Tuesday, October 21, 2014
A number of local residents, as well as the Michigan director of the Sierra Club, expressed public safety concerns about the pending shipment, including the possibility of groundwater contamination.
As of Monday, it was not clear whether the waste had actually arrived at Wayne Disposal, the facility designated to accept it.
The waste originated from Range Resources, an oil and gas company with drilling operations in Washington County, Pa. The waste had previously been rejected from a landfill in western Pennsylvania this year after heightened radiation was detected.
Range Resources then took the material to a landfill in West Virginia, but was stopped when the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection sought more information and instituted new rules tightening the state’s management of radioactive drilling wastes.
According to a spokesperson for Range Resources, the radioactivity levels in the material measured between 40 and 260 microrems per hour and were not detectable a few feet from the source.
Wayne Disposal received approval from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to accept the material in 2006. According to Brad Wurfel, a DEQ spokesperson, the material’s radiation levels were not high enough to be considered a public health threat.
Wurfel added that sending the material to a facility such as Wayne Disposal – where it could be treated and disposed of properly – was actually an example of responsible operation.
Earlier this year Range Resources applied for a Pennsylvania “beneficial use” permit to use gas well drilling waste rock material as paving material, noting that it would benefit the environment by reducing the amount of mined aggregate needed and the amount of waste material sent to landfills.
Oil and gas companies have been under increased scrutiny of late as the result of radioactivity showing up in wastewater from gas field landfills.
Photo Credit: Michigan Sign via Shutterstock
Read more: http://www.environmentalleader.com/2014/08/25/michigan-landfill-to-take-radioactive-fracking-waste/#ixzz3GnCSJATe
Monday, October 20, 2014
Protective gloves, gowns, masks and booties are donned and doffed by all who approach the patient's bedside and then discarded. Disposable medical instruments, packaging, bed linens, cups, plates, tissues, towels, pillowcases and anything that is used to clean up after the patient must be thrown away.
Even curtains, privacy screens and mattresses eventually must be treated as contaminated medical waste and disposed of.
Dealing with this collection of pathogen-filled debris without triggering new infections is a legal and logistical challenge for every U.S. hospital now preparing for a potential visit by the virus.
In California and other states, it is an even worse waste-management nightmare.
Though the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend autoclaving (a form of sterilizing) or incinerating the waste as a surefire means of destroying the microbes, burning infected waste is effectively prohibited in California and banned in at least seven other states.
"Storage, transportation and disposal of this waste will be a major problem," California Hospital Assn. President C. Duane Dauner warned Sen. Barbara Boxer in a letter.
Even some states that normally permit incineration are throwing up barriers to Ebola waste.
In Missouri, the state attorney general has sought to bar Ebola-contaminated debris from a St. Louis incinerator operated by Stericycle Inc., the nation's largest medical waste disposal company.
Because of restrictions on burning, California hospital representatives say their only option appears to be trucking the waste over public highways and incinerating it in another state — a prospect that makes some environmental advocates uneasy.
Under federal transportation guidelines, the material would be designated a Class A infectious substance, or one that is capable of causing death or permanent disability, and would require special approval from the Department of Transportation, hospital representatives say.
"These are some pretty big issues and they need some quick attention," said Jennifer Bayer, spokeswoman for the Hospital Assn. of Southern California.
"We fully expect that it's coming our way," Bayer said of the virus. "Not to create any sort of scare, but just given the makeup of our population and the hub that we are, it's very likely."
The Ebola virus is essentially a string of genetic material wrapped in a protein jacket. It cannot survive a 1,500-degree scorching within an incinerator, or the prolonged, pressurized steam of an autoclave.
"The Ebola virus itself is not particularly hardy," CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said under questioning on Capitol Hill recently. "It's killed by bleach, by autoclaving, by a variety of chemicals."
However, CDC guidelines note that "chemical inactivation" has yet to be standardized and could trigger worker safety regulations.
California health officials recently tried to reassure residents that the state's private and public hospitals were up to the task and were actively training for the possible arrival of Ebola.
"Ebola does not pose a significant public health risk to California communities at the present time," said Dr. Gil Chavez, an epidemiologist and deputy director at the California Department of Public Health. "Let me tell you why: Current scientific evidence specifies that people cannot get Ebola through the air, food or water. ... The Ebola virus does not survive more than a few hours on impervious surfaces."
It was unclear whether California officials viewed the waste issue as a potential problem.
Although a third of the state's private hospitals and "a few" of its public hospitals reported to Boxer's office that there would be problems complying with the CDC's incineration recommendation, and others, a state public health official told reporters he was not aware of any conflicts.
Dr. David Perrott, chief medical officer for the California Hospital Assn., said there was also confusion about whether infected human waste could be flushed down the toilet.
"Here's what we've heard from the CDC: It's OK," Perrott said. "But then we've heard from some sources that maybe we need to sterilize it somehow and then flush it down the toilet or you have to check with local authorities. It sounds maybe a little gross, but there is a real question about what to do with that waste."
Dr. Thomas Ksiazek, a professor in the department of microbiology and immunology at the University of Texas Medical Branch, has said he believes there's been a lot of overreaction on the topic of Ebola medical waste.
"There are other ways to deal with the waste; autoclaving would be chief among them," Ksiazek said. "The problem is most hospitals don't use it for most disposable items. They're quite happy to bag them up and send them to a regular medical disposal company."
But Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said incineration was simple and effective and should be available to hospitals to help dispose of the mountain of waste.
Hershkowitz said states began to crack down on medical waste incineration years ago because many materials that did not need to be burned were being sent to combustors and were emitting dangerous pollutants.
In the case of Ebola medical waste, he said California should reconsider its restrictions.
"There's no pollutant that's going to come out of a waste incinerator that's more dangerous than the Ebola virus," Hershkowitz said. "When you're dealing with pathogenic and biological hazards, sometimes the safest thing to do is combustion."
Saturday, October 18, 2014
Friday, October 17, 2014
It is a superior virus that has evolved and fine-tuned its mechanism of transmission to be near-perfect. That's why we're all so terrified. We know we can't destroy it. All we can do is try to divert it, outrun it.
I've worked in health care for a few years now. One of the first things I took advantage of was training to become FEMA-certified for hazmat ops in a hospital setting. My rationale for this was that, in my home state of Maine, natural disasters are almost a given. We're also, though you may not know it, a state that has many major ports that receive hazardous liquids from ships and transport them inland. In the back of my mind, of course, I was aware that any hospital in the world could potentially find itself at the epicenter of a scene from The Hot Zone. That was several years ago. Today I'm thinking, by God, I might actually have to use this training. Mostly, though, I'm aware of just that -- that I did receive training. Lots of it. Because you can't just expect any nurse or any doctor or any health care worker or layperson to understand the deconning procedures by way of some kind of pamphlet or 10-minute training video. Not only is it mentally rigorous, but it's physically exhausting.
Getting the suit on is easy enough, but it requires team work. Your gloves, all layers of them, are taped to your suit. This provides an extra layer of protection and also limits your movement. There is a very specific way to tape all the way around so that there are no gaps or "tenting" of the tape. If you don't do this properly, there ends up being more than enough open pockets for contamination to seep in.
If you're wearing a respirator, it needs to be tested prior to donning to make sure it is in good condition and that the filter has been changed recently, so that it will do its job. Ebola is not airborne. It is not like influenza, which spreads on particles that you sneeze or cough. However, Ebola lives in vomit, diarrhea and saliva -- and these avenues for infection can travel. Projectile vomiting is called so for a reason. Particles that are in vomit may aerosolize at the moment the patient vomits. This is why if the nurses in Dallas were in the room when the first patient, Thomas Duncan, was actively vomiting, it would be fairly easy for them to become infected. Especially if they were not utilizing their PPE correctly.
The other consideration is this: The "doffing" procedure, that is, the removal of PPE, is the most crucial part. It is also the point at which the majority of mistakes are made, and my guess is that this is what happened in Dallas.
The PPE, if worn correctly, does an excellent job of protecting you while you are wearing it. But eventually you'll need to take it off. Before you begin, you need to decon the outside of the PPE. That's the first thing. This is often done in the field with hoses or mobile showers/tents. Once this crucial step has occurred, the removal of PPE needs to be done in pairs. You cannot safely remove it by yourself. One reason you are wearing several sets of gloves is so that you have sterile gloves beneath your exterior gloves that will help you to get out of your suit. The procedure for this is taught in FEMA courses, and you run drills with a buddy over and over again until you get it right. You remove the tape and discard it. You throw it away from you. You step out of your boots -- careful not to let your body touch the sides. Your partner helps you to slither out of the suit, again, not touching the outside of it. This is difficult, and it cannot be rushed. The respirators need to be deconned, batteries changed, filters changed. The hoods, once deconnned, need to be stored properly. If the suits are disposable, they need to be disposed of properly. If not, they need to be thoroughly deconned and stored safely. And they always need to be checked for rips, tears, holes, punctures or any other even tiny, practically invisible openings that could make the suit vulnerable.
Can anyone tell me if this happened in Dallas?
We run at least an annual drill at my hospital each year. We are a small hospital and thus are a small emergency response team. But because we make a point to review our protocols, train our staff (actually practice donning/doffing gear), I realized this week that this puts us ahead at some much larger and more notable hospitals in the United States. Every hospital should be running these types of emergency response drills yearly, at least. To hear that the nurses in Dallas reported that there were no protocols at their hospital broke my heart. Their health care system failed them. In the United States we always talk about how the health care system is failing patients, but the truth is, it has failed its employees too. Not just doctors and nurses, but allied health professionals as well. The presence of Ebola on American soil has drawn out the true vulnerabilities in the health care system, and they are not fiscally based. We spend trillions of dollars on health care in this country -- yet the allocation of those funds are grossly disproportionate to how other countries spend their health care expenditures. We aren't focused on population health. Now, with Ebola threatening our population, the truth is out.
The truth is, in terms of virology, Ebola should not be a threat to American citizens. We have clean water. We have information. We have the means to educate ourselves, practice proper hand-washing procedures, protect ourselves with hazmat suits. The CDC Disease Detectives were dispatched to Dallas almost immediately to work on the front lines to identify those who might be at risk, who could have been exposed. We have the technology, and we certainly have the money to keep Ebola at bay. What we don't have is communication. What we don't have is a health care system that values preventative care. What we don't have is an equal playing field between nurses and physicians and allied health professionals and patients. What we don't have is a culture of health where we work symbiotically with one another and with the technology that was created specifically to bridge communication gaps, but has in so many ways failed. What we don't have is the social culture of transparency, what we don't have is a stopgap against mounting hysteria and hypochondria, what we don't have is nation of health literate individuals. We don't even have health-literate professionals. Most doctors are specialists and are well versed only in their field. Ask your orthopedist a general question about your health -- see if they can comfortably answer it.
Health care operates in silos -- we can't properly isolate our patients, but we sure as hell can isolate ourselves as health care workers.
As we slide now into flu season, into a time of year when we are normally braced for winter diseases, colds, flus, sick days and cancelled plans, the American people has also now been truly exposed to another disease entirely: the excruciating truth about our health care system's dysfunction -- and the prognosis doesn't look good.
Note: In response to some comments, I would like to clarify that I am FEMA-trained in level 3 hazmat in a hospital setting. I am a student, health guide and writer, but I am not a nurse.
Thursday, October 16, 2014
- 1 Contact your municipal or county government center for information about fluorescent tube recycling programs in your area. Recycling pickup of toxic materials may occur only a few times a year in your community, so you may need to store your used fluorescent tubes temporarily.
- 2 Store used fluorescent tubes in a closed container, such as the tubes' original cardboard packaging or a large plastic trash bag. Many local recycling or environmental regulatory agencies recommend sealing the storage container or bag prior to pickup.
- 3 Place the sealed container of old fluorescent tubes in your trash receptacle for regular pickup if no other options exist. Do this only if your local waste agency does not incinerate its garbage.
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- Shop Great Deals at The Home Depot.Super Savings All Year. Do More.www.homedepot.com/Savings
Read more : http://www.ehow.com/how_4897182_dispose-fluorescent-tubes-safely.html
Saturday, October 11, 2014
A beleaguered Huntington Beach school district has now closed three of its campuses because of an asbestos scare, leaving 1,300 students without a school to attend.
The three grade schools have been closed since last Monday when parents learned that their children could have been exposed to potentially carcinogenic asbestos while the Ocean View School District worked to modernize school sites.
Since then, hundreds of parents have been uncertain when and where their children would return to the classroom.
The school district is losing about $63,000 a day in state funds because students cannot attend class.
About 100 families have requested that their children be transferred to schools in other districts.
"There's no way I can trust my son is going to be safe there anymore," said parent Lily Coffin, who said she hoped to move her son to the neighboring Huntington Beach City School District.
District trustees voted during a special meeting last week to close Lake View, Hope View and Oak View elementary schools for the week, while classrooms were cleaned and tested to make sure they were free of potentially carcinogenic asbestos dust. Lake View was later closed indefinitely, and now the district has decided to keep the other two schools closed indefinitely as well.
"Recently, we received information from our consultants and experts that it is not in the best interest of students and staff to reopen these three schools until we obtain additional information," said Gustavo Balderas, Ocean View's superintendent.
While the district has determined it can move students from Lake View to other campuses in the district, it’s unclear what will happen with the 1,300 students from the other campuses.
Ocean View officials have said they were aware that asbestos has been in their schools for decades. However, parents became upset when they learned the district may have been removing the material as part of a large-scale modernization project while students were present.
Ongoing testing revealed there was asbestos in two classrooms at Lake View, while a single asbestos fiber was found in a classroom at Hope View. Test results from Oak View were inconclusive, officials said.
The district said it will test for asbestos during the next several weeks at all 11 schools in the district. The cost of the tests is about $700,000, said Assistant Supt. Roni Ellis.
Construction has been suspended at every school until the summer and the district, along with Cal/OSHA, is investigating whether contractors continued to remove asbestos while students were in classrooms, which would violate state law.
Ocean View officials could not yet provide an estimate of the number of families who have applied for transfers.
The loss of state funds and the cost of asbestos removal could leave the district in financial trouble. Officials said they may end up asking the state to help with costs.
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that until the 1970s was widely used in building products and insulation materials. The fibers can be released into the air during demolition work, repairs and remodeling, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
When Lake View, Oak View and Hope View schools were built decades ago, asbestos was used as fireproofing on metal beams above the ceiling. Over time, the dust began to fall from the beams and settle on top of classroom ceiling tiles, district records show.
Though coming into contact with asbestos that hasn't been disturbed isn't harmful, it becomes a hazard when the dust becomes airborne, said Steven Viani, a registered civil engineer and engineering contractor with experience in asbestos and other hazardous materials.
Inhaling high levels of the dust can increase the risk of lung disease that isn't detected until years later, including a type of cancer called mesothelioma, experts say.
Teachers have expressed concern that they weren't notified about the asbestos above the tiles and said the district should have placed signs restricting access to limit the risk of the dust becoming airborne.
Thursday, October 9, 2014
- Biohazardous waste, also called infectious waste (such as blood, body fluids, and human cell lines), is waste contaminated with potentially infectious agents or other materials that are deemed a threat to public health or the environment.
- Medical waste is waste generated in labs or clinical settings that is not contaminated, but could appear hazardous to outsiders.
Disposal methodsContamination determines the disposal method:
- Contaminated biohazard waste must be collected by a licensed biohazardous waste hauler.
- Non-contaminated waste can be disposed of as medical waste.
- Sharps, including but not limited to hypodermic needles, blades, and slides. For more information on recognizing sharps, read How to Dispose of Sharps.
- Dry biohazardous waste
- Contaminated cultures, petri dishes, and other culture flasks
- Infectious agents
- Wastes from bacteria, viruses, spores, or live and attenuated vaccines
- Waste contaminated with excretion, exudates, or secretations from infectious humans or animals
- Paper towels, Kim wipes, bench paper, or any other items contaminated with biohazard materials
- Liquid biohazardous waste
- Human or animal blood
- Human or animal blood elements
- Human or animal bodily fluids or semi-liquid materials
- Human anatomical specimens
- Animal carcasses and body parts if exposed to biohazardous materials
- Non-contaminated paper towels, wipes, and gloves
- Non-contaminated cultures, petri dishes, and other culture flasks
- Non-contaminated syringes (no needles!)
- Decontaminated (i.e., autoclaved) dry biohazard waste
- Empty specimen containers
- Bandages or dressing containing dry blood or body fluids
- Trace chemotherapy waste, including empty containers and IV tubing
- Animal carcasses and body parts
- Any material resulting from medical care that is not biohazardous
- Any equipment used in a biomedical lab that could appear hazardous