Category Archives: Safety

With weather warming, King County officials urge caution around cold rivers, lakes, Sound

Share

 

With temperatures inching toward 80 degrees this weekend, King County officials urge everyone to be careful when heading out for fun on the water.

From Public Health – Seattle & King County

Mountain StreamWarm air temperatures don’t translate to warm water temperatures.

In fact, unseasonably warm weather will accelerate the typical Cascade Range spring snowmelt, and rivers will be running swift with icy cold runoff for weeks to come.

Lakes and Puget Sound are also quite cold this time of year, and swimmers can suffer from cold-water shock after just a few minutes in the water.

King County officials are on high alert because 17 people died in preventable drownings in the county in 2015.

River Safety Sign warningKing County, Public Health – Seattle & King County, and the King County Sheriff’s Office encourage kayakers, boaters, rafters, swimmers and other river users to check conditions and scout rivers thoroughly for hazards before entering the water.

“I urge everyone to use caution when going into the water, particularly in springtime when warm weather and cold water create a deadly combination,” said King County Sheriff John Urquhart. “Don’t drink, and always wear a life jacket.”

Quick Statistics

King County

  • In 2015, Public Health – Seattle & King County found that 17 people died in preventable drowning incidents.

  • Of these, 12 (70 percent) took place in open water, such as rivers, lakes, ponds, or Puget Sound.

  • Of the 12 open water deaths, nine (75 percent), may have been prevented with lifejacket use.

  • Over half (52 percent) of all King County deaths involved alcohol and or other drugs in the last five years.

Washington State

  • In 2014, there were 98 unintentional drowning deaths of Washington residents. 16 of these deaths were children and young adults under 20 years old.

  • Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children and teens age 1-17 in Washington.

Continue reading

Share

Will Seattle’s gun tax survive court challenge?

Share
Mike Coombs, the owner of an outdoor store in Seattle, opposes the city’s gun tax. But city leaders say it will fund medical research on reducing gun violence.

Mike Coombs, the owner of an outdoor store in Seattle, opposes the city’s gun tax. But city leaders say it will fund medical research on reducing gun violence.

By Elaine S. Povich
Stateline

SEATTLE — To Mike Coombs, owner of the Outdoor Emporium, a hunting, fishing and camping store, Seattle’s gun tax is unfair and aimed at driving him out of the city, if not out of business. To Seattle City Councilor Tim Burgess, the tax is a good way to fund medical research on reducing gun violence injuries.

The two represent the opposing poles in the debate over Seattle’s controversial tax on guns and ammunition that took effect Jan. 1 and puts this city at the center of a dispute over whether municipalities can tax firearms to pay for what they see as a public benefit or states alone have the power to regulate and tax guns.

The dispute, which emerged briefly last year in Baltimore and continues in Cook County, Illinois, involves issues such as whether the taxes are designed to suppress gun sales or drive sales out of a city or county, and whether gun violence is a public health issue that justifies taxes on firearms and ammunition to help pay for their consequences in the same fashion as taxes on cigarettes and alcohol.

Here — where the city collects a $25 tax on every gun sale and between 2 cents and a nickel on every round of ammunition, depending on the caliber — Burgess and Coombs are equally wedded to their positions.

The $300,000 to $500,000 that the tax is expected to raise this year is earmarked to fund a study of gunshot victims, including medical and behavioral interventions, by the University of Washington and Harborview Hospital’s trauma center, which treats most of the city’s gunshot victims. Continue reading

Share

As water infrastructure crumbles, many cities seek private help

Share

Drinking Water WarningBy Mindy Fetterman
Stateline

WOODBURY, N.J. — As city councilors here discussed the local water system recently, Summer Smith, a homeowner, rose to ask a question: “Can you explain in plain English what ‘emergent water conditions’ means? It sounds kind of alarming.”

David Trovato, the council president, acknowledged that any hint of a water quality emergency “would scare the hell out of me, too.” But there is no emergency in Woodbury.

New Jersey has designated Woodbury’s water system as “emergent” because it can’t meet the need for water at peak demand times. So this town of 10,000 across the Delaware River from Philadelphia is considering selling its water system to a private company.

Woodbury isn’t alone.

More than 2,000 municipalities have entered public-private partnerships for all or part of their water supply systems, according to the National Association of Water Companies, which represents private water companies like Veolia North America and American Water.

Partner municipalities include San Antonio; Akron, Ohio; and Washington, D.C. Miami-Dade County is considering partnerships for three water facilities, including one built in 1924. And Wichita, Kansas, is starting to study the issue.

The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, where old pipes leached out lead into water supplies, has raised new worries that cities aren’t keeping up with maintenance and improvements. Continue reading

Share

Advocates push public health campaign to combat gun violence

Share

GunWhat if we treated gun violence as a public health issue the way there were campaigns against drunk driving? Or safer sex practices during the HIV/AIDS pandemic?

NPR’s Kelly McEvers talks with Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research about what this would look like, and the political and personal challenges to doing research on gun violence.

Share

Inslee calls for public health approach to gun violence

Share

GunFrom the Office of the Governor

Gov. Jay Inslee today signed an executive order that launches a statewide public health initiative to reduce and prevent gun-related fatalities and injuries.

The order uses the same data-driven public health approach that has significantly reduced motor vehicle deaths over the past two decades.

The initiative will help the state understand the people and places most at risk of gun violence or suicide, determine the best approaches to reducing gun violence and work with its partners to develop strategies and actions to prevent gun violence.

“This will be a data-driven approach that helps us identify the people and places most susceptible to gun crime and suicide,” Inslee said. “Gun crime is a scourge that has scarred thousands of families in every corner of our state. It’s a scourge we can, should and will help prevent.”

Between 2012 and 2014, 665 people died in Washington state from firearm injuries, compared to 497 deaths from automobile accidents. Approximately 80 percent of the firearm deaths were suicides.

Inslee’s order requires the Department of Health and the Department of Social and Health Services, in collaboration with the University of Washington and other state and local agencies to collect, review and disseminate data on deaths and injury hospitalizations related to firearms, as well as recommend strategies to reduce firearm-related fatalities and serious injuries.

Inslee said he also wants to further strengthen the background check law approved by Washingtonians in 2014. He is directing the state Office of Financial Management to analyze the effectiveness of information sharing between state agencies, the courts, local jurisdictions, law enforcement and other entities to determine if there are ways to improve the effectiveness of the system.

He is also requesting the Attorney General’s office to analyze current enforcement practices to make sure those attempting to purchase a firearm illegally are held accountable.

He is also asking them to update a 2007 white paper regarding access to firearms for those with mental illness. The white paper included recommendations that have yet to be implemented such as a centralized background check system.

Inslee is directing agencies to submit recommendations by October of 2016. Continue reading

Share

States where pot is legal struggle with ‘drugged driving’

Share

Cannabis_leaf_marijuana_potBy Sarah Breitenbach
Stateline

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

Share

How I almost poisoned my family with holiday leftovers

Share

white-bean-and-ham-soupBy 
Public Health – Seattle & King County

A white bean and vegetable soup seemed the perfect use of the last of the remaining ham from the holidays. I felt pretty pleased with myself for cooking it two days before parents came for a visit–that would give it the right amount of time to reach full flavor, and it would be ready to heat when I got home from work.

By shutting the soup in the cooler, I had created the perfect laboratory for toxins to form.

When I finished cooking, I realized that I didn’t have room in the fridge for the enormous pot of soup. But the outside temperature was plenty cold, so I decided to store it on the outside deck, protecting it from raccoons by putting it inside a cooler. I once again felt pleased with my cleverness as I shut the cooler lid tightly with my soup safe inside.

Second thoughts

Continue reading

Share

Cities and states try to crack down on distracted cycling

Share

BikeBy Jenni Bergal
Stateline

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

Share

Violence abroad and at home – Viewpoint

Share

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.

Sincerely,

Jeff

Share

Pesticides and Pot: What marijuana users should know

Share

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

Share

States pressed to increase efforts to reduce drownings

Share

life-jacket-float By Michael Ollove
Stateline

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

Share

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

Share
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

Share

Use extreme caution this Fourth of July

Share

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

Share