Archive for January, 2011

Oral Fluid Reveals More Heroin Use Than Previously Believed

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Oral fluid has revealed approximately five times more heroin use in the general U.S. workforce than previously believed, according to new data today released by Quest Diagnostics Incorporated, one of the world’s leading provider of diagnostic testing, information and services. In the company’s first special report on oral fluid testing with more than 320,000 oral-fluid samples from the general U.S. workforce from January to June 2010, data reveal that oral fluid testing detected a marker for heroin use at a rate of 0.04% compared to the 0.008% positivity rate in urine testing.

The oral fluid data findings align with early data from more than 350,000 urine samples tested from October 1 to December 31 2010 showing that new, federally-mandated urine drug testing rules succeeded in finding 20 percent more positives for the heroin marker 6-acetylmorphine, or 6-AM, among transportation workers subjected to the testing.

“Oral fluid testing is helping employers find more heroin users,” said Dr. Barry Sample, director of science and technology for Quest Diagnostics Employer Solutions. “In addition, while findings are preliminary, new federal requirements appear to be weeding out more heroin users from safety sensitive roles — where impairment from heroin use can cause particularly grave impact.”

Both oral fluid testing and the new federally-mandated urine testing process for safety-sensitive workers involve sensitive initial testing for the 6-AM heroin marker. In the past, safety-sensitive worker urine testing for heroin was performed only after a positive morphine test result, because heroin metabolizes to 6-AM, and then to morphine.

As of October 1, 2010, in addition to lowering the cutoffs for amphetamines and cocaine, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) joined the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to require urine testing for the heroin marker specifically. Among those transportation workers subject to the new rule, the newly mandated testing process for the heroin marker revealed a nearly 20% jump in positive results – 0.011%, in the fourth quarter of 2010, vs. 0.009%, in the same period in 2009 – as compared to the previous heroin detection program. The government also required testing for ecstasy (MDMA). During the first three months of testing under the new requirements, the additional test for ecstasy yielded a positivity rate (0.004%) consistent with expected rates based on historical non-regulated testing data.

Urine drug testing and alternative specimen testing, such as hair and oral fluid testing, are used by employers to help maintain a drug-free workplace. Oral-fluid testing, which detects recent drug use, offers the advantage of an observed collection and is easily administered by the hiring manager. There also are no known adulterants that can be used to tamper with oral-fluid testing. Urine testing, the most commonly used screening method, is an accurate and reliable way to detect casual drug use for a broader range of substances that occurred within the past 72 hours. Hair testing, which also affords little opportunity for specimen tampering, is the only drug-testing method available that provides up to a 90-day history of repetitive drug use.

According to Dr. Sample, “Today, employers have available to them a powerful array of resources to protect their business, their employees, and the public they serve from the risks and harm that can result from worker drug use. Alternative specimen testing, such as oral fluid and hair testing, has added convenience and flexibility to employer drug testing programs, and helps employers to effectively custom-design programs that address the unique configuration of their workforce.” MADISON, N.J., Jan. 25, 2011 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ —

Ford Demonstrates Vehicle-to-Vehicle Safety Communication

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

With vehicle-to-vehicle communication, intelligent cars talk to each other wirelessly, warning drivers of potential dangers. Ford is one of the first automakers to build prototype vehicles demonstrating this exciting new technology, which could also be installed in buses, trucks, motorcycles, and other vehicles.

In a demonstration, Administrator Appel and Deputy Assistant Secretary Fontenot endured several hair-raising potential crash scenarios. And, from potential crash scenario to potential crash scenario, the new technology alerted the driver before it was too late and in ways our current vehicles simply cannot do.

“It wasn’t comfortable, knowing that we were being driven deliberately into the most common situations where crashes occur,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary Fontenot. “But each time, the vehicle alerted the driver–way in advance of his ability to see the danger on his own.”

For example, with a long chain of vehicles moving at speed on a highway, if the lead vehicle brakes sharply, the trailing vehicle’s driver remains unaware of the danger until all of the subsequent vehicles slam on their brakes. Sometimes, this is too late to avoid a crash.
But the Ford prototype receives the wireless signal from the lead car and informs the driver immediately–without the dangerous delay of the long chain of brake lights.

In a less common–but perhaps more dangerous–occurence, vehicle-to-vehicle technology can warn a driver when a nearby car is approaching an intersection and is likely to violate the right-of-way. Imagine approaching an intersection where you have the green light. Now imagine that a vehicle you can’t see is approaching from the right and ignores the red light. Unless you and your passengers learn of this reckless approach, you are all in potential peril.

Bath Salts a New Drug Problem?

Monday, January 24th, 2011

From the AP: Law enforcement agents and poison control centers say that advertised bath salts with complex chemical names are an emerging menace in several U.S. states where authorities talk of banning their sale.

From the Deep South to California, emergency calls are being reported over-exposure to the stimulants the powders often contain: mephedrone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone, also known as MDPV.

Sold under such names as Ivory Wave, Bliss, White Lightning and Hurricane Charlie, the chemicals can cause hallucinations, paranoia, rapid heart rates and suicidal thoughts, authorities say. The chemicals are in products sold legally at convenience stores and on the Internet as bath salts and even plant foods. However, they aren’t necessarily being used for the purposes on the label.

Mississippi lawmakers this week began considering a proposal to ban the sale of the powders, and a similar step is being sought in Kentucky. In Louisiana, the bath salts were outlawed by an emergency order after the state’s poison center received more than 125 calls in the last three months of 2010 involving exposure to the chemicals.

When smoked or snorted, some say the effects of the powders are as powerful as abusing methamphetamine.

FAA Proposes $170,000 Civil Penalty For Pemco World Air Services

Friday, January 21st, 2011

WASHINGTON – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing a $170,000 civil penalty against Pemco World Air Services of Dothan, Ala., for allegedly failing to administer pre-employment drug tests for two individuals the company hired for safety-sensitive positions.

The FAA also cited Pemco for failing to carry out required follow-up drug or alcohol testing on eight individuals reinstated after completing return-to-duty training during 2008. In all, the company failed to carry out 24 required follow-up tests. Failing to administer the pre-employment and reinstatement tests are violations of the Federal Aviation Regulations.

The FAA inspected Pemco’s pre-employment test program three times, and each time the FAA determined it had not complied with the requirements. Those findings resulted in proposed civil penalties.

Pemco World has 30 days from receipt of the FAA’s enforcement letter to respond to the agency.

FAA Seeks $1.025 Million Civil Penalty Against San Antonio Aerospace

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

WASHINGTON – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing a civil penalty of $1,025,000 against San Antonio Aerospace LP for violating the Department of Transportation’s Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing programs. The company was renamed ST Aerospace San Antonio in November 2009 and is a subsidiary of Singapore Technologies Aerospace, Ltd.; however, the alleged violations occurred before the company changed its name.

The FAA alleges San Antonio Aerospace failed to conduct required pre-employment drug tests and receive verified negative drug test results before hiring 90 people to perform safety-sensitive functions, a violation of federal safety regulations. Twenty-five of the employees performed safety-sensitive work before the results of their drug tests were known. The violations occurred between March 24, 2007 and May 8, 2008.

“Required pre-employment drug testing is an important part of the government’s effort to ensure safety at all levels of transportation,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We take these violations very seriously.”

The FAA alleges San Antonio Aerospace did not administer pre-employment drug tests to 62 workers and did not receive verified negative results prior to the date those workers were hired. Twenty-three of the workers performed safety-sensitive work before the tests were administered and before the company received verified negative results.

Another 22 workers received the required pre-employment drug test, but the company did not receive verified negative results until after those workers were hired. Two of those workers performed safety-sensitive tasks before the company received verified negative results. Another six workers took their pre-employment drug tests on the day they were hired.

“Safety is compromised when our regulations are skirted or ignored,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “The traveling public has to be confident that the people who perform work on their planes are complying with those regulations.”

San Antonio Aerospace has 30 days from the receipt of the FAA’s enforcement letter to respond to the agency.

U.S. Poison Centers Raise Alarm About Toxic Substance Marketed as Bath Salts

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

SOURCE American Association of Poison Control Centers

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Dec. 21, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Doctors and clinicians at U.S. poison centers are increasingly concerned about products marketed as bath salts that are causing increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, agitation, hallucinations, extreme paranoia and delusions.

Just as people using synthetic marijuana marketed as herbal incense believed they would get a high but instead developed damaging symptoms, now products labeled as bath salts and laced with a dangerous chemical are eliciting extreme adverse events among those who use them looking for a high.

The products have been sold on the Internet and, in some states, are being sold at gas stations and head shops. They’re known by a variety of names, including “Red Dove,” “Blue Silk,” “Zoom,” “Bloom,” “Cloud Nine,” “Ocean Snow,” “Lunar Wave,” “Vanilla Sky,” “Ivory Wave,” “White Lightning,” “Scarface” and “Hurricane Charlie.”

“We are incredibly concerned about the extreme paranoia being reported by people who are taking these drugs,” said Mark Ryan, director of the Louisiana Poison Center. He said the products are being touted as cocaine substitutes and are causing intense cravings akin to methamphetamine use. He said he worries that the paranoia could cause those experimenting with the drugs to harm themselves or others.

Henry A. Spiller, director of the Kentucky Regional Poison Center, said the patients his center has treated “are having a break with reality.”

“They have completely lost it,” he said.

The products are believed to contain Methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MPDV, a chemical that is not approved for medical use in the United States. Ryan said he also has received reports of these substances being sold as insect repellant or plant fertilizers.

As of Dec. 21, the Louisiana center alone has handled 85 cases. Nationally, these substances have spurred at least 156 calls to U.S. poison centers as of Dec. 21.

Packages of the powdered substance labeled bath salts indicate that the products are “not for human consumption,” but Ryan said most patients calling poison centers have snorted the substances. In at least one case, he said, a person injected the substance into his veins.

“We are seeing a definite increase in reports about these products,” said Alvin C. Bronstein, medical director of the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center and the acting director of toxicosurveillance for the American Association of Poison Control Centers. “This is an emerging health threat that needs to be taken seriously.”

Motorists in Britain Face Drug Testing Within Months

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

From The Telegraph: The Home Office is ready to approve devices which will be used to screen motorists suspected of driving under the influence of illegal narcotics.

In a new move manufacturers will be sent details of the Government’s requirements for the machines today.

The use of so-called “drugalysers” in police stations will also pave the way for roadside testing by the end of next year.

It is understood that the first devices, capable of testing for an array of drugs including amphetamines, cannabis and ecstasy, could be in police stations by the summer.

Britain lags behind a number of countries in testing motorists for drug use, including Australia, Croatia and Spain where drivers are screened at the roadside.

Medical Marijuana Issues in AZ

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

From KTAR in Phoenix: Medical marijuana will become a reality in Arizona in about four months, posing new issues for companies that do drug testing.

For example, what about employees who test positive for pot and have a medical marijuana card?

David Smith, an attorney for the Mountain States Employers Council, believes drug tests in Arizona need to change.

“Medical marijuana needs to be addressed as a separate subject, similar to the way most employers address the issue of prescription drug use,” Smith said.

He said companies will need to go beyond a positive drug test to determine if a worker is impaired — possibly to a test similar to what police use in roadside sobriety checks.

“The drug tests that exist today do not measure impairment for marijuana,” Smith said.

He warned people that medical marijuana restrictions are tough.

“This law deals with only medical marijuana that is used through the dispensary system that the DHS (state Department of Health Services) is developing. It does not deal with marijuana that’s used on a non-medical basis.”

He said it’s still illegal for people to be high, or impaired, on marijuana at work.

Credit Reports Receive Continued Scrutiny

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently heard testimony regarding proposed restrictions of the use of a consumer’s credit information when employers are making a hiring decision. 

The testimony was part of proposed Federal legislation to limit the use of consumer credit reports when making a hiring decision.  Several states have already implemented rules limiting or restricting the use of consumer credit reports.

One key statement given by Pamela Devata of Seyfarth Shaw pointed out that, contrary to common belief, a person’s credit score is not included on the credit report used for employment purposes.  She states, before “an employer is able to make a decision based on a credit report, the employer must review the content of the full report to obtain credit information and assess whether it is positive, negative, or neutral.”

Employers should be mindful of their reasons for using an applicant’s credit history.  Devata also noted credit reports “…provide a variety of information that cannot otherwise be confirmed by an employer. They are viewed as a valid indicator of a person’s judgment and potential risk to the company.”

FMCSA announces proposed ban on hand-held cell phone use

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

 

Interstate truck and bus drivers would be prohibited from using hand-held cell phones while operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) if a proposed rule from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is finalized.

Under the proposal, announced on December 17, 2010, commercial drivers would be prohibited from reaching for, holding, or dialing a cell phone while operating a CMV. Drivers who violate these restrictions would face federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense and disqualification of their commercial driver’s license (CDL) for multiple offenses. Additionally, states would suspend a driver’s CDL after two or more violations of any state law on hand-held cell phone use.

“Every time a commercial truck or bus driver takes his or her eyes off the road to use a cell phone, even for a few seconds, the driver places everyone around them at risk,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This proposed rule will go a long way toward keeping a driver’s full attention focused on the road.”

Under the newly proposed rule, motor carriers that allow their drivers to use hand-held cell phones while driving would face a maximum penalty of $11,000.

“We are committed to using every resource at our disposal to ensure commercial drivers and vehicles are operating safely at all times,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “Implementation of this proposal would help make our roads safer and target a leading cause of distracted driving.”

According to the FMCSA, research shows that commercial drivers who reach for an object such as a cell phone while driving are three times more likely to be involved in a crash or other safety-critical event. Drivers dialing a hand-held cell phone while driving increase their risk by six times.

Once the proposed rule appears in the Federal Register, the public will have 60 days to submit comments to the agency.