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Public and workers should be better protected from inhalation hazards, report says

by Andrea Widener
February 20, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 7


Two people sitting at a table and a third standing and taking notes on a pad.
Credit: Shutterstock
Respiratory protection guidance is needed for more workplaces, including restaurants, a US National Academies report says.

The US government needs to better direct workers and the public about when and how to use respiratory protection, according to a new report from the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The COVID-19 pandemic, as well as wildfires and mold exposure, has highlighted a long-standing lack of information about inhalation risks. “Having systems in place to continuously assess inhalation hazards, identify the right respiratory protective devices, and guide workers and the public on how to use them can prevent illness and save lives,” Jonathan Samet, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health and chair of the committee that wrote the report, says in a press release. The US Department of Labor should be responsible for laying out protections for workers, including gig and domestic workers and others who are not often covered by current rules, the report says. The US Department of Health and Human Services should make sure the public, including children, has access to appropriate respiratory devices and education on how and when to use them. The report recommends that a national laboratory be chosen to research the best designs, and both agencies should explore supply chain issues that caused problems early in the pandemic.


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