Environmental Health Division
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New Assistant Division Director for EH
Dale Dorschner has been selected as the new Environmental Health Assistant Division Director. Dale’s experience and skills in the areas of program performance management, project development and implementation, partner relations and legislative activities will serve the division and agency well as we position the division for the future. He has had various technical and leadership roles in the Indoor Environments and Radiation section of Environmental Health since starting at MDH in 1998. Prior to coming to the state he was involved in private environmental consulting for a number of years.
Thanks to all during this time of transition in leadership for the EH division.
Future Methods for Toxicity Testing and Data Analysis
In January, Health Risk Assessment (HRA) toxicologist Ashley Suchomel attended a conference sponsored by the Society of Toxicology on future methods for toxicity testing and data analysis. Current research in toxicology that is now yielding data, such as using laboratory test-tube studies (high-throughput screening) and sequences in how the body reacts to a chemical (adverse outcome pathways) were presented. Ashley learned of challenges and emerging methods for analyzing the novel and very large amount of data that is intended for use in toxicity evaluations. Such work has the potential to greatly expand HRA options for risk assessment.
Congratulations are in order for Dave Reimann!
Dave Reimann recently attended the National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) Honor Awards Ceremony, where he accepted the Excellence in Partnering Award from the Acting Director of NCEH on behalf of EHS-Net Food state and local partners. More information on the National Center for Environmental Health can be found at: About NCEH
We are very proud of the work Dave has done in Minnesota as well as on a national level. He continues to be a leader in environmental health and a valuable member of the Food, Pools, and Lodging Services (FPLS) Section!
MDH Hosts Event Centered on Radionuclides
MDH Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CEC) staff hosted a webinar/teleconference on January 28 with speakers from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGA) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The event was for discussion of the occurrence and health risks of naturally-occurring radionuclides often found in Minnesota’s groundwater resources. James Jacobus, MDH, gave an overview of an upcoming pilot project to quantify an important, but often ignored radionuclide, polonium-210. Gary Rowe, USGS, provided a summary of the 2014-2016 National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) study, and John Griggs, EPA, described analytical methods for quantifying polonium-210 and lead-210 in groundwater samples.
3rd Annual Asbestos and Lead Stakeholder Meeting
The Asbestos and Lead Compliance Program hosted its 3rd Annual Asbestos and Lead Stakeholder Meetings on January 29th and February 4th at the Shoreview Community Center. Attendees included licensed asbestos contractors, lead certified firms, environmental consultants, training course providers, state government officials, county government, local public health, University of Minnesota staff, and other private industry.
Topics covered at the meeting included general updates/announcements from the MDH asbestos and lead program, overview of enforcement philosophy, administrative updates, MDH and MPCA compliance and enforcement findings, asbestos survey summary/targeted educational project based on findings, MPCA Lead Paint disposal updates, State of Wisconsin Renovate, Repair, and Paint program update, lead surveillance program updates, and 2014 legislative discussion.
The meetings were well received and attended and feedback was positive and encouraging, including valuable comments and suggestions for future meetings.
Shubat Appointment Ends on EPA Advisory Committee
Pam Shubat, supervisor of the Health Risk Assessment Unit, traveled to Washington, DC, on December 6 to meet with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. Pam is ending her 6-year appointment to the EPA Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee. The committee is a 27-person committee that advises the EPA on incorporating early life considerations in EPA regulations, policy, science methods, research, and outreach. Pam met with the administrator in her capacity of chair of the committee in order to share her long-term perspective on how EPA can optimize use of the committee.
During the meeting, also attended by Pam’s co-chair and two agency staff, Pam briefly described the environmental health responsibilities of the Minnesota Department of Health and described the newest work of the HRA Unit on contaminants of emerging concern. The Administrator said that she wants children’s health and environmental justice to be cross-cutting values in all of EPA’s work. She commented on EPA’s public health responsibilities, reminding us that EPA’s mission is, “to protect human health and the environment,” and said that she is interested in learning of human health measures related to climate change. She reminded us that EPA’s draft of a new 2014-2018 strategic plan is now available for public comment:
Emerging Field of Biology: Epigenetics
On December 18, 2013, MDH staff Sarah Johnson delivered a webinar presentation to state and federal risk assessors on the emerging field of biology known as epigenetics. Sarah, a PhD toxicologist in the Health Risk Assessment Unit, gave her presentation to the EPA Federal-State Toxicology and Risk Assessment Committee (FSTRAC). In her talk Sarah explained what epigenetics is, how the field is developing, and what it means for chemical risk assessment. She also outlined several challenges that epigenetics poses for risk assessors.
New Minnesota Well Sealing Video
The Well Management Section contracted with Anoka County to produce a video on well sealing in Minnesota. This project was done as part of a grant from the CDC to evaluate and improve education and outreach to private well owners in the State. Nancy LaPlante managed the project for MDH and Patrick Sarafolean was the technical specialist as well as on screen talent. Take a look at the video from the MDH Well Sealing Web page:
Radon in Real Estate Trainings
The Indoor Air Unit is currently providing a 1.5-hour continuing education radon course for real estate professionals. The training is being provided to help with the implementation of radon in real estate disclosure and notification as required in the MN Radon Awareness Act. To date, four trainings have been completed, attended by 150 people. Twenty more trainings are scheduled around the state. Additional trainings will be provided as requested by real estate companies and associations.
New Division Director for EH
Tom Hogan has been selected as the new Director for the Environmental Health Division. Tom was the Assistant Division Director under Linda Bruemmer until Linda's retirement and has been with MDH for 19 years. Tom would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their support and words of encouragement in his new appointment as the Director for the Environmental Health Division at MDH. Tom looks forward to continuing and strengthening his relationships both internally & externally to the department and advancing public health in the state.
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