Liz Borkowski – MPH, Researcher, Department of Environmental & Occupational Health, Milken Institute School of Public Health, The George Washington University

Liz Borkowski is a researcher in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University. Her areas of expertise include US regulatory policy; health challenges of low-income workers; and paid sick, family, and medical leave. She is a co-author of the annual publication The Year in U.S. Occupational Health and Safety and a regular contributor to the public health blog The Pump Handle. She holds a Master of Public Health degree from the George Washington University.

Liz's Testimony:

My name is Liz Borkowski, and I am a researcher in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health. I want to emphasize to the commission that the personal stories you are hearing from workers today are not isolated incidents, but examples of the kinds of widespread health problems that researchers have found in US meat and poultry workers for decades.

In the interest of time, I will mention just a few examples of peer-reviewed and government research findings:

  • A study by Wake Forest School of Medicine researchers found that 59% of poultry workers had evidence of carpal tunnel syndrome;[1]
  • A study by Duke University Medical Center researchers found the prevalence of musculoskeletal symptoms among women poultry workers to be 2.4 times higher than among a comparable group of women workers;[2] and
  • A health hazard evaluation conducted at a poultry plant by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that 42% of workers had medical evidence of carpal tunnel syndrome.[3]

Conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome and lower back pain can cause a lifetime of severe pain and disability. Slowing the line speeds in meat and poultry plants would improve workers' chances to live healthy lives. 

.................................................................................................................................................................. 

[1] Cartwright MS, Walker, et al. The prevalence of carpal tunnel syndrome in Latino poultry-processing workers and other Latino manual workers. J Occup Environ Med. 2012; 54(2): 198-201.

[2]Lipscomb HJ, Epling CA, et al. Musculoskeletal symptoms among poultry processing workers and a community comparison group: black women in low-wage jobs in the rural South. Am J Ind Med. 2007; 50:327-338

[3] Musolin K, Ramsey JG, Wassel JT, Hard DL, Mueller C. Evaluation of Musculoskeletal Disorders and Traumatic Injuries Among Employees at a Poultry Processing Plant. Report No. 2012-0125-3204. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and PreventionNational Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. March 2014. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/hhe/reports/pdfs/2012-0125-3204.pdf.

.................................................................................................................................................................. 

Download a pdf of Liz's testimony here.