countries.

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