Environmental Health

The Environmental Health Division is responsible for enforcing various State and County public health laws regarding trash/garbage, vector control, unfit housing, lead, public pools, and tattoo/piercing facilities. This division also provides guidance to the public regarding water quality, indoor/outdoor air quality, private wells, lead safety, and conducts lead risk assessments for dwellings where children with elevated blood lead levels reside.

If you have an complaint about trash/garbage, mosquitoes, housing, living conditions, rodents, etc., please submit a written or typed complaint form either via email, regular mail, or fill out a form at the health department between the hours of 8am and 4:30pm Monday-Friday. If you wish to remain anonymous, you can leave out your name, but be sure to complete the rest of the form.  Some of the county ordinances require a written complaint before they can be investigated.

The Wells County Health Department can be contacted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
with public health emergencies at
(260) 615-3878.

Contact

Allyson Heller
Environmental Health Specialist
Phone: 260-824-6492
Fax: 260-824-8803
allyson.heller@wellscounty.org

Endangered Adults

If you suspect or have reason to believe that an individual is an endangered adult and is the victim of self neglect, abuse, financial or sexual exploitation, please contact Indiana Adult Protective Services Unit 3 at 800-992-6978 or 260-449-7989.

An endangered adult is defined as an individual who is :

  • At least 18 years old
  • Incapable by reason of:

    • Mental illness
    • Develomental/intellectual disability
    • Dementia
    • Other physical or mental incapacity of managing or directing the management of the individual’s property or providing or directing the provision of self-care
  • Harmed or threatened with harm as a result of:

    • Neglect
    • Battery
    • Exploitation of the individual’s personal services or property

Investigators will recieve and investigate reports of abuse and will assist in utilizing available legal, medical, psychiatric, residential and social services that are necessary to protect the health and seafety of an endangered adult.

If you or someone you love is being abused or neglected, please contact Adult Protective Services.  If you suspect something is wrong, your call could make a difference.

Adult Protective Services Unit 3
602 South Calhoun Street
Fort Wayne, IN 46802
800-992-6978
260-449-6978

West Nile Virus

Mosquito season continues! Be sure to stay properly protected during mosquito season by using an EPA-registered insect repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants, or staying indoors when mosquitoes are biting. Additionally, limit standing water on your property by checking for any containers or rain gutters that are holding water and could be breeding mosquitoes.

The time for prevention is now! Don’t wait until you’re notified that West Nile Virus positive mosquitoes have been found in our area to take action!

As of September 20, 2016, a total of 46 states and the District of Columbia have reported West Nile virus infections in people, birds, or mosquitoes in 2016.  Overall, 868 cases of West Nile virus disease in people have been reported to CDC.  Of these, 448 (52%) were classified as neuroinvasive disease (such as meningitis or encephalitis) and 420 (48%) were classified as non-neuroinvasive disease.

West Nile Virus positive mosquitoes have been identified in 50 Indiana counties, including Adams, Allen, Grant, Huntington, Miami, Noble, and Wabash.  Indiana is reporting seven human cases of West Nile Virus so far this year.

Traveling to Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central or South America?

Please be advised of another mosquito borne disease,
Zika Virus.

Thus far in 2016, there have been 3,314 documented cases of travel related Zika Virus in the continental U.S., in 49 states and the District of Columbia.  There have been 28 sexually transmitted cases, and 8 have resulted in Guillain-Barre Syndrome.  Also, nationally, there have been 749 pregnant women with any lab evidence of Zika Virus infection.

Local transmission in Florida continues, with 109 cases as of September 28, 2016.  Indiana is reporting 39 travel related cases of Zika.

Hoosiers traveling to Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America should be aware of this ongoing situation and make every effort to avoid mosquito bites.

Additional information can be found  on the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) Zika page, www.in.gov/isdh/26910.htm, the ISDH mosquito-borne disease page, www.in.gov/isdh/23592.htm, and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at: www.cdc.gov/zika.

Updates to county level data in map form are available here. Updates are made whenever new data arrives.  State and county level data can also be viewed at the following site, but it is only updated once per week: USGS Maps.

MOSQUITO CONTROL MEASURES

Mosquitoes are vectors that can carry and spread diseases such as West Nile Virus, St. Louis Encephalitis, and LaCrosse Virus. One of the most effective ways to control mosquito populations is to reduce the number and types of mosquito breeding habitats in your community. All mosquitoes require a water source to lay their eggs, which in the hottest part of summer can hatch into larvae within a week. To effectively reduce larval hatching, check your property and your neighborhood for the following common potential residential mosquito breeding sites:

  • Fountains, Birdbaths & Water Gardens – replace water in these areas at least twice weekly, or ensure that the water is moving/circulating enough to discourage mosquitoes from laying eggs on the water surface. clip_image002_002
  • Tires – Tires are especially notorious mosquito breeding sites. They should be properly discarded, covered or stacked in a shed or garage so that they cannot fill with water. If you have a tire swing, make a hole inthe bottom of it to allow water to drain out. If you cover them with a tarp, make sure the tarp itself is not collecting water.
  • Flower Pots, Garbage Cans, & Recycling Bins – these items can hold enough water to breed mosquitoes.Drain dishes under flowerpots every few days and after rainstorms or move them inside.  Cover outdoor trash and recycling cans with tight-fitting lids at all times.
  • Downspouts & Gutters – clean them out to prevent a buildup of leaves and organic debris that can hold puddles of water.
  • Animal Troughs – clean out animal water troughs at least twice weekly. These are ideal environments for mosquitoes to breed.
  • Tarps – these are commonly used to cover log piles, boats, and pools, and they can hold enough water to breed mosquitoes. Make sure water does not collect in tarps used outdoors.
  • Wheelbarrows, Tubs, Kiddie Pools, & Unused/Un-chlorinated Pools – these should be stored upside down or under cover when not in use. Ensure that swimming pool covers are not collecting water.

How else can you protect yourself and your family?

  • When possible, avoid places and times when mosquitoes bite; for most species – between dusk and dawn.
  • Use an insect repellant containing DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) or picaridin. Products with 25%-35% DEET usually provide adequate protection for adults.  Do not allow children to apply DEET to themselves, and do not use on infants.  
  • Wear shoes, socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt when outdoors for long periods of time, or from dusk to dawn, when mosquitoes are most active. Clothing should be light colored and made of tightly woven materials to keep mosquitoes away from the skin.
  • Make sure all windows and doors have screens, and that all screens are in good repair.
  • Use mosquito netting when sleeping outdoors or in an unscreened structure.

The Wells County Health Department treats storm drains in smaller towns within the County for mosquito larvae to help control the mosquito population.  Mosquito populations are tested by the Indiana State Department of Health for West Nile throughout the mosquito season.  Positive mosquito populations and human cases are monitored throughout the state.

For more information on mosquito-borne diseases, visit  http://www.in.gov/isdh/23592.htm.

For maps of current mosquito and human West Nile Virus cases in Indiana, visit http://gis.in.gov/apps/ISDH/Arbo.

For national data, fact sheets, and virology information, visit http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/

For additional information on a variety of pests and disease vectors, visit the Indiana Vector Control Association’s website at www.ivca.us

Animal Bites 

Report animal bites to the Health Department and Animal Control! 

According to Indiana Law, all animal bites are to be reported to the local Health Department.

If you are bitten by any animal, whether a pet, stray, or wild animal:

  • REPORT THE INCIDENT by calling 260-824-6489 or filling out an Animal Bite Report as completely as possible and faxing it to the Wells County Health Department at 260-824-8803 and the Bluffton/Wells County Animal Shelter at 260-824-6063.
  • Dogs, cats, and ferrets that bite a human must be quarantined (either in the home or at the animal shelter, at the discretion of Animal Control) for 10 days, even if it is up to date on rabies vaccines. If the animal is not ill after 10 days, you were not exposed to rabies.
  • According to State law any dog, cat, or ferret 3 months of age or older must be vaccinated against rabies with an annual or triennial rabies vaccine by a licensed veterinarian.
  • If the animal has not had its rabies shot it must recieve it as soon as possible after the quarantine period is over.
  • If the biting animal was a stray or wild animal, contact the Wells County Health Department immediately to discuss what further action should be taken.  Wild animals or stray animals may be tested for rabies if they have bitten or scratched a human or domestic animal. Do not attempt to capture the animal yourself if you cannot do so without risking your safety.  Contact animal control or a pest control service to capture the animal if the Health Department determines it is necessary to have the animal tested for rabies.  The health department does not capture any animals.

Which animals can transmit rabies?

Indiana animals considered to be at highest risk of transmitting rabies to humans include bats, skunks, foxes, raccoons, and coyotes. Dogs and cats can also transmit rabies that they have acquired from wildlife, but pets are rarely found rabid in Indiana. Reptiles and birds never get rabies. Theoretically, rats, mice, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, etc. can transmit rabies, but bites from these animals are not considered a rabies risk in Indiana at this time. The Wells County Health Department can help you evaluate the risk of rabies following an animal bite.

HUMAN EXPOSURE: Questions involving human exposures. Calls should first be directed to:

LOCAL DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
Wells County Health Department           260-824-6489 
LOCAL ANIMAL CONTROL
Bluffton/Wells County Animal Shelter     260-824-6063 
INDIANA STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH (ISDH)
2 North Meridian Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Information (ISDH)
317/233-1325
Veterinary Epidemiologist
317/233-7272
DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES
If you have questions about wildlife or nuisance animals
Fish and Wildlife Division
317/232-4010

ANIMAL EXPOSURE: Questions concerning livestock and domestic animal exposures as well as handling animals and samples.

INDIANA STATE BOARD OF ANIMAL HEALTH (BOAH)
1202 E. 38th Street, Discovery Hall, Suite 100
Indianapolis, IN 46205-2898
State Veterinarian 317/544-2400
Companion Animal/Equine Division 317/544-2387
INDIANA VETERINARY MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (IVMA)
General Information on Rabies 317/974-0888

Rabies

What is rabies and how do people get it?
Rabies is a viral disease that affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals.  People get infected by rabies virus when a rabid animal comes into contact with a human by breaking the skin, as in bite wounds or scratches.  Although rare, it is also possible to get rabies if saliva or other infectious material from a rabid animal gets into a person’s eyes, nose, mouth or open wounds.  Wild animals such as opossums, skunks, raccoons, coyotes, and bats, as well as unvaccinated dogs and cats, may carry the disease and transmit it to humans and domestic animals.

How can I tell if an animal has rabies?
The only way to determine if an animal has rabies or not is through laboratory testing of the brain tissue.  However, some of the visible signs that an animal might be rabid include: aggressive behavior, confusion, lethargy, attacking for no reason (unprovoked attack), excessive drooling from the mouth, partial paralysis and walking in circles.  The strange behavior of rabid animals is due to the virus’s action on the animal’s nervous system.  By the time an animal or human is showing obvious symptoms, the disease progresses very quickly, resulting in death.

Why is this important information for Wells County residents?
Although rabies has become much less common due to vaccination requirements and animal control programs, it is an infectious disease that still poses a threat to public health.  Very few people die from rabies in the U.S., but cases of animal rabies are continually occurring throughout the country, and many people are vaccinated every year for having been exposed to a potentially rabid animal.  In the recent instance of the rabid bat found in a home in Wells County, those who were possibly exposed to the bat received rabies vaccinations as a precautionary measure.  In 2007, team players at a softball tournament in South Carolina handled a stray kitten found at a nearby dumpster.  The kitten was later determined to have rabies, leading to post-exposure vaccination of 27 of the players.  In 2006, a ten year old girl from Bourbon, Indiana died of rabies several months after being bitten by an infected bat.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wild animals account for roughly 90 percent of the human rabies cases in the United States. Only mammals can get the disease, with some of the more commonly affected animals being raccoons, bats, skunks, coyotes, foxes, dogs, and cats.  Cats are the most common domesticated animal infected by rabies.  This is mostly due to owners allowing their unvaccinated cats to roam outdoors, or failing to keep their cats up to date on vaccinations.

What can you do to help control the spread of rabies?

  • It is extremely important to keep your pets and certain livestock up to date on vaccinations for the safety of your animals and your family.
  •  If you have been bitten by either a wild animal or domesticated pet, seek medical attention immediately and contact the Wells County Health Department at 260-824-6489.  
  • If you encounter a wild animal displaying extremely unusual behavior, such as severe aggression, excessive drooling, staggering, or seizures, contact a pest control company or wildlife removal service to safely capture the animal and remove it.  For questions about wildlife or nuisance animals, contact the Department of Natural Resources at 317-232-4010, or the Wildlife Conflict Information Hotline at 800-893-4116.
  • NEVER handle unfamiliar animals, even if they appear to be friendly, since rabid wild animals may appear to be tame.
  • In situations in which you find a bat in your home, and you cannot reasonably rule out the possibility of having been bitten (such as waking up to a bat in your bedroom or finding a bat in the room of an unattended child), have a pest control service capture the bat so that it can be submitted for rabies testing, and contact the Health Department to pick up the animal.
  • “Bat-proof” your home to prevent bats from entering and coming into contact with people, especially if you live in an older home with any holes or openings that would allow bats access to the inside of your house.
  • Do not leave exposed garbage, food, or litter outside, as it is likely to attract stray or wild animals.

For more information about rabies, visit http://www.cdc.gov/rabies.  To learn more about bats and bat-proofing your home, contact Bat Conservation International, Inc. at http://www.batcon.org.  The Wells County Health Department, located at 223 West Washington Street in Bluffton, also has free brochures and information packets on rabies. 

Tattoo/Body Piercing

The Health Department is responsible for inspecting tattoo and piercing facilities in Wells County. These facilities are licensed and inspected according to Wells County Tattoo/Body-Piercing Facility Ordinance No. 01-12.

Anyone practicing tattooing or piercing, whether out of your home or another facility, MUST obtain a license from the Health Department before doing any work.  The facility to be used for this operation must also be inspected, approved, and licensed before any tattooing or piercing may take place.

Regulations
29 CFR 1910.1030 — Blood Borne Pathogens
ISDH Tattoo and Body Piercing Regulations and Information

Applications
Tattoo Artist Application
Tattoo Facility Application

Information you should know before getting a tattoo or body piercing:

Each patron has a right to expect that:

Clean disposable gloves are worn at all times while tattooing or body piercing

Hands are washed with soap and running water immediately before putting on clean gloves and immediately after removing gloves

Hands are dried with single-use towels

All needles and any instrument that may touch the needles used for tattooing or body piercing (except piercing guns) are sterile

Single-use containers are used for each dye

Eating, drinking, smoking, or using makeup are not allowed in the same work area of a tattoo artist or body piercer

After each person’s tattooing or body piercing is completed, the working area is cleaned with an approved cleaner

The person who is giving the tattoo or body piercing should not be sick

Tattoo artists or body piercers with diarrhea, vomiting, fever over 100 degrees, rash, coughing, jaundice, or drainage from an open wound may not do tattooing or body piercing.

No animals, except dogs for the blind, animals for people requiring assistance, and patrol dogs, are allowed in the same area of tattoo or body piercing work

Tattoo artists and body piercers must have proof of yearly training on bloodborne pathogen disease transmission

Private Wells

There are three types of wells: DugDrilled, and Driven.  Wells should only be installed by drillers that are licensed and registered with the State of Indiana.

For general information about well water, see Drinking Water From Household Wells.

To keep your well safe, you must be sure possible sources of contamination are not close by. Experts suggest the following distances as a minimum for protection — farther is better:

  • Septic Tanks, 50 feet
  • Livestock yards, Silos, Septic Leach Fields, 50 feet
  • Petroleum Tanks, Liquid-Tight Manure Storage and Fertilizer Storage and Handling, 100 feet
  • Manure Stacks, 250 feet

To prevent costly emergency repairs, owners should keep up on regular well maintenance and keep records of all repairs, pumping, and water tests.  Testing water regularly is important, to ensure that contaminants aren’t getting into your well due to structural damage or improper installation.

Well water contaminants can include bacteria, parasites, viruses, radio nuclides, radon, nitrates and nitrites, heavy metals, fluoride, and others, depending on well conditions and circumstances.  The sources of these different wastes may be failing septic tanks, animal waste, concentrated animal feeding operations, mining and construction, fertilizers, pesticides, industrial waste, household chemicals & hazardous waste, landfills, open dumping, underground storage tanks, leaking sewer lines, and sewer discharges into streams, ditches or other waterways.

I want to test my well water. What should I test for?
Where can I have my well water tested?
How do I disinfect my well?
Info about methane in well water
Info about arsenic in well water

Water Testing

Residents with concerns about the safety of their well water are encouraged to come to the Health Department to pick up a water sample bottle to have the water tested.  Water can be tested for bacteria, heavy metals, sulfites, sulfates, nitrates, nitrites, pesticides, fertilizers, and more.  The Wells County Health Department sends all water samples to Hoosier Micro Laboratory in Muncie for testing.  Bottles can be picked up any time from 8am-4:30pm, Monday-Friday.  Water samples must be dropped off on a Tuesday morning before 9:00am, as the HML courier comes weekly at this time to pick up the samples.  HML, Inc. performs a wide variety of water testing, as well as air testing and monitoring. For more information about testing, visit http://www.hml.com.

For a list of all certified drinking water labs in Indiana, click here.

Childhood Lead Poisoning 

clip_image002_001

Did you know that ingestion of lead paint chips is not the most common cause of lead poisoning in children? The more likely culprit is the ingestion of lead dust on floors and window sills – a result of lead paint breaking down over time due to friction, i.e. opening and closing windows and doors, treading on stairs, sanding woodwork or home remodeling.  The amount of lead dust it takes to poison a child is very small and not noticeable by the naked eye.  To put it into perspective, if you had a sugar packet full of lead dust and spread it out over the area of a football field, that would be enough to poison a child and potentially lead to developmental problems.  Childhood lead poisoning is one of the most serious environmental health problems that young children face, but it is also completely preventable.  Exposure to even low levels of lead can have devastating and irreversible effects in children, including reduced learning abilities, speech and developmental delays, hearing disorders, and anemia.  It is very important to not only be aware of the effects of lead, but also to be certain your child is safe by knowing the risk factors.

Visit http://www.leadfreekids.org for more information

What is lead?
Lead is a highly toxic metal that was an ingredient used in many household products, such as lead-based paints manufactured before 1978.

How are children poisoned?
Typically, very young children are more susceptible to lead poisoning because they crawl on the floor where lead dust may have settled, and also have a tendency to put their fingers and other objects in their mouth.  Children are also more at risk because they absorb lead more readily than adults.  While most lead poisoning cases are due to dust from lead based paint in the home and lead contaminated soil, lead can be found in water, jewelry, key chains, toys, cosmetics, pottery, and food as well.

What are the symptoms of lead poisoning?
Most commonly, there are no distinct signs that a child has an elevated blood lead level.  Some symptoms may include fatigue, crankiness, and stomach aches.

Where is the greatest risk?
Lead paint in homes built prior to 1978.  The older the home the higher the risk of lead hazards.  90% of the pre-1950 housing where the poisoned children lived had lead based paint hazards.

Where do hazards appear?

  • Friction and impact surfaces such as window sills and doors
  • Surfaces with chipped peeling or deteriorated paint, and alligator textures
  • Bare soil, particularly around the house or in the play area
  • Floors where dust from lead paint can settle

How can lead poisoning be prevented?

  • See that your child gets a blood test to see if they have lead in their system.
  • Keeping dust off of floors and window sills by cleaning the areas with a wet cloth and powder detergent.  Opening and closing windows and every day traffic kick up lead dust, and it can be breathed in or ingested by children.
  • Wash your children’s hands, face, and toys often.
  • Clean up paint chips and dust on the floor and/or window sills.
  • Keep children away from peeling paint
  • Do not try to remove old paint by dry scraping, sanding or heating
  • If you believe lead based paint is a problem in your home, have your home tested for lead hazards.

Further prevention includes:

  • Avoid using traditional home remedies and cosmetics that may contain lead
  • Avoid eating candy imported from Mexico
  • Avoid using tableware, cookware, or containers that are not shown to be lead free
  • Check for recalls due to lead hazards, and remove those items from your home. The Consumer Product Safety Commission lists lead recall online at http://www.cpsc.gov/
  • Shower and change clothes after finishing a task that involves working with lead-based products such as stain glass work, bullet making, or using a firing range

Mold

Mold can be both a nuisance and a health hazard, and if not properly taken care of, it can keep coming back time and time again.  The number one thing mold requires to grow is moisture… without it, mold will dry up.  High moisture levels can be caused by high humidity with no ventilation, leaky pipes, leaky faucets, rain water that seeps into the home from leaking roofs, damp basements, etc. The first step to getting rid of mold is to fix the moisture problem.  Locate all possible sources of moisture and replace or repair the area.  Mold can be cleaned up rather easily if it is not a large area.  Mold will continue to reappear, even after cleaning, if the moisture problem is not fixed.

The EPA has a document A Brief Guide to Mold that explains mold basics, who should clean up mold, how to clean up mold, as well as moisture and mold prevention tips.  Please read it carefully before cleaning any mold in your home.  Those with asthma, COPD, or weak immune systems should not be involved in the cleanup of mold.  Anyone that does engage in the cleaning process should wear an N-95 respirator.  The Wells County Health Department cannot identify types of mold, determine if mold is the cause of illnesses in the household, or conduct mold remediation activities.  If you have large areas (more than 10 square feet) covered by mold, contact a licensed contractor to assess the extent of the damage and to discuss remediation.  If you wish to determine what types of mold are present, you must send a sample to a licensed laboratory.

Small areas of mold can be cleaned using the methods discussed in EPA’s A Brief Guide to Mold.  Some tips for keeping mold out of your home are:

  • Rid your basement of standing water.
  • Keep drip pans in refrigerators, dehumidifiers and air conditioners clean and dry.
  • Fix leaks right away, especially in plumbing and roofs.
  • Make sure rainwater drains away from your house.
  • Use dehumidifiers and/or air conditioners to remove excess moisture during periods of warm, humid weather.
  • Refrain from over watering houseplants and make sure the pan is under the pot to prevent spills.
  • Use exhaust fans when cooking, showering or running the dishwasher.
  • Check to make sure your clothes dryer vents to the outside.
  • Clean hard surfaces with a bleach solution or soapy water. Absorbent materials such as drywall, ceiling tile and carpet may need to be replaced if left wet for 24 hours

For more information about the health effects of mold exposure and the safe removal of mold, visit:

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
http://www.epa.gov/mold/index.html

Indiana State Department of Health
http://www.in.gov/isdh/24347.htm

OR call the Indiana State Department of Health’s Office of Indoor and Radiologic Health, at 317-233-7147

Documents
Click the forms below to download the PDF version.  Requires Adobe Acrobat

After a Flood – Getting Rid of Mold

Protect Yourself From Mold

Public Pool/Spa Safety

Public and semi-public pools in Wells County are governed by the Indiana State Department of Health Swimming Pool Rule 410 IAC 6-2.1, which is enforced by the Wells County Health Department.  Pools are inspected during periods of operation, to ensure that chemical levels, pool circulation and filtration, as well as safety requirements are met.

What are recreational water illnesses (RWI’s)?

whatRWIs are illnesses that are spread by swallowing, breathing, or having contact with contaminated water from swimming pools, spas, lakes, rivers, or oceans. Recreational water illnesses can cause a wide variety of symptoms, including gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic and wound infections. The most commonly reported RWI is diarrhea. Diarrheal illnesses can be caused by germs such as Crypto, short for CryptosporidiumGiardiaShigellanorovirus and E. coli O157:H7.

How are RWIs spread?

Keep in mind that you share the water with everyone else in the pool, lake, or ocean.

Diarrheal Illness
If swimmers are ill with diarrhea, the germs that they carry can contaminate the water if they have an “accident” in the pool. On average, people have about 0.14 grams of feces on their bottoms which, when rinsed off, can contaminate recreational water. When people are ill with diarrhea, their stool can contain millions of germs. Therefore, swimming when ill with diarrhea can easily contaminate large pools or waterparks. In addition, lakes, rivers, and the ocean can be contaminated by sewage spills, animal waste, and water runoff following rainfall. Some common germs can also live for long periods of time in salt water.  So, if someone swallows water that has been contaminated with feces, he/she may become sick. Many of these diarrhea-causing germs do not have to be swallowed in large amounts to cause illness.

Other RWI’s
Many other RWIs (skin, ear, eyerespiratoryneurologicwound, and other infections) are caused by germs that live naturally in the environment (water, soil). In the pool or hot tub, if disinfectant is not maintained at the appropriate levels, these germs can increase to the point where they can cause illness when swimmers breathe or have contact with water containing these germs.

Why doesn’t chlorine kill these RWI germs?

Chlorine in swimming pools does kill the germs, but the amount of time it takes to kill a certain germ in a pool depends on what kind of germ it is. Chlorine can kill most RWI germs in less than an hour, but some germs such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia can survive for days in a properly disinfected pool. Pool and spa operators rely on your help to maintain sanitary conditions in their pool! 

Protect yourself and others from recreational water illnesses (RWI’s) by: 

  • Refrain from swimming when you have diarrhea – you can spread germs in the water and make other people sick
  • Avoid swallowing pool water or getting it in your mouth
  • Shower before swimming – lotions, makeup, sweat, etc. will make the chlorine less effective at sanitizing the pool water
  • Wash hands after using the bathroom or changing diapers – your germs can end up in the water
  • Take children on bathroom breaks or check diapers often – ONLY change diapers in a bathroom and not at pool side

Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine (meth) is an extremely addictive stimulant drug that is chemically similar to amphetamine.  It takes the form of a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder.  Other colors of powder have been observed, including brown, yellow-gray, orange, and even pink.

The drug is easily made in small clandestine laboratories, with relatively inexpensive over-the-counter ingredients such as pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient in cold medicines.

Methamphetamine production also involves a number of other, very hazardous chemicals.  Toxicity from these chemicals can remain in the environment around a methamphetamine production lab long after the lab has been shut down, causing a wide range of health problems for people living in the area.

People who use methamphetamine long-term may experience anxiety, confusion, insomnia, mood disturbances, and display violent behavior.  They may also show symptoms of psychosis, such as paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and delusions (for example, the sensation of insects crawling under the skin).

Exposure to meth residues would cause the same reactions the drug users experience, but on a smaller scale.  People exposed to meth pollution have reported respiratory and neurological problems, including loss of appetite, inability to concentrate, itchy skin, dry eyes, irritability, paranoia, colds, breathing difficulty, sinus problems, headaches, nervousness, anxiety, and confusion.

Dwellings where meth is manufactured are deemed unfit for human habitation until they are properly decontaminated according to state law (Title 318 IAC 1).

The law enforcement agency that closes the meth lab, typically the Indiana State Police, notifies the local health and fire departments about the location and type of lab identified.  The local health department then works with the property owners to ensure dwellings where operational meth labs were identified are decontaminated before they are re-inhabited.

More Information:

Legislation
Title 318 IAC 1

Indiana Department of Environmental Management
List of Qualified Inspectors for Illegal Drug Lab Cleanup
Inspection and Cleanup of Illegal Drug Labs

Indiana State Police
Meth Suppression Section
Illegal Drug Lab Locations in Indiana

Indiana State Department of Health
Methamphetamine

National Institute on Drug Abuse
Drug Facts: Methamphetamine

Radon

radonMap

What is radon?
Radon is a colorless, odorless radioactive gas which is found naturally in the earth’s rock and soil.  It is formed by the decay of radium underground.  As radon breaks down, it forms radioactive by-products that attach themselves to dust particles or smoke.

Why is radon a problem?
According to a report by the National Academy of Sciences,  radon causes between 15,000-22,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the United States.  It is the second leading cause of lung cancer deaths each year. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management estimates that nearly one out of four homes in the U.S. have elevated levels of radon.  Radon can also be a problem in schools and workplaces.  Radon.com claims that a family whose home has a radon level of 4.0 pCi/L is exposed to 35 times as much radiation as the Nuclear Regulator Commission would allow if that family were standing next to the fence of a radioactive waste site. 

How does it get into your home?
Radon enters houses by seeping up through cracks and other openings in the basement or lower levels of a home, as well as through pipes, sumps, drains, walls and other openings. Radon can also be found in water and natural gas that has passed through underground areas containing radon.  The problem is more common to deep private wells rather than community water supplies.  Radon has become a significant environmental problem because of the increased levels of insulation that have been utilized in home construction to save on heating and cooling bills.  Radon levels measure higher in the winter, when homes are closed up tightly and little ventilation occurs.

What are the health effects of radon?
When radon attaches to particles in the air and these particles are inhaled, they can damage lung tissue. The damage caused by these particles can potentially lead to lung cancer.  Radon causes between 15,000-22,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the U.S. As much as 12% of all lung cancer deaths are linked to radon.  Cigarette smoking is responsible for the large majority (87%) of lung cancer deaths.  Smoking combined with radon is an especially serious health risk.  For smokers, even radon levels below 4 pCi/L are not entirely safe: 15 out of 1000 smokers exposed to 2 pCi/L over a lifetime could develop lung cancer.

Is radon a problem in your home?
Since radon is odorless and colorless, the only way to detect if there is a problem in your home or building is by testing the radon level.  Radon tests can be done simply and at a low cost.  The American Lung Association as well as the EPA and Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon.  Testing schools is also recommended.  There are many kinds of low-cost, do-it-yourself radon test kits available through the mail and also hardware stores.  The most common and least expensive kits are canisters that are opened and placed in an area of the home for 2-90 days where they measure the amount of radon.  The canisters are then sent to a laboratory to be tested.  Short term testing is not likely to give an accurate annual average radon level for your home, as radon levels vary on a daily basis as well as seasonally.  But, if you are looking for quick results, one short-term test followed by another may help you decide if there is a radon problem in your home that needs to be fixed.  Long term test kits remain in your home for more than 90 days, and are more likely to give more accurate annual average radon level than a short-term test.

How to obtain a test kit
The American Lung Association in Indiana has a supply of free test kits available, which may be obtained by calling 1-800-LUNGUSA.

What are the solutions?
When high levels of radon have been detected, corrective measures focus on limiting the influx of radon into your home by sealing cracks in the basement areas, ventilating home foundations with vents and fans, and changing the flow of air into the home.  A qualified professional should be hired to fix the problem, and the time in which mitigation should be taken will vary.  The higher the level, the quicker the mitigation should be undertaken.  A suitable radon reduction system will depend on the design of your home, as well as other factors.  The Housing and Urban Development (HUD) 203(k) Mortgage Insurance Program allows home buyers to finance the purchase and repair or improvement of a home using a single mortgage loan. Reducing radon levels in a home is an eligible improvement for this program.  Those building a new home can have the home built to be radon resistant, for an average of $300-$500 added to the price of the new home.

Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, 2009

The Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals is the most comprehensive assessment to date of the exposure of the U.S. population to chemicals in our environment. CDC has measured 212 chemicals in people’s blood or urine—75 of which have never before been measured in the U.S. population.

Full Report (PDF – 18,079 KB)

Executive Summary (PDF – 874 KB)