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Monthly Archives: April 2009

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Contaminated Water Source Allegations Anger Illinois Village Residents

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Some of the residents of Crestwood, Illinois, are outraged. If the findings of an investigation published in the Chicago Tribune earlier this month are to be believed, then it would mean that village officials have been knowingly drawing drinking water from a contaminated well for more than two decades.

contaminated waterA community meeting was called to discuss these alleged findings last Saturday. Mayor Robert Stranczek was there, as were more than 200 village residents. The Mayor insisted during the meeting that the town’s drinking water was safe. “The water is safe today, will be safe tomorrow, and will be safe into the future,” Stranckzek insisted. Whether everyone believed him is a hanging question; those who attended Saturday’s meetings had mixed reactions.

The controversy began with a story run by the Chicago Tribune on April 19. It exposed the fact that apparently Crestwood officials knew all along that there was a contamination in the well. State environmental officials had warned them as far back as 1986 that dangerous chemicals related to a dry-cleaning solvent have contaminated the water. Back then, officials told state regulators that they will only use the well as back-up and buy treated water from Lake Michigan – but village records show that they did not exactly do that. There were times that the village relied on the well for up to 20% of its drinking water.

This may be another case of nothing is too good to be true. Crestwood was once touted as the “best-run town in America”, and they offered the cheapest water rates in Cook County. But critics are indicating that the only reason the water came cheap is that they regularly used contaminated water so that they do not have to purchase everything.

It was not until December 2007 that the well was shut off completely after the EPA tested the water. It was the first time they did so in twenty years. The reason why there was such a long interval is that the village had already stated that they will not be using the well for reasons other than backup, which meant that there was no need for the water to be tested regularly.

The story caught me off-guard. If we cannot trust officials, then who can we trust? Maybe, to be sure, we will need to proactively test our water, if we cannot trust our leaders to be up front with us about these things.

Chicago Drug Screening

 

Early Disease Detection

Farewell to Golden Girl Bea Arthur

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Growing up, one of the comedies I loved to watch – on the rare occasions that I was allowed to turn on the TV – was “The Golden Girls”. Why a pre-teen loved to watch a group of old ladies in Miami live their lives still escapes me, but there was something so endearing about those four dames that simply had me glued to the show.

Bea ArthurArthur’s death was announced by her personal assistant of six years, Dan Watt. Watt said that Arthur died a peaceful death – she had been suffering from cancer.

I distinctly remember Beatrice Arthur as Dorothy having witty and sarcastic exchanges not only with her roommates but with her own mother, played by the late Estelle Getty.

Arthur’s first successes were on Broadway, and she has a Tony Award to prove it. Even if she started her TV career rather late in life by today’s standards – having started in the early 70s when she was 50 with the All In The Family spin-off Maude – she won over the hearts of many and became a beloved TV icon.

She is survived by her sons and granddaughters.

Miami Health Screening

Early Disease Detection

Emergency Funds for Women with Breast Cancer

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Women seeking treatment for breast cancer at the St. Louis University Cancer Center in Missouri who are in need of emergency funding need not worry; they recently received a grant worth $221,000 from the St. Louis affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure – said to be the world’s largest breast cancer organization that, among other initiatives, funds programs that help women overcome financial obstacles to breast cancer screening and treatment.

breast screeningSocial workers know the drill all too well. Some women suffering from breast cancer and in need of treatment sometimes have to make tough choices regarding undergoing chemotherapy or fulfilling her family’s financial obligations, such as rent or utility bills. With the grant, health care and social workers can request financial assistance for women who need it, so women can proceed with their therapy without worrying about where to get the money to put food on the table, for example.

While it may not exactly be an alternative source of regular income, it at least helps make life a little easier for breast cancer patients so that they can faithfully stay in treatment. Ultimately, the hope is to save more lives through consistent and proper administration of treatment.

Aside from the emergency cash funding, another Komen St. Louis grant will ensure that women who do not have sufficient health insurance – or those who are not covered at all – will be able to avail of breast cancer screening services when they need it. The program is expected to serve women between the ages of 40 and 64 who are already seeing a doctor affiliated with the St. Louis University for other health concerns.

The aim of the program is to have a nurse navigator who will direct women who otherwise cannot afford to avail of mammograms and pap tests to programs such as Show Me Healthy Women, which can provide these services to underprivileged women for free.

Substance Abuse

City Manager Mike Martin Arrested on Suspicion of Drunk Driving

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The city manager of Burien City in King County, Washington, was arrested due to a suspected DUI offense after the car he was driving went off the road and hit a ceramic pot on someone’s yard last Sunday.

According to the online report of a Seattle newspaper, 55-year-old Mike Martin was found by the Sheriff’s deputies who responded to the call outside his car just before 11 pm Sunday on 14th Avenue South. He was reportedly “leaning forward and swaying from side to side”.

Mike Martin reportedly said he had a couple of beers. In the incident report, a deputy noted that Martin’s breath smelled strongly of alcohol and that his speech was slurred. Martin reportedly said that he had “a couple of glasses of wine and two beers”. He also reportedly said that he had been turning around on the street as he was driving home. He allegedly refused to submit to field sobriety tests or a preliminary breath test.

The refusal to take a breath test may cost Martin his driver’s license for a period of at least a year, as stipulated in the state law. The Sheriff’s Office has reportedly recommended that Martin be charged with a DUI.

Apparently, this is not the first time that Martin has had to deal with the consequences of drinking and driving. He gave up his post as chief administrative officer for Kent City, Washington in October 2005 after he was involved in a hit-and-run car accident that left a woman injured.

In that case, Martin reportedly rear-ended a vehicle that was being pushed by three people. The woman steering the car was injured; Martin drove away before the police arrived. As a result of that accident, Martin was asked to undergo alcohol-abuse assessment and alcohol and drug information school. He also attended a victim-impact alcohol and drug panel and paid a fine of $1,025.

Seattle Drug Screening

DNA & Paternity

Blood Typing As A Basic Necessity

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One of the basic information that people need to know about themselves is what their blood type is. While it may seem like something that’s totally benign and not really of much use in our day-to-day dealings with people, there are situations where the knowledge can actually become a factor between life and death.

Knowledge of one’s blood type is especially useful in times of emergencies, when there is a sudden need for blood transfusion. Each individual can have any of four blood types – A, AB, B or O – which are inherited from and are dependent upon one’s parents. In cases where a blood transfusion may be necessary, such as in tragic car accidents or due to a medical condition such as dengue fever, there is a need to ensure that the blood type of the donor should be compatible to that of the recipient. Otherwise, an allergic-type reaction may occur. Sometimes, reactions due to incompatible blood types can prove to be fatal.

Several completed and ongoing research have also shown that knowing one’s blood type can also lead towards the identification of the proper diet and lifestyle that will ensure that one will lead a relatively long and healthy life.

blood donationAnother important reason for knowing one’s blood type is to be able to donate blood when necessary. There is a saying that goes – it is better to give than to receive. In some cases, the fact that your blood type matches that of someone who is badly in need of transfusion or a bone marrow transplant can actually save someone else’s life.

If you and your family are among those who do not have your blood types readily available, it may be beneficial to ensure that everyone has their blood types tested right away. There are actually home instant blood type test kits available, and some even come with cards where you can put in important personal information and laminate. You and your loved ones can bring these cards with you at all times to ensure that you are provided with the appropriate medical care should you need it.

Health & Wellness

Make Sure Your Decaf Is Really Decaf

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I am not ashamed to admit it – I am a “Friends” fanatic. Five years after the series ended, I still find myself rushing to the TV if I know that there’s a rerun scheduled. And yes, I still laugh my heart out, as if it was the first time I’m hearing a joke that I practically have memorized.

Would you like some coffee?One of the things Friends is associated with is coffee at Central Perk; and in one of the episodes when they were on their third season, Rachel was asked to take the waitress training again because she didn’t, among other things, know “which pot is regular and which is decaf”.

This leads us to wonder — is this jab simply meant to be a funny exaggeration of Rachel’s highly inadequate waitress skills, or can we really order a tall decaf and end up with regular? Surprisingly, the answer is yes, you can. Testcountry.com estimates that about 30% of coffee ordered or sold as decaf actually has traces of caffeine in them. The mix-up can be caused by human error – such as a barista who, for one reason or another, pours the wrong cup of coffee for you.

How bad can drinking the wrong cup of coffee be? The effects differ from person to person – I, for one, will not mind taking one or the other. There are, however, people who are highly sensitive to the effects of caffeine, which include insomnia, agitation and increased heart rate. Pregnant women, people with sleeping disorders and diabetics are advised to be careful about caffeine intake.

It is good that these people can actually arm themselves with a handy tool when they take a trip to the café – an instant caffeine tester. Instant caffeine testers consist of handy strips that you dip into a teaspoon of coffee for about 5 seconds. Half a minute later, it will tell you whether you were given the decaf you ordered. Otherwise, it looks like the barista needs a little bit more training.

Health & Wellness

YMCA Centers Celebrate ‘National Healthy Kids Day’

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Last Saturday, YMCA centers in different cities across the country celebrated National Healthy Kids Day through various activities and events. This year’s theme was ‘Put Play in Your Day”.

In Santa Maria, California, YMCA organized a day filled with games and activities that promoted a fun and health lifestyle not only for the kids but for the entire family. There were carnival games, a climbing wall and an inflatable obstacle course. Families who came to the YMCA were also able to take advantage of free health screenings and referrals.

kids playingVolunteers were on hand to ensure the event’s success, among them chiropractor Dr. Matthew Egbert and KSBY-6’s Tony Cipolla, Danielle Lerner, Shari Small and Dave Hovde. All the activities were there for families to enjoy free of charge.

In Willoughby, Ohio, the West End YMCA center focused on providing children with healthy choices.  Kids were able to enjoy fun games such as kickball, relay races and Duck, Duck, Goose.

The Eastlake Fire Department brought over a fire truck and taught about fire safety. One of the popular stations during the event was one manned by exercise physiologist Vaia Gilchrist of the Lake Hospital System – her mini-trampoline and stepper were big hits with the kids, especially among those between the ages of 4 through 12. Gilchrist recommends that children should have at least one hour of physical activity a day.

A nutritionist was also on hand to provide both parents and kids alike with fun facts on nutrition. The event was a first for the West End Y, as this was the first year they did the National Healthy Kids Day event in-house. Past celebrations were done as week-long activities at Willoughby-Eastlake public and parochial schools.

Across the country, similar activities were held wherever there was a “Y” in the area. Ideally, though, everyday should be National Healthy Kids Day in the home!

Substance Abuse Workplace Testing

Driving Instructor Slapped with DUI While Someone Else Is Driving!

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This is one for the books. A driving instructor from Salem was charged with a DUI after it was determined that he was drunk while giving driving lessons to two teenagers in Ipswich in 2007.

Daniel Winsky, 53, is probably the first person who is convicted for drunk driving while seated in the passenger seat. He was sentenced to 18 months of probation and will lose his driver’s license for a period of one year. Winsky was also asked by Newburyport District Court Judge Peter Doyle to attend a driver-safety class entitled “State Courts against Road Rage”, a brain injury awareness program. He will also need to submit himself to random drug and alcohol testing to be administered by a probation officer and he faces $2,000 in fines and fees.

He has a steering wheel, so he is technically driving, too.A concerned convenience store customer called the attention of police after noticing that Winsky, who reeked of alcohol and was slurring his words while speaking inside the convenience store, got into a driving school vehicle. The police pulled the driving school car over, which was being driven by one of the teenagers. When police subjected Winsky to a sobriety test, it was determined that his judgment was impaired; a portable Breathanalyzer test showed his blood alcohol level to be at .23, although this result was not presented as evidence to the jurors since their use is not deemed permissible in Massachusetts courts.

The police did not arrest him outright, though, due to the unique situation that he was in. He was technically seated at the passenger side of the vehicle. However, after further study, it was concluded that the fact that he had a brake and a steering wheel on his side of the car – ideally to correct any misjudgment by the student – made him the person who was in control of the car. In my opinion, simply being the only person in the vehicle who is legally permitted to drive makes you the person in control. This fact was then used as the reason for bringing charges against Winsky.

Early Disease Detection

Study on Tobacco By-Products Can Lead to Early Lung Cancer Detection

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The level of two chemicals that are byproducts of tobacco smoke in urine samples from smokers may indicate an increased risk for lung cancer, according to a study lead by Jian-Min Yuan, an associate professor for public health at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. His findings were presented yesterday during a meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research in Denver.

cigeretteYuan conducted an analysis of varying levels of metabolites in urine samples collected from about 500 smokers. The data was drawn from the Shanghai Cohort Study and the Singapore Chinese Health Study which were funded by the U.S. National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. The smokers were divided into those with high, medium and low occurrence of the chemicals NNAL and cotinine in their urine, and researchers followed diagnoses for lung cancer over a period of ten years.

The study revealed that smokers with high levels of NNAL had twice the risk of developing lung cancer when compared with smokers who had low occurrence of the chemical. Those with high levels of cotinine, on the other hand, had thrice the risk of developing lung cancer as opposed to those who had low levels. If both chemicals occur at high levels, the smoker is 8.5 times more likely to develop cancer when compared with those whose NNAL and cotinine levels are low.

There are indications that the two chemicals are independent risk factors for lung cancer, even after adjusting daily cigarette consumption and the length of time of smoking reported by participants.

The urine analysis is not yet available commercially, though, as it might take anywhere between three to five years to validate the test and refine the technology. Once it can be used clinically, it will be a good way to predict the risk for lung cancer in time to either prevent or treat the disease while it is still in its early stage.

Substance Abuse

Thirteen Chicago Police Officers Caught Drunk Driving in 2008

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Last Friday, April 10, a car crash along the Dan Ryan Expressway left two men in their 20s dead. Tragic as it is, accidents such as these usually follow the same formula: one of the vehicles involved might have been driven by a drunk driver.

Such was the case in this Good Friday wreck, although there was another rather controversial factor. The drunk driver in question was a veteran Chicago Police Detective whose blood alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit. He was charged with reckless homicide and aggravated DUI.

car accidentThe crash resulted in several questions raised regarding the sobriety of Chicago police officers and their adherence to a practice that they, above all else, are supposed to uphold — never drink and drive. The Department responded with the statistic that a total of thirteen police officers were charged with DUI in 2008. Five of these DUIs resulted in vehicular accidents, with two resulting in injuries. Four of the officers were arrested by Chicago police, 3 were apprehended in the suburbs, while six were caught outside of Illinois.

When we compare this number with the 13,000-strong police force, it is a minute portion of the whole. However, being law enforcers, the expectation to adhere to a law as potentially fatal as drinking and driving is much higher. People tend to be more critical of police officers breaking the law, and the Chicago Police Department hopes to totally eliminate the occurrence of police officers being arrested for DUI through education, training, treatment, accountability and discipline.

The 13 police officers charged in 2008 are still connected with the Police Department, although all faced consequences for their actions, albeit in varying degrees. Eight of the cases resulted in suspensions without pay from 20 to 45 days. Five cases still remain open, and the officers involved in them are either working desk jobs or are on leave.

Chicago Drug Screening