Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Healthy Holidays: A letter from your on-site septic system

Dear Harold Homeowner,

I’m Oscar, your on-site septic system, and I’m writing you this letter to save both of us from big headaches this holiday season.

With the holidays upon us, I know that I am going to be working harder than usual. I am prepared to be functioning at my very best. But, I can’t do that alone.

I need your help ensuring that no one sends me waste that could make it more difficult to do my job. Do you know how important my work is to you?  Do you really think about my well-being at all?  If I receive any wastes other than those from bathrooms, laundry rooms, the kitchen sink and the dishwasher, I might just go on strike. Trust me, you don’t want to pay for a replacement! 

Every year, I have nightmares when I think about you pouring your leftover used cooking oil from the holiday bird down the drain in the kitchen sink. Isn’t it bad enough that you use your garbage disposal to grind up the turkey carcass and other holiday leftovers, and send it all down the drain? The fats, greases and oils coat the inside of all the pipes that flow into me, and create big globs of materials that I just can’t get rid of. 

You just had me pumped out last year, and I’m getting full of scum and solids already. I am baffled that you think that lots of hot water and soaps will clear out any blobs and globs – that only makes me warmer and full of bubbles!!

This mistreatment needs to stop now!

Here are some better ways to dispose of your holiday leftovers:

  • Use curbside organics composting services to recycle large amounts of food wastes. 
  •  Never use kitchen sink garbage disposals to get rid of food, fats, oils, and greases. Scrape or wipe excess food residues off cookware and dishes before washing.

Please share this message with your friends and family, even those folks that don’t have a septic system. My city cousin, the sewer system, is even busier during the holiday season, and shares horror stories with me about the things he sees every day. 

If you want to ring in the New Year with peace and joy, please show some goodwill to all sewer and on-site septic systems.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Healthy Holidays: A safe home for visitors young and old

The holiday season brings friends and family together. Many of us look forward to the little visitors – kids! If you don’t have children over to your home regularly, but are expecting them for the holidays, consider the following steps to ensure their safety in your home.

Lock up household hazardous products. Any products that say Danger, Poison, Warning and Caution should be completely locked up and out of reach of children. Remember that kids are great climbers, so even if they are up high – lock them up! If you are ready to get rid of some unused household hazardous products, take them to HazoHouse for free, safe disposal.

 Watch for hazards in visitors’ suitcases and purses. Kids can make their way into a bedroom searching bags and purses for treasures while you are still heating up the cider. Anything dangerous such as personal care products, medications, and shaving razors, should always be kept out of the reach of children. 

Check the bathrooms for hazards. It may seem like daily bathroom items are safe enough – but aerosol and pump sprays, perfumes, medications, and shaving razors can be dangerous to children. 

Look for tripping hazards. The very young and the very old may have some difficulties walking. Tidy up any tripping hazards such as cords and knickknacks. Consider removing small slippery throw rugs that might bunch up and trip someone. Don’t forget to do this outside where people will be walking. 

Clean the floors before small children come over. Little kids spend a lot of time on or near the ground. For deep carpet vacuuming, pass the vacuum over the same area 25 times. For hard surface floors, vacuum or sweep and then dust it with a water-dampened cloth. 

Look for choking hazards. Check for small items that  children might try to put in their mouths. It may not look appealing to you, but children see things differently. You’d be surprised what can look like candy. 

Make sure any firearms, lighters, knives, and other dangers are safely stored. It may seem like a child is old enough to know not to touch certain things, but it is better to be safe than sorry. 

Have the phone number for Poison Control handy: 1-800-222-1222 

Accidents happen, but let’s do what we can to prevent them. Happy safe and healthy holidays to all!

Monday, November 18, 2013

10 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality

As the weather gets colder, we tend to spend more time indoors with the windows shut. It’s nice to keep warm and cozy this time of year but be aware that too much time inside without enough air flow can increase the amount of pollution that we breathe in.  We tend to think of air pollution as something outside – we may imagine smoke stacks, diesel trucks, and jet fuel but indoor air can be even more polluted than the air outside. 

Common sources of indoor air pollution include: toxic chemicals from cleaners, air fresheners, and scented candles, as well as smoke from fireplaces, wood stoves, and cigarettes.

Indoor air pollution can lead to short term and long term health effects. Small children, elders, and those with medical conditions that keep them inside for days or weeks at a time are the most vulnerable.

People react differently to the exposure of indoor air pollution and the experts don’t agree about what concentrations of exposure lead to specific medical conditions. The good news is that your own daily practices can decrease the amount of indoor air pollution that you, your family, and pets are exposed to.

How can I improve the indoor air quality in my home?

1. Daily “fresh air blasts” will quickly exchange all of the air inside the home for the fresh air outside. When it is too cold to keep windows open during the day, open them all at once for just a few minutes. Go through your home and open each window one by one and then go back through and shut each one.  The indoor air temperature won’t go down much if you move quickly and the fresh air will make an immediate difference.

2. Use bathroom and kitchen fans, regularly. Bathroom fans should run for 30 minutes after you finish bathing and kitchen fans should continue for 30 minutes after cooking is complete.  Make sure that the fans are vented to the outside, not attics or cupboards!

3. Dust exposed surfaces (including hard floors) with a water-dampened cloth. Dust is made up of many tiny particles, including chemicals. Keep dust from building up in your home to improve the air quality.

4. Take shoes off at the door or wipe them thoroughly before entering. If you prefer to wear shoes inside, designate a pair of “house shoes.” This will help reduce the amount of dust in your home.

5. Choose products with little or no scents. The chemicals in scented products can be irritating to children, people with respiratory illnesses, and people with sensitive skin.

6. Keep smoke out of the home.

  • If there are smokers in the household or visiting, ask them to go outside and have a “smoking jacket” designated only to wear while smoking. This can help keep the chemicals in smoke from spreading around the home.
  • Make sure wood stoves and fire places are operated correctly and that they are in good shape. Be sure to only burn dried out wood.
  • Make sure your home has a working carbon monoxide detector. They are inexpensive and available at most hardware stores. And check the batteries in your smoke detectors monthly.

7. Avoid aerosol sprays indoors. Whether it is a can of hairspray, deodorant, oven cleaner, or spray paint – aerosol sprays produce tiny particles that can be inhaled deeply into lungs and are known to cause asthma attacks.

8. Avoid using harsh household hazardous products. Products with the signal words Danger, Poison, Warning, and Caution on the label contribute to indoor air pollution. Many beauty products such as hair dye and nail polish can also contribute. There are many products on the market that do not use hazardous chemicals – look for household products that do not have one of the signal words on the label. Take any unwanted, unused household hazardous products to HazoHouse. You can also make your own green cleaners!

9. Mold prevention and clean up.
  • Keep your indoor temperature 60 degrees or higher.
  • Allow air flow between large furniture items. For example pull dressers and sofas a few inches out from the wall so air can flow.
  • Run the bathroom fan for 30 minutes after bathing and the kitchen fan 30 minutes after cooking. Not only does this help circulate air, but it helps prevent mold by drying out the area.
  • To clean existing mold, scrub with soap and water and then dry out the area. Wear a mask and gloves. Remember that it can grow right back unless you change the conditions where the mold is growing. Find the source of moisture, such as a leak, and fix it.
10. Check out this Breath Easier Do-it-Yourself guide to a home environmental assessment.

Stay warm and cozy this cold season but make sure to breathe in some air from outside everyday too!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Free Workshop on Nov. 14: Chemicals of Concern in Personal Care Products

Personal care products are items such as soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, deodorant, and cosmetics. They may contain chemicals linked to cancer, asthma, developmental disabilities, and more.

Learn how to be a smart shopper, read labels, and keep looking and smelling good with safer products for you and your family.

What: Public Health Workshop - Chemicals of Concern in Personal Care Products
Where: Thurston County Health Department, 412 Lilly Rd. NE Olympia, WA
When: November 14, 2013 from 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Who: Workshop is designed for adults, teens, and pre-teens

The workshop includes:
  • What are chemicals of concern?
  • Why and how are these chemicals in our personal care products?
  • Reading labels on personal care products.
  • Safer alternatives.
  • Make your own lip balm to take home!

Did you miss this workshop? Don't worry, this workshop can be provided upon request for groups of 10-30 people. You can also request to be notified of future presentations. Contact: Elisa Kaufmann (360) 867-2579 or kaufmae@co.thurston.wa.us.