November 3, 2016
University of Washington Occupational and Environmental Medicine Fellow, Esi Nkyekyer, MD, became interested in Washington State’s Lead Standards and the process of updating them after attending one of the lead stakeholder meetings held by the Department of L&I in the fall of 2015.
“I was intrigued by the process of applying updated scientific evidence on the of adverse health effects associated with lead exposure to the process of rule-making about the lead standards,” says Nkyekyer, “I felt that if we could come up with a product that highlighted how both labor and industry could benefit from a new lead standard that perhaps we could move the policy needle forward.”
Dr. Nkyekyer and other Northwest Center ERC Trainees embarked on a mission to inform the new lead standards for Washington State. Nkyekyer and her fellow researchers reviewed literature on the health effects of lead, and worked to find evidence that a recommendation for a lower lead standard could positively impact worker health.
“This project was part of the ERC Multidisciplinary Trainee Workshops and Activities program. The theme was the ‘Role of Occupational Health professionals in Policy-making’. As part of this project, we were tasked with working on an occupational health policy statement that is relevant to an issues in Washington state. Our group, which was comprised of trainees in industrial hygiene, occupational health nursing, occupational medicine, occupational health at the human-animal interface, and occupational health services research, decided to focus on the current issue of the lead standard.”
Nkyekyer and her team created an infographic to sum up the findings of their research, and presented at the 2016 UW Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Worker Memorial Day Event. The research team gathered evidence for the health effects of lead exposure, and uncovered the costs associated with lead-related diseases and disabilities. The infographic highlighted key findings from the literature review, and recommends improvements to the Washington State standards.
The most enjoyable part of this project was working as an interdisciplinary team. The insights we all brought to the table given our expertise in the different arenas of occupational and environmental health sciences was very rewarding. Also, coming up with a product (the infographic) that could be used to help educate stakeholders during the rule-making review process was very rewarding,” said Nkyekyer.