Research Shows Shorter Life Spans for America’s Least-Educated Whites

Study finds life expectancy has fallen four years since 1990 for whites lacking high school diplomas. The recent study, which was led by a University of Illinois professor and builds on earlier research that showed more modest declines, estimated that white women without high school diplomas now have a life expectancy of 73.5 years. That compares with 83.9 years for white women with a college degree. For white men, the estimated life expectancy is 67.5 years for the least educated compared with 80.4 for those with college degrees. Possible reasons include higher rates of smoking among less educated white women, rising obesity, and a steady increase in the least educated Americans who lack health insurance. The New York Times

Safety breakdowns abound at injection wells used as waste sites for oil and gas byproducts. The oversight of what are known as Class 2 wells is often relegated to understaffed state oil and gas agencies, which have to balance encouraging energy production with protecting the environment. In some areas, funding for enforcement has dropped even as drilling activity has surged, leading to more wells and more waste overseen by fewer inspectors. The energy industry over the last three decades has won special concessions for such dumping. Yet in accidents dating back to the 1960s, toxic materials have bubbled up to the surface or escaped, contaminating aquifers that store supplies of drinking water. ProPublica

Preliminary count shows 4,609 workplace fatalities in U.S. last year.That figure, reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is slightly down from 2010’s final count of 4,690, but the 2011 tally is likely to be somewhat higher when the definitive total is released in the spring. The nation’s occupational fatality rate last year remained 3.5 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers. The deadliest jobs: fishing workers; loggers; aircraft pilots and flight engineers; refuse and recyclable material collectors; roofers; structural iron and steel workers; farmers, ranchers, and others in agriculture; truck drivers and drivers involved in sales; electrical power-line installers and repairers; taxi drivers and chauffeurs. Forbes, BLS

Death toll from Mexico gas plant explosion rises to 30. The disaster marked a setback for Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, the state-owned energy company that, until late last year, had been reporting an improving safety record. The 30 workers killed in Tuesday’s blast and fire — which occurred at a pipeline metering center near Reynosa, across the border from McAllen, Texas — was the largest single-incident toll in at least a decade at the company. Most of those killed and half of the 46 injured worked for Pemex contractors. Some analysts pointed to Pemex’s reliance on outside firms as a possible contributing factor. The disaster is under investigation but Pemex officials say an accidental valve leak appears to be the cause. The Associated Press

Workplace regulators cite firms in New Jersey, Ohio and Georgia. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration accused Continental Terminals of Jersey City, N.J., of 18 violations and is seeking fines totaling $162,400. The agency said the company, among other offenses, failed to provide fall protection and permitted warehouse workers to ride on the forks of forklifts. Separately, OSHA charged OPC Polymers in Columbus, Ohio with 26 violations, mainly process safety management offenses, and proposed fines of $138,600. The agency investigated after a March accident in which a cloud of flammable vapors was released. OSHA also cited J.J.E. Constructors, a utility contractor in Alpharetta, Ga., with one willful violation and two serious violations, charging that it exposed employees to trench hazards. The agency proposed $43,400 in penalties.

Recalls and related news: 2007-2010 Saturn Auras and 2008-2010 Chevrolet Malibus and Pontiac G6s, 2013 Chevrolet Sonics, ThyssenKrupp residential elevators, Haier America blenders (settlement related to product defect), XL Foods beef trimmings, mango products (additional recalls)

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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