TO:Â Â All worker health and safety advocates, seekers of justice and protections for working people, andÂ friends of healthyÂ work environments:Â Â
TheÂ American PublicÂ Health Association’s (APHA) OHS Section has not, and will not, forget aboutÂ the deadly and disabling illnesses caused by workplace exposure to the butterÂ flavoring agent diacetyl.Â Our solidarity withÂ workers is demonstrated throughÂ our scientific research,Â teaching and policy practice, and advocacy—and most recently, in song.Â
The “Popcorn Lung Roadhouse Blues,” with lyrics written and sung byÂ Luis Vazquez, wasÂ performed [a loose interpretation of the word “performed”] at the APHA’s annual meetingÂ (San Diego, Nov 2008) by theÂ OHS Thespian Collective.Â Â Sung to the tune of Roadhouse Blues by Jim Morrison and the Doors, the lyrics include:
At the factory I workÂ at I breathe diacetyl.Â Â Â
Inhaling a chemical I did not knowÂ couldÂ kill.Â Â Â Â
The doctors they don’t me that what made me ill.Â
Watch the video here on YouTube.Â The whole segment runs 0:05:25 with theÂ Popcorn Lung Roadhouse Blues song beginning at 0:01:30.
APHA’s OHS Section is a 725-person diverse and dynamicÂ group ofÂ public health advocates who are committed to ensuring—-through research, practice and policy—-workers’ fundamental right to healthy and safe workplaces.Â OHS Section members are part of the larger 50,000 member American Public Health Association.Â One of the highlights of each year’s Annual Meeting is OHS Section’s Award Lunch, with feature entertainment provided by the OHS Thespian Collective.
Membership and involvement in APHA’s OHS SectionÂ gives us a voice in national policymaking on workplace health, safety and labor rights issues.Â Most recently, for example, when Labor Secretary ChaoÂ was proposing rules to change in a very bad way the manner in whichÂ OSHA and MSHA prepare health risk assessments, APHA’s Executive Director, Georges Benjamin, MD, wrote promptly to her, urging her to withdraw the proposal.Â Â This is just one example of the vitalÂ contribution that APHA’s OHS Section can makeÂ in our struggleÂ for healthy and safety workplaces.Â
So, althoughÂ the APHA’s OHS Section Â gets silly once a year —mostly to relieve our frustration at the current state of OHSÂ in the U.S. and around the globe—the rest of the year, we value our APHAÂ membership to advance aÂ progressive agenda for health and safety.
Celeste Monforton, MPH, DrPH is a research instructor at the George Washington University School of Public Health.Â She is the current chair of the APHA OHS Section and is a member of the OHS Thespian Collective.