Environmental Health Division
This information is currently newsworthy, seasonally pertinent, or is showcased to promote awareness.
Minnesota's Clean Air Dialogue
On April 25th, Jim Kelly of the Environmental Surveillance & Assessment (ESA) Section attended an event sponsored by the Environmental Initiative and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency entitled “Clearing the Air: A Collaborative Plan to Reduce Minnesota’s Emissions. At the event, the members of Minnesota's Clean Air Dialogue Work Group announced their recommendations for action to improve our air quality in Minnesota. Both Jim and Hillary Carpenter of the ESA Section participated in the Clean Air Dialogue Work Group.
The Clean Air Dialogue was an extensive year-long technical process to identify opportunities to reduce air emissions here in Minnesota. At the event, Minnesota's Clean Air Dialogue Work Group members announced their recommendations and a path forward to collaboratively improve air quality. Impacted stakeholders and interested parties joined the conversation at the event to learn more about:
- Why improving air quality is important for Minnesota's economy and public health,
- What we can do right now to reduce emissions in three key sectors, and
- How businesses and other organizations may be impacted by -- and can get involved in -- next steps.
Speakers at the event included MPCA Commissioner John Stine, and Minneapolis City Coordinator Paul Aasen. You can learn more about the Clean Air Dialogue and view the report at:
Minnesota Ground Water Association - Spring Conference
The Minnesota Ground Water Association held its Spring Conference on April 24th, and the focus was "Hydrogeology and Public Health – Connecting Science, Education, and Policy." The Section of Drinking Water Protection provided three speakers for this sold-out conference:
- Karla Peterson:
"Unregulated Contaminants and Statewide Groundwater Sampling"
- Todd Johnson:
"Unregulated Contaminants – The Long Road to Becoming Regulated"
- Tannie Eshenaur:
"Making the Invisible Visible: Groundwater, Public Health, and People’s Perception"
Congratulations to the presenters, there was a great deal of interest in their excellent presentations.
Environmental Exposure Grand Rounds
On May 1st, Dr. Susan Buchanan, M.D. of the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU, pronounced ‘pay-sue’) in Chicago gave a presentation at the Minnesota Environmental Exposure Grand Rounds entitled, "Don't Panic - PEHSUs can help!,". The presentation was an Introduction to the Great Lakes Center for Children's Environmental Health, including an overview of cases confronted by the Center's physicians
After the presentation, Dr. Buchanan met with MDH staff to discuss clinical and public health collaboration in early-life environmental health. MDH staff who met with Dr. Buchanan were from the divisions of Environmental Health, Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Public Health Laboratory, and Chronic Disease, as well as U of M faculty and staff from the Poison Control Center. The wide-ranging discussion included environmental exposure cases involving fetuses and children, and the intersection of medical, toxicological and public health issues around case management.
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton proclaimed the week of May 5 – 11, 2013, Safe Drinking Water Week. The proclamation reads:
Whereas: Minnesotans depend on an adequate supply of safe drinking water for their health, quality of life, and economic viability; and,
Whereas: Protecting our sources of drinking water, whether surface water or groundwater, from contamination or overuse is the first step to ensure a safe water supply; and
Whereas: Professional treatment and monitoring of the quality of drinking water and water infrastructure is critical to our wellbeing; and
Whereas: All Minnesotans rely on safe drinking water from public water systems for their homes, schools, and workplaces.
NOW THEREFORE, I, MARK DAYTON, Governor of the State of Minnesota, do hereby proclaim the week of May 5-11, 2013, as SAFE DRINKING WATER WEEK in the State of Minnesota.
Leading Efforts in Protecting Sources of Drinking Water
Declaring May 5-11 as Safe Drinking Water Week in Minnesota, Governor Mark Dayton has recognized the Anoka County Municipal Wellhead Protection Group and the cities of Cold Spring, Detroit Lakes, and Shakopee for their leading efforts to protect the sources of drinking water in their areas. These cities serve as examples to other communities of how local involvement by land owners, community residents, and government can lead to innovative and effective implementation of source water protection efforts. The cities will receive certificates from Governor Dayton.
Drinking Water Protection Annual Report Released
In conjunction with Safe Drinking Water Week, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) released its annual report on the status of drinking water in the state. The results of monitoring for the past year revealed only rare contamination problems in Minnesota’s 961 community water systems. Water samples from those systems were subjected to nearly 23,000 separate tests for more than 100 potential contaminants.
The vast majority of community water systems have met all the requirements of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. None of the systems exceeded current federal or state standards for pesticides or industrial contaminants. Bacterial contamination was detected in only nine municipal systems. Contamination problems in those systems were quickly resolved, and normal water service was restored in the affected communities, typically within a week. The 2012 report is available online at:
EH Director Serves as Judge
Linda Bruemmer, director of the Environmental Health Division, recently participated as a judge of public policy projects by middle and high school students for Project Citizen at the Capitol. Project Citizen is a civics/government curriculum that promotes competent and responsible participation in government. Students work together to identify and study a public policy issue, research and evaluate options, select a solution to the problem, and develop an action plan. They learn how to prepare for and access appropriate government channels when seeking to alter public policy.The titles of the 5 projects in her track were:
- Stillwater School Safety
- Preventing the Endangerment of the Canadian Lynx
- Human Trafficking?
- Marriage Defined as a Contract Between One Man and One Woman
- Needle Exchange Program – Safe Injections
Food Manager Certification Workshop 2013
The annual Food Manager Certification Workshop was held on April 24, 2013. Thank you to Ramsey County for hosting the event at the Ramsey County Public Works building in Arden Hills, MN. This year’s theme was, “Get Smart(er), Active Managerial Control and How it Relates to a Certified Food Manager.” Several of the presenters used video clips from the 1960’s series Get Smart. This year there were approximately 80 attendees.
Thank you to the following people who were either on the workshop planning committee or speakers:
- Lorna Girard, MDA,
- Alison Larsson, MarketFresh Food Testing Labs,
- Lars Johnson, FoodSafetyGuy,
- Kendra Kauppi, U of M Extension,
- Lisa Marshall, St. Paul-Ramsey County Department of Public Health,
- Tom Messina, Subway,
- O. Pete Snyder, Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management,
- Colleen Zenk, Minnesota Beef Council
- Sarah Leach
- Tracie Zerwas
- Nicole Koktavy
- Tom Wilfahrt
- Dave Reimann
- Denise Schumacher
- Linda Prail
- Susan Peterson
- Jim Topie
- Maria Robles
New MDH Indoor Play Areas Website
MDH staff recently created and released a new indoor play areas website. The website offers information for parents and caregivers, food businesses and Environmental Health Professionals, as well as cleaning and safety tips for indoor play areas.Visit the new website today:
Severe Weather and Flooding
Spring is here, and with spring comes warmer weather and melting snow. Sometimes that means flooding and other severe weather. Be prepared this year, by reading up on what to do before flooding begins and how to prepare yourself and your family for severe weather.
- Before Flooding Begins
- Severe Weather
- Natural Disasters and Severe Weather
- Homeland Security and Emergency Management
Mold Talks Held in Carlton County
The Northland Flood of 2012 was close to a year ago, but the local public health agencies are still getting calls from the public concerned about lingering mold problems that may be causing health problems for some citizens. Carlton County requested assistance in developing a press release and educational meetings on the best way to identify and clean-up possible mold problems.
Carlton County scheduled two informational meetings that were held on April 4, 2013. One meeting was for mold clean-up professionals and the other was for the general public. Both meetings were held at the Carlton County Transportation Building.Dan Tranter of MDH's Indoor Air Unit presented practical advice and best practice procedural information for identifying and cleaning up mold contamination to reduce exposures and potential health problems.More information from MDH:
Statewide Medical Imaging Optimization Initiative
Earlier this year, the X-Ray Unit began a statewide Medical Imaging Optimization initiative. This initiative involves utilizing the tools and resources developed by numerous national scientific organizations which is recognized as the Image Wisely® and Image Gently® campaigns.
In order to bring these campaigns to the local and state level it was important to engage the Minnesota medical imaging community in conversation and partnership. The X-Ray Unit successfully engaged the following medical organizations that have members across Minnesota hospitals and clinics:
- Minnesota Radiological Society,
- North Central Chapter of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine, and
- The Minnesota Society of Radiologic Technologists
This expands on the MDH mission of promoting, maintaining and improving public health through education and as partners with industry, in addition to our technical, regulatory function. Imaging facilities can pledge to Image Wisely® and Image Gently® to show their commitment to Medical Imaging Optimization.
More information can be found on MDH’s website at:
- Optimize Your Practice
Great Lakes Fish Consortium
For the past 3 years, under a grant from the EPA, MDH has coordinated the Great Lakes Fish Consortium. The Consortium is a long-standing organization of 8 Great Lakes States, supported by the EPA to harmonize fish consumption advisories among the member states, conduct research and promote healthy fish eating behaviors. This year’s Consortium meeting was held in Chicago, March 5-7, and was attended by state fish advisory staff, EPA and ATSDR Region 5 staff, and Cornell University researchers.
Pat McCann (Fish Advisor), Deborah Durkin (Fish Outreach Coordinator), and Rita Messing (Site Assessment and Consultation Unit supervisor) attended for Minnesota. Pat and Deborah organized the meeting agenda and logistics and Pat chaired the meeting. Topics included fish sampling, data analysis, contaminant risk assessment, sport fish and purchased fish advice.
Cornell staff presented research on fish consumption behaviors, how the public understands fish consumption advice, and ways that consumption advice can be improved. Other highlights included a talk by Gary Ginsberg (Connecticut Dept. of Health) on a risk/benefit model for cardiovascular disease and neurodevelopmental outcomes that balances nutritional benefits of fish (as represented by omega-3-fatty acid content) versus risks (as represented by methylmercury content).
EPA discussed future Consortium funding, and the likelihood that more emphasis will be placed on Fish Advisory Program plans to promote healthy fish eating behaviors by partnering with other public health programs (e.g., nutrition and maternal and child health). More information about the Consortium can be found at:
Evaluation of Safe Drinking Water Messages
As part of a larger effort to provide consistent drinking water messages, Nancy LaPlante and Tannie Eshenaur are evaluating a brochure about providing safe drinking water used for formula fed infants. The Department of Administration’s Management Analysis and Development group will provide assistance for evaluating the draft brochure with focus groups consisting of new parents whose drinking water comes from public water supplies or private wells. This work builds on a basic communication needs assessment conducted by the Contaminants of Emerging Concern program in 2011.
Do you have a private well? Do you know what's in your water? More than 1 million people in Minnesota rely on private wells as their source of drinking water, but too many of them are not tested on a regular basis for things that can make people sick, such as bacteria, arsenic, or nitrate. While wells can provide high quality drinking water, state health officials estimate that at any given time as many as 25 percent of private wells in Minnesota have detectable levels of total coliform bacteria, an indication that surface contamination has entered the well or water system. More Information:
- New Release: Private well owners need to know what's in their water, health officials say
- Protect Your Health - Test Your Private Well Water
MCLEAN/Healthy Homes Minnesota Meeting
The MCLEAN (MN Collaborative Lead Assessment Network) and Healthy Homes supporters gathered to update each other on their work, discuss legislative developments, and ways to move work forward. They covered both lead poisoning prevention and healthy homes issues.For questions about MCLEAN/Healthy Homes Minnesota, see:
Advancement of Healthy School
Environments in Minnesota
The Indoor Air Unit initiated a 2-year project to advance healthy school environments in Minnesota. John Olson is the project manager. The project will unite existing state school environmental health activities, using the EPA’s, "State School Environmental Health Guidelines" as a guiding framework. The project objective is to help Minnesota schools create healthier environments. Expected outputs include:
- a new state-level school environmental health steering committee;
- a state plan to implement education and outreach;
- compilation of all pertinent standards and guidelines at a single web portal;
- development of additional guidance, resources, and trainings;
- dissemination of resources through new and existing communication channels;
- training programs to assist schools;
- a survey of public schools; and
- a school recognition program.
Radon Resistant New Construction Study
The Indoor Air Unit has started a project to assess the effectiveness of Radon Resistant New Construction (RRNC) practices, as installed by licensed residential contractors in Minnesota. Since June 2009 all new Minnesota homes have been required by the state building code to have passive RRNC features installed to reduce the radon levels. There have been only a few studies in other states and countries, that have compared the difference of passive to active RRNC features in the same housing stock. The project will evaluate:
- the radon concentrations in an estimated 1,000 Minnesota homes with ‘as-built’ passive RRNC features.
- the change in radon concentrations when 100 of these passive RRNC homes are converted to active RRNC by installing a radon fan in the existing passive radon pipe.
- the radon concentrations in 100 ‘as-built’ active RRNC homes with features consistent with the MDH Gold Standard.
An Interagency Effort
Addressing Harmful Algal Blooms in Minnesota Lakes
Algal blooms in Minnesota lakes were the focus of an Interagency Risk Assessment Meeting organized by the Site Assessment and Consultation (SAC) Unit in the Environmental Health (EH) Division of MDH. The speakers were Emily Hansen, Pat McCann and Ginny Yingling from SAC; Julie Dady and Chris Greene from MDH's Health Risk Assessment (HRA) Unit in EH; Jeff Brenner from MDH's Public Health Laboratory; and Steve Hieskary from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.Topics included:
- environmental management strategies for algal blooms in Minnesota and other states;
- MDH drinking water guidance for Microcystin-LR;
- laboratory best practices to identify harmful algae;
- MPCA monitoring data and Minnesota case studies;
- fish consumption information; and
- occurrence data in drinking water supply source water.
- Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA)
- Minnesota Department of Health (MDH)
- Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT)
- Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA)
Over forty people attended the meeting. All involved agreed that continued collaboration is needed to increase our understanding of the health impacts of algal blooms on people, animals, and environments in Minnesota; and to develop a coordinated effort to manage harmful algal blooms.
Education of Minnesota Child Care Providers
The Indoor Air Unit began a two-year healthy homes education project targeting in-home family child care providers. The goal of the project is to promote an integrated approach to reducing exposure to indoor air contaminants and other safety hazards in homes that also function as child care settings.The project objectives are for in-home family child care providers to:
- learn about hazards through web-based training materials;
- assess their homes for hazards, including radon testing; and
- implement recommendations to control hazards, including assistance with radon mitigation.
Josh Miller is the project manager. More information about maintaining a healthy home or the family child care project can be found on the following Web pages:
Go to > top