Health, Nature, New England, Snow, Winter

Hurricane Preparedness 2011: Smartphone Up!

The smartest thing you can get for hurricane preparedness is an off-grid charger for your cell phone.  A cell phone — particularly a smartphone — can serve as “find me” whistle, flashlight, information channel, family finder, and so much more.  Remember that smartphones especially have a short battery life.  This cannot be over-emphasized.  Nokero’s solar charger is good, see details here.  Or go to your nearest Sprint store or Whatever store or go to Best Buy and see what they have.

A serious hurricane in New England?  My father sat through a hurricane in 1938 that took down almost all the trees around Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire — where the family had a summer house.

new england hurricane 38 new hampshire
1938 hurricane in NH - photo by Peter Roome http://www.flickr.com/photos/roome/

EMERGENCY KIT  From experience, then, the Sensible Yankee hurricane emergency kit includes basics.  You can get through just about anything with:

  1. two gallons of water (supermarket)
  2. your eyeglasses/contact lenses/sunglasses/reading glasses
  3. your meds
  4. a sleeping bag or blanket or warm winter coat, pillows are nice
  5. non-perishable food (eg, canned food with can opener, Twinkies, Powerbars)
  6. extra flashlights and batteries
  7. Swiss Army Knife

Online, it appears the government preparedness instructions haven’t changed much since 1938.

FEMA has you storing up “moist towelettes” (?), a dust mask (?), a NOAA Weather Radio (no one under 40 knows what that is) and traveler’s checks (what?).

Suggestion: start with phone and off-grid charger and our Sensible Yankee list, above.  Then add stuff from their list if you have an encyclopedia, historical reference guide, and a lot of time to identify dated items and shop at 12 different stores and wait in line at a bank for traveler’s checks (again, what?).

OVERNIGHT BAG  Pack, because you may need to evacuate or you may not be able to find your stuff under stress.  Pretend you’re going camping for 3 days and pack accordingly.  Include toothpaste, toothbrush, medications, vitamins, clothes; all the things you normally need.

If you’ve never been camping, pack as if you’re going to the wrong side of Detroit for three days and staying in a half-star motel with no fridge or running water.  Bring your own blankets, sheets & pillow.  Leave your strappy high-heeled sandals behind.

CHILDREN  If you have small children, and it’s not possible to travel to a safe place, then collect your gear and put it all in one place:  a safe, windowless room, as if you’re about the load the car for a 3 day camping trip.  Now you’re ready to evacuate if you need to, and you know where all your stuff is either way: your clothes, water, food, cookstove, candles or lanterns, etc. are all in one place.

Treat it like a fun camping-trip sort of adventure — kids often react to these things the same way you do.  For details and (you guessed it) a more extensive list of obscure stuff, see http://www.ready.org.

FLYING GLASS  Most injuries in a serious storm come from flying glass and debris, usually puncture wounds.  This is one of those incredibly obvious things we don’t think of.  So:  during the actual storm, keep away from windows and exterior doors.  This is for real.  The basement or closet or bathroom is likely safest, e.g., rooms with fewest portals to the outside.

PETS  Put pet food, leash, an extra gallon of water, their favorite blanket, and their favorite chew toy in a plastic garbage bag — put it in the trunk of the car — with their crate — now or as close to now as you can.  We emphasize now because pet care is the easiest to ignore in an urgent situation and as a result causes the most heartache.  Don’t even flirt with it.  Here’s more from FEMA on pets — but we didn’t have time to read all that.

UTILITIES   If a serious hurricane is coming your way and you own your home or are responsible for your home, shut off your utilities.  Here’s how.

If you’re like most people under 40 who only read 40 words of any given web page and never read the manual:  get a neighbor to come over and show you how to shut off utilities.  People like to show off what they know and you get a custom lesson — you also get to find out what a monkey wrench actually is, and how to use one, which is kind of fun.

Junk in the trunk  On a preparedness note, if you’re not a New England native, you may not know this:  in northern winter months from September –> May it’s imperative to always have in your car anyway:

  1. a blanket or sleeping bag
  2. old but still functional hat, mittens, gloves
  3. old wool sweater, just in case
  4. an old (super-warm) coat you wouldn’t wear unless you had to
  5. at least one flashlight, loaded with good batteries, preferably two flashlights
  6. Swiss Army Knife (canopener, screwdriver, knife)
  7. water bottle (you may need to fill it)
  8. off-grid smartphone charger

Believe me, you’ll feel better having these things.

Here’s FEMA’s take: http://www.fema.gov/help/widgets/prepared_hurricane.html

The truth is that if you have a cell phone and an off-grid charger, you can just call for help, company, or pizza delivery.

Environmental Regulations, EPA, Health, Nature, Saving the World, Science

DuPont Herbicide Halted By EPA

DuPont says it’s implementing “broad scientific and stewardship reviews” after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pulled DuPont’s herbicide called Imprelis off the market Thursday.

In EPA’s “Stop Sale, Use, or Removal Order,” the EPA said that DuPont had test data that showed its herbicide Imprelis was harmful to Norway spruce, balsam fir and other trees when it was given EPA approval last August.

(So why was it allowed to market in the first place…?)

DuPont, in the meantime, has posted a job opening for Product Stewardship at DuPont at corporate headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware.  Smart.

DuPont is the registrant of  Imprelis Herbicide (EPA Registration No. 352-793) with the active ingredient aminocyclopyrachlor (CASRN 858956-35-1).  Beginning in June 2011, EPA says it began receiving complaints from state pesticide agencies regarding evergreen damage related to the use of Imprelis.

To its credit, DuPont has been cooperating.  As of August 2011, DuPont has submitted to the Agency over 7,000 adverse incident reports involving damage (including death) to non-target trees – primarily Norway spruce (considered by many to be an invasive plant) and white pine (considered by some to be a pain in the butt, due to sticky pitch or sap, falling branches, abundant shedding of needles, shallow root system and great height which lend to tipping over).  The damage to nearby trees and plants has been observed to be related to the application of Imprelis.

Test data from DuPont has confirmed certain coniferous trees, including Norway spruce and balsam fir, as susceptible to being damaged or killed by the application of Imprelis.  EPA continues to collect information from DuPont, state agency investigations, inspections and data analyses. The Agency continues to investigate possible causes of the evergreen damage.

Based on death of “non-target” trees and other observations, EPA feels it has reason to believe Imprelis Herbicide is in violation of FIFRA based on DuPont’s own test data and information gathered during EPA and state investigations.

If this affects you or your work and you want to know more, go to this EPA page for DuPont Imprelis that provides more information.

Environmental Regulations, Green Tips, Health, Nature, New Green Economy, Saving the World

Trespassing Gas: Courts Say Pesticide Drift Is “Trespassing”

“I’m a farm girl,” says one Minnesota-based woman regarding this week’s hottest environmental story.  “And I understand the importance of producing a decent crop.  But nothing chaps my butt more than watching the choppers and planes spray the edges of my woods when they are working on the corn and potato fields.  Pine trees should not be brown.”

Farmer on beach
Farmers' properties border water bodies, forests and your kids' play area

Courts in the American Midwest ruled last week that if your chemical spray gets on my property, it’s considered trespassing.

The landmark ruling has potentially huge ramifications in terms of regulating chemical use in farming.  The ruling sets a precedent, giving the public another way for inter-property chemical waft to be discouraged via enforcement — beyond pollution laws such as the Clean Air Act.

Many Americans may not understand or appreciate the ins and outs of the Clean Air Act, but No Trespassing is a concept that almost all Americans can agree on.

The chemical drift problem

Historic!  The ruling has the attention of anyone concerned with regulatory compliance.

The debate about drifting chemical spray has been going on forever it seems. Namely: if an organic farm sits in close proximity to a non-organic farm, and the latter sprays chemicals that become traceable in the organic food, who’s responsible?

“If I stand by the fence separating your property and mine, and I spray DDT on my apple trees, how can I help it if the breeze blows a bunch of it over into your garden?”  That’s essentially what the defense says.

Courts say, “Nope, it’s trespassing, your stuff is treading upon and interfering with their private property.”  And, well, that’s true.

It isn’t just the organic farming versus non-organic farming issue that’s at stake here. There are many health concerns for people and pets and plants and wildlife associated with pesticides and herbicides.

In simple terms:  if your chemical spray collects in significant amounts in my food or drinking water, then you and I have a very big problem.

Pesticide drift: let’s take this outside

If you have a bonfire, I may well get some smelly, unhealthy smoke in my property lines.  Fair enough.  Handling moderate amounts of other people’s stink is simply part of the human experience.

The buck stops when one tribe significantly messes with another. In pesticides and spray chemicals, the buck stops when the concentration of chemicals drifting into your household or property boundary becomes either excessively toxic or otherwise measurably taints your ability to function in society (i.e., have trees that are not brown, trust that your water supply is clean, or make a living selling a product you choose — such as organic products).

On a more personal note, I’m not always convinced about the organic food industry and the hype around it — but I would say this: if you farm near me and if I find significant toxic chemicals from your chemical spray in my garden produce or in my kids’ swimming hole, I hope you’ll excuse my return chemical spray in the direction of where your kids play and drink and picnic.

And those side effects you won’t appreciate?  Well, touche.

Fair ruling

Chemicals crossing boundaries as trespassing is a fair ruling.

The legal system being what it is, the ruling will be appealed, so keep your eye on the story and use your voice. Even if you just comment on blog articles, use your voice. Pesticide-drift-as-trespassing is a new, hot topic and everyone is looking for everyone else’s opinion – so now is the time to have one.

Health

Breaking News – U.S. Women Get Health Care Free of Added Costs

As of August 1, 2011, the Affordable Care Act ensures American women get preventive health care services at no additional cost. Services include breastfeeding support, domestic violence screening, and contraception without charging a co-payment, co-insurance or a deductible.

Last summer, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released new insurance market rules under the Affordable Care Act requiring all new private health plans to cover several evidence-based preventive services like mammograms, colonoscopies, blood pressure checks, and childhood immunizations without charging a copayment, deductible or coinsurance.

You may not believe in breast feeding or in birth control, but a lot of women do and a lot of men do, too. (Heck, if you’re a Scientologist you don’t believe in medical check ups at all so you’re probably very angry about this measure.)

These historic new guidelines that will ensure women receive preventive health services at no additional cost were announced today by HHS. Developed by the independent Institute of Medicine, the new guidelines require new health insurance plans to cover women’s preventive services such as well-woman visits.

“The Affordable Care Act helps stop health problems before they start,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “These historic guidelines are based on science and existing literature and will help ensure women get the preventive health benefits they need.”

Before health reform, too many Americans didn’t get the preventive health care they need to stay healthy, avoid or delay the onset of disease, lead productive lives, and reduce health care costs. Often because of cost, Americans used preventive services at about half the recommended rate.

Today’s announcement builds on that progress by making sure women have access to a full range of recommended preventive services without cost sharing, including: – well-woman visits – screening for gestational diabetes – human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing for women 30 years and older – sexually-transmitted infection counseling – human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) screening and counseling – FDA-approved contraception methods and contraceptive counseling – breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling – domestic violence screening and counseling New health plans will need to include these services without cost sharing for insurance policies with plan years beginning on or after August 1, 2012.

The rules governing coverage of preventive services which allow plans to use reasonable medical management to help define the nature of the covered service apply to women’s preventive services. Plans will retain the flexibility to control costs and promote efficient delivery of care by, for example, continuing to charge cost-sharing for branded drugs if a generic version is available and is just as effective and safe for the patient to use. The administration also released an amendment to the prevention regulation that allows religious institutions that offer insurance to their employees the choice of whether or not to cover contraception services.

This regulation is modeled on the most common accommodation for churches available in the majority of the 28 states that already require insurance companies to cover contraception. HHS welcomes comment on this policy. Previously, preventive services for women had been recommended one-by-one or as part of guidelines targeted at men as well. As such, the HHS directed the independent Institute of Medicine to, for the first time ever, conduct a scientific review and provide recommendations on specific preventive measures that meet women’s unique health needs and help keep women healthy. HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) used the IOM report issued July 19, when developing the guidelines that are being issued today. The IOM’s report relied on independent physicians, nurses, scientists, and other experts to make these determinations based on scientific evidence. Today’s announcement is another part of the Obama Administration’s broader effort to address the health and well-being of our communities through initiatives such as the President’s Childhood Obesity Task Force, the First Lady’s Let’s Move! campaign, the National Quality Strategy, and the National Prevention Strategy.

For more information on the HHS guidelines for expanding women’s preventive services, please visit: http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/womensprevention08012011a.html. The guidelines can be found at: http://www.hrsa.gov/womensguidelines/. To learn more about the Affordable Care Act, please visit http://www.healthcare.gov.