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Pilot Project Research Award Recipients- 2015-2016

Novel Dual Purpose Nanomaterials Against Air and Water Pollution,
Vinoy Thomas, PhD, Assistant Professor, Dept. Materials Science & Eng. UAB
 
The presence of airborne organic volatile contaminants and organic/ inorganic solutes and heavy metals in water poses dangers of human and environmental exposure that result in occupational health effects and environmental damage. Research conducted in industrial hygiene and environmental health sciences focuses on the development of methods for the measurement and control of airborne contaminants. New carbon-materials based substrates could be used in air sampling devices for volatile organic compounds and gases for workplace or environmental monitoring. With ongoing rapid industrialization, there is an urgent need for efficient and economically viable technology for waste water treatment. The current technologies have limitations, and generate extra volumes of sludge which requires further disposal. We propose to fabricate novel dual purpose hybrid nanofibers of TiO2 modified with nanocarbon as an effective adsorbent for removal of both organic contaminates and heavy metal ions in water as well as volatile organic compounds (VOC) in air. Incorporation of graphene-MnO2 will maximize adsorption of heavy metal from waste water. MnO2 adds thermocatalytic activity and enhances photo-catalytic activity of TiO2 to act as a “catalyst” working in the dark and under visible-light irradiation. The overall of goal this proposal is to synthesis hybrid nanostructures for “effective universal substrate” for both organic and inorganic contaminates in air and water. Three specific aims to fabricate and characterize nanofibers of TiO2 modified with graphene-MnO2, mixed nanofibers of TiO2 low band gap BFO fibers, and to conduct feasibility study on photocatalytic activity as well as heavy metal
adsorption characteristics were proposed. The successful outcome of the initial research will enable us to generate crucial data on these hybrid nonwoven environmental adsorbent/catalysts for extramural proposals to agencies such NSF and EPA to further continue the study in Environmental Safety are and to NIOSH to investigate the industrial emission minimization and VOC capture on hybrid nanostructures.
 
 
Heat Stress, Ultraviolet Radiation and Other Occupational Health Hazards Among Groundskeepers
Nicole Beck, Environmental Health Program, East Carolina University
 
Approximately 840,000 workers are employed as groundskeepers in the United States. In the southern US, groundskeepers typically work most of the year outdoors, performing physically demanding duties. Because a large amount of work time is spent outside, groundskeepers are exposed to various workplace hazards that contribute to illnesses and injuries. These hazards include physical hazards (hot temperatures, cold temperatures, UV radiation [UVR]), various vectors (e.g., mosquitos, ticks), and ergonomic hazards associated with bending, kneeling, and awkward posture for prolonged periods, and heavy lifting without assistance. The purpose of this study is to assess the exposure to UVR, heat, cold, ergonomic hazards and vectors among groundskeepers. Groundskeepers (N=50) employed at East Carolina University (ECU) will be recruited to complete pre-and post-surveys to determine any changes in hazard exposures and knowledge on PPE use and ergonomic techniques during the course of the study. Heat stress indices in groundskeeper work areas at 3 different times during the day will be measured using heat stress monitors. UVR dosimeter badges will be used to monitor daily UV indices (UVI) throughout the entire shift by attaching the badges to the head of selected workers (N=5), who will be asked to fill out an activity card to determine their location during the shift, PPE
use, weather, and task performed. Vector collection will be conducted in selected work areas and at selecteddays. Diurnal vectors will be collected using tick drags and traps (placed at 8 AM; collected at 6 PM). Nocturnal vectors will be collected using traps (placed at 6 PM; collected at 8AM the following morning). All
specimens collected in traps will be either frozen or placed in ethanol, and identified to species using dichotomous keys. Heat stress and UVR monitoring and vector collection will be conducted during 3 seasons: summer (June-July), fall (August-September), spring (April-May).
 
Mu1i-scale (nano/macroscale) wet laid functional mats for better air filtration
Hicham Ghossein, Graduate Research Assistant, Materials Science and Engineering, UAB
 
Airborne particles in different sizes and toxic fumes are produced on a daily bases in industrial work places, and especially manufacturing facilities. The daily exposure of workers to these hazardous conditions exposes them to high health risk. A viable method of removing particles from a gas stream is via fibrous filters for adsorption of toxic emissions and hazardous volatiles. The proposed work advances the state of the art in novel design and development of multi-scale fiber mat system, comprising natural fibers derived activated carbon fibers (ACF) in conjunction with continuous nano fibers capture airborne particles for use in occupational and health safety. A low energy scalable processing method called ‘wet-laid’ will be used in the design and construction of the multi-scale fiber mats. The objectives of the research are: (1) Identify, select and evaluate multi-scale wet laid fibers for processing into mats; (2) Develop and optimize mats using ACF and layering them with continuous carbon nano fiber sheets to produce a nano improved innovated multi-scale filter; (3) Evaluate filters of the nano improved multi-scale materials; 4) Design and optimize new filter mats and investigate the effects of filtration efficiency in product(s) identified through industry partners in the health and chemical industries. Preparation and optimization of the multi-scale mats will be performed at the Materials Processing and Applications Development (MPAD) Center at UAB. Industrial partners – (a) e- Spin technologies, Chattanooga, TN will collaborate on continuous nano fibers; and (b) Neenah Paper (NP), Atlanta, GA, a company with decades of reputation in paper fabrication, for mass scale wet laid product scale-up. The 
innovative filtration materials developed in this work will provide industrial workers and researchers with a confident safe environment.
 
Determinants of Osteoarthritis Linked to Occupational Radiography: Epidemiologic Surveillance
Samuel Huntley, Environmental & Public Health, University of Miami
 
Musculoskeletal pain is a common condition among construction workers. One major cause of knee pain is osteoarthritis (OA), which is characterized by destruction of cartilage and bone changes in the synovial joints that can develop as early as the forties. In other worker populations, OA has been documented to significantly impact quality of life, cause lost work time or absenteeism, increase work restriction, or even cause disability. Despite being the most common form of arthritis and its strong correlation to excessive joint degradation due to heavy mechanical loading, few studies have examined the relationship between self-reported osteoarthritis status, workplace exposures, and its clinical validation by ultrasonography and clinical examination among construction workers. In this one-year Pilot Project, our interdisciplinary research team proposes to use a cross-sectional study design to collect self-report survey data, capture knee ultrasound images, and perform biomechanical knee evaluations. We will screen a convenience sample of 400 construction workers across various South Florida construction sites using a paper-based survey instrument. 50 workers reporting doctor-diagnosed knee osteoarthritis and 50 workers reporting
severe knee pain without doctor-diagnosed knee osteoarthritis will be invited to complete an ultrasound and biomechanical evaluation of both knees at the worksite. The primary goals of this unique Pilot Study will be to examine if self-reported doctor-diagnosed knee arthritis correlates with 1)
workplace physical exposures and 2) ultrasound knee imaging and biomechanical evaluation. Results of this Pilot Study will enable Mr. Huntley and his mentors to evaluate the feasibility of this novel imaging approach in screening for work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Responsive to three NORA National Construction Agenda strategic intermediate goals as well as NIOSH’s Research 2 Practice (R2P) initiative, this Pilot Project will form the basis for Mr. Huntley’s NIH F30 application, as well as foster additional formal training opportunities in occupational exposure assessment and analysis.
 
Evaluation of Eyestrain Control Measures during MRI Scan/Re-Scan Reliability Research
Richard Sesek, PhD, CPE, Associate Professor, Auburn University
 
The proposed research is trying to improve current assessment of ergonomic risk of developing low back pain, by both improving inputs to ergonomic modeling and by proposing objective criteria for assessing low back health and predicting when a worker may be developing an injury. This study will help validate the data collection methods pioneered by my colleagues and recent graduates of the Occupational Safety and Ergonomics (OSE) program (Tang and Gungor). While working with MRI images, we have determined that eyestrain is a prevalent concern among analysts. This project will not only study the data collection process itself, it will explore various devices that could potentially reduce this eyestrain significantly. This research is fundamental to all of the MRI work currently underway in our OSE/OIP research groups since it will allow us to validate the methods used to develop biomechanical inputs to many ergonomic models. This study would be referenced by all subsequent work in our lab and will provide the pilot data necessary for us to apply for larger grants with larger and more diverse populations.In addition, any reduction in eyestrain that can be achieved could make future data analysis more comfortable and efficient.
 
Biomechanics of Balance, Load Carriage and Slips in Military Footwear
Harrish Chander, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Kinsesiology, Mississippi State
 
Slips, trips and falls due to an induced loss balance have been identified as the leading cause of occupational injuries resulting from falls.  The study aims to define balance, gait,  and slip mechansims with two army standard military footwear (Minimalist Boot  & Standard Tachical Boot). Twenty four healthy recreationally trained male subjects (18-35 years) with no history of any musculoskeletal or neurological disorders will be recruited to participate in the study.  The study will follow a pre-post-test repeated measures design during with participants will be tested on two separte sessions, for each footwear, separated by a lest 48-72 hours of rest intervals.  Participants will be provided with a counter-balanced miliarty footwear and 16kg back-pack and will be tested on the NeuoCom Equiptest using sensory organization test. Upon completion of the balance tests, participants will be directed to the walkway for gait trails where they will be strapped to the fall arrest system with a back-pack type harness and perform multiple dry gait trails.  Participants will then be exposed to three slip trails (unexpected slip, alret slip and an expected slip). Following this, participants  will be directed to a treadmill to perform a simlated physicological workload.  On completion, participants will again perform the series of balance, dry normal gait and slippery trials.  The same testing procedure will be repeated on the second testing day with the second footwear.  Vicon 3D motion capture system, dual force plates (AMTI & Bertec) and a Noraxon EMG system would be sued to collect kinematic, kinetic and muscle activity data.  A multivarate repeated meaures ANOVA will be performed for all dependent balance, gait, slip and EMG v ariables.  The finding from the study will help offer footwear design suggeestions in the military and also on work-rest intervals and help prevent slip related injuries.