Category Archives: Featured

Can Drinking “Raw” Water Make You Sick?

Raw WaterAs 2017 came to a close and 2018 began, a growing health fad was reported throughout the news and social media: Americans paying top-dollar to drink bottled “raw” water from a spring. Whether for purported health benefits or a misguided effort to get off the “drinking water grid,” as chair of the Water Quality & Health Council, I felt it imperative to address the very real risks of drinking untreated water.

What Is Raw Water?

As you may have already guessed, “raw” water is untreated, unfiltered, and unsterilized (non-disinfected) in this case spring water that is being increasingly bottled, marketed, and sold as-is for drinking in affluent pockets of the United States.1 In addition to containing unknown and potentially unsafe levels of “naturally occurring” minerals like arsenic, raw water likely contains an unknown level of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa—many of which can make you READ MORE >>

What is Flu and How Does it Spread?

As we begin the New Year, flu is spreading in the US. The map below from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website shows the current geographic distribution of flu. Media coverage of this phenomenon, and unfortunately, our own experience with flu, lead many to ask, “What is flu, and how does it spread?”

Flu View 2

“Flu,” short for “influenza,” is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a group of viruses. Flu viruses can infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs of human hosts, according to the CDC. Flu can cause mild to severe illness (and even death), including cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headache and fatigue. Fever may or may not accompany flu, and young children are more likely than adults to experience vomiting and diarrhea from flu. Some of the symptoms of flu are the same as those of colds. … READ MORE >>

Hand-washing for the Holidays is for the Whole Family

healthy-holidaysAs we gather to celebrate the holidays, the “gifts” we least hope to share are the unseen pathogens that cause colds, flu and other illnesses. Holiday gatherings are prime venues for gift-exchange and, unfortunately, pathogen-exchange.

It’s not rocket science, and most adults know it, but frequent hand-washing can help reduce the “stealth” pathogen-swapping that goes on when folks congregate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that proper hand-washing is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading illnesses to others.

Do your children understand how important hand-washing is to staying healthy? You might start with this kid-friendly, 30 second video from CDC. Additionally, the American Cleaning Institute offers a fun “Clean Your Paws for Santa Claus Coloring Page”. The image caption clarifies that hand-washing “with soap and warm water for 20 seconds” precedes the reward of reaching for READ MORE >>

Silent Beauty: A Holiday Perspective from Aloft

earthIt is truly delightful when the holidays afford us quiet moments in which to contemplate life and home from a different perspective. This season we offer you a captivating NASA video featuring views of planet Earth and space from the International Space Station. Relax and enjoy the mesmerizing perspective of those aloft in near-Earth orbit.

If you would like to view the International Space Station circulating in near-Earth orbit, enter your city and state into this NASA “Sighting Opportunities” interactive website for a schedule of space station sightings near you.

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Keeping Iron Bacteria out of Your Well

Iron bacteria-contaminated toilet tank Photo credit: Thomas Scherer, North Dakota State University

Iron bacteria-contaminated toilet tank
Photo credit: Thomas Scherer, North Dakota State University

Are you one of almost 45 million Americans who get their water from a private well?1 If so, you undoubtedly want clean, safe, and clear water. But if unpleasant tastes or smells are coming out of your faucets, and your sinks, tubs, and toilets are stained reddish-brown, your well and water system might be contaminated with iron bacteria. This fall, one of us (RM) noticed a brownish foam in his toilet tank and a distinct iron taste to the drinking water, despite having an on-site water softener…

Iron Bacteria and Well Water

Iron bacteria are microorganisms that use iron (or manganese) as an energy source. Bacteria from the genera Gallionella, Leptothrix, and Crenothrix are important members of the iron bacteria group, and occur naturally in surface water and soil in many states … READ MORE >>

After All These Years, Was My Mom Right about Removing Your Shoes When Entering a Home?

One way to encourage shoe removal is to provide an obvious place in the foyer where guests can sit and remove shoes easily.

One way to encourage shoe removal is to
provide an obvious place in the foyer where
guests can sit and remove shoes easily.

My mother always made us take our shoes off just inside the doors of our home. Did that make scientific sense back then or now? Although most of us would not track wet, sandy or muddy shoes into living quarters, many of us routinely make an entrance wearing shoes that are dry and free of visible debris. Mindful of the potential risks from exposure to the invisible microbes adhering to the bottom of their shoes, however, some people leave their footwear at the door. Of course, in some cultures, outdoor shoes are never worn indoors and alternative footwear such as slippers or slipper socks are provided at the entrance to the home.

An April, 2017 Wall Street Journal article concludes that taking your shoes off indoors is READ MORE >>

“Germ” Terms: Villains and Heroes

Germ Terms“Germs,” “pathogens,” “microbes,” “probiotics,” the “human microbiome”… these are just a few of the terms in common use that pertain to the world of microscopic life forms that we alternately avoid and embrace. For example, to steer clear of becoming sick with the seasonal flu virus, many of us get an annual flu shot. Employees are asked to stay home from work to help prevent spreading colds (rhinoviruses) and norovirus (the “stomach bug”), and hospitals disinfect against superbug bacteria, such as MRSA and C. difficile. On the other hand, the medical profession notes the “probiotic” characteristics of the “good bacteria” content of yogurt and fermented foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut1 and miso. The live cultures in these foods, they say, can help shore up our immune systems to fight off illness. So, are microbes good or bad? The answer is both! The world of microbes to which READ MORE >>

Happy Holidays at the Pool

Happy Holidays PoolLooking for a fun family holiday activity that does not involve electronic gadgets, shopping, eating cookies or drinking egg nog? Look no farther than your local indoor swimming pool! Here are three good reasons to go swimming at least once during the fall and winter holidays:

1. Swimming is great exercise.

Ease you conscience as you ease your body into the warm water of an indoor pool. Swimming is the fourth most popular sports activity in the U.S. (after walking, exercising with equipment and camping), and a good way to get regular aerobic exercise without taxing your joints. Studies show swimmers have about half the risk of death of inactive people.

Are your children comfortable around the water and learning to swim? Swimming lessons are usually available year-round at indoor pools. Additionally, children delight in indoor water play features such as water slides and showers, and parents appreciate the READ MORE >>

A Thanksgiving Food Safety Quiz

Wondering how long your leftover holiday food will last once refrigerated or frozen? Consult this handy Foodsafety.gov chart.

Wondering how long your leftover holiday food will last once refrigerated or frozen? Consult this handy Foodsafety.gov chart.

Preparing a Thanksgiving feast is really an exercise in project management. Whether you are “sub-contracting” the sides or coordinating everything from “soup to nuts” yourself, an awareness of food safety is essential to reach the goal of a delicious, safely prepared meal. Take the quiz below to test your knowledge of food safety for the big day ahead.

True or False:

1. The top shelf of the refrigerator is the worst place to store a raw turkey until it is time to be cooked.

True. Store Tom Turkey “as low as he can go” in the fridge; that is, on the lowest shelf possible. The goal is to prevent raw turkey juices from dripping down and contaminating foods stored on lower shelves. Keep Tom well-wrapped in plastic and on a READ MORE >>

Water Loss: Challenges, Costs and Opportunities

Leaking water main I wrote at the end of 2016 about the Future of America’s Drinking Water, and summarized some basic facts about US daily and annual water consumption. For example, Americans consume more than one billion glasses of tap water each day, while just 3% of our nation’s 50,000 community water systems provide safe drinking water for almost 80% of the US population.1 This remarkable public health and engineering achievement relies on a vast—and aging—infrastructure, including an estimated 1.2 million miles of distribution pipes that leak and sometimes break spectacularly.2 Considering all sources and types of losses, an estimated 6 billion gallons of treated drinking water are lost every day. In this article, I’d like to focus on the challenges and costs, as well as some opportunities and solutions, associated with water loss in the United States.

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