Spencer Soper Wins Sidney Award for Exposing Brutal Conditions at Amazon.com Warehouse

Business reporter Spencer Soper of The Morning Call has won the October Sidney Award from the Sidney Hillman foundation for his expose of Dickensian conditions in Amazon.com's warehouse in Pennsylvania.


Temperatures inside the "fulfillment center" soared to over 100 degrees over the summer and management refused to throw open the doors for ventilation. Current and former warehouse employees told Soper that they felt pressured to work themselves to the point of collapse because they feared they would be penalized for slowing down or taking time off. A security guard complained that he saw pregnant workers struggling in the heat.

During a heat wave, Amazon hired a private ambulance company to wait near the warehouse to deal with all the workers succumbing to heat-related illnesses, and a local ER doc complained to authorities about the influx of workers from the facility. 

The Lehigh Valley warehouse is strategically positioned to be within a day's drive of most cities in the Eastern U.S. and Canada. So, if you live in the East and you've ordered something from Amazon lately, there's a good chance your purchase passed through this warehouse.

Amazon has issued a flurry of public statements and messages to customers since the story ran on Sept 18, but when Soper checked back with current employees for his Sep 23 follow-up story, they told him nothing had changed since his original story ran.

[Photo credit: Noelas, Creative Commons.]

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Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)
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In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.


Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
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