ANOTHER VOICE: Happy 2013 Environmental Health Specialist Day

On April 22, Oregon celebrates “Environmental Health Specialist Day.” This annually celebrated day occurs every fourth Monday in April to celebrate the hard work performed by environmental health specialists in Oregon and across the country.

There are 270 registered environmental health specialists and trainees in the state of Oregon. Official recognition is particularly important because the illnesses and injuries prevented by their activities can never be measured quantitatively. It is the absence of illness, which all of us have come to take for granted, that indicates their success.

In Hood River County, environmental health specialists are responsible for several areas of oversight which include: drinking water protection; licensing and regulation of food, lodging, pool and spa facilities; permitting of on-site waste water disposal systems; childcare facility and school kitchen inspections; public health emergency preparedness; as well as communicable disease investigations.

In the last 100 years, environmental health professionals increased life expectancy in the United States by 30 years. Improvements like a better understanding of diseases and immunization campaigns contributed; however, the greatest improvement (80 percent) can be attributed to safer food and drinking water supplies.

Unfortunately, environmental health specialists have become victims of their own success. Since the absence of illness is the only measurement of success, the public easily becomes complacent and forgets the importance of these professionals.

From 1980 to 2000, the per-capita number of environmental health professionals in the United States has shrunk by 28 percent. This problem is compounded by several emerging challenges such as: new diseases and pests, shifting demographics, climate change, resource scarcity and increasing urban density.

While Oregonians enjoy a mostly safe environment, the “CDC estimates that each year roughly one in six Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die of food-borne diseases.”

As well, there are approximately 8 million cases of contaminated drinking water-caused illnesses and 1.5 million emergency department visits due to poor air quality. These issues result in an estimated $77 billion impact to our economy annually.

On April 22, be thankful for your good health, enjoy a glass of water, eat a meal at your favorite restaurant and perhaps confidently leave your children at a local daycare. Also, encourage your neighbors to remember that it is because of the dedication and hard work of these professionals that everyone is able to enjoy those experiences safely.

“Happy Environmental Health Specialist Day,” everyone!


Ian Stromquist, REHS, has been a member of the environmental health profession for more than six years and currently works for Hood River County Health Department. His views are not necessarily those of his employer.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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