Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – May 23rd, 2003

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

May 23, 2003

EPA Administrator Whitman Announces Resignation

On Wednesday, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christie Whitman announced her resignation, effective June 27, 2003. Citing a desire to return to her home state of New Jersey and spend more time with her family, Whitman will leave the agency after two-and-a-half years at the helm. As she leaves office, Whitman pointed to several water-related accomplishments. In her letter of resignation to President Bush, she wrote, “America’s water will be purer. EPA’s Watershed Initiative is expanding watershed-based water protection policy across the country. The Agency’s innovative Water Quality Trading program will help address the growing problem of nonpoint source pollution. EPA’s plan for cleanup of the Hudson River has set a new standard for restoring waterways that have been threatened by decades of abuse.” Her tenure also was marked by occasional disagreements with the White House over environmental policies.

To read Administrator Whitman’s letter of resignation in its entirety, please visit:

Bogus SARS Prevention Products Targeted by FTC and FDA

The Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration sent warnings to Web site operators, e-mail solicitors, manufacturers and distributors that say their products will protect against, treat or cure Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. Both agencies say they are aware of no scientific proof for such claims and that all claims must be removed from the Internet. The warning cautioned these businesses that it is illegal to make such claims without rigorous scientific support. The FTC, FDA and Ontario Ministry of Consumer and Business Services found 48 sites that offer SARS treatment or prevention products. Products claimed to protect consumers included personal air purifiers, sprays and wipes, respirator masks, latex gloves, and dietary supplements. Marketers also offered SARS prevention kits that packaged various items together. The FTC and FDA will revisit the sites it contacted to see if such claims have been deleted or revised. The FTC, the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer the following guidelines to consumers:

* Know the facts – SARS appears to spread most readily by an infected cough or sneeze. Touching contaminated objects and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth may also spread SARS.
* Keep your hands clean – Thorough hand washing with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers are recommended as the best protection against infection.
* Check travel advisories for affected areas – Travelers are urged to avoid traveling to affected areas.
* Seek medical attention – If you think you may have SARS symptoms or have been in direct contact with someone with SARS, contact a health care professional immediately.

More information is available at:

UNESCO Announces International Water Rankings

According to the recently released World Water Development Report by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Finland has the best overall quality of water resources in the world. Canada came in at number two, despite recent drinking water-related outbreaks in Ontario and Saskatchewan. The rest of the top ten, in order, are New Zealand, United Kingdom, Japan, Norway, Russia, Korea, Sweden and France. The United States placed twelfth. Out of the 122 countries included in the survey, Belgium received the worst ranking because of its low-quality, polluted groundwater and poor treatment of wastewater. The rankings for the report are based on water quality as well as the countries’ willingness and ability to improve the situation. They also were based on such factors as the quantity and quality of freshwater, groundwater, wastewater treatment facilities, the application of pollution regulations, the growth of cities and the possibility of water wars between countries.

A complete copy of the report is available for purchase at:

CDC to Hold Waterborne Disease and Terrorism Workshop for Health Care Professionals

Physicians, public health officials and other front-line health providers from across the country will convene in Washington, D.C. on June 4th to learn more about recognizing outbreaks of waterborne disease and responding to the threat of intentional biological and chemical contamination of water. Sponsored by the CDC, in partnership with the American College of Preventive Medicine and the American Water Works Association, the one-day conference, “Waterborne Disease and Acts of Water Terrorism: The New Role of the Physician as Front-line Responder,” will include hands-on, interactive learning through use of a newly developed physician on-line waterborne disease reference guide (accessible at and include a discussion of newly available physician readiness educational tools.

More information, including a complete agenda and registration form, is available at:

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