Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Toxic blue-green algae advisory in effect for Clear Lake

Swimmers, pet owners, and anglers are advised to avoid contact with Clear Lake due to a toxic blue-green algae bloom. If fishing, the safest practice is catch and release.

A water sample taken from Clear Lake on September 19, 2014 found the algae toxin Microcystin at 10.4 micrograms per liter of water, which is above the state standard of 6 micrograms per liter for recreational water use. Microcystin can cause liver poisoning in people and animals. Symptoms can take hours or days to appear. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting in humans and death in animals. 

While not all algae blooms are toxic, some algae can produce toxins that can harm the nervous system, the liver, the skin, and the stomach and intestines. 

Experts from the county’s Environmental Health Division recommend a few simple tips to help prevent illness from algae: 

  • Avoid swimming, wading, wind surfing and water-skiing in waters where algae blooms are present. 
  • Don’t drink untreated surface water.
  • Keep pets and livestock out of waters with algae blooms.
  • When fishing, catch-and-release is the safest practice. If you do eat your catch, clean any fish you catch thoroughly if you see algae blooms. Before eating, remove the internal organs, which may contain harmful algae toxins.
  • Avoid areas of scum when boating and clean your boat thoroughly.

For more information about toxic algae blooms and other water quality information, visit the Thurston County Environmental Health web page, Swimming in Thurston County.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Scatter Creek Community Workshop on September 30

You are invited to a community workshop about the preliminary conclusions and recommendations to protect drinking water in the Scatter Creek Aquifer, hosted by the Scatter Creek Aquifer Project Citizens Advisory Committee and Thurston County Environmental Health.

When:           Tuesday September 30, 2014 from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Where:         Rochester Middle School Commons  (children’s area provided)
9937 Highway 12 SW
Rochester, WA 98579

This Scatter Creek Aquifer is susceptible to contamination because soils in the area do not filter out contaminants well. Unlike many other areas, there is not another deeper aquifer below the Scatter Creek Aquifer; it is the only source of drinking water for area residents. The Scatter Creek Aquifer Citizens Advisory Committee met for almost two years to learn about the aquifer, help direct computer groundwater modeling scenarios, and develop recommendations for the Thurston County Board of Health.

The preliminary conclusions and recommendations made by the citizen’s committee will be presented at this community workshop and can be reviewed here. Come provide input on the preliminary recommendations to protect drinking water in the Scatter Creek Aquifer. Your input will help shape the final recommendations that the citizen’s committee will present to the Board of Health.
This event is an opportunity for the community to learn more about the project, hear the preliminary conclusions and recommendations, and to provide input.  

For more information visit the project website or contact ScatterCreek@co.thurston.wa.us or (360) 867-2582.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Become a volunteer with the Healthy Homes Program

This fall, the Healthy Homes Program is training new volunteers! 

Healthy Homes provides free, voluntary, and confidential home visits to help local residents find ways to reduce exposure to toxins, asthma triggers, mold, and other housing-related health risks. The visits are conducted by trained volunteers (this could be you!) who work with the resident to decide on simple solutions to make their home a healthier space.

Volunteers participate in 30 hours of training to learn about how home environments can contribute to health issues and how to reduce housing-related health risks. The training  prepares volunteers to conduct Health Homes Visits. The training is hands-on and engaging with relevant presentations and field trips. They can apply what they learn in their own living spaces.
Once volunteers are trained, they are asked to give back 30 hours of community service to the program. This includes conducting Healthy Homes Visits, staffing booths at community events, assisting with community outreach, and work on special projects. Thurston County Public Health & Social Services staff members are committed to supporting each person to help them become a successful volunteer.

2014 Training Schedule
Fridays, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
- October 10
- October 17
- October 24
- October 31
- November Break - during which, each volunteer-in-training goes out on their first visit with an experienced volunteer.
- December 12

To apply for the 2014 training or to learn more about the program visit the Healthy Homes Program website or contact (360) 867-2674,  HealthyHomes@co.thurston.wa.us.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Food Safety for Bake Sales

Bake sales are a popular way for organizations to raise money. Who can say no to delicious homemade baked goods for a good cause? When the time for a bake sale comes around, remember to keep food safety a top priority.

 No permit is needed for a nonprofit organization bake sale for charitable, educational, or religious purposes. However, there are some rules that are in an organization’s best interest to follow.

Only sell non-potentially hazardous food items.
Non-potentially hazardous foods are considered low risk for foodborne illness. Some examples are cookies, brownies, doughnuts, muffins, scones, fudge, fruit pies, cake, bread, or candy.
Potentially hazardous foods should not be included in a bake sale. These are items that are higher risk for foodborne illness and require refrigeration. Some examples are cream filled desserts, home canned foods, whipped cream, cream cheese, pumpkin pie, lemon meringue pie, cheesecakes, and custard desserts. 

Protect food from contamination sources.
Food sold to the public must be protected from exposure to bacteria, virus, and other contamination sources. 
   - Always wear clean disposable gloves or use tongs or bakery paper to transfer food items.
   - Protect foods by packaging them in food grade plastic wraps, bags, foil, or paper plates.
   - Cloth napkins and paper towels are not acceptable packaging.
   - Pre-wrapping items is a great way to protect the food.
   - Bake sale items should not be self serve, unless they are all pre-wrapped. There should be no bare hand contact with any of the food items.

Make sure consumers know their risk.
Post a sign in a clearly visible place that states that food items were prepared in a kitchen that is not inspected regularly by a regulatory authority.

Bake sales are a great way to raise funds. They allow us to share a group or organization’s mission as well as homemade goodies. To ensure that your bake sale is successful, be sure to follow all food safety precautions. 

More information about bake sales and food safety is available at our website at:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Back-to-school tips for parents of children with asthma

By Kateri Wimsett, Education and Outreach Specialist 

It’s here – the back-to-school season. As a working professional, married to a high school teacher, and a mom to two elementary school students, August signals parental prep time. I'm starting to organize my lists about childcare, school supplies, and managing all the other daily life responsibilities that go along with a new school year. If your child has asthma, this is the time to update your action plans to help manage your child’s illness.

Asthma is a severe chronic lung disease. Approximately 1 in 10 children suffer from this disease in Thurston County. Asthma is a leading cause for school absenteeism, and can lead to academic, social and emotional consequences for kids.  During the summer months parents can help manage asthma by reducing exposure to triggers like secondhand smoke and other irritants. Returning to the school environment can pose challenges for kids with asthma because of increased exposure to possible triggers and respiratory infections. Here are some tips that can help you prepare your children to go back to school.

  • Have an Asthma Action Plan (also known as a management plan). Asthma Action Plans are developed with your doctor and tell others what your child’s daily treatment is. They also describe how to control asthma in the long-term and how to handle worsening asthma symptoms or attacks. You can download a free version of an Asthma Action Plan here.
  • Schedule a check up with your child’s doctor to update your plan. Even if your child’s asthma is well managed, your Asthma Action Plan should be updated every school year. This is vital to making sure that your child’s asthma continues to be effectively controlled. It also gives a chance to review any medications and physical activity restrictions.

    • Meet with your child’s school nurse and teachers. Share up-to-date information with them about asthma. Take some time to discuss your child’s specific triggers and symptoms so that they can be prepared to help your child if an asthma attack occurs. Discuss how your child can get their medicine.
    • Know your school’s Asthma Emergency Plan. Ensure that your child’s school knows how to contact you in case of emergency. Also make sure your child’s action plan has your doctor’s phone number, your preferred hospital (emergency room), as well as contact numbers for other guardians or emergency contacts.
    • Be sure your child and everyone in the family is fully vaccinated, including against the flu. The flu is a serious illness and the CDC recommends that everyone over six months old gets vaccinated. This helps further protect your child.
    • Advocate for your child. If your child has just been diagnosed you may feel hesitant to make special requests of the school. But remember many children have asthma.  You can work with the school to help improve indoor air quality for all students. One good place to start is: www.epa.gov/iaq/schools/parents.html
    • If your child has asthma, talk regularly with them about their Asthma Action Plan. When your child is older, consider having your child carry their Asthma Action Plan in their backpack or purse. That way, your child can show or tell others where to find the plan should they have trouble breathing suddenly.

    Take the time to review and update your child’s asthma care plan. This simple step can improve your communication with others regarding your child’s needs and help you feel more confident that the illness is well managed. Keep school staff and faculty updated to so they have the tools to help your child succeed.