249990 Addressing Worker and Community Health Impacts of Institutional and Large-Scale Biomass Burning

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Molly Jacobs, MPH , Lowell Center for Sustainable Production, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, MA
Polly Hoppin, ScD , Environmental Health Initiative, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, MA
Richard Clapp, DSc MPH , School of Health and the Environment, Department of Work Environment, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, MA
Norman Anderson , Division of Environmental Health, Maine Department of Health and Human Services, Augusta, ME
David Brown, PhD , Environment and Human Health, Inc., North Haven, Connecticut, CT
Bolstered by renewable energy tax and other incentives, the Northeast has seen a proliferation of wood-burning to generate electrical power and heat for industries and institutions. Proponents argue that wood is a renewable resource that can be burned cleanly and efficiently, while providing "green jobs" that stimulate local economies. Yet the impacts of wood-burning on health have not been systematically taken into account in policy-making. The objective of this project is to stimulate close attention to worker and community health impacts as the development of biomass energy goes forward. Methods include: (a) assessing community and worker health impacts from production and combustion of wood biomass, and current policies aimed at protecting public health, via literature/policy reviews and key informant interviews; (b) engaging health experts and leaders in discussion about risks to health from wood biomass burning, and about policy solutions; (c) hosting a policy symposium with leaders from energy, environment and public health agencies to begin a constructive dialogue about policy solutions. Preliminary results include evidence of health risks to workers from the production and delivery of wood fuel and risks to community residents from boiler emissions and truck traffic. Priority policy opportunities identified include consideration of peak exposures in air quality regulation; using comprehensive health impact assessments in policy planning, permitting and siting decisions; removing barriers to the introduction of cleaner-burning technologies, among others. A framework for taking into account worker public health impacts early in decision-making on "green technologies" will be presented.

Learning Areas:
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe key worker and community health hazards from thermal/electrical energy derived from wood fuel. 2. List at least 5 gaps in current policies and programs for mitigating worker and community health harms from woody-biomass energy. 3. Describe key policy opportunities to advance a more systematic incorporation of worker and public health considerations into biomass energy decision-making.

Keywords: Environmental Health, Occupational Exposure

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: For over a decade, I have worked as a public health researcher focusing on (a) understanding the links between environmental and occupational exposures that contribute to illness, and (b) developing and promoting effective preventative solutions across a variety of organizational sectors. I have worked on several research synthesis and translation projects on a range of occupational and environmental health issues. Examples of recent publications include: (1) Lessons Learned: Solutions for Workplace Safety & Health. Lowell Center. January 2011; (2) Clapp R, Jacobs M, Loechler E. “Environmental and Occupational Causes of Cancer: New Evidence 2005-2007,” Reviews on Environmental Health. 2008;23(1):1-37. (3) Jacobs M, et al. Asthma-Related Chemicals in Massachusetts: an Analysis of Toxics Use Reduction Act Data. Lowell Center. July 2009. (4) Jacobs M, Clapp R. Industrial Carcinogens: A Need for Action. Lowell Center. September 2008. (5) Jacobs M, Clapp R. Air and Water Pollutants: A Need for Action. Lowell Center. December 2008.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.