Category Archives: Featured

Kitchen Sponges: Cleaning Tool or Germ Dispenser?

The notorious kitchen sponge—that germ-ridden object found in many households—is at the center of a new controversy about controlling the spread of infections in the home. Several years ago we reported a University of Florida research team found microwaving spongevery wet sponges for two minutes at high power killed or inactivated over 99 percent of all the living pathogens in sponges and cleaning pads that had been soaked in a “witch’s brew of germs.” Easy and convenient, right? Think again: A team of German researchers using genetic techniques to characterize sponge microbes says that neither boiling nor microwaving sponges may be particularly effective in the long run. Careful testing of alternative sponge treatments is needed, but in the meantime, the researchers recommend the best course may be ditching your kitchen sponge once per week for a new one.

Sponge Microbe Dynamics

First, the German team found the density of bacteria … READ MORE >>

Preparing for the Next Flood and its Aftermath

If you live in a flood-prone area, are you prepared for the next deluge? According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), fast moving water that reaches just over your ankles can knock you off your feet. And don’t try to drive through it. Driving on flooded roads is the floodmost common thunderstorm-related hazard that can kill you, according to NOAA. It is especially difficult to recognize flood danger in darkness or other conditions of poor visibility. As the National Weather Service urges, if you come to a flooded portion of roadway, “Turn Around Don’t Drown®”.

Head for the Hills

If it is necessary to evacuate your home, head for higher ground at a pre-designated meeting place known to your family. Pet owners should have an emergency plan for their pets that includes shelter, food and water. If possible, turn off electrical power, gas and water supplies … READ MORE >>

Sepsis: A New Global Health Priority

“Sepsis,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is “a complication caused by the body’s overwhelming and life-threatening response to infection, which can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death.” More commonly known as “blood poisoning,” sepsis strikes “with equal ferocity in resource-poor areas and in the developed world,” according to Dr. Konrad Reinhart, Chairman of the Global Sepsis Alliance. Sepsis is now front and center for the world health community: At a May 2017 World Health Assembly1, sepsis was designated a new global health priority and a resolution was adopted to improve its prevention, diagnosis and management.

Although reliable data are unavailable, globally there are an estimated 31 million cases and some six million deaths from sepsis annually.2 Most of those deaths are preventable, however, with early detection and timely treatment with antibiotics. According to one study involving over 2,000 septic … READ MORE >>

Climbing the Rungs of the Safe Water and Sanitation Service Ladders

Workers in Haiti install chlorinator equipment to disinfect a community water supply a measure that will help prevent waterborne illness

Workers in Haiti install chlorinator equipment to disinfect a community water supply a measure that will help prevent waterborne illness

The humble ladder can be a symbol of progress toward lofty goals. The lyrics of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young,” for example, include a moving wish for the singer’s newborn son: “May you build a ladder to the stars and climb on every rung…” Symbolic ladders are also used by the Joint Monitoring Program of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to communicate progress toward the goal of universal safe drinking water and sanitation.

In “UN-speak,” that ambitious goal is Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goal #6, which includes specific targets and indicators that will help track progress toward a world in which waterborne illnesses are rare and sanitation is safely managed.

Ladders to a Better Life for All

Clean water and safely managed sanitation are … READ MORE >>

Keeping Your Reusable Water Bottle Clean

Louisville Water Company promotes filling reusable water bottles with tap water

Louisville Water Company promotes filling reusable water bottles with tap water

The reusable water bottle is one of those “grab and go” items that travel with many of us on a daily basis. The filled water bottle provides a handy means of hydrating on the spot. As we’ve noted, many water fountains now conveniently include water bottle-filling features. There’s just one caveat to deriving the maximum health benefit from reusable water bottles: They should be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized on a regular basis to avoid contamination.

Germs Love Moist Environments

Germs thrive in moist environments such as parts of the cap and interior of your water bottle. As Dr. Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona notes, if you use your fingers to open and close the water bottle cap, there is a good chance that bacteria will be introduced into the cap, where moisture will support its … READ MORE >>

The Once and Future Water Fountain

water fountainIn the years since we last wrote on this topic, drinking water fountains—a once ubiquitous feature of the U.S. public health landscape—continue to decline in diversity, maintenance and numbers.1 Yet because many people, including commuters, tourists and the homeless, often rely on fountains for (usually) free and safe municipal water, they should not be taken for granted.

Concerns over drinking water quality, particularly lead and other metals associated with aging infrastructure but also waterborne diseases, continue to make headlines. But are these concerns well-founded? And if so, what can be done to reinvent public drinking water fountains in the era of the smart city and smart phone?

READ MORE >>

Pool Chemical Safety: There’s No Substitute for Vigilance

Pool Chemical SafetyWe could not safely enjoy a refreshing dip in the pool this summer without someone shouldering the responsibility of using and storing pool chemicals correctly. Someone has to apply and store the chemicals that keep pool water sanitized and so clear that a swimmer floundering in deep water is visible to life guards. Pool chemical safety is the responsibility of backyard pool owners, professional pool service providers, community pool managers and life guards. It’s one of those usually “invisible” jobs that may be noticed only when something goes wrong.

Why Pool Chemicals?

Swimming pools are essentially communal bath tubs. Pool chemicals are necessary to help maintain appropriate pool water quality. That is especially true when patrons neglect the standard advice to shower before swimming. Knowing that each swimmer who enters the water without first showering brings with them about 0.14 grams of fecal matter adhering to the perianal area, the … READ MORE >>

Three Tips to Help You Prepare for a Home Water Emergency

Water flows into your home on a daily basis for essential uses, but how much do you know about your water supply and its circulation through your living space? Are you ready for a household water emergency? These tips can help you prepare for the unexpected.

  1. Main Shut-Off ValveKnow how to turn it off: In the event of a plumbing failure in the home, the first order of business is to turn off the water at its point of entry. This is done at the “main water shut-off valve.” Locate and label this valve. Make sure the valve is easily accessible at a moment’s notice (e.g., don’t store items in front of it).
If your house is to be evacuated and left unheated during cold weather, the water supply should be turned off at the main shut-off valve and pipes drained. This will help prevent water freezing and bursting the pipes, leading to extensive water damage. Remember that water expands at 4 degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit), a phenomenon that keeps plumbers busy in winter!
 
  1. Know how to drain the pipes: Once the shut-off valve is closed, drain valves should be opened to drain the water remaining in the pipes. Drain valves are usually located on the downstream side of the shut off valve; sometimes they are separate valves. Draining water can be collected in a bucket. When draining water pipes, it is a good idea to open all faucets.
READ MORE >>

Honoring our Fallen Colleague through “Angels of America’s Fallen”

This summer, we are happy to report that the organization we advise, the American Chemistry Council, has contributed $5,000 in our name to the “Angels of America’s Fallen” program. “Angels” engages with the children of our country’s fallen military and first responders, offering coaching and instruction in sports, music, arts, and other healthy activities. These programs cannot replace fallen mothers and fathers, but they do provide opportunities for children to cultivate interests in areas to which they might not otherwise be exposed.

Jerod poses with fellow first-responders in 2011

Jerod poses with fellow first-responders in 2011

Our donation to “Angels” will be channeled by the National Swimming Pool Foundation to local Jewish Community Centers that will provide learn-to-swim scholarships to the children of fallen heroes. We are particularly pleased that the 2017 donation was made in honor of our dear, late colleague, Dr. Jerod Loeb.

Remembering Jerod

Our close-knit advisory group has not forgotten our … READ MORE >>

Avoiding Salmonella from Backyard Poultry

BackyardPoultryBackyard poultry farming is an increasingly popular trend in urban and suburban areas that permit it, giving families a fun way to raise food while learning to care for animals. Assuming roosters are banned in the neighborhood for their earsplitting “cock-a-doodle-doo,” what could be the downside of raising poultry in the backyard? The answer is illness. Unfortunately, outbreaks of Salmonella infection linked to backyard poultry are on the rise. We have described this type of disease in a previous article as a “zoonotic disease,” which is one that can spread between animals and humans under natural conditions, e.g., in your own backyard.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Salmonella bacteria reside in poultry droppings and on the feathers, feet and beaks of poultry, even though the chicks and ducklings may appear clean and healthy. Any human contact, whether through handling poultry directly or … READ MORE >>

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