Monthly Archives: November 2014

Young Shooters at Risk

By Christine Willmsen and Lewis Kamb, seattletimes.com

vancouver-rangeThe youngsters knew their sport could be dangerous, even deadly.

But for the junior team at the Vancouver (Wash.) Rifle and Pistol Club, the peril that emerged from their sport didn’t come from a stray bullet.

It came from lead.

In 2010, blood tests revealed that 20 youths had been overexposed to the poisonous metal after shooting in the club’s dirty, poorly ventilated range.

“It was devastating,” said Marc Ueltschi, the junior team coach and a club member. “It scared the life out of me. No one knew anything about lead poisoning and what to fix.”

Vancouver Rifle is just one of several private gun clubs across the United States that have posed health hazards in a sport with growing numbers of youths and women.

While those most likely to be poisoned by lead in gun ranges are the workers themselves, The Seattle Times has found dozens of avid shooters overexposed in such states as Washington, Massachusetts and Alaska.

The most vulnerable are children learning to shoot and compete in clubs operated by volunteers who may have little knowledge of the risks of firing lead ammunition. Gunfire can put lead residue in the air, and on the skin and nearby surfaces. Read more

Advertisements

High levels of toxic mold found in herbal medicines

By J Baulkman, UniversityHerald Reporter

herbal-supplementsBotanical medicines such as licorice, Indian rennet and opium poppy could contain dangerous levels of toxic mold.

A new study from researchers at the University of Peshawar in Pakistan found that the medicinal plant market goes untested for health hazards, putting herbal medicines at a higher risk of contamination with toxic mold.

An estimated 64 percent of people use medicinal plants to treat illnesses and relieve pain. The herbal medicine market is worth $60 billion globally, and growing fast. Despite the increasing popularity of herbal medicine, the sale of medicinal plants is mostly unregulated.

“It’s common to use medicinal plants in our country and to buy from local markets and shops,” Samina Ashiq, one of the authors of the study, said in a statement. “There’s a common misconception that just because they’re natural, the plants are safe. We knew from experience that this wasn’t the case, but we wanted to really test it and quantify the contamination.”

For the study, researchers analyzed 30 samples of plants known for their medicinal properties, including licorice, Indian rennet and opium poppy. They found that 90% percent of the samples were contaminated with mold, and the levels exceeded permissible limits in 70 percent of the samples.

They then grew the molds to find out if they produced toxins that could be harmful to human health. Nineteen percent of the molds produced aflatoxins, and 12 percent produced ochratoxin A. Overall, 31 percent of the molds growing on the plants they tested produced harmful toxins. Read more

Winemaker’s Mesothelioma Blamed on Asbestos Filter

By Alex Strauss, http://survivingmesothelioma.com/

AsbestoswineThere is new evidence that some wine-making practices could increase the chance of developing malignant pleural mesothelioma. Italian researchers are reporting the first case of mesothelioma in a person whose only known exposure to asbestos was in the winemaking business.

The man worked for an Italian winemaker from 1960 to 1988. According to the authors of the new report, the winemaker treated the wine for impurities using a filter made of asbestos. As authors Alessandro Nemo and Stefano Silvestri of Florence’s Institute for Study and Prevention of Cancer explain, “The filter was created by dispersing in the wine asbestos fibers followed by diatomite while the wine was circulating several times and clogging a prefilter made of a dense stainless steel net.”

Drs. Nemo and Silvestri report that the asbestos exposure which probably triggered the man’s mesothelioma could have occurred during the mixing of dry chrysotile asbestos fibers into the wine as well as during the filter replacement. The researchers had to estimate the average level of the patient’s exposure and the cumulative dose since winemakers do not typically monitor airborne asbestos fibers.

Although this is the first mesothelioma case associated exclusively with the winemaking business, asbestos exposure in winemaking is not unheard of. Since 1993, the Italian National Mesothelioma Register has recorded 8 cases of mesothelioma where the patient spent at least part of his working life in the winemaking business. Read more

African Lead Mine Poisons Children

By Ben Barber, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

AfricanleadmineFrom the screaming children being tested for lead in this African city, to the clouds of toxic dust blown across soccer fields, streets and courtyards, this is one of the world’s worst lead poisoning epidemics.

The lowest blood lead levels in nearly 300 children we tested in July were around 35 micrograms per deciliter — six times above the acceptable level in the United States.

Many children tested above the limit of the electronic lead-testing machine we brought from the United States. These children should be treated in a hospital. But in Kabwe, toxic pollution has been a hidden legacy of mining and smelting lead.

This is not a story of numbers. It is a story of reduced intellect, neurological damage, inability to learn, stomach ailments and other problems.

“This is a public health crisis,” said Professor Jack Caravanos of the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College in New York, who led an investigating team in July that tested children’s blood and soil levels in Kabwe.

In crowded local clinics packed with anxious mothers and screaming children, his team found lead levels as much as 10 times above what is permissible in the United States.

“These are extraordinarily high levels not seen anywhere in the U.S. — this poses an immediate threat to child health,” said Caravanos, whose team was organized by the New York-based environmental group Blacksmith Institute, also known as Pure Earth.

“This is not fenced off — it is right in front of their house where they play every day.” Read more

Woman finds mold in Chandler apartment, alleges cover-up

By Rebecca Thomas, http://www.kpho.com/

moldyapartmentThis week’s record rainfall caused roofs to leak all across the Valley.

But for a Chandler woman, a leaky roof revealed an even bigger problem, one she said put her family’s health in danger.

“I woke up in the morning and my ceiling was gaping open,” Jessica Ford said.

She said water began gushing into her apartment during Monday’s storm.

Ford immediately called the management office at Laguna Village, near Arizona Avenue and Elliott Road and maintenance crews brought over an industrial fan to dry things out.

“They plugged it into this outlet while my wall was still damp,” Ford said about the counterproductive measure, since her ceiling was still leaking.

There was obvious water damage to her daughter’s room, with water pockets bulging from the ceiling.

Ford said a maintenance worker cut the ceiling open on Wednesday and what she saw shocked her.

“Mold, tons of black mold,” she said.

Again, Ford called management to report the problem and got a voicemail Thursday addressing the issue.

“That drywall has a colored backing on the back of it and that is what the discolored spots are,” said a woman who identified herself as Andrea and said she works with Laguna Village’s corporate office. “It’s actually not mold and there’s no mold that’s been seen.”

Not convinced, Ford took a sample of the sheet rock and gave it to a friend who is a biology professor.

He looked at it under a microscope and said he found very high concentrations of Stachybotrys Chartarum.

It’s a black mold known to cause respiratory problems, especially in people who have asthma, like Ford’s 6-year-old daughter. Read more

100 cows killed after contracting lead poisoning on gun club land

By Kirsty Macnicol of the Fiordland Advocate

cowlandAbout 100 Southland dairy cows have died or been destroyed after contracting lead poisoning from grazing on a gun club property.

The Ministry of Primary Industries confirmed this week it was alerted by a Southland veterinary practice on July 23 of dairy cattle dying from lead poisoning on a Southland farm. The cattle had been grazing fodder beet grown on leased land owned by the Nightcaps Clay Target Club at Wreys Bush.

“Approximately 20 affected cattle, from a mob of about 100 cows, died or were euthanised at that time, the farmer subsequently chose to humanely slaughter the remaining cattle. Some of the cattle were pregnant,” MPI said in a statement issued to the Fiordland Advocate.

Environment Southland worked with the MPI and the farmer to offer advice on various disposal methods for the cows.

“The decision by the owner to bury them in an offal hole was not Environment Southland’s preferred choice, however, at the time it did meet the rules under the Solid Waste Management Plan as a permitted activity. New rules that came into effect on1 September 2014 would have tightened the requirements in this situation. Staff provided best practice advice for the disposal,” the statement says. Read more

6 things to know about white mold

By Anne Dorrance, Ohio State University

sclerotia inside stemThis disease is caused by the fungus, Sclerotinia sclerotiorum and it is favored by cool damp conditions.  Remember those morning fogs this summer and the fact that you hardly used your air conditioner?  Perfect conditions for infection.  This fungus forms hard black irregular shaped bodies called sclerotia. (photo of sclerotia inside stem)  They are actually a mass of hyphae and if you break them open they will be pink inside.  They can be mistaken for mice or rat droppings as well, the inside is a different color!  When the conditions are cool and the canopy is closed, this fungus produces a very small mushroom (photo).  This usually occurs during flowering and the spores then land on the dead flowers. This provides a perfect point of entry. This fungus produces oxalic acid – which degrades the tissue as it colonizes the plant.  The infections that you see now occurred 2 to 4 weeks ago.  Symptoms from the road will look like standing plants with a gray-green appearance.  Eventually these plants will lodge.  Once the leaves fall off – the plants will stand back up to some extent.

Read more

The Lead Hazard In Schools That Won’t Go Away

By Lynne Peeples, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

leadmugsThe worn, heart-shaped rug that greeted you upon entering Angela Molloy Murphy’s preschool was a reflection of the love she has for the 17 children she cares for daily in her home’s remodeled basement.

To Tamara Rubin, however, the welcome mat was more of a warning sign.

“You need to throw this out,” Rubin told Murphy.

Rubin is executive director of the nonprofit Lead Safe America Foundation. On a visit to the preschool earlier this May, she pointed an X-ray fluorescence heavy-metal detector at the rug’s faded red threads and relayed the bad news: It was loaded with lead.

Within the course of an hour, Murphy learned just how pervasive the toxic heavy metal was in her home and school: It was in the chips of lead paint on her deck steps, in dust rubbed free from door and window frames, in the glazes on her students’ thrift-store mugs. The rug itself, Rubin suggested, was likely a reservoir for lead chips and dust tracked around on students’ shoes.

As students return to the classroom this fall, experts and advocates are warning of the overlooked health hazard plaguing daycares, preschools and elementary schools across the country.

Lead has been a popular paint additive for centuries. It speeds up drying and increases durability, as its makers once boasted in their marketing materials. But as a judge ruled in a high-profile case in California last December, lead paint manufacturers spent much of the 1900s deceiving the public with another claim: That their product was safe, even for young children, despite a long history of evidence suggesting otherwise. Ben Franklin wrote of lead’s “mischievous” effects in 1786, and one lead-paint maker admitted in aninternal company memo in 1900 that “any paint is poisonous in proportion to the percentage of lead contained in it.”

The science remains clear that anyone can be affected by lead exposure, and that children under the age of 6 face the greatest risk. And as lead exposure is linked to a growing list of health conditions, researchers are finding that it takes less and less lead to put one at risk. Read more

Rottnest Island: Asbestos confirmed in material found near holiday villas

By Nicolas Perpitch, http://www.abc.net.au/

asbestosislandIt said it was of very low risk, but the Australian Medical Association said that response was not good enough and all asbestos should be removed from the island’s accommodation.

Perth man Donovan Pryor last week alerted the authority to the substance, which he found outside bungalows in the Bathurst area, north of Thomson Bay.

The authority fenced off the area and sent samples to the mainland for testing.

It now says it has been advised the substance was white asbestos.

It said the material was intact and non-friable, and in this condition, it was of very low risk to anyone staying in the units or passing by.

Acting chief executive Greg Ellson said Rottnest is safe for visitors.

“Our first concern is the safety and peace of mind of our visitors,” he said.

“When this material was reported, we acted immediately to fence off the area.

“As a precaution, the site was fully remediated using a licensed asbestos management operator the following day.”

Mr Ellson said it was “regrettable that media reports have alarmed the public in this instance”.

The confirmation the material is asbestos comes despite comments by the authority’s chairman, John Driscoll, last week that all known asbestos from buildings on the island was inert and “not a threat”. Read more

Georgia Peanut Plant Manager Cites Mold, Mildew During Salmonella Trial

By Ray Henry, http://www.insurancejournal.com/

peanuts

A Georgia food processor linked to a deadly salmonella outbreak shipped thousands of pounds of peanut products after learning its products were contaminated and cheated on testing, a former plant manager testified this week.

Samuel Lightsey is a key government witness against his former boss, Peanut Corporation of America owner Stewart Parnell, and two others.

He described documents to jurors that show Peanut Corporation shipped peanuts to companies in Missouri, Illinois and other points after receiving laboratory warnings that product samples had tested positive for salmonella. In other instances, the company cheated on safety testing by switching samples, Lightsey said.

In one instance, company records from September 2007 show the firm requested testing on a sample of peanut paste made for Kellogg’s before plant workers actually made the paste. Lightsey said company workers had pulled a sample from an earlier batch. Prosecutor Patrick Hearn asked whether the company could have known whether those products were safe.

“They would have not known unless they had additional samples pulled,” Lightsey said.

The 2008-09 salmonella outbreak caused one of the largest food recalls in U.S. history. Food safety investigators found more than 700 people across the country were infected and nine people died — three in Minnesota, two in Ohio, two in Virginia, one in Idaho and one in North Carolina.

Lightsey examined photographs showing evidence of water leaks and described sanitation problems inside the plant. Salmonella can be spread when outside water carrying contaminants seeps into a food processing facility. The photographs showed what Lightsey described as mold and mildew, water stains under a vent in a packaging room and condensation around plant fans. Lightsey said workers kept a pellet gun inside the facility so they could shoot birds that got inside.

“There was multiple areas in the plant that were leaking,” said Lightsey, who explained workers would cover food products with plastic to keep them dry. Read more