Tag Archives: air quality

DHEC in the News: Air quality alert tips, opioids, invisible public health crisis in rural South

Here’s a look at health and environmental news from around South Carolina.

Safety tips when under an air quality alert

COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) — Fighting off the heat is typical at this time of year but the battle can be extra hard for some people.

Wednesday, DHEC issued an air quality alert between 10 a-m and 8 p-m. Those most at risk for getting sick were small children, older adults and people with respiratory problems. And because it’s likely there will be more alerts this summer health officials have these tips:

Opioid crisis: Tega Cay police offer new way residents can safely dispose of meds

TEGA CAY – Local residents who have unused or expired prescription drugs can now safely dispose of them at home.

Misuse of opioid-based drugs continues to impact communities across the country.

So far this year, there have been 13 overdose deaths in York County, eight of which were related to opioids, said York County Coroner Sabrina Gast. Other deaths that are presumed to be overdoses are awaiting toxicology results. There were 550 drug overdose deaths involving opiates in South Carolina in 2016, a 7 percent increase from 2015 and an 18 percent increase from 2014, according to S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control

General Interest

The rural South’s invisible public health crisis

When Pamela Rush flushes her toilet, the waste flows out the back of her sky blue mobile home through a yellowing plastic pipe and empties just a few yards away in a soggy pit of mud, weeds, and dead grass.

On a hot day in mid-May, Rush walked around her yard in rural Lowndes County, Alabama. Flies and mosquitoes swarmed her as she tiptoed near the pit. The smell of sewage was overwhelming.

Rush, 48, a soft-spoken woman with striking brown eyes, has straight-piped her family’s waste into her yard for almost two decades. Her home is on the edge of clay dirt road in the dense Alabama forest, miles from a municipal sewer system. …

In the rural South, these conditions aren’t uncommon.

From Other Blogs: Opioid overdoses, air quality, preventing infection & more

A collection of health and environmental posts from other governmental blogs.

Raising Awareness to Prevent Prescription Opioid Overdoses

In 2016, 115 Americans died every day from an opioid overdose – that is more than 42,000 drug overdose deaths that involved an opioid including prescription opioids, heroin, and/or illicitly manufactured fentanyl. Prescription opioids (like hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine) are prescribed by doctors to treat moderate to severe pain, but have serious risks and side effects.

Anyone who takes prescription opioids can become addicted to them. Families across the county are dealing with the health, emotional, and economic effects of the opioid epidemic. The opioid overdose epidemic is a public health emergency and Americans of all races and ages are being killed by opioid overdoses. — From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Public Health Matters blog

Why the USDA Forest Service Monitors Air Quality during Wildland Fires

Air Quality Awareness Week raises mindfulness about the importance of air quality issues. The USDA Forest Service commemorates the week and its 2018 theme “Air Quality Where You Are” with partners. This year, the Forest Service is featuring one area where air resource management is essential – wildland firefighting.

Recognizing the growing threat that wildfire smoke poses to the health and safety of the public and fire personnel, the Forest Service partnered with other federal, state and tribal agencies to implement a proactive and determined response. This included development of new modeling techniques to more accurately characterize emissions from wildfires. It also included creation of a new position in the fire organization – the Air Resource Advisor (ARA). — From the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) blog

A Back to Basics Approach to Prevent Infection

It was hard to see it happen. We were watching a friend’s basketball game when the young boy fell down and began to bleed from a cut on his arm. The referee sent him out of the game and over to his coach who took out a bandage and slapped it on the wound without cleaning the cut. Calling a time-out, the coach put the boy back in the game.

My daughter and I looked at each other in disbelief.  My son, her brother, Rory, had fallen playing basketball in 2012. The gym teacher had applied a bandage without cleaning the wound. Despite us bringing him to his pediatrician and hospital when he began to feel ill, Rory died from septic shock four days later. The source of the infection that ravaged his body is believed to be from the scrape on his arm. — From the CDC’s Safe Healthcare blog

A Less Allergenic Peanut Extract for Use in Allergy Treatment

As baseball season gets into full swing, many fans enjoy traditional ballpark favorites like peanuts. But not everyone can safely savor this popular treat. Peanuts induce an allergic reaction in millions of Americans.

Peanut allergy is a major public health concern, especially for children. “This is the most common cause of anaphylaxis in children and has become more prevalent in recent years,” says recently retired Agricultural Research Service (ARS) food technologist Si-Yin Chung. Anaphylaxis is a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that has a quick onset. — From the USDA blog

It’s Air Quality Awareness Week. Be Air Aware.

This is Air Quality Awareness Week, a great time to learn how air quality affects your health. Topics for this week, which runs May 1-5, include:

  • wildfires
  • asthma and air quality
  • air quality trends
  • air quality around the world
  • citizen science

Wildfires

Wildfires cause major air quality issues as they emit harmful gases and particles.  Wildfire smoke can travel thousands of miles. The South Atlantic region, including the Carolinas, experiences the most wildfires, about three times the national average. South Carolina Forestry Commission firefighters respond to about 3,000 wildfires annually. In October 2016, a series of wildfires began in the Southern Appalachians, and continued into early December.

To protect your health during a wildfire stay indoors with windows closed, put air conditioners on “recirculate” mode, and pay attention to air quality reports via local media.

Did you know? Controlled fires, managed by skilled professionals, can greatly reduce the chance of a damaging wildfire.   

Asthma and Air Quality

Asthma is a long-term condition affecting the lungs/respiratory system and making it difficult to breathe. In 2013, 400,000 South Carolinians — including 100,000 children — suffered from asthma. Air pollutants, such as particulate matter and ozone, can exacerbate asthma symptoms.  Visit DHEC’s ozone forecast page or sign up to receive air quality alerts from Enviroflash.

Check out DHEC’s Environmental Public Health Tracking tool to find more information on how asthma and air quality affect South Carolinians. The EPA also has information available on Asthma and Outdoor Air Pollution.

Air Quality Trends

Historically, as sources of air pollution have increased — coal burning, factories, automobiles, power plants — air quality has declined. However, in the United States, beginning in the late 1960s and early 1970s, air quality has improved while the GDP, population, vehicle miles traveled and energy usage has increased. How is this possible? The Clean Air Act. Learn more about air quality trends across the US in this interactive trend report on Our Nation’s Air.

 Air Quality Around the World

 While air quality in the US has improved since the passage of the Clean Air Act, many cities and areas across the globe continue to struggle with air quality problems. Issues include wind-blown smoke and dust, vehicle emissions and industrial pollution. See the presentation Air Quality Around the World for examples of global air quality challenges and some novel strategies for addressing air pollution.

 Citizen Science 

 Citizen science refers to research collaborations between professional scientists and citizen volunteers.  Citizen science projects can engage citizens in data collection and analysis in their communities. EPA’s “Village Green” project, for example, uses wind- and solar-powered park benches to collect minute-to-minute air measurements for ozone, particle pollution and weather conditions.

Lichens and mosses can be an indicator of air quality health. US federal agencies have been monitoring lichen health on federal lands since the early 2000s, and recently more citizens have been becoming involved in monitoring efforts. Programs like Michigan Tech’s “Mobile Environmental Citizen Science” and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s “Citizen Science Central,” also show how citizen science can contribute.

Make checking the ozone forecast part of your data collection, and feel free to download and use our desktop Air Quality Forecast signs.

DHEC Now Accepting Nominations for “Spare the Air” Awards

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Bureau of Air Quality is accepting nominations for its 2017 “Spare the Air” Awards.  Any project that can demonstrate reductions in air pollution in any part of the State during 2016 is eligible.

The “Spare the Air” Awards are presented to environmental stewards that have made a voluntary commitment to promote and practice initiatives that improve air quality in South Carolina.

“Through partnerships and collaborative efforts of individuals, organizations and local governments, excellent work is being done voluntarily to reduce air pollution and conserve energy in South Carolina,” said Rhonda Thompson, chief of DHEC’s Bureau of Air Quality. “Air quality has gained a great deal of attention in recent years and people are recognizing the importance of protecting and improving our air quality.”

Thompson said the awards show appreciation to those who go the extra mile to help protect our environment.

The goals of the awards program are to

  • Promote a healthier environment through air quality initiatives that are sustainable and replicable;
  • Educate, build awareness and motivate others to make better decisions about the environment through air quality improvements;
  • Encourage positive behavioral changes that improve air quality;
  • Strengthen and build partnerships with businesses, organizations and the citizens of South Carolina to improve air quality.

Award categories include:

  • Outstanding Business/Industry
  • Outstanding Employee(s)
  • Outstanding Local Government
  • Outstanding School or District
  • Outstanding College or University
  • Outstanding Community Campaign

Guidelines:

Nominations must be received by February 1, 2017 for 2016 projects. For more information, the award nomination application, and past winners, go to: www.scdhec.gov/sparetheairawards.

Spare the Air Awards

By Bryony Wardell

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is pleased to announce the latest winners of the Spare the Air Awards.  The annual awards honor individuals, businesses, schools, communities and organizations who have made a voluntary contribution to the improvement of air quality in South Carolina.

“Clean, healthy air is an important natural resource that benefits everyone,” said Myra Reece, DHEC’s director of environmental affairs. “This award program celebrates the collaborative efforts of our partners and neighbors who are helping to drive continuous improvement of air quality across the state.”

Congratulations to the Spare The Air Award recipients!

Forest Lake Presbyterian Church
Outstanding Community Improvement Campaign Award
Forest Lake Presbyterian Church was awarded for their efforts to reduce vehicle emissions. The church established an organic garden and collaborated with Harvest Food Bank to distribute locally grown produce to communities, minimizing the need for large trucks  on the highway.

Forest Lake Presbyterian Church

Dr. Reverend Ellen Skidmore accepting the award for Forest Lake Presbyterian Church.

Rock Hill School District Three of York County
Outstanding School District Award
The district’s Energy Management Program saves an estimated $2 million a year. It features outreach activities including a door decal and light switch design contest, an energy shutdown contest and a web-based energy tracking tool.

Rock Hill District 3 Spare the Air.jpg

L-R: Eddie Robinson, facilities trades manager; Kim Melander, district energy manager; Robbie Brown, division director, DHEC; and Brian Vaughan, facilities director.

The University of South Carolina
Outstanding University Award
 The University of South Carolina was awarded for developing strategies to reduce vehicle and facility emissions; improve bicycle, pedestrian and mass transit options; and provide sustainable education opportunities for its campus community.

USC 2015 Spare the Air
L-R Michael Koman, director of USC’s Office of Sustainability; Rhonda Thompson, interim chief, DHEC Bureau of Air; Dr. Harris Pastides, president of USC; Tom Syfert, director of USC’s Environmental Health Safety. 

The City of Seneca/Clemson Area Transit
Outstanding Local Government
The City of Seneca received a Spare the Air Award for becoming the first municipality in the country to run an all-electric mass transit system. The electric fleet was manufactured by Greenville-based Proterra Inc. and is part of the Clemson Area Transit system. These actions reduced harmful emissions and saved money on fuel cost.

Seneca CATBus STA Award 201509

City of Clemson Mayor J.C. Cook, DHEC Environmental Affairs Director Myra Reece and Seneca Mayor Don Alexander at the Spare The Air Award ceremony for Outstanding Local Government.

Enter the Spare The Air Awards!
Have you worked on a voluntary initiative or idea in 2015 that helped improve air quality in South Carolina? Apply for the 2016 Spare the Air Awards for a chance to be recognized by the state for your work! Entries must be received by February 1, 2016. Click here to apply!