Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Age, Stress, and Blood Pressure

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Age, Stress, and Blood Pressure

Article excerpt

Middle-aged workers in high-stress jobs run a greater risk of high blood pressure and an enlarged heart than do younger workers. The findings of a study by Dr. Thomas G. Pickering and colleagues at the Cardiovascular and Hypertension Center at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center found that job stress not only affected the middle-aged workers while they were on the job, but also carried over into their home lives. In fact, blood pressure remained elevated even during sleep.

By comparison, workers in their 30s experienced little or no change in blood pressure, even those in stressful jobs.

The study was conducted at eight New York City jobsites. The subjects were all 30 to 60 years old, worked more than 30 hours a week, were not overweight, and had been at their current worksite for at least three years. The subjects wore a portable blood pressure monitor for 24 hr, including a normal workday. One of the most significant findings, said researchers, was that blood pressure readings did not drop significantly when the subjects left work.

"Only those jobs associated with high demands and low control are associated with an increase in blood pressure," noted researchers. They also suggested that the relationship between age and blood pressure might be the result of an "incubation effect," meaning that effects of job stress on blood pressure might need time to build up.



Key sectors of American industry want the committee and subcommittees of the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), which develop threshold limit values (TLVs) for chemical substances, to allow greater access to the exposure limit-setting process. At the same time, however, many labor and public health experts are concerned that the TLV process is already dominated by a probusiness stance, and that ACGIH, a nongovernmental organization, has excessive influence over the public and private sectors.

At a roundtable during the American Industrial Hygiene Conference & Exposition (AIHCE) in Boston in June, some panel members argued that the TLV committee and its four subcommittees should more actively seek industry expertise on proposed exposure limits and only propose limits which can be measured by existing technology.

TLV Committee Chairman John Doull, a University of Kansas professor who chaired the AIHCE roundtable session, said, "We don't want the TLV process to be a closed-door, black-box kind of process. When industry can provide useful information that we're not aware of, that's helpful. …

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