Category Archives: Environment

Lancaster County Goes Tobacco Free

DHEC’s Division of Tobacco Control and Prevention and the Midlands Community Systems team recently celebrated with community partners for Lancaster County going tobacco free. Congratulations and a big thank you to our community partners in Lancaster County, especially the Lancaster County Health and Wellness commission, for all they have done to protect residents from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.  

In 2013, Lancaster became the first county in the state to ban indoor smoking at its public facilities and municipal government. Many other public agencies also adopted tobacco-free policies at that time. In 2019, three remaining public entities needed to adopt tobacco-free policies for the county to be considered fully tobacco-free – the first such county in South Carolina. 

The Division of Tobacco Control and Prevention and the Midlands Community Systems team were able to offer support and resources to help Lancaster County achieve this incredible milestone. By July 2020, the three remaining entities passed tobacco free polices.  

To celebrate and show our appreciation for all the hard work achieved by our partners, we provided tobacco free signs to all seven entities. A billboard on I-77 also recognized this accomplishment.  

DHEC Raises Awareness During Pride Month

June is Pride Month, and June 27 is Pride Day. These are opportunities to celebrate achievements by members of the LGBTQIA+ community and acknowledge challenges these individuals may face when it comes to public health and environmental justice.  

“Pride month, and Pride celebrations in general, are a vital part of the LGBTQIA+ community,” said Billy Wiggins, Director of Clinical Services for the DHEC Public Health Bureau of Community Health Services, and a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. “Celebrations, such as Pride, provide important moments of visibility and understanding. In honor of Pride Month, people are encouraged to take some time to learn more about the challenges, accomplishments, and diversity of the LGBTQIA+ community.”

LGBTQIA+ community stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual.   

Pride celebrations started as protests dating back to the Stonewall riots in June 1969 New York City (NYC). In 2016 the Stonewall site in NYC was declared a national monument.

To recognize the meaningful impact that our LGBTQIA+ community has had in the fields of environmental protection and public health, we’ve spotlighted several notable public figures who have and/or are making a difference in our communities.

“For almost 15 years DHEC’s STD/HIV and viral hepatitis division has partnered with SC Pride to offer outreach and testing services during the annual Pride festival,” said Tony Price, Prevention Program Manager of that Division. “DHEC has provided free testing for HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis C. At some of the events, DHEC has also provided vaccines for hepatitis A/B and influenza. The division has enjoyed a strong partnership with SC Pride, its leadership, and participants in the past. We look forward to continuing our efforts to support the LGBTQIA+ community with our health promotion and outreach programs.” 

Public Health 

Two notable public health figures who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community are Michael J. Kaplan and Dr. Rachel Levine.

Kaplan is currently the President and CEO of Melanoma Research Alliance, and before that he was President and CEO of Washington, DC-based AIDS United. During his 25 years of executive non-profit and public health leadership experience, Kaplan has proven to be a supporter of health research and policy, mainly in the area of serving people living with HIV/AIDS in the LGBTQIA+ community. 

Levine became the first openly transgender federal official in a Senate-confirmed role earlier this year when she was named Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Services. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. She has served as: Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health; Pennsylvania’s Physician General; Vice-Chair for Clinical Affairs for the Department of Pediatrics; and Chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine and Eating Disorders at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center. In addition to her recent posts in medicine and government, Dr. Levine is an accomplished speaker and author of numerous publications on the opioid crisis, adolescent medicine, eating disorders, and LGBT medicine. 

As for public health challenges, lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are five times as likely as their heterosexual counterparts to attempt suicide, and 40 percent of transgender adults report having attempted suicide. According to a 2017 study from the University of Chicago, “Missed Opportunities: Youth Homelessness in America.” LGBT youth are 120% more likely to experience homelessness compared to their heterosexual counterparts, according to the CDC. More information on LGBTQIA+ health is available on the CDC’s website.

Environmental Affairs

DHEC uses the definition created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to define Environmental Justice (EJ) “as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” Our agency’s five EJ principles are: 

  1. Ensure that Environmental Justice Communities are Routinely Considered Throughout Decision-Making Processes. 
  2. Proactively Build and Strengthen Relationships with Communities by Sharing Information, Providing Technical Assistance, and Identifying Resources. 
  3. Proactively Promote Partnerships Between Communities and Other Stakeholders. 
  4. Encourage and Facilitate Capacity Building and Collaborative Problem Solving Within Environmental Justice Communities. 
  5. Strengthen Our Agency’s Leadership with the Goal of Sustaining Environmental Justice within SC DHEC. 

You can learn more about EJ by clicking here.  A few members of LGBTQIA+ community that are notable for their contributions to the environment are: 

Rachel Carson was an American marine biologist, author, and conservationist whose influential book “Silent Spring” and other writings are credited with advancing the global environmental movement. “Silent Spring” was met with fierce opposition by chemical companies, but it spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy, which led to a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides. It also inspired a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Carson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Jimmy Carter. 

Mahri Monson, an Environmental Protection Specialist for the EPA, describes her work as “enforcing U.S. environmental laws, addressing serious pollution problems to protect communities and the environment.” A proponent of green infrastructure, Monson’s work strategizes storm management and mitigates sewer overflows, providing environmental and social benefits for communities throughout the country. Monson also worked alongside co-workers to create a policy concerning transgender and gender nonconforming EPA employees, including a guide to transitioning at the EPA and prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity. 

 

Understanding Ground-level Ozone Forecasts

South Carolina has had two forecasted Code Orange Ozone Action Days since Ground-level Ozone forecasting season began on April 1st of this year. A Code Orange Ozone Action Day means that atmospheric conditions will likely produce concentrations of ground level ozone air pollution that may be unhealthy for sensitive groups, which includes people with lung disease, older adults, and children.   

Ozone typically forms with highest concentrations on warm, hot, sunny days with light wind speeds, which allows more of the pollutant to form and accumulate. Forecasting ground-level ozone concentrations is an educated prediction based on certain weather conditions and emissions. DHEC has a team of experienced meteorologists on staff that review weather and air quality information daily to produce a next-day ozone forecast, which is posted on DHEC’s own ozone website and U.S. EPA’s AIRNow website. 

Knowing the Ground-level Ozone Forecast ahead of time allows you to make plans and adjust your schedule and activities for the next day. Sensitive groups should reduce prolonged or heavy outdoor exertion, take more breaks, and do less intense activities, especially during afternoon and early evening hours when ozone concentrations are typically highest. 

Knowing the Ground-level Ozone Forecastahead of time also allows you to make informed decisions that can help reduce air pollution and decrease ground-level ozone by:    

  1. Refueling your car after 6:00 PM and don’t top off your tank  
  2. Using electric powered lawn equipment  
  3. Avoiding driving during peak traffic hours  
  4. Combining trips when you drive  
  5. Telecommuting (work from home) if possible
  6. Taking your lunch to work  

Sign up to receive forecasts via emails, texts or tweets (customized to fit your style) using EPA’s free EnviroFlash service at www.enviroflash.info.  
For additional information about ozone and air quality, click here.   

All About Bats: What you need to know about bats in SC

A big brown bat roosting on a vine near a cave.

Did you know SC is home to 14 different types of bats? Have you ever wondered what to do if you encounter one? DHEC is here to help. Check out the DHEC Bat Webpage for detailed information.

Bats are great for our ecosystems. They eat pesky bugs like disease carrying mosquitoes, which here in SC is very much appreciated.  Sometimes bats, people, and pets collide. When that happens, you can rest assured your DHEC EA team will be there.

Some species of bats enjoy making their homes in crevices, gaps, and holes of existing structures—like in your attic! The CDC has some helpful tips on how to bat proof your home.

Summer has arrived and the spirit of adventure is calling! If you happen to encounter a bat while camping, hiking, or cleaning out the garage, attic, etc., give them space. If you have direct contact with a bat or wake to one in a room or tent, reach out to your local DHEC Environmental Affairs rabies program for guidance.

Bats are most active at dusk and at night. If you find a bat on the ground during the day, do not touch it with your bare hands! Use gloves, a shovel, or a plastic container to properly dispose of the animal. If alive, contact a wildlife control operator for assistance.

If you find a bat in your home and you think it may have been in the room with a sleeping person, a small child, or someone with a mental impairment, do not let the bat go! It needs to be tested for rabies and should not be touched. Reach out to your local DHEC Environmental Affairs rabies program for guidance and check out the DHEC Bat Webpage.

RECAP: DHEC Lab Staff highlighted during Medical Laboratory Professionals Week

Last week, April 18-24 was Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, and Friday, April 23, was World Lab Day. 

Though the Public Health Laboratory (PHL) is the most well-known, DHEC also observed the week by highlighting a couple other of our program areas with lab professionals, Healthcare Quality and Environmental Affairs.

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