Thursday, June 16, 2016

Biotoxin Closure in Budd Inlet Expands to Surrounding Areas

The Budd Inlet closure due to a marine biotoxin that causes diarrhetic shellfish poison (DSP) has been expanded. The Washington Department of Health and the Thurston County Public Health and Social Services Department have closed all beaches to all species of shellfish in Squaxin Passage east from Steamboat Island along Carlyon Beach to Hunter Point, southeast to Cooper Point, east across Budd Inlet to Little Fish Trap, including Boston Harbor and Budd Inlet. Little Fish Trap is approximately halfway between Boston Harbor and Dickerson Point, and lies south of Briscoe Point.

Shellfish sampled from these areas contained DSP biotoxin at levels above the safety limit of 16 micrograms per 100 grams established by the Washington State Department of Health.

Warning signs have been posted at public beaches alerting people not to collect shellfish due to the biotoxin closure. Existing permanent swimming and shellfish harvest closures due to pollution in inner Budd Inlet and near wastewater treatment plant outfalls remain in effect.

Symptoms from DSP can begin from 30 minutes to 12 hours after eating contaminated shellfish. It causes nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, with diarrhea being the most commonly reported symptom. Most symptoms subside within 72 hours.

The DSP biotoxins are produced by naturally occurring algae, and can accumulate in shellfish, making the shellfish unsafe to eat. Marine biotoxins are not destroyed by cooking or freezing. Shellfish harvested commercially that are available in stores and restaurants are tested for toxins prior to distribution, and are safe to eat.

For more information about shellfish closures, call the Washington State Department of Health 24-hour Shellfish Safety Hotline: 1-800-562-5632, or visit the department's shellfish closure map

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Safe Handling of Pesticides

Whether you have a small herb garden on your apartment balcony, raised beds in your front yard, or a spacious backyard garden, you may have uninvited and unwanted pests visiting your garden. Most critters that pass through or live in your garden are beneficial or do little to no harm to you or your plants. However, there are some pests that can be harmful to your garden. There are many ways to combat pests without using harmful pesticides (visit our Common Sense Gardening page!), but if you choose to use them, there are steps you can take to safely handle pesticides.

Pesticides are natural or synthetic chemicals that kill, attract, repel, or control the growth of pest plants (like weeds), animals and microorganisms. Most people use pesticides with the purpose to kill bugs and weeds protruding their lawn or garden. Pesticides are all toxic to some degree, however the amount needed to cause an effect varies greatly. Some are toxic to people, pets or wildlife in amounts as small a tablespoon! But some may take gallons to have the same level of toxicity. Concentrated products that are designed to be mixed with water before application are usually more toxic than ready-to-use products that are applied without any mixing.

So, how do you use these products safely?
  1. Do your homework! Research what method will solve your pest problem. A helpful resource to assist in the selection of pesticide products is the Grow Smart Grow Safe guide. This guide rates pesticides from the lowest-to-highest hazard. There are many low hazard options for a variety of pest problems.
  2. Read the directions before you buy! Before you purchase a pesticide, read the directions and precautionary statements. Be confident that you are willing, able, and comfortable handling and using the product. Purchase only the amount you need. The less hazardous products you have stored in your home, the less likely your family and pets will be exposed to them. When transporting pesticides home from the store, be sure to bag pesticides separately from groceries and place in the trunk of your car, away from people and groceries.
  3. Follow the directions. All pesticide products contain directions that describe how they should be applied along with the precautions you should take while applying them. If a hazard is stated, be sure to take necessary precaution to avoid the hazard. For example, corrosive liquids may require you to avoid skin contact by wearing gloves, additional clothing to cover skin, glasses and/or goggles.
    1. Example of a precautionary statement:
    2. CAUTION: Harmful if swallowed or absorbed through skin or inhaled. Causes moderate eye irritation. Avoid contact with eyes, skin, or clothing. Avoid breathing spray mist. Prolonged or frequently repeated skin contact may cause allergic reaction in some individuals.
      The next label warns to avoid contact with eyes, skin or clothing, but it does not specifically tell the user how to avoid contact (such as the use of gloves, goggles or waterproof clothing).
      General Precaution and Restrictions: Do not allow people or pets to enter treated areas until sprays have dried. Do not apply this product in a way that will contact other persons or pets, either directly or through drift.

  4. Dispose properly. You safely applied a pesticide product and are free of slugs eating your precious plants, success! But, you have some leftover pesticide product. It is important to safely dispose of pesticide. Leaving unused pesticides in your home is dangerous, especially if you have small children or pets that could be harmfully exposed. It also reduces pesticides from polluting our water ways.

Lucky for you, we have the HazoHouse in Thurston County!

HazoHouse is a household hazardous 
waste disposal location that is a free resource for Thurston County residents. It is located at the Thurston County Waste and Recovery Center in Lacey, WA. They accept pesticides, along with motor oil, cleaning supplies, products containing mercury and more.

If you have additional questions about pesticide use and common sense gardening, please visit our website or call (360) 867-2674.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Step it up, Thurston County!

For thousands of years, to get from Point A to Point B, most people had no choice but to start walking. Some people had access to horses and horse-drawn carriages, but not until the rise of the automobile in the first half of the twentieth century did walking lose its status in some societies as the most popular way to get where you’re going. This change to a “car culture” definitely made it faster and easier to get from place to place, but it also took away a significant source of physical activity for many people. While many factors contribute to our country’s obesity epidemic, the drastic decrease in steps Americans take each day has played a part. In addition to reduced walking in our communities, the large amount of car traffic contributes to air pollution.

Recognizing the vital role walking can play in improving people’s health, the Surgeon General’s office created “Step It Up!” and issued a call to action last year to promote walking and communities designed to be walkable.

That call to action is needed here in Thurston County as well. Cities in the county have largely been built during the era of increasing reliance on automobiles – they are spread out over a large area and tend to have single-use zones of land use that make it more difficult to use other forms of transportation. The rest of the county is very rural, meaning that walking as a mode of transportation in those areas is also difficult. Thurston Thrives, our community’s effort to improve health for all residents, has an action area (Community Design) that is focused on supporting a shift back to walkable ways of designing communities and encouraging the daily, moderate physical activity of walking. 

At least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week is recommended for adults to stay healthy (1 hour daily for kids). Even in a community like ours, there are many ways to incorporate walking into your daily routine. Whenever you have the chance to take a more active form of transportation than driving alone, take it! Walking, bicycling or taking the bus not only increase your physical activity, they help reduce air pollution. If you are driving to your destination, choose a parking space far from the store entrance. If you live or work in a multistory building, take the stairs instead of the elevator. If you have a job that requires you to spend time in meetings, ask your colleagues to head outside for a “moving meeting.” Albert Einstein believed that the brain worked best at three miles per hour (the speed of a brisk walk), and scientific studies have shown a relationship between walking and better performance on tests that measure memory, attention, and creativity. You’ll find that in addition to the health benefits of getting sunlight, fresh air, and physical activity, your meetings might be more efficient, productive, and enjoyable as well.

Another way to make walking a regular part of your life is to go on a walk with your family after dinner each night. While strenuous physical activities can interfere with digestion and cause cramps, mild exercise like walking actually assists your body in digesting your meal and can improve blood sugar levels too. Perhaps even more importantly, a nightly stroll can provide busy families with much-needed bonding time at the end of each day, improving the mental and emotional health of parents and children alike. Joining or forming a neighborhood walking club is also an option, and can be a great way to get to know your neighbors better and create stronger social ties within your local community. Since the sun still sets pretty early this time of year, be sure to wear reflective clothing or carry a flashlight in order to be visible to drivers after dark.

If you’re ready to step it up, check out the Thurston Regional Planning Council’s “Here to There” website, which provides walking maps and other resources that will make it easier than ever to add more walking to your life. If you want to be part of the effort to make our communities more walkable, or address clean air issues, get involved with the Community Design or Environment action teams. Together, with each step we take, we can make Thurston County a healthier place for everyone!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Planning 2016: 10 tasks for a healthier new year

  1.  Dispose of household hazardous products safely and for free by taking them to HazoHouse.
  2. Switch to green cleaning methods by using vinegar, baking soda, and liquid Castile soap. This saves money too!
  3. Remove shoes at the door. This helps reduce dust in the home.
  4. Run the bathroom fan while showering or bathing and for 30-45 minutes after. This helps keep mold from growing in the bathroom and improves indoor air quality. If your fan doesn’t work well, have it fixed or replaced.
  5. Open windows daily to let fresh air in and improve ventilation. Try a “fresh air blast” by going through your home opening each window and then going right back through closing each one. This quick exchange of air can make a big difference in your indoor air quality!
  6. Request a free, confidential Healthy Homes Visit.
  7. Get a kitchen thermometer and use it to help prevent foodborne illness.
  8. Use Common Sense Gardening for your yard and garden. Our free gardening guides can help you create a beautiful landscape without the
    use of toxic bug and weed killers.
  9. Get your septic system inspected. You can hire someone or learn how to do it yourself. Inspecting your system every year can help identify issues before they turn into large, costly
  10.  Take steps to prevent rodents and other pests from entering your home.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Healthy Holiday Cleaning

The holidays can mean having a lot of people over to the house which means a lot of cleaning. But instead of reaching for the bleach or drain cleaner, take the time to read the labels and follow the directions. Many of the cleaning products available in stores today are hazardous. You can tell by reading the signal word and precautionary statements. The signal words are: Warning, Caution, or Danger on the label.

Sure, we see these words on labels all the time, but what do those labels actually mean?

According to the the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA) household hazardous products must be labeled accordingly. It was decided that there should be three levels of labeling.

Warning or Caution:
These labels indicate that a product may be “moderately toxic, corrosive, reactive, or flammable”.
This is the second ‘level’ of toxicity and means that a product is highly toxic, flammable, or corrosive. It can cause injury to you through ingestion or skin exposure.
This is the highest level of toxicity that can be listed and means that the product can cause injury or even death if ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin.

Choosing safer products

The best way to reduce hazardous exposures to you and your family is to use green cleaning methods or by choosing the least hazardous product available when shopping. There are many cleaning products available with hazards low enough to not require one of the signal words. There are also several recipes to create your own green cleaners that are easy and mainly use common household products such as baking soda and vinegar. If you must use a hazardous product, make sure you read the label, use the safety precautions described, and follow the directions. Simply using the product as directed with the best possible safety precautions can reduce exposures.
So the next time your drain is clogged or there’s a stain on your bathroom wall reach for a safer alternative. And you won’t have to worry about toxic exposures for you, your household, your guests and pets.

You can find more tips on how to reduce your family’s exposure to toxins through our Healthy Home Companion.