Tags >> public safety
Feb 22
2010

"The Poisoner's Handbook"

Posted by Bruce Robinson in toxic , technology , speaker , research , public safety , medicine , law enforcement , justice , journalism , history , education , drugs , chemicals , author

Bruce Robinson

Poisonings, both accidental and criminal, have been happening for centuries. But the science of investigating those deaths is barely a hundred years old.

As she began to research the history of forensic medicine in Jazz Age New York, science writer Deborah Blum, author of The Poisoner's Handbook,  says she was struck by the number and variety of toxic substances that were being used.

Many of those historic toxics are no longer in wide use, but that doesn’t mean we are any less vulnerable to poisons now, Blum (left) says. In fact, the chemistry of modern-day poisons is more complex than 90 years ago.

Forensic examinations and laboratory analyses have become central to a growing list of popular network television dramas. But Blum has no complaints about them.

 

 

Feb 05
2010

Farmworker Health Risks

Posted by Bruce Robinson in vineyards , research , public safety , jobs , Health , farms , employment , chemicals , California , business , air quality , agriculture

Bruce Robinson

California’s 1 million farmworkers are at increased risk for respiratory diseases and other health problems, according to a new report, in large part due to poor air quality where they are working.

 

Pesticides and other chemicals are part—but only part—of the air quality issues that affect farm workers, especially in California’s Central Valley. So even the most basic measures to shield workers from the worst of the dust and smog can make a significant contribution to protecting their respiratory health, says Marc Schenker (right),  Director of the Center for Agricultural Health and Safety at the University of California at Davis.

The study cited in this North Bay Report was published in the current issue of the quarterly journal, California Agriculture. You can access a summary or the full text of that article here.

 

 

Jan 29
2010

Haiti Response

Posted by Bruce Robinson in volunteer , students , speaker , Sonoma County , resources , rescue , public safety , poverty , nonprofit orgs , medicine , international , homeless , healthcare , finances , economy , aging , activism

Bruce Robinson

The Hatian earthquake has left at least half a million survivors displaced and homeless, and as relief efforts continue now, some aid workers worry that the coming hurricane season may compound the disaster.

The enormity of the immediate crisis in Haiti has captured and held the world’s attention for the past two and a half weeks, but Chloe Gans-Ruggebregt, a north coast native who is on the Red Cross health staff in Haiti, is worried that global concern will soon move on to other areas, while  the Hatian people will need years of assistance to recover from the disaster.

Chloe has been living and working in Haiti for the past four year, and her parents visited her there just last summer. They’ve  been talking with her almost daily since the quake, and her father, John Ruggebregt of Santa Rosa, says that for him, those conversations have given the humanitarian crisis an individualized human face.

The local Red Cross office is maintaining a list of events in Sonoma and Mendocino Counties to raise money to support  relief efforts. You can also view a slideshow of Red Cross photographs from Haiti. To make a donation, click here.

 

When the quake struck, Chloe was more than 100 miles away in rural Haiti. She promptly returned to Port au Prince (where she, too, lived) and emailed her first impressions not long after arriving there:

I was on the fourth floor of the house in Trou du Nord when the earthquake started. It probably lasted about 20 seconds. The whole house was shaking and people started yelling and running outside. There was however no major damage in the NE. The phone promptly went out as did our Internet which relies on the same system.

I drove to PAP [Port au Prince] today thinking that I wouldn't be able to get back just because it had been raining for two weeks in the north and the planes weren't flying. There was no way I nor my driver could have predicted what we would see when we drove into PAP.

We started to see large cracks in the highway about an hour outside PAP and as we got closer and closer the chaos mounted. PAP probably has tens of thousands dead and no aid [organization] can even respond. Matt [Marek, head of the American National Red Cross Haiti delegation] was out with half our team all night and day just giving basic first aid, but the hospitals are closed or full, the government has many dead, the head of the UN is dead and many of the UN are unaccounted for as are six of our staff.

We are sure they are fine but they have no way to communicate and many roads are blocked. I  haven't been home but will go tomorrow to see if my house is still there. As far as I know we will only be able to do first aid but teams are on the way. I am in shock along with the entire city. The city has been reduced to a concrete pile of rubble. Everyone is sleeping outside because they are scared of more.

Jan 27
2010

Cytotoxins

Posted by Bruce Robinson in water , waste , toxic , technology , speaker , research , public safety , medicine , healthcare , government , environment , drugs , chemicals , activism

Bruce Robinson

 Inside the human body, powerful anti-cancer drugs can be life-saving medicine. But when they pass through into the environment, these potent chemicals may pose a health hazard that is only starting to be recognized.

Jim Mullowney has taken his concerns about cytotoxic chemicals and their disposal to top scientists in key federal agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, which issued an unprecedented collaborative response to the issue last year.

Because cyto-toxic chemotherapy drugs pass through the human body and are excreted, they typically wind up in wastewater flows, which Mullowney cautions can be very hazardous for septic systems, and potentially for the fresh water supplies in the adjacent area.

The long-term consequences of discharging these chemicals into the air and water are only beginning to be studied, but based on his own understanding of them, Mullowney speculates they could eventually be tied to some other public health mysteries.

Jim Mullowney will also discuss cytotoxins and the risk they pose to fresh water supplied on a forthcoming edition of the local cable access television program, The Holistic Half, to be broadcast on Comcast Channel 30 in Sonoma County in the first week of March.