UCSF Names New Director of UCSF OEM Residency Program

Photo: Paul Blanc
Paul Blanc

UCSF’s School of Medicine appointed distinguished scientist Paul Blanc the director of its Occupational and Environmental Medicine Residency Program effective July 1, 2012. Robert Harrison, Clinical Professor of Medicine in the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at UCSF, was named associate residency director.

Blanc succeeds Gina Solomon. In April, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. appointed Solomon as Deputy Secretary for Science and Health for the California Environmental Protection Agency.

“We wish Gina Solomon every success in her new position and welcome Paul Blanc and Robert Harrison in their new roles,” said COEH Director John Balmes.

Blanc, Chief of the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, holds the Endowed Chair in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, one of the few such Medical School chairs of its kind in the United States. In addition, he is a former Fulbright Senior Research Fellow and was a previous Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar at UCSF. Blanc received his MD from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and an MS in Public Health in industrial hygiene from the Harvard School of Public Health. He is a graduate of the experimental school Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont where he first became interested in occupational health through writing a theater piece on vinyl chloride-caused cancer.

Blanc’s research interests include the epidemiology of rhinitis, asthma, COPD, and hypersensitivity pneumonitis relative to workplace and environmental factors and occupational and environmental toxicology, focusing on pulmonary responses. In addition, he has done extensive work on quality of life and work disability.

In 2009, Blanc authored a revised edition of How Everyday Products Make People Sick, Toxins at Home and in the Workplace (University of California Press). The book offers a deeply researched and historical account of everyday risks posed by household toxins such as leaded toys, fire retardants in furniture and clothing, and bathroom bleaches, to name just a few.

Psychology Today (PT) hosts Blanc’s popular blog, Household Hazards, on its website. PT approached Blanc to help them cover emerging issues in the field of environmental health. “Most of their bloggers address psychological health issues, but they recognize that the environment and the person are interrelated,” explains Blanc.

“It’s important to me in the blog to remind people that if a material is toxic to workers in the workplace, but it doesn’t blatantly cause consumer health problems, that doesn’t mean that it’s o.k.,” says Blanc. His blog frequently underscores the associations between environmental health and consumer protection, while linking readers to government databases of household toxins.

Blanc’s newly co-authored study in Chest, “CaesarStone Silicosis: Disease Resurgence among Artificial Stone Workers,” is an example of a household product safe to consumers, but potentially lethal to production workers.1

Researchers in Israel followed 25 patients diagnosed with silicosis. The patients had previously dry-cut a new, artificial stone product with high crystalline silica content used for counter tops in kitchens and bathrooms. Over a 14 year period, ten of the 25 patients required lung transplantation (LTX), often the only viable treatment option for patients with end-stage pulmonary disease, including pneumoconiosis. Three patients without LTX died during follow-up. Though these workers were from Israel, a similar product is also produced in the United States, and imported high-silica-containing products are also used here. The study authors caution that further cases are likely to occur unless safety practices are strictly enforced.

In October, 2012, Blanc will co-chair a UCSF Continuing Medical Education program held at the Holiday Inn Fisherman’s Wharf located in San Francisco, California, titled, “Occupational and Environmental Factors in Neurological Disease and Occupational and Environmental Medicine Update.” Use this link for more information or to register: https://www.cme.ucsf.edu/cme/CourseDetail.aspx?coursenumber=mdm13n01

1Kramer MR, Blanc PD, Fireman E, Amital A, Guber A, Rhahman NA, Shitrit D. CaesarStone Silicosis: Disease Resurgence among Artificial Stone Workers. Chest. 2012 Mar 1. [Epub ahead of print].

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