Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Health Advisory at Pattison Lake

This advisory has been lifted.

There is currently a health advisory for blue-green algae toxicity on Pattison Lake. 

Residents and lake users are advised to:
  •         Avoid recreational contact with the lake.
  •         Keep pets out of the water.  
  •         If fishing, catch and release is the safest practice.

Preliminary results from a water sample collected on August 21 from a site off Atchinson Drive on the south basin of the lake show that the toxin, microcystin, is above the recreational advisory limit of 6 µg/L. The preliminary result reported is 16 µg/L.   

Thurston County Environmental Health requests that Pattison Lake volunteers post advisory signs at your community areas.  Thurston County Environmental Health will post signs at the public launch, and will monitor the lake weekly while the bloom is present. 

If you have questions, contact Cathy Hansen at (360) 867-2645.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Go Back to School with Safer Supplies

Parents and care givers are growing more concerned about the chemicals in products that may affect their children’s health.  As a place to start, we can make safer choices about what we provide our kids with for school.

One of the biggest chemical concerns in school supplies is a type of plastic made out of polyvinyl chloride or PVC.  According to the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, “PVC is unique among most plastics because it contains dangerous chemical additives such as phthalates, lead, cadmium and/or organotin, which can be toxic to your child’s health.”  Many of these chemicals have known health concerns or are considered chemicals of emerging concern.  Tests have shown that these chemicals can leach out of products over time and are linked to asthma, learning disabilities, obesity and other chronic health concerns. Avoid products that are labeled, “vinyl” or have a number three inside of the recycling arrow.  Number 3 plastics are made from PVC.

The good news is that once you know what to look for, finding safer school supplies can be easy. 

For any school supplies, if there are non-plastic options such as cloth art smocks and non-coated, plain metal paper clips to choose from, that is a good place to start.

  • Avoid lunchboxes that are shiny plastic or have shiny plastic characters because those are usually made from vinyl.  They may contain lead and unwrapped food should never be placed in them.  
  • Safer options: A re-useable cloth bag or light-weight stainless steel bento boxes, canisters, thermoses, and water bottles work great for lunch packing.  They are non-breakable, clean up well and don’t have the same health concerns as plastics.
  •  Safety Tip: Never microwave or wash plastics in the dishwasher, even if they claim to be microwavable and dishwasher safe.  Even storing hot or warm food in plastic containers has been shown to leach chemicals into the food.

  •  Safer Options: Fabric-covered and sturdy cardboard binders are two choices that are available at most stores.  Plastics other than PVC such as polypropelene are less-likely to leach chemicals and they usually say, PVC-free on the label.

  • Avoid bags with shiny plastic decals.  The shiny plastic is PVC and may contain lead.  Remember that lead is a well-known neurotoxin and doesn’t belong in our children’s supplies!
  • Safer options: Bags without any plastic or shiny additions. A plain canvas backpack never goes out of style!

Start the new school year off right by choosing safer supplies to send your little (or big) one off safely.  For more information on safer school supplies The Center for Health, Environment and Justice has a Back to School Guide or see Thurston County Environmental Health’s web page on plastics.  A Thurston County Environmental Health Educator is always happy to answer questions at (360) 867-2674.  The TDD line is (360) 867-2603.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

5 Tips for Safe Handling and Use of Pesticides

What are pesticides?

According to the Department of Agriculture, “Pesticides are natural or synthetic chemicals that kill, attract, repel, or otherwise control the growth of pest plants, animals, and microorganisms.” Basically, pesticides are bug and weed killers.  They are all toxic, but the amount that is needed to cause an effect varies greatly. Some are toxic to people, pets or wildlife in amounts as small as a tablespoon where others may take gallons. 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.

How do you use these products safely?

1) The best way to avoid the hazards of pesticides is to not use them. Visit our Common Sense Gardening web page for gardening and lawn care guides or (360) 867-2674.

2) Research what will most effectively solve your pest problem. A helpful guide to aid in the selection of pesticide products that are rated low hazards can be found in the Grow Smart Grow Safe guide

3) Read the directions before you buy it.
Before you purchase a pesticide, read the directions and precautionary statement. Be certain that you are willing, able, and comfortable handling and using the product. And purchase only the amount you need. The less hazardous products you have stored around your home, the less likely your family and pets are exposed to them.

4) Re-read the directions each time you use it and follow them.
All pesticide products contain directions that describe how they should be applied and precautions about potentially hazardous situations. If there is a known hazard, there will be a direction to avoid the hazard. For example, corrosive liquids may require the applicator (that’s YOU) to avoid skin contact by wearing gloves, clothing to cover skin, glasses and/or goggles.

Here is an example of a precautionary statement from a potentially corrosive moss control product:

WARNING: Causes substantial but temporary eye injury. Causes skin irritation. Do not get in eyes, on skin or on clothing. Wear protective eyewear (goggles, face shield or safety glasses). Wash thoroughly with soap and water after handling. Remove contaminated clothing and wash before reuse

Here is an example of a precautionary statement from a potentially toxic fungus control product:

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.

General Precautions 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.

The second label warns the applicator to avoid contact with eyes, skin or clothing – it does not specifically tell the user how to avoid contact (use of gloves, goggles, waterproof clothing).

5) Dispose of unused, unwanted pesticides properly – take them to HazoHouse to be disposed of properly for free. HazoHouse is a household hazardous waste disposal location at the Thurston County Waste and Recovery Center (formerly the landfill). Disposing of hazardous products safely keeps them from polluting our water ways, makes sure that kids or pets don’t accidentally get into them and is free and easy!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Keep your Well, Well!

It’s easy to go about our day and not think about where the water we use comes from. In Thurston County, we drink groundwater and that water comes from either a household, neighborhood or city-owned well.

Well water comes from, groundwater, fed by underground aquifers. When the rain falls, about half of it soaks into the ground and becomes groundwater. The soil does a pretty good job filtering it as it makes its way underground but pollution on the ground can end up in the well.

Steps you can take to protect your well water:
  • Inspect your well casing. Cracks can lead to contaminants making their way into well water.
  • Inspect the cap or cover on top of the well casing.  There should be no openings, including around electric wires. The cap should have a gasket, making a watertight seal.  If you try to wiggle the cap, it should not move.  There should be a goose neck vent, screened with a fine mesh.  
  • Keep the top of your well at least one foot above the ground.
  • Keep animals and their manure 100 feet away from your well. 
  • Keep household and yard chemicals, such as pesticides, auto products, and any other products with words such as caution, warning, danger, or poison away from your wellhead. Do not store them in your pump house or within 100 feet of your well. 
  • Avoid using or mixing fertilizers and pesticides within 100 feet of a well. 
  • Don’t pile leaves, snow, or other materials around your well. 
  • Slope the ground away from your well.  This will help rainwater that may contain surface contaminants (such as pesticides and oil) drain away and not pool around the well. 
  • Have your well water tested for bacteria once a year. Test for nitrate at least every three years, before bringing home an infant, and when a woman living in the home is pregnant, nursing, or trying to become pregnant.

These precautions help keep your drinking water safe and healthy.  These tips can also save money and time by preventing problems that can be costly to clean or repair. We know we need to drink several glasses of water each day, make sure that it is the best water that it can be! 

For more information, visit Thurston County Environmental Health's website.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Common Sense Gardening: Spotlight on Summer Watering

It can be hard to believe that in the famously rainy Pacific Northwest water conservation is important, especially in the summer.  It is true that rain falls for many months of the year BUT during the summer months when we use thousands of gallons of water each day to cultivate lush yards, we get less rain than Tucson, Arizona! 

To conserve water in the yard and garden, water as needed in the morning before the sun has a chance to send it all back up as evaporation. Evening is the second best time to water, but wet leaves overnight can encourage fungus and disease. Water saving tools such as soaker hoses and drip lines work well and give water directly to your plants’ roots.  They can also prevent weeds by watering only the plants that need it most. 

Keep water off of the areas that can’t grow such as driveways, sidewalks, and other non-planted areas.  It sounds so simple and yet we often see sprinklers giving precious water to parking lots and other areas from which water simply runs off.

Lawns are less thirsty if we let them go to sleep (dormant) for the summer.  Yes! The lawn may turn brown. No! It will not die. Water deeply but slowly (so that the water doesn’t pool or run off) once each rainless month to support a dormant lawn and try to avoid heavy use.  If you have high-traffic areas, such as grassy walkways or play areas, water those areas only (one inch per week) to prevent damage.  A drier lawn is less likely to encourage crane flies and disease. When the rains return in the fall, over seed any thin areas to thicken the lawn and help crowd out weeds.

Some other water-saving tips:
Choose native or drought-resistant plants.  They don’t need additional watering after they are established, usually within two years.
- Install rain barrels to save up those winter rains for summer use.
 Check outdoor faucets for leaks (and fix them!)
- Adjust automatic irrigation systems.  Many are set up for landscapes that are just getting established. So make sure yours is adjusted to the landscape you have now.
- Add compost to the soil and mulch around plants to prevent weeds and conserve water.
- Use a broom rather than a hose to clean sidewalks and driveways.

Help save water for where we need it most – Drinking!

For more information visit our Common Sense Gardening website or call (360) 867-2674.