Category Archives: Safety

Cities and states try to crack down on distracted cycling


BikeBy Jenni Bergal

Worried that bicyclists who chat, send messages or listen to music on smartphones are creating a danger, a number of cities have banned cyclists from using hand-held cellphones or texting while riding. And several states prohibit bicyclists from using headphones or earplugs.

The efforts to reduce the risk to cyclists, pedestrians and motorists come as cities are trying to become more bike-friendly, and people increasingly turn to electronic devices to communicate and navigate.

“If they want to share the road, they have to share the responsibility as well,” said Massachusetts state Rep. Steven Howitt, a Republican, who has introduced a bill that would prohibit bicyclists from wearing headphones.

Bicycle advocates also say there’s no evidence that such use has resulted in deaths or serious injuries, and question whether creating laws or slapping fines on cyclers makes sense.

Bicycle advocates say cyclists should use common sense and not use hand-held electronic devices at all when riding. Nor should bikers use headphones if they are distracting.

But advocates also say there’s no evidence that such use has resulted in deaths or serious injuries, and question whether creating laws or slapping fines on cyclers makes sense.

“There’s a huge difference between distracted driving that kills someone and distracted biking that doesn’t,” said Peter Wilborn, founder of Bike Law, a network of personal injury lawyers that focuses on cycling issues. “I don’t think we need laws specifically for this.” Continue reading


Violence abroad and at home – Viewpoint


DuchinThe following is a message from Public Health – Seattle & King County’s Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin to the agency’s staff. The agency decided to share the message with the public because it thought “the message will resonate with those inside and outside of our agency.”

Dear Colleagues,

On Friday, I spent the day with others from Public Health – Seattle & King County and regional local health departments, Washington State Department of Health, and the University of Washington at a conference organized by the Northwest Center for Public Health Practice to help find solutions to the problem of injury and violence in our communities.

It was therefore especially ironic and sickening to hear the news of the Paris terrorist attacks on the car radio as I returned from the meeting.

Many of us, including myself, feel overwhelmed trying to fathom the reasons for, and solutions to, the type of mindless killing that has been routinized by repeated violent terrorist attacks happening around the world, most recently in Paris, Beirut, Nigeria, Somalia, Cameroon, Turkey, Israel and Gaza, Iran, and elsewhere.

Here at home, we are struggling with many incarnations of violence in our own communities and country, including intentional violence from suicide, gun violence, intimate partner and domestic violence, adverse childhood experiences and other emotional trauma, and multiple causes of unintentional injury and death.

As public health professionals we share a common purpose: Improving the health of communities through prevention. Accordingly, we bring our public health approach to addressing the wicked problems of violence and injury.

I sincerely hope that in addition, this most recent abomination in Paris will motivate not only public health professionals but all of us, including governmental, business and community leaders across the country to acknowledge all types of violence – even terrorist violence– as a public health problem – a disease – and treat it accordingly.

Although we will not be able to easily solve the problem of global terrorist violence through our actions here at home, redoubling our efforts to end the ongoing devastation of violence of all types in our communities would be a meaningful start.

I’m optimistic that with the same perseverance, dedication, and intelligence that we used to put a man on the moon, conquer smallpox and polio, and harness the energy of the atom, we can make real progress in reducing violence from all causes in our communities, our country, and the world.




Pesticides and Pot: What marijuana users should know


Cannabis_leaf_marijuana_potBy Jeff Duchin, MD
Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County

The passage of I-502 in 2012 means that marijuana is now a legal crop in Washington State. Growers of most of the fruit and vegetables we eat routinely use pesticides and other chemicals to reduce or eliminate crop destruction.

Because marijuana is considered illegal by the federal government, the crop stands outside the federal pesticide evaluation and oversight system.

In Colorado and elsewhere, pesticides that were not approved for use on marijuana have been reported in product from recreational stores.

Could this happen in Washington?The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) has tried to address this gap by providing growers with  a list of pesticides that may be used by marijuana growers, along with an explanation of the criteria used to select the pesticides.

These pesticides were selected because their use on marijuana plants would not be in direct conflict with federal law (they are allowed on other food products) and they are considered to pose minimal risk to health when used as directed.

Marijuana retailers are required to document all pesticides used on marijuana products that they sell and provide customers and regulators the information on pesticides used upon request.

The potential for pesticides to be present in marijuana is not new and was a concern before the legalization and regulation of medicinal and recreational marijuana products. Pesticides can pose a risk not only to marijuana users but also to workers who use the products and to the environment.

We don’t know that the problem is worse at this time than before regulation, and given the fact that there are now requirements for growers regarding acceptable pesticide use in  marijuana sold by regulated stores (and soon to include “medicinal marijuana” sold at regulated stores) the risk may be lower at this time than in the past. Continue reading


States pressed to increase efforts to reduce drownings


life-jacket-float By Michael Ollove

Accidental drowning is the second leading cause of death for U.S. children under age 5, after birth defects. For youngsters under 15, only traffic accidents are responsible for more deaths by injury. And while drowning rates have declined slightly since the turn of the century, African Americans continue to die from drowning at considerably higher rates than whites.

Faced with such stubborn figures, public health advocates and researchers complain that state and local governments aren’t doing enough to prevent drowning deaths. Critics say most states don’t have sufficient laws or don’t enforce laws that could lessen the chances of drowning, such as requirements for fencing around private pools and the presence of trained lifeguards. And, they say, too little is being done to make sure that children have swim lessons and water safety skills.

“There is so much that can and should be done,” said Andrea Gielen, director of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Injury Research and Policy. Continue reading


Fairs and petting zoos are in season: tips to avoid animal-spread illnesses

Rooster looking through the wires of a cage

Photo by dragonariaes

From the Washington State Department of Health

Millions of people go to agricultural fairs and petting zoos this time of year, and children of all ages love to be around the animals.

Taking a few safety precautions can help reduce the chance of getting sick after spending time with animals or their surroundings.

“We encourage people to enjoy their local fairs and petting zoos,” said State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy. “Just make sure your visit is a safe one. Washing your hands is the number one way to do just that.”

Handwashing is the most effective way to reduce chances of getting sick. The spread of illnesses from animals, such as those caused by E.coli and Salmonella, are commonly linked to hand-to-mouth contact. Continue reading


States where pot is legal struggle with ‘drugged driving’


Cannabis_leaf_marijuana_potBy Sarah Breitenbach

Washington State Patrol Sgt. Mark Crandall half-jokingly says he can tell a driver is under the influence of marijuana during a traffic stop when the motorist becomes overly familiar and is calling him “dude.”

The truth in the joke, Crandall says, is that attitude and speech patterns can be effective markers for drugged driving. Continue reading


Use extreme caution this Fourth of July


FireworksFrom the Office of the Insurance Commissioner 

This year’s Fourth of July festivities in Washington are complicated by the statewide drought we are experiencing.

As a result, many local and state government officials are asking Washington citizens to forego fireworks, even where they are legal.

Many municipalities in Washington have banned the use of fireworks.

Continue reading


Fast currents, frigid temps make local water dangerous this time of year


From the Washington State Department of Health

Mountain Stream

Cold and fast waters can be a recipe for drowning and state health officials remind folks that even though air temperatures are in the 80s, water temperatures remain frigid and river flows are swift.

Springtime river flow is high and swift from rain and snow melt and can easily overwhelm the strongest swimmer.

Many Washingtonians wait for hot weather to dip their toes into lakes, rivers, and the ocean surf, but other people brave the frosty waters and hop into boats, inner tubes, and other floating equipment in search of a early summer water adventure.

Being unprepared for the freezing water temperatures or the swift flow of the waters can lead to tragedy. Continue reading


Planning on going on a cruise? Check in here first.


Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 11.20.45 AMThe independent investigative journalism website ProPublica has set up a webpage where you can search a database of over 300 cruise ships that make port in the U.S., where you are able to see their health and safety records going back as far as 2010, as well as their current position and deck plans.

To search the database, go here.



Washington state ranked most bicycle-friendly state


Road BikeWashington has again been ranked the most bicycle-friendly state by the League of American Bicyclists. But the we better not get complacent, the league warns:

Although Washington State has been #1 for the past 8 years, the gap between #1 and #2 (Minnesota) has steadily decreased since 2013. The Washington

State Department of Transportation should build upon its past successes by increasing staff capacity for planning, engineering, and implementation of solutions that make bicycling and walking safer and more convenient.

To learn more go here.


Free child car seat check-up events in King County


Child safety seat car seat From Public Health – Seattle & King County

Child safety seats can save lives, but they need to be used properly to be effective.

Parents and caregivers can get support in fitting their children securely in car seats at five free child car seat check-up events in upcoming months, beginning Friday, April 24, 2015. Public Health – Seattle & King County is hosting the events.

Event details

Parents and caregivers will have their child safety seat checked by a certified child safety seat technician for safe installation and educational materials will be on hand. Soon-to-be parents and caregivers are welcome as well.

These events are ones of many ongoing child safety seat check-up events in the Puget Sound area. Check the Washington Safety Restraint Coalition website for locations and schedules. Continue reading


Getting warmer: let’s talk water safety



By James Apa
Public Health – Seattle & King County

With summer approaching in the Northwest, layers of clothing slowly peel away, and thoughts turn to the water. Soon, local rivers, lakes and pools will start to fill with kids and families.

I talked with Tony Gomez, our Violence and Injury Prevention Manager (and local water safety guru), to understand potential hazards on the water, and how to keep these experiences fun and safe. 

Q: Every year, we hear local reports of tragic drownings in the news. How common are they, and where do most happen?

A: Last year, we had 15 unintentional drowning deaths in King County, and we see about 100 statewide per year. From when I started this work 30 years ago, drownings have dropped significantly, in large part because of good prevention work. But it’s still too many. Continue reading


Why I love family-run restaurants: Insights from a food inspector


cropped-eyob-in-idBy Eyob Mazengia, PhD, RS, Food Protection Program
Public Health – Seattle & King County

When I started as a food inspector, I was assigned to the International District. And I liked it. It was almost like walking into a new culture, a new era.

What fascinated me was that as a public health worker, I had permission to walk into people’s personal spaces. I liked the smells, the sounds of their languages, their wall hangings and the way things looked.

It was a privilege, really, to be allowed into their personal spaces. Going on food inspections in the I.D., it was like walking into 3-4 different countries every day, without traveling outside the neighborhood.

Over the years, I established good relationships with the restaurant establishments. They were no longer just restaurant operators—they were mothers, fathers, grown kids. They’re not just businesses—there’s a family behind every door, people who had often gone through difficult times to be here.

And as I got to know them, I could recognize the sacrifices they made to give their children better opportunities in the U.S., and what they left behind. Even those born and raised here, you could recognize the sacrifices they were making. Continue reading