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Waiter, there’s a lobbyist in my burger! March 4, 2010

Posted by mtaliafe in Environmental Health.
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Have you ever considered the amount to which industry influences the regulations pertaining to your food? Consider one of the most popular American menu items– the hamburger. On average, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) indicates that Americans eat about 60 pounds of beef annually. But is this meat safe to eat?

You probably recall several recent recalls of beef, implemented by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). In fact, the FSIS indicates there have already been 2 this year totaling over 865,000 pounds of recalled meat due to E. coli O157:H7 contamination, (more…)

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Smokers Beware: Baby on Board March 4, 2010

Posted by Marquita Campbell in Environmental Health, Health Communications & Marketing, Prevention.
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Did you know that second-hand tobacco exposure has significant health risks to an expectant mother? Many times people only think of the risks of maternal smoking during pregnancy, but secondary smoke exposure can also have significant health implications. Every thing a mother is eating or breathing from prenatal vitamins to second-hand tobacco smoke is passed from the mother’s placenta to the baby.  (more…)

Nanotechnology-what are the implications for public health? March 1, 2010

Posted by Gretchen Giannelli in Environmental Health, Global Health, Healthcare, Occupational Health.
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There are lots of products showing up on the market touting “nanotechnology” on the label.  The Project on Emerging Technologies has an online nanomaterials database for consumers which reveals there are thousands of “nano” products used in the electronics, automotive, cosmetic, and food and beverage industries. But what does nanotechnology mean and what are its advantages in all these applications? Are there any risks to health and the environment? (more…)

Get out of the car and into the fresh air February 25, 2010

Posted by Lindsey Realmuto in Environmental Health, Wellness.
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Of course everyone knows (or probably has heard) that vehicle emissions contribute to air pollution that can adversely affect your health. But do you actually know how much cars are contributing to the degradation of our air quality? Or what they’re actually emitting?

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Antibiotic use in livestock contributes to MRSA’s menace February 22, 2010

Posted by Gretchen Giannelli in Environmental Health, Global Health, Occupational Health, Prevention.
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Recently, CBS’s Katie Couric highlighted a public health problem that keeps resurfacing —the use of antibiotics in livestock to promote growth and the link to antimicrobial resistance in humans.  The well-documented two-part story focused in part on farmers who have contracted life threatening infections such as MRSA (methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus) by working with chickens and pigs  dosed with antibiotics which have, in turn, become breeding grounds for super drug resistant bacteria.

MRSA is one of the most common types of antimicrobial resistant bacterial infections, but there are many others such as E Coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter, which are monitored by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These bacterial diseases can be transmitted from animals to humans by different types of exposures including physical contact, and in air, water, and food and are called zoonotic diseases. The report did not discuss the most common ways humans acquire MRSA, such as in hospital settings, or that a new type of MRSA called C-MRSA is increasingly being found in community settings such as athletic facilities.

According to the CBS report:

Drug resistant infections have sky-rocketed over the past two decades, killing an estimated 70,000 Americans last year alone. It’s an emerging health crisis that scientists say is caused not only by the overuse of antibiotics in humans, but in livestock as well. (more…)

Wood Chips, Pea Gravel, Rubber Mats–Playground Safety First! February 10, 2010

Posted by naj24 in Environmental Health, Prevention.
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Did you ever play hide-and-go-seek in your neighborhood playground?  I sure did.  I also remember the merry-go-round that I used to give my cousins fun rides on by spinning them continuously.  I remember climbing the jungle gym, and showing off that I could jump off of it because it was so high. Of course at that age it didn’t occur to me that any serious accidents could come from public playground equipment.  Recently, I looked over the public playground safety checklist offered by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), just to see if I was playing in a safe enough environment.  (more…)

Green Gov-How the federal government intends to lead us toward sustainability February 9, 2010

Posted by Gretchen Giannelli in Environmental Health.
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According to the Environmental Protection Agency,  sustainability was established as a national goal by the  National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in 1970, and is defined as:

the creation and maintenance of conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, and fulfill the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations of Americans.

In practical terms it means using our natural resources wisely and responsibly so that we reduce the negative impact on our environment, and don’t create burdens for future generations. The concept has evolved from one of disparate interests and trade-offs (public vs private, business interests vs the environment) into one of shared interests and synergy. Sustainability can be applied to many systems and living conditions.

The federal government is involved in sustainablility too.  Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, blogged last week that there was much excitement in the room during her meeting with the Office of Management and Budget and other leaders from federal agencies regarding sustainability in the federal government. She reported this meeting was a follow up to Barack Obama’s state of the union speech on January 27, 2010 in which he “set a government-wide greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 28 percent by 2020….”

The emissions reduction plan was a requirement of President Obama’s October 5, 2009 executive order on Federal Sustainability, which committed the federal government to lead by example. President Obama said:

As the largest consumer of energy in the U.S. economy, the Federal government can and should lead by example when it comes to creating innovative ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy efficiency, conserve water, reduce waste, and use environmentally-responsible products and technologies….

This is not a “one size fits all” reduction plan. Under the executive order each federal agency is required to create its own sustainability plan and the newly announced 28% reduction plan was arrived at by reviewing the plans from 35 different federal agency targets. For example the Department of Defense plans to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 34% by 2020 for all non-combat activities” and the Department of the Treasury “intends to reduce its emissions by 33%” by 2020.

Government leaders also sought to involve the approximately 1.5 million federal employees in the plan toward sustainability. They sponsored the Green Gov contest last October, an online program that challenged employees to take part in the President’s Executive Order on Federal Sustainability by submitting their own clean energy ideas and voting on others. Over 1,380 ideas were submitted by employees about how to eliminate waste in the government and save energy. All of the ideas are online and include:

•    Put “recycle bins in ALL public buildings….”
•    “Make it a policy to only buy recycled paper and greener office supplies”
•    “Install self-limiting faucets which control water pressure and flow in the restrooms of our government facilities….”
•    “Federal 4 day work week, as state of Utah did with remarkable success: 13% reduction in energy use, $6 mil annual gasoline savings and 82% worker approval (Time, Sept. 09).

Sutley mentions that lots of agencies have begun projects aimed at reducing energy use. Several are listed here:

•    The Central Intelligence Agency committed to reducing GHG* pollution when it opened two new LEED** certified buildings in Virginia that reduce annual energy and water use by more than 20 percent and 40 percent, respectively.
•    The Department of Defense (Fort Bliss) is aiming to be the “Army center for renewable energy” and a net-zero electricity user by 2025, producing as much energy on-site as the facility uses.
•    The Department of Energy plans to construct one of the largest biomass facilities in the country [which]… is projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100,000 tons per year.
•    The U.S. Postal Service constructed the largest green roof in New York City, and one of the largest in the nation…. The nearly 2.5 acres of native, drought tolerant vegetation on top of the seven story building not only serves as a park and open space for employees, but also saves energy and reduces polluted stormwater runoff ….

*Greenhouse gas
**Leadership in Energy and Environmental design- a certification for environmentally sustainable construction issued by the US Green Building Council

After reading about all of these ideas and projects it’s easy to see why there was so much excitement at the recent meeting.  Federal agencies are already taking actions toward sustainability and by doing so they are helping to spur innovation and jobs in the private sector, reducing costs, and reducing pollution and the use of precious resources. We will all be able to track the progress of these agencies in meeting the year 2020 sustainability goals by reviewing scorecards which will be available online.

Vehicle deaths major killer in Saudi Arabia! February 2, 2010

Posted by Ashraf Faden in Environmental Health, Global Health, Health Communications & Marketing, Prevention.
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According to the Traffic division of the Ministry of Interior in Riyadh, the average annual economic loss related to traffic accidents in Saudi Arabia is estimated at 21 billion Saudi riyals.  That is equivalent to $5.6 billion dollars a year.  In addition, Muhammad Humaidan reported in the Arab News newspaper in an article about traffic accidents in Saudi on December 14, 2009:

The number of people killed in traffic accidents in Saudi roads has risen almost 10 percent to just over 7,000 in the past year, according to Dr. Khaled Al-Eisa, supervisor general of King Abdul Aziz Hospital in south Jeddah. This figure works out at 19.1 death every day and makes the Kingdom’s roads some of the most dangerous in the world.

Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death in males 16 to 36 years as stated in a briefing on the Country Cooperation Strategy for the World Health Organization (WHO) and Saudi Arabia.  Furthermore, according to the Mortality Fact Sheet of 2006 by WHO, road traffic accidents are the fifth leading cause of death in Saudi Arabia.

Yet, car safety is not exactly strongly enforced in Saudi.

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Cadmium in jewelry: when will product quality finally outweigh a cheap price? January 28, 2010

Posted by Lindsey Realmuto in Environmental Health, Global Health, Occupational Health.
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This is not a time to be envious of all those young parents out there. Beyond the normal pressures of raising a child, parents nowadays have to worry about bisphenol-A in baby bottles, lead paint in toys, whether or not to eat fish while pregnant or breast-feeding, and now most recently, cadmium in jewelry. Cadmium? Really? I am referring to the latest safety notice to parents about cadmium in jewelry imported from China, reported by Justin Pritchard at the Associated Press.
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Housing = Prevention. Housing Saves Lives January 21, 2010

Posted by Anita Balan in Blogging, Environmental Health, Mental Health, Prevention, Wellness.
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If you are resident of Metro Washington, and interested in DC’s health issues, you would have come across a series of expose articles in Washington Post entitled – Wasting Away: The Squandering of D.C. AIDS dollars. Washington D.C has the nation’s highest prevalence of HIV at 3%. Currently there are over 440 homeless people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in the district. These people are on the waitlist of Housing Opportunities for People with HIV/AIDS (HOPWA) program – a federal program that was introduced in 1992 that allocates funds for subsidizing temporary and long-term stable housing for PLWHA. Affected people and their families could wait for several years before they are given a voucher. The waiting time is much longer for those who pursue public housing accommodations through section 8.  The expose articles were followed by a series of tug-of-war between the D.C. City Council, the Mayor’s office and federal department of Housing and Urban Development which manages the HOPWA program. HUD which initially threatened to withhold all of D.C. 12.2 million dollars, until D.C. got its act together, has now withdrawn its threat. But in the midst of this heated debate, what was absent was raising awareness and sharing the importance of HIV and Housing.

More after the jump

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