Largest study to date evaluates occupational health risks to hardmetal workers

Workers in the hardmetal industry are not at increased risk for lung cancer or any of 63 other potential causes of death, concluded the largest and most definitive study on this population to date. The results are being presented by the study investigators today at the 26th International Symposium on Epidemiology in Occupational Health annual meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland, and will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine as a series of eight articles.

The University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health-led study of more than 32,000 workers in five countries was performed after smaller French and Swedish studies indicated that tungsten carbide with a cobalt binder — the primary ingredients in hardmetal — may be linked to an increased risk of lung cancer. Hardmetal is a human-made substance second only to diamond in terms of its hardness, and is used in products ranging from metal cutting tools and drill bits to snowplow blades.

“Our findings will affect regulatory agencies and how they set exposure standards,” said principal investigator Gary M. Marsh, Ph.D., professor of biostatistics at Pitt Public Health and director and founder of the school’s Center for Occupational Biostatistics & Epidemiology. “It is very good news that the workers in this industry are not at increased risk of death due to the materials used in their occupation, both for the employees and for the hardmetal industry.”

titanium carbide powder

Pitt Public Health coordinated the study, which involved workers at three companies and 17 manufacturing sites in the U.S., United Kingdom, Austria, Germany and Sweden, and led the analysis that combined the individual country findings. The research was initiated and funded by the International Tungsten Industry Association, which is the primary trade organization for the hardmetal industry. The Pennsylvania Department of Health also provided funding.

Hardmetal is typically made by heating tungsten and carbon to form tungsten carbide powder, then adding powdered binders such as cobalt or nickel. The hardmetal powder mixture is pressed or formed into shape before heating the product to more than one thousand degrees Celsius. The hardened product may then be finish machined.

Because cobalt has been shown to cause cancer in animals and can be a serious lung irritant, the workers wear closed hoods with full respirators when handling the powdered metals without technical controls.

While there was no increased risk of death on average for the hardmetal employees, including those who had worked in the industry for decades or in the 1950s before modern respirators, the researchers did find small excesses in lung cancer mortality among short-term workers who were employed in the hardmetal industry for less than a year, compared with long-term workers.

“These findings in short-term workers are unlikely due to occupational factors in the hardmetal industry,” said Marsh, who also is a professor in the departments of Epidemiology and Clinical & Translational Science at Pitt. “Instead they are more likely due to differences in lifestyle and behavior that could impact lung cancer risk, such as higher smoking rates.”

Additionally, median worker exposure levels for tungsten, cobalt and nickel were all below the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists’ “threshold limit values for airborne concentrations of chemical substances,” which is one set of standards recommended by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Source: Health Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh.

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OnSeptember 11, 2017, posted in: Latest News by

Metal Powder For Sale: A Couple Of Things To Know Before You Buy

If you are looking for metal powder for sale, there are many suppliers nowadays. However, not everyone produces metal powder with the equal quality which is why you should know what you are getting into – and who you are working with.

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OnSeptember 1, 2017, posted in: Latest News by

From battery waste to electrochemical sensor

Multiplex detection of antioxidants / food additives / preservatives in food samples is possible using our newly developed graphite-based nanocomposite electrochemical sensor from used alkaline battery. The chemical sensor not only leads to shorter analysis time but also is a greener chemistry innovation.

A small AA battery can do the important job of powering up our remote control, mini toys and alarm clock, but after reaching its life spent, there is environmental issue that we need to solve. A typical zinc battery is composed of a zinc body, manganese powder, paper, starch and a black rod that make the battery works. Most of the parts are recyclable, but not the black rod (which scientists referred as the “graphite rod”). This material possesses good electrical conductivity property and can actually be reused for the development of a chemical sensor.

The graphite rod that was extracted out from the used battery can be cut into various shapes, either in rods, buttons, or thin sheets. Besides, it can also be fabricated into small chip devices and attached onto human skin or as a strip for the detection of chemical substances in food. Food additives (chemicals) such as anti-oxidants or preservatives could be piece of interesting information, whereby most people are concern of and would like to know their actual amount before consuming.

The possibility of miniaturizing a laboratory into graphite chip or strip to give us the instant information regarding the dosage intake of anti-oxidants or preservatives in our daily meals is achievable through a simple and economical graphite rod conversion steps. In contrast to the conventional laboratory tests that could take up a day for chemical analysis, a portable, affordable and accurate small analytical device is more preferred. The development of chemical sensors has begun a decade ago, as its potential use is promising due to high demand. Alas, the cost for such development using expensive sensor materials is not affordable.

To overcome this challenge, our research group has found an exciting solution by looking into reused battery waste. We have successfully fabricated a number of graphite nanocomposite electrochemical sensors by surface modification with nanomaterials, which significantly improved the materials’ chemical and physical properties that fit to its usage as a chemical sensor. We have demonstrated the practical use of the developed graphite-based electrochemical sensor for the quantitative detection of Myricetin (natural anti-oxidant) and multiplex detection of other preservatives (synthetic organic molecules) in different forms of actual food samples. The analysis results obtained was found well correlated to the conventional laboratory test results using HPLC. More importantly, the test conducted using our developed sensor method is relatively faster whereby results could be read in less than 5 minutes. In addition, the recycled graphite rod used is an inert material. Hence, it is safe to be used and will not cause any harmful effect to the end users. This is another added value to the newly developed alternative analytical approach.

Source: University of Malaya.

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OnAugust 19, 2017, posted in: Latest News by

Reduced oxygen nanocrystalline materials show improved performance

Researchers at the University of Connecticut have found that reducing oxygen in some nanocrystalline materials may improve their strength and durability at elevated temperatures, a promising enhancement that could lead to better biosensors, faster jet engines, and greater capacity semiconductors.

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OnAugust 4, 2017, posted in: Latest News by

Nanomaterial helps store solar energy: Efficiently and inexpensively

Efficient storage technologies are necessary if solar and wind energy is to help satisfy increased energy demands. One important approach is storage in the form of hydrogen extracted from water using solar or wind energy. This process takes place in a so-called electrolyser. Thanks to a new material developed by researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI and Empa, these devices are likely to become cheaper and more efficient in the future. The material in question works as a catalyst accelerating the splitting of water molecules: the first step in the production of hydrogen. Researchers also showed that this new material can be reliably produced in large quantities and demonstrated its performance capability within a technical electrolysis cell — the main component of an electrolyser. The results of their research have been published in the current edition of the scientific journal Nature Materials.

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OnJuly 26, 2017, posted in: Latest News by