Monthly Archives: October 2017

The sickening, dangerous side effects of flooding

Drying out and cleaning up after the floodwaters recede is only the beginning of the post-flooding woes.


Debris fills floodwater in Rockport, Texas, after Hurricane Harvey hit the area. (Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

Residential flooding following torrential downpours, hurricanes and other severe weather events is one of the most heartbreaking headaches faced by a homeowner.

Drying out and cleaning up after a flood can be a laborious, expensive and exhausting experience with much attention paid to salvaging what hasn’t been claimed by floodwaters. However, there are a few side effects of flooding — some standard, some a bit unexpected depending on where you live — that can adversely impact the health, well-being and sanity of flood victims.

The above photo shows debris-filled floodwater in Texas after Hurricane Harvey tore through; you can see car parts, broken wood planks and various containers in the water. But for the sake of being prepared for just about everything — amphibians, reptiles and raw sewage included — here’s a look at more of the unsavory side effects of household flooding.

Sewage where it shouldn’t be


Heavy, steady rains can spell relief in drought-prone areas but with torrential downpours comes a rather gruesome side effect: backed-up sanitary or combined sewage lines. Excessive amounts of stormwater brought on by localized flooding can enter overworked and antiquated sewer systems and cause overflow to run into the street, possible into your home. Overworked sewer systems can result in overflowing toilets, raw sewage-leaking bathtub drains and more.

Unbeknownst to many homeowners, sewer-related backups are not covered by most homeowner’s insurance policies or flooding insurance; in most instances, protection against blocked private (lateral) and main sewage lines must be purchased separately as an additional rider at a nominal cost.

Clean-up following a sewage backup requires that homeowners practice extreme caution given the risk of coming in direct contact with dangerous pathogens. The Massachusetts department of Energy and Environmental Affairs offers a comprehensive guide on how to proceed.

Bacteria, and not the good kind


Outbreaks of vomiting and diarrhea tend to happen during natural disasters, including flooding, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says. Bacteria, parasites and viruses, such as the norovirus, can spread as homes lose electricity, people gather together in close spaces and access to clean water becomes limited.

Floodwater in two Houston neighborhoods after Hurricane Harvey contained E. coliat a level more than four times that considered safe after breaches at 40 waste treatment plants, according to the New York Times. “Scientists found what they considered astonishingly high levels of E. coli in standing water in one family’s living room — levels 135 times those considered safe — as well as elevated levels of lead, arsenic and other heavy metals in sediment from the floodwaters in the kitchen.public housing development,” the Times reports.

In addition to E. coli and heavy metals, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says floodwater also may contain infectious organisms, including intestinal bacteria such as salmonella, and shigella; Hepatitis A; and agents of typhoid, paratyphoid and tetanus.

OSHA says symptoms generally include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, muscle aches and fever. The most common source of illness during a flood is through consuming contaminated food or water. The exception is tetanus, which is when an infectious disease enters the body through a cut in your skin, affecting the nervous system and causing spasms.

The CDC says to seek medical attention or treat open woulds right away. Washing hands regularly, designating a toilet seat for people with diarrhea, using hand sanitizer and separating people who are ill from those who are healthy can help reduce illnesses. And follow any boil-water advisories that may be in effect.

Mosquitoes and standing water


Near or directly in bodies of stagnant water of pretty much any shape, size or form — marshes, puddles, lakes, irrigated pastures, streams, clogged gutters, flower pots, half-empty birdbaths and the list goes on — is where annoying and potentially deadly mosquitoes choose to lay their eggs. And generally, these disease-carrying vectors in their adult form don’t stray too far from where they were born.

Residential flooding can spell trouble when it comes to plagues of mosquitoes, which could carry Zika, West Nile or other harmful viruses. Which is why after Hurricane Harvey hit parts of Texas, state health officials enlisted U.S. Air Force planes to do nighttime aerial spraying of insecticides over three counties, with more to come, Reuters reports.

Most mosquitoes that appear after floods are not the disease-carrying kind but can hinder recovery operations by swarming residents and cleanup workers, Texas Department of State Health Services spokesman Chris Van Deusen told Reuters.

The most effective way for homeowners to control mosquito populations following heavy rain and flooding is through source reduction or the elimination of the places where these particularly pesky insects breed and thrive — old tires, buckets, plastic wading pools, wheelbarrows, etc.

Mold and all that comes with it


Mold growth and the myriad health concerns that come along with prolonged exposure to spores are a massive concern following residential flooding that can occur in the wake of severe weather events such as hurricanes. Discolored walls and ceilings, signs of water damage and a foul, musty odor are all dead giveaways that action should be taken immediately.

If in doubt, a mold remediation specialist can help identify the presence of health-compromising microscopic fungi. However, your eyes and nose are generally the best ways to detect an infestation.

A basic, initial step is to remove all wet possessions and building materials from a home within 24 to 48 hours of flooding as recommended by the CDC. If it cannot be dried, cleaned and replaced, the item should be discarded — this particularly applies to carpeting, ceiling tiles and drywall. It is crucial to also air out a home by opening doors and windows and employing fans, air conditioners and/or de-humidifiers. Cleaning semi-porous and nonporous items with soap and water or a commercial mold remediation product can further prevent mold growth as can basic moisture control practices such as increasing air circulation, fixing leaks, cleaning air ducts and eliminating sources of indoor condensation.

Fuel where it shouldn’t be


Alexandra Spychalsky, who lived in the path of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, writes for Bustle about the hazards of gasoline leaking into floodwaters:

More than a week after Hurricane Sandy struck my town, the block I lived on reeked of gasoline. My neighbors had filled their propane tanks days before the hurricane, which then knocked over and poured into the rushing floodwaters during the storm surge. The prevalence of boats in the area also contributed to the seepage of gasoline into floodwaters, which then dispersed throughout the neighborhood. Everything in my home that had touched floodwater had the distinct smell of gasoline on it.

Snakes, crocodiles and frogs


Many flood-stricken homeowners, preoccupied with salvaging possessions and filing insurance claims, often neglect to remember that with rising waters sometimes come unwanted — and rather nightmarish houseguests — in the form of venomous reptiles.

Following the historic flooding that impacted large swaths of Australia in 2011, thousands of deadly displaced snakes (and crocodiles) terrified stunned residents of Queensland struggling to dry out. And this is a phenomenon not limited to Down Under.

During a 2015 flood in South Carolina, cottonmouth snakes were found in homes as floodwaters receded. The poisonous snakes washed ashore in Alabama that same year after a Christmas Day flood. But though they’re dangerous, experts say if you don’t touch them and leave them alone, they’ll do the same to you.

Grif Griffin of Augusta Crime Stoppers painted a terrifying picture following the recent flooding of the Savannah River: “They’re thousands of snakes that lived on this river and are now in people’s sewers. Those snakes will come up through your drain.”

In a rather extreme example, Paul Marinaccio Sr. was awarded $1.6 million in compensation in 2013 after flooding from a development near his Clarence, N.Y. home turned his 40-acre property into frog-heavy wetlands. Unnerving for sure, but Marinaccio was really affected by the flooding as he suffers from a severe phobia of frogs stemming from a traumatic childhood incident.

“You people don’t understand. I am petrified,” explained Marinaccio in his 2009 testimony. “In the winter, it’s OK, because I know there’s no frogs. But in the summertime, I’m a damn prisoner in my own home.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated since it was originally published in September 2013.

Side effects of flooding – Source –

Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

A Review of the Working Conditions and Health Status of Waste Pickers at Some Landfill Sites in the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality

Waste Pickers

Available online at

Pelagia Research Library

Advances in Applied Science Research, 2017, 8(3):89-96
ISSN : 0976-8610
Pelagia Research Library 89

A Review of the Working Conditions and Health Status of Waste Pickers at Some Landfill Sites in the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality, South Africa

Mathema Mothiba, Shadung J Moja and Chris Loans
Department of Environmental Sciences, Florida Campus, University of South Africa, Florida, South Africa
Sustainable Resources and Environment Competency, Council of Geoscience, 280 Pretoria Street, Silverton, Pretoria, 0001, South Africa
DustWatch, P.O. Box 1810, Sun Valley 7985, South Africa


Waste management is a global phenomenon and a challenge to all nations. There is a need to ensure that waste is handled in an environmental friendly and healthy manner. In South Africa, the last stage of the life cycle of waste is at the landfill sites, which are normally on the outskirts of town and away from communities because of their release of harmful pollutants. As in other developing countries, there are people who try to make a living by engaging in waste picking at the landfill sites. This study researched on working conditions and health status of waste pickers working at some landfill sites in the City of Tshwane metropolitan Municipality; namely Ga-Rankuwa, Onderstepoort and Hatherley. The study used a multi-method approach, where both qualitative and quantitative factors of research were utilized. The results from the 176 waste pickers in the survey showed that 43% believed that their illnesses were work related, while 34% said they were not ill at all. About 19% of the waste pickers in the survey believed their
illnesses were not work related. Their working conditions remain undesirable, but their work serves as their main source of survival. Waste pickers at landfill sites are aware of the risks of working at the landfill sites especially in inhuman working conditions. There is therefore a need to facilitate improvement in their working conditions and raise awareness on their health status.

Keywords: Waste pickers, Landfill site, Working conditions, Health status, Waste management
Disposal of solid waste at a landfill site is the primary disposal method used in South Africa, as in most developing countries [1,2]. According to Godfrey and Oelofse [3], in the past, solid waste was deemed something to be discarded, and without any value, but this however, recently changed. Lately, municipality waste produced from residential and commercial sources, has become an economic resource for other people. Solid waste that is not well-handled can however, pose serious environmental and health risks, with negative implications to human life and environmental sustainability [4]. Landfill sites release a wide range of harmful pollutants such as leachate, gases and particulate matter that have the potential to cause human illness and contamination of the soil, air and bodies of water [5].

In South Africa, many landfill sites practice waste picking. Usually poor people resort to picking in order to earn a living and typically do so under unhealthy and unsafe conditions. For some individuals and families, waste picking has become a way of survival and the activities of waste pickers fall within the informal economy. Waste pickers collect materials discarded as waste and add value to them by sorting, cleaning and at times altering the physical shape to facilitate transport or by combining material to make commercially viable products. The health and safety risks associated with informal recycling include occupational health risks posed to waste pickers and community health risks posed to the public. The nature of the work waste pickers are involved in exposes them to potential pathogenic bio aerosols that may lead to spreading of various diseases. Waste pickers are at risk of exposure to diseases as they come into direct contact with decomposed, highly mixed waste streams with organic material [6].

The use of heavy machinery in landfill operations also poses a risk to waste pickers and could become a risk factor when salvaging on landfill sites. The primary aim of this research was to identify the health status and document the working conditions of waste pickers working at three landfill sites in the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality. Considering that solid waste can be a resource used to provide employment opportunities, it is necessary to educate people, especially waste pickers on good waste management practices. Researchers have noted that little attention is given to the human health risks to which waste pickers are exposed to [7-10]. As much as it is understandable that waste pickers earn a living
from this practice and at one site in the study (Hatherley), living in close proximity to the landfill site, they are creating a security problem and liability for the management of the site.

The distinguishing characteristic of the work life of waste pickers is that they are not paid in an institutionalised or regulated manner for the waste they collect [11]. Waste pickers are involved in an informal activity that is unregulated, labor-intensive, requiring low technological skills and pays very low wages [12]. Since waste picking is unregulated, those involved in it usually become victims of labor exploitation by recycling companies or their intermediaries. Waste pickers target mostly landfill sites since large volumes of waste are deposited onto the landfill sites. Once the waste disposal trucks offload, waste pickers rush to search and remove the recyclables of interest before the waste is compacted. Waste pickers work in conditions that are physically taxing as they work for long periods in the sun, carry their recycled materials and have little time to rest.


Study area background

The City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality (CTMM) was established in 2005 and when founded was made up of 13 former city and town councils. The incorporation of Metsweding District Municipality in 2011 added a significant amount of rural and semi-urban area to Tshwane’s eastern boundary. The City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality’s area increased from 2 198 km² in 2010 to 6 368 km² after the incorporation of Metsweding. The CTMM has a population of approximately 2.9 million people which is made up of 911 536 households as determined through the 2011 Census [13].

Landfill sites

CTMM has 10 landfill sites (of which five are operational and five are closed). The actual annual volume of waste disposed to landfill in the Tshwane area alone (i.e., excluding Metsweding) was estimated at 1 443 290 m³ in 2011 (Statistics provided by CTMM’s Operations officials).

Now according to CTMM landfill operations manager out of the five operational sites, the smaller sites, which are Soshanguve, Ga-Rankuwa and Bronkhorstspruit, received between 14,000 and 18,000 tons of waste per month while the two larger sites, Hatherley and Onderstepoort received between 150 000 and 250 000 tons of waste per month. The biggest challenge was the lack of waste information data at all the sites. There is no comprehensive database overlying management information systems in place to produce reliable data and management information, and there are no weighing bridges at the sites. This study was undertaken at three landfill sites in Tshwane Municipality and below is their coordinates and short description.

Ga-Rankuwa landfill site
The landfill site is surrounded by township to north and south with coordinates 25°34 ’57” S; 27° 59′ 05″ E.
Onderstepoort landfill site
The landfill site is surrounded by major transport links railway line as well as nature reserves with coordinates
25°39’02″S; 28°09’07″E.
Hatherley landfill site
The landfill site is very close to township and there is a new development around the site with coordinates 25°44’26″S;

Activities on different sites

Salvaging of waste for recycling takes place on site and according to the waste pickers’ committee at that site, there are 56 waste pickers on site who come on a daily basis to sort from the site. The site is less than 5 km from a residential area
The site is not fenced but there is some kind of order on site. There is recycling taking place on site, which is rather organized. According to the waste pickers committee, 256 waste pickers work on the site. They have divided themselves into groups to work on certain weekends but during the week, they all come.
There are many waste pickers at this site because it is the largest site and when Kwaggasrand landfill site closed, more waste pickers chose to go to this site. According to the waste pickers’ committee, there are between 500 and 600 waste pickers on site. The large number of waste pickers on site has led to many challenges and at the site the researcher only managed to work with two cooperatives of waste pickers and not all waste pickers were involved.

For the full report, please view the PDF document – Mathema Mothiba Published article

Pollution From Construction

The construction industry is a major source of pollution, responsible for around 4% of particulate emissions, more water pollution incidents than any other industry, and thousands of noise complaints every year. Although construction activities also pollute the soil, the main areas of concern are: air, water and noise pollution.

Air Pollution

Construction activities that contribute to air pollution include: land clearing, operation of diesel engines, demolition, burning, and working with toxic materials. All construction sites generate high levels of dust (typically from concrete, cement, wood, stone, silica) and this can carry for large distances over a long period of time. Construction dust is classified as PM10 – particulate matter less than 10 microns in diameter, invisible to the naked eye.

Research has shown that PM10 penetrate deeply into the lungs and cause a wide range of health problems including respiratory illness, asthma, bronchitis and even cancer. Another major source of PM10 on construction sites comes from the diesel engine exhausts of vehicles and heavy equipment. This is known as diesel particulate matter (DPM) and consists of soot, sulphates and silicates, all of which readily combine with other toxins in the atmosphere, increasing the health risks of particle inhalation.

Diesel is also responsible for emissions of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide. Noxious vapours from oils, glues, thinners, paints, treated woods, plastics, cleaners and other hazardous chemicals that are widely used on construction sites, also contribute to air pollution.

Water Pollution

Sources of water pollution on building sites include: diesel and oil; paint, solvents, cleaners and other harmful chemicals; and construction debris and dirt. When land is cleared it causes soil erosion that leads to silt-bearing run-off and sediment pollution. Silt and soil that runs into natural waterways turns them turbid, which restricts sunlight filtration and destroys aquatic life.

Surface water run-off also carries other pollutants from the site, such as diesel and oil, toxic chemicals, and building materials like cement. When these substances get into waterways they poison water life and any animal that drinks from them. Pollutants on construction sites can also soak into the groundwater, a source of human drinking water. Once contaminated, groundwater is much more difficult to treat than surface water.

Noise Pollution

Construction sites produce a lot of noise, mainly from vehicles, heavy equipment and machinery, but also from people shouting and radios turned up too loud. Excessive noise is not only annoying and distracting, but can lead to hearing loss, high blood pressure, sleep disturbance and extreme stress. Research has shown that high noise levels disturb the natural cycles of animals and reduces their usable habitat.

Measures to Prevent Pollution

Good construction site practice can help to control and prevent pollution. The first step is to prepare environmental risk assessments for all construction activities and materials likely to cause pollution. Specific measures can then be taken to mitigate these risks:

  • To prevent erosion and run-off, minimise land disturbance and leave maximum vegetation cover.
  • Control dust through fine water sprays used to dampen down the site.
  • Screen the whole site to stop dust spreading, or alternatively, place fine mesh screening close to the dust source.
  • Cover skips and trucks loaded with construction materials and continually damp down with low levels of water.
  • Cover piles of building materials like cement, sand and other powders, regularly inspect for spillages, and locate them where they will not be washed into waterways or drainage areas.
  • Use non-toxic paints, solvents and other hazardous materials wherever possible
  • Segregate, tightly cover and monitor toxic substances to prevent spills and possible site contamination.
  • Cover up and protect all drains on site .
  • Collect any wastewater generated from site activities in settlement tanks, screen, discharge the clean water, and dispose of remaining sludge according to environmental regulations.
  • Use low sulphur diesel oil in all vehicle and equipment engines, and incorporate the latest specifications of particulate filters and catalytic converters.
  • No burning of materials on site.
  • Reduce noise pollution through careful handling of materials; modern, quiet power tools, equipment and generators; low impact technologies; and wall structures as sound shields.

Pressure to Clean Up

The UK Environment Agency and other government bodies are putting increasing pressure on construction companies to reduce pollution and conform to environmental regulations. In the past the pollution fines have been low and environmental regulations slack, and it could have been perceived as cheaper to pollute than to prevent pollution. This situation is now changing, and enforcement of environmental regulations is not only very expensive but can be irreversibly damaging to the reputation of a firm. Measures to reduce and control pollution are relatively inexpensive and cost-effective, and the construction industry needs to incorporate these into an environmental management strategy. By employing these practices, the construction industry is well positioned to clean up its act. Find out more about ecofriendly construction methods.

Source –

Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Hurricane Harvey

Flooding from Hurricane Harvey actually warped Earth’s crust

Harvey’s 275 trillion pounds of water was a heavy weight to carry.

hurricane harvey

Harvey as it intensified into a hurricane. (Photo: NOAA)

The record-setting floods that resulted from Hurricane Harvey are difficult to conceptualize. The hurricane is set to become one of the costliest natural disasters in history. It dumped roughly 33 trillion gallons of water across the area it hit, which amounted to adding 275 trillion pounds of weight to the landmass.

It’s easy to get lost in numbers like these, so scientist Chris Milliner of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory decided to put things in more tangible terms. He calculated that the water weight dumped by Harvey was so voluminous that Earth’s crust actually gave way and collapsed by roughly two centimeters, reports The Atlantic. The planet’s crust actually warped under the weight of it all.

If that seems impossible, consider that the water weight from Harvey’s rainfall was essentially equivalent to 77 percent of the total estimated mass of Mount Everest. Imagine dropping a mountain like Everest anywhere on the planet’s surface.

Interestingly, Milliner also found that the Earth’s crust was actually pushed up in some of the areas surrounding Houston. The reason for this is similar to what happens when you press your fist into a ball of dough; the dough under your fist gets compacted, but the areas around your fist puff up.

This isn’t the first time scientists have measured the effects of water weight on the planet’s crust. For instance, mountains like the Himalayas can be reduced in height seasonally by large amounts of snowfall. China’s Three Gorges Dam has backed up so much water that it has caused small earthquakes to occur.

Earthquakes aren’t a concern in Houston, but it’s alarming to think of the ways that so much rainfall can effect a region’s geology.

The good news is that the ground depressed by Harvey’s floodwaters should rebound as those waters recede, though it’s safe to say that the exact warping and contour of the land may never be exactly the same again.

Source –

Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

10 kitchen dangers and how to avoid them

Who knew that slicing bagels was the fifth most treacherous task in the kitchen?

“Approach love and cooking with equal abandon,” advises the Dalai Lama, but emergency room doctors beg to differ. Although spending time in the kitchen can be magic for the soul, it can be brutal for the body. Most of us know we are supposed to handle razor-sharp knives and searing hot pans with care — but we persist in misusing them, not to mention all of the other dangers awaiting us in the kitchen. Consider the following:

1. Playing with fire

FEMA reports that cooking equipment, most often a range or stovetop, is the leading cause of reported home fires and home fire injuries in the United States. The agency, which notes that the leading cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking, offers some tips for avoiding being a statistic:

  • Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • If you are simmering, baking, roasting or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire — potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels or curtains — away from your stovetop.
  • Keep the stovetop, burners and oven clean.
  • Keep pets off cooking surfaces and nearby countertops to prevent them from knocking things onto the burner.
  • Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking. Loose clothing can dangle onto stove burners and catch fire if it comes into contact with a gas flame or electric burner.

2. Contact burns from equipment

The oven is magic. No longer do we have to sear our food on an open fire like our ancestors did; we have a nifty box that keeps the heat contained and cooks our food to perfection. But all that heat combined with metal components and cookware leads to loads of burns. Quick tips (which are obvious, but good to keep in mind): Always use oven mitts, replace them when they’re old; don’t use a wet towel as an oven mitt; don’t reach your arm in to check baked goods, pull out the rack to test; don’t touch the stovetop; and stir simmering food with a wooden spoon, not a metal one, which will get hot.

3. Food burns

Some of the worst kitchen burns come from hot food, so avoid scalding yourself by following these rules:

  • Use back burners when possible, or turn pot and pan handles in towards the counter when on the stove so that they can’t be knocked into and over by a passerby.
  • Use a potholder when removing tops from cooking food to prevent the dreaded steam burn.
  • Take caution with hot foods in the blender; they have a tendency to explode and splatter.
  • Keep liquid away from hot oil; it will cause the oil to splatter.
  • It may sound obvious, but always take extreme care with super hot food; it’s dangerous. For example, burn doctors hate instant soup because so many children end up in the hospital with serious burns from the hot broth and noodles from tipped instant soup cups.
broken eggs on kitchen floorsTake the time to clean up spills as they happen. (Photo: wernimages/Shutterstock)
4. Spills lead to spillsWhen things are getting critical in the heat of preparing a meal, there’s the temptation to leave messes for cleaning up after the meal has been eaten. But spills on the floor should be tackled immediately, lest they cause you to take a spill. It may not be convenient, but prompt attention to messes, especially ones on the floor, is the best attack.

5. Watch your step

The cousin of slipping from spills is falling from trying to grab something on a high shelf. When going for something out of reach, use a sturdy step ladder; do not use the nearby wobbly stool, crate, box, office chair or any other surface that may lead to a loss of balance.

6. Clutter hurts

When it comes to pantries, cupboards and refrigerators: Don’t pack them too full. You need room to be able to rummage around, and anything too close to the front risks the chance of falling out onto the floor, potentially leading to broken glass and/or broken toes, not to mention wasted food and a big mess.

7. Know your knives

Of course, one of the great dangers in the kitchen are those blades of honed steel created to slice through produce and flesh: your kitchen knives. There are too many tips to list here; there are whole classes dedicated to knife safety. But with some basics in mind and a review of more comprehensive knife safety guidelines, you can lessen your risk of injuring yourself or ditching a digit. The National Food Service Management Institute has a good list, including these basic tips:

  • Always use sharp knives.
  • Do not hold food in your hand while you cut it.
  • Always cut on the cutting board. (Use a non-slip one, or place a damp dishtowel beneath it to prevent it from slipping.)
  • Always keep fingers on top of the blade in case it slips.
  • Keep knife handles free of grease or other slippery substances.
  • Keep knives away from the edge of the counter to lessen the chance of being knocked off.
  • Never try to catch a falling knife!
  • Wash knives immediately after use. Do not leave knives in a sink of soapy water where they cannot be seen. Keep the sharp edge of the knife away from you when washing.
Bonus tip: More than 7,000 people were injured by blenders in 2011; never put your hand in a blender.

chopping chili peppersDon’t touch your eyes (or any other body part) after touching hot chili peppers. (Photo: Odua Images/Shutterstock)

8. Feel the burn: Hot peppers

Humans have a strange love for spicy food, and in fact, we’re the only animal to find pleasure in the pain. But preparing raw hot chili peppers can provide a distinctly unpleasant and altogether different kind pain than you had in mind, especially if you touch your pepper-juice-delivering fingers to your eyes, nose, or, you know, any other sensitive parts. Long-lasting harm probably won’t occur, but the burn can be painful while it’s happening. When cutting hot peppers, either avoid actual contact with them or wear gloves.

9. Death to the pathogens

The most insidious of all dangers, perhaps, are the germs lurking in your food. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that each year roughly one in six Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. The top five culprits sending Americans to the hospital are salmonellanorovirusCampylobacter spp., Toxoplasma gondii and E.coli – but much can be done in terms of proper food handling, cooking and storage to help prevent these pathogens from causing illness.

10. Beware the bagel!

Americans eat an estimated 3 billion bagels at home each year, resulting in some 2,000 trips to the emergency room thanks to bagel-related injuries. By the logic at, that makes bagel-cutting the “fifth most dangerous activity in the American kitchen.” Slicing a bagel is no task for the faint of heart; their circular shape and dense texture lead to more sliced fingers than potatoes, pumpkins and cheese.

kitchen dangers – Source –

Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Dust Monitoring Queensland coalmines

Up to four Queensland coalmines could be closed

Mines at Oakey and Moranbah may close

UP TO FOUR Queensland coalmines could be closed after they allegedly failed their dust monitoring obligations.

The allegations relate to Glencore’s Oaky North and Oaky No.1 in central Queensland, along with Anglo’s Moranbah North and Grosvenor.

State Mines Minister Anthony Lynham said the underground mines had failed to meet their obligations during the second quarter of this year.

“I have been advised that the levels of non-compliance vary. However in my view, any failure to meet their safety and health obligation is not acceptable,” he said.

Source – The Morning Bulletin

Black lung disease: Tougher coal dust monitoring needed, new report finds

Tougher coal dust monitoring standards are needed in Australia to prevent the “unacceptable” spread of the deadly black lung disease, a new study has found.

In Queensland, there are seven cases of the disease, which was thought to have been eradicated three decades ago.

A clinical focus published on Monday in the Medical Journal of Australia recommended an industry-funded screening program for at-risk workers every three years and mandatory reporting of cases to a register.

Co-author of the report, Associate Professor Deborah Yates, said one tougher standard of exposure limit was also needed in Australia to help eradicate the disease.

Current coal dust exposure limits vary between states and show considerable variations of monitoring protocols between sites.

In Queensland, 3 milligrams of coal dust per metre cubed is allowed, whereas in New South Wales it is 2.5mg.

“And there have been calls nationally and internationally by occupational hygiene and medical experts to reduce that level to as low as one milligram per metre cubed,” Dr Yates said.

“It is unacceptable that any new cases of [pneumoconiosis] should be occurring in Australia in 2016.”

The report found NSW had probably been more stringent when it came to the regulation and implementation of screening.

Dr Yates, from Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital, said there had been recent reports which suggested a potential decline in exposure control could be behind the resurgence.

Dr Yates said a study by the Queensland Mines Inspectorate found long-wall miners were exposed to equal amounts or greater than the coal dust exposure limit.

The article comes two months after a Senate committee called for a national coal dust exposure standardand an industry fund to cover medical costs.

Better ventilation, dust suppression needed

Steve Smyth from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) wanted independent monitoring.

He also said the cutting speed of machines needed to be slowed down as well as having better ventilation, water spraying and dust suppression.

“Workers being able to feel they can raise concerns around safety, and not be disciplined or action taken against them, which is occurring now,” he said.

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche said the industry was shocked by the resurgence of the disease.

He said the first step was prevention and if there was non-compliance with dust levels it was appropriate the Mines Inspectorate act and enforce the regulations.

“Our top priority is the health and safety of mine workers,” Mr Roche said.

Source –

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How Hearing Works

The Mechanics of the Ear: How Hearing Works


Having a basic understanding of how hearing works can make treating hearing loss a less stressful process. Look for a hearing care provider or audiologist who offers workshops, educational resources, or uses tools that provide the patient clarity and control over the quality of their care.

Below are the basic elements of how sounds are received and interpreted as hearing.

  • The outer ear collects sound waves and directs them into the external auditory canal.
  • The ear canal carries sound waves to the eardrum (tympanic membrane).
  • Sound waves cause the eardrum to vibrate.
  • The bones in the middle ear (malleus, incus, and stapes) pick up vibrations from the  eardrum.
  • The bones in the middle ear amplify the sound and transmit it to the inner ear.
  • Vibrations pass through the oval window to the inner ear, setting the fluid inside the cochlea in motion.
  • Special nerve cells (hair cells within the cochlea) then turn the sound waves into electrical impulses.
  • The auditory nerve sends these electrical impulses to the brain’s central auditory cortex, where it is processed as sound.

Ringing in your Ears?

Are you hearing ringing, whistling, hissing, buzzing, or pulsing sounds?
You may be suffering from tinnitus. (Pronounced: tin-NIGHT-us or TIN-it-us.)

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a medical condition characterized by persistent ringing in one or both ears which can only be heard by the affected individual. It has also been described as whistling, hissing, buzzing, or pulsing in the ear.

These sounds may come and go; however, most experience symptoms 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The effects range from a slight annoyance to a severe disruption of everyday life. In fact, tinnitus is the number one complaint from United States Veterans and grows at 18 percent per year, and the American Tinnitus Association estimates that over 50 million Americans experience symptoms from tinnitus.

In many cases the distressing combination of tinnitus and hearing loss can be relieved with hearing aid technology. While worn, hearing aids can restore environmental sounds and help reduce the effects of tinnitus.

Other tinnitus treatment options are available through hearing care providers and audiologists including Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) and Tinnitus Retraining Instruments (TRI).

TRT combines low-level, steady background noises played through a device with counseling. It “retrains” the way a patient hears, helping them ignore the symptoms of tinnitus. TRI’s may be used in conjunction with TRT when deemed appropriate. These instruments fit within the ear and produce a faint but audible sound that can alleviate the symptoms of tinnitus.

Although there isn’t a single cure for tinnitus, many reputable hearing care providers and audiologists are experienced at providing individual solutions on a case-by-case basis. If ringing in your ears bothers you, please schedule an appointment with your provider to begin creating goals and solutions to improve your quality of life.

Hearing Loss – Source –

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Queensland mines top list of Australia’s biggest coal dust polluters

Seventeen of Australia’s 20 dustiest coal mines, including the entire top nine, were in Queensland, according to the federal government’s latest National Pollution Inventory.

The data, which covered emissions in the 2015-16 financial year, showed the Peak Downs mine was the biggest generator of airborne pollution, with 30,576 tonnes of PM 10 particulates (10 micrometres or less in diameter) entering the atmosphere near Moranbah.

The Blackwater mine (28,135 tonnes) was second, with another Moranbah mine – Goonyella Riverside – third with 22,336 tonnes.

Blackwater produced the most PM 2.5 particulates (2.5 micrometres or less in diameter) in Australia, with 480 tonnes, followed by Peak Downs (418 tonnes) and Saraji, near Dysart, with 403 tonnes.

Clean Air Queensland spokesman Michael Kane said the nine mines in the national top 10 accounted for 40 per cent of the state’s industrial air pollution and something had to be done.

“The level of air pollution caused by the coal industry in Queensland is unacceptable and continues virtually unregulated,” he said.

“The re-emergence of black lung in Queensland coal workers highlights the problems we are facing in holding the government and the coal industry accountable.”

Black lung disease, once thought to have been eradicated, has had a resurgence in Queensland, with the CFMEU blaming poor dust management at mine sites.

The resurgence has prompted a government inquiry, which has heard details of systemic failures in the management and diagnosis of the disease, more formally known as coal miner’s pneumoconiosis.

“It is not just miners being exposed to elevated concentrations of coal dust,” Mr Kane said.

“Communities throughout the Queensland are being exposed to undisclosed and unregulated fine particle pollution concentrations.

“In south-east Queensland alone we have a situation where 40,000 children are attending school within one kilometre of millions of tonnes of uncovered coal trains as they make their way to the Brisbane port.”

Mr Kane said there needed to be more stringent dust mitigation regimes to protect the public from coal dust.

“We don’t need another inquiry or study, we need action,” he said.

“I think it’s clear that communities are facing a similar situation to workers in regards to regulatory failure on air pollution. I am very concerned about the tens of thousands of Queenslanders who live near coal mines, stockpiles, coal ports and uncovered coal transports.

“(Environment) Minister (Steven) Miles needs to significantly expand the state’s air pollution monitoring network, improve community access to monitoring data, review the pollution licences held by coal mines and other major polluters, and demand best practice pollution controls such as covering coal wagons and stockpiles.”

Dr Miles was not available for comment, but a Department of Environment and Heritage Protection spokeswoman said the NPI was not a measure of community exposure to pollutants.

“Many additional factors, including weather conditions and distance from emission sources, influence ambient air quality – the air-pollutant levels people are exposed to,” she said.

“In Queensland, ambient air quality is measured by the Queensland government’s statewide network of 28 fixed air-monitoring stations.”

The spokeswoman said “significant” air monitoring had been done around coal transport rail lines.

“Coal loads are covered with veneer prior to transport, a biodegradable substance that forms a crust on top of coal loads to prevent coal dust being blown off,” she said.

“Air monitoring has demonstrated that Queensland is meeting ambient air quality objectives adjacent to rail lines.”

The monitoring of mine sites themselves, the spokeswoman said, was performed by the mine operators.

“Air monitoring required under environmental authorities is designed to inform on off-site risks to air quality,” she said.

“It is not intended to address workplace health and safety issues such as black lung. Black lung disease is a workplace health and safety issue dealt with at a workplace level.”

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the overall figures were much less dramatic.

“Over the past two years, the NPI data has shown both national and Queensland emissions have been steadily reducing in both PM 2.5 and PM 10,” he said.

“Queensland has a rigorous and transparent system of compliance with dust monitoring levels and companies implement stringent measures to reduce emissions.

“The top priority is the health and safety of mine workers and the resources sector is committed to their protection.”

Coal Dust Polluters – Source – Sydney Morning Herald

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Lack of dust makes China’s air pollution much worse

air pollutionImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionStudies suggest that the deaths of 1.6 million people a year in China are linked to air quality

Airborne dust is normally seen as an environmental problem, but the lack of it is making air pollution over China considerably worse.

A new study suggests less dust means more solar radiation hits the land surface, which reduces wind speed.

That lack of wind in turn leads to an accumulation of air pollution over heavily populated parts of China.

The researchers found that reduced dust levels cause a 13% increase in human-made pollution in the region.

Sands from the Gobi

Hundreds of millions of people across China continue to be impacted by air pollution from factories and coal-fired power plants.

Studies suggest that the dirty air contributes to 1.6 million deaths a year, about 17% of all mortalities.

But this new research says that the human-induced pollution is being made worse or better by naturally occurring dust that blows in from the Gobi desert.

Using models to simulate 150 years of wind and dust patterns in the region, the researchers found that the dust deflects significant amounts of sunlight.

Without it, more heat from the Sun hits the land. Differences in the temperatures between land and sea cause the winds to blow. Without the dust, the land warms up more and that changes the temperature differential with the sea leading to weaker breezes – and more air pollution.

China dustImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image caption – Researchers say there’s a link between the amount of dust in the air and the levels of air pollution

“There are two dust sources. One is the Gobi and the other is the highlands of north-west China, but we found the Gobi had much more influence,” said lead author Yang Yang, from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington State, US.

“Less dust in the atmosphere causes more solar radiation to reach the surface. It weakens the temperature difference between the land and the sea and impacts the circulation of the winds and causes a stagnation over eastern China and that causes an accumulation of air pollution.”

Small change, big impact

The decreases in dust emissions are considerable, varying by almost a third. The impact on winds speeds are quite small by comparison, a reduction of barely more than one-tenth of one mile per hour.

However, when this takes place on a large scale over a wide region, the small change in speed means a 13% increase in the amount of air pollution over eastern China during the winter.

Another study has recently shown a link between declining Arctic sea ice and a major air pollution event in China in 2013.

The authors of the new study believe that both theories could be true.

“Our study has the same mechanism: the weakening of winds causes more pollution, and what is behind this needs to be studied,” said Yang Yang.

“We have two views on this kind of weakening of wind. They found the sea ice, we found the dust-wind interaction can also lead to weakening of the wind. I think both of them are important.”

The researchers believe that the study may inform broader questions about how natural and human-created aerosols interact.

Many parts of the world, in addition to China, are now suffering from increased levels of air pollution and understanding how dust, winds and emissions work together may help limit some of the worst impacts of dirty air.

One of the key lessons from this study is that the absence of dusty conditions could mean the air you are breathing is worse for you, not better.

“You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” said Prof Lynn Russell from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California.

“Dust emissions can impair visibility, but they are not so harmful in terms of air quality,” she told BBC News.

“If it’s not a dusty year, you may be happy and spending more time outdoors because you don’t have this dust in the way, but you are actually going out to spend more time in more toxic air.”

The study has been published in the journal Nature Communications.

Lack of dust makes China’s air pollution much worse – Source –

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Scientists make plastic from Christmas trees

Most current plastics are made from oil, which is unsustainable. However, scientists from the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies (CSCT) at the University of Bath have developed a renewable plastic from a chemical called pinene found in pine needles.

Pinene is the fragrant chemical from the terpene family that gives pine trees their distinctive “Christmas smell” and is a waste product from the paper industry.

The researchers hope the plastic could be used in a range of applications, including food packaging, plastic bags and even medical implants.

Making renewable plastics from trees

Degradable polyesters such as PLA (polylactic acid) are made from crops such as corn or sugar cane, but PLA can be mixed with a rubbery polymer called caprolactone to make it more flexible. Caprolactone is made from crude oil, and so the resulting plastic isn’t totally renewable.

The researchers publishing their results in the journal Polymer Chemistry, used pinene as the raw material to make a new type of plastic that can be used in the place of caprolactone.

Helena Quilter, PhD student at the CSCT, explained: “We’re not talking about recycling old Christmas trees into plastics, but rather using a waste product from industry that would otherwise be thrown away, and turning it into something useful.

“So if we can make a plastic from sustainable sources, it could make a big difference to the environment.”

Replacing fossil fuels

Professor Matthew Davidson, Director of the CSCT and Whorrod Professor of Sustainable Chemical Technologies, added: “This research is part of a wider project that looks at using bio-based chemicals like pinene as a sustainable starting material for making a range of useful products, in the place of petrochemicals. This reduces our reliance on fossil fuels and provides a renewable feedstock that has the potential to revolutionise the chemical industry.”

The project, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), is also investigating using other terpenes, such as limonene from citrus fruit, as a substitute for petrochemicals to make a range of products from plastics to pharmaceuticals.

The research is still at the early stages – only a few grams have been made so far—but the scientists aim to scale up the process to produce larger quantities in the near future.
Read more at:

How orange peel could replace crude oil in plastics

Orange juice, both delicious and nutritious, is enjoyed by millions of people across the world every day. However, new research indicates that it could have potential far beyond the breakfast table. The chemicals in orange peel could be used as new building blocks in products ranging from plastics to paracetamol – helping to break our reliance on crude oil.

Today’s society is totally reliant on the chemicals and materials that are obtained from our diminishing supply of fossil fuels. As such, there is an increasing global focus on the development of renewable chemical feedstocks from a variety of sustainable sources such as sugarcane and fatty acids in the production of biofuels. And the chemically rich essential oils contained within waste citrus peels are another such source that is being investigated with real zest.

This is promising, as the orange juice industry uses highly inefficient and wasteful juicing processes, with almost 50% of the fruit thrown away. This gives a real opportunity, then, to develop a sustainable supply of chemicals from the diverse and plentiful molecules locked within the peels.

Limonene – a versatile building block

Recent figures estimate around 20m tonnes of citrus is wasted each year. As some 95% of the oil extracted from these waste rinds is made up of limonene molecules, a colourless liquid hydrocarbon known as C10H16, this waste could yield around 125,000 tonnes of limonene a year.

Current extraction methods rely on distillation, passing steam through the waste solids and simply collecting the resulting oil. But recently, researchers at the University of York began investigating microwave extraction techniques as a greener alternative. The team simply placed orange peel and an organic solvent into a microwave and heated for 30 minutes. Within the peel, the water molecules start to boil, rupturing the cells and allowing the limonene to leach out. The results are favourable; the process is much faster, less energy intensive, produces a higher quality of limonene and in a yield twice as good as conventional methods.

But what is it that makes limonene so useful? As a simple hydrocarbon, it shares many similarities with the chemicals we obtain from fossil fuels, such as its liquid nature and boiling point. Therefore the technology we currently use on petrochemical feedstocks can be directly used on limonene to turn it into useful products. We can do this by exploiting limonene’s two carbon double bonds for a variety of chemical transformations.

Renewable plastics

How orange peel could replace crude oil in plastics
Limonene structural formula. Credit: Jü/wikimedia, CC BY-SA

Perhaps limonene’s greatest potential is as a building block for the polymer industry. Chemists are always looking for new ways to join molecules into long polymer chains so they can be used in a range of products, such as the polypropylene (a chain of propylene molecules) fibres that we use in carpets, or polyethylene (a chain of ethylene molecules) for making plastic bottles.

Back in 2006, scientists at Cornell University first showed the how fruitful this strategy could be. By reacting limonene oxide – a limonene molecule including an oxygen atom – with carbon dioxide in an alternating pattern, they could create polyesters, used in many woven or knitted fabrics. This groundbreaking work has been followed up in recent years through a variety of other polymer-forming reactions. This has included other forms of polyesters by replacing carbon dioxide with alternative building blocks.

Polyurethanes are a family of synthetic polymers that have found their ways into many of our homes from foam cushions to shoe soles. Currently the raw materials are obtained from fossil fuels, however limonene-based replacements have been recently identified. For instance, researchers in Germany have produced a family of new polyurethane-like plastics with limonene at the centre. The properties and hardness of these materials could be easily tuned to make a range of household products.

The development of limonene-based materials does not stop at everyday consumer products. Advanced optical materials have been recently been prepared by using limonene as a binder to make thin luminescent films.

The production of medicines from limonene may also one day be a reality. My team at the University of Bath is investigating the production of paracetamol using limonene’s carbon skeleton at its core. Through a series of chemical transformations combined with state-of-the-art engineering, we hope to turn waste orange peels into this widely used pain relief drug.

Hurdles to overcome

How orange peel could replace crude oil in plastics
A new player may be about to enter the market. Credit: Kumar’s Edit/Fickr, CC BY-SA

Limonene certainly has the potential to become an important component of a bio-based chemical industry. The field however is still in its infancy with no commercial limonene-based plastics on the marketplace. Issues that need to be addressed include a finding a reliable supply and greener processing – many of the above processes for manufacturing polymers using limonene still require petrochemicals as additives.

Limonene and its wider family (called terpenes) are only one piece of the renewable feedstocks puzzle. For example polylactic acid, a sustainable polymer derived from corn starch has been commercially available for the past decade primarily as disposable packaging. Other plastic building blocks have being sourced from plant materials such as Coca Cola’s PlantBottle technology. These alternative renewable sources can contain large amounts of oxygen atoms giving the resulting polymers different but complementary properties to limonene-based plastics.

The availability of limonene is also dictated by the weather in Florida and Brazil and by our desire to drink orange juice. Even if all of the currently available limonene from citrus waste was made into polymers it wouldn’t make a dent in global levels of plastic production.

However, if we could make the most of all the citrus that gets wasted, the amount of available limonene would increase. More efficient extraction methods will also boost availability as will advances in biotechnology. My team is also investigating how to modify bacteria to feed off municipal waste and excrete limonene as its only product. These sort of advances may be a way off but they are important first steps to breaking our dependence on crude oil – molecules such as limonene will no doubt be a bright part of our future.

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