Extremely Rare but Deadly: Brain-Eating Naegleria fowleri Amoeba in Water

In a nutshell… This article discusses Naegleria fowleri risk and prevention in water. These free-living amoebas can thrive in warm freshwaters such as lakes and sometimes inadequately treated, warm household (e.g., drinking, bathing) water. Entry of contaminated water through the nose—not by swallowing—can lead to a fatal brain infection. Only a handful of cases are

Chlorine vs. Chlorine Bleach: What’s the Difference?

In a nutshell… The terms “chlorine” and “chlorine bleach” are not always used accurately in reporting emergency incidents in which elemental chlorine gas or liquid chlorine bleach escape their containers. These two substances have different chemical and physical properties and represent different potential risks to human health. This article explains the differences between the substances

We Can Get Food Poisoning, Even during a Pandemic

In a nutshell… Food safety remains a significant public health issue in the U.S. during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Recommendations for avoiding foodborne illness include the traditional “clean, separate, cook, and chill” messages as well as common sense adaptations based on the “new normal” of life during the coronavirus pandemic.   With a Cyclospora recall

Preparing to Shelter in Place During the Coronavirus Outbreak

In a nutshell… This article provides guidance on preparing to shelter in place in the event that becomes necessary during the current coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The interactive “Dr. Ralph’s Emergency Preparedness Closet” illustrates the supplies families will need to stay healthy and secure while confined to their homes. Also addressed are tactics for staying mentally

Water Quality Testing and Treatment Systems for Pharmaceuticals

Nearly half of all Americans take one or more prescription drugs, with the percentage soaring to 85 percent for persons aged 60 and above (myself included). Water is the most widely used substance in the production, formulation, and packing of myriad pharmaceuticals, which are compounds manufactured for use as medicinal drugs. Given the public health importance and global footprint of pharmaceuticals, including antibiotics, there are extensive testing and safety requirements to control the quality of water used throughout the manufacturing processes. This article explains how water impacts the medicines you take, and what lengths are taken to keep them safe.

Food Recalls in the United States: Examining the Data

The U.S. food supply is among the safest in the world, thanks to a multitude of protective measures all along the path from “the farm to the fork.” Many of these measures are illustrated in the Food Safety Pyramid in Figure 1. One of these, food recalls, helps warn consumers when contaminated food has made

Quarantine, Isolation, and an Escape from a Little Rock Yellow Fever Epidemic

Family lore has it that during a yellow fever epidemic in Little Rock in the 1890s, my maternal grandmother’s family escaped the quarantined city via a flat boat, probably along the Arkansas River to the Mississippi River. The story goes that under the cover of darkness, great grandfather Nathan slipped the boat under a blockading chain across the Mississippi and spirited his wife Jennie, their children, and the rest of the family away from the outbreak. The family returned to Little Rock when the epidemic was over, and Nathan and Jennie’s daughter, Gida, my grandmother, went on to graduate from college in 1911, a rare feat for a woman in those days.

Avoiding the Latest Salmonella Outbreaks with a Special Focus on Children and the Elderly

Ninety-two people in 29 states have been infected with an antibiotic resistant strain of bacteria known as Salmonella Infantis, according to a recent Investigation Notice by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CDC reports the outbreak strain is present in live chickens and in many types of recalled raw chicken products including

The State of Lead Testing in School Drinking Water

Although lead has been banned in U.S. drinking water infrastructure since 1986, it is still present in older lead-soldered copper and cast iron lines serving schools and other buildings. Lead can also be present in some indoor plumbing, solder, and fixtures at older schools, including high-lead brass faucets and in some drinking water fountains. Since

You Too Can Embrace Water Conservation (And It Really Works)

I remember 1980, when water conservation wasn’t really a thing, household showers could blast away dirt and grime, and low-flow toilets were a novelty. Thanks to the US Geological Survey (USGS), we know that 1980 also marked the peak of US water use at 430 billions of gallons per day (Bgal/d).1 Much has changed since