Health Effects of Drought

7 Surprising Health Effects of Drought

Jul 18, 2012 | 2:31 PM ET | MyHealthNewsDaily Staff

With more than half the U.S. currently in drought, concerns have mounted over the consequences of the arid climate on the country’s crop yields. But droughts have far reaching effects beyond the farm, including many effects on human health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).Here are seven potential health concerns that occur with drought:

Bad air

Droughts can reduce air quality and compromise the health of people with certain conditions, according to the CDC. During a drought, dry soils and wildfires increase the amount of airborne particles, such as pollen and smoke.

These particles can irritate the airways and worsen chronic respiratory illnesses, such as asthma, the CDC says. Poor air quality can also increase the risk of respiratory infections, such as bacterial pneumonia.

Valley fever

Drought increases the risk of people catching the fungal infection coccidioidomycosis, or valley fever, the CDC says. The disease is transmitted when spores in the soil become airborne and are inhaled. The condition causes a range of symptoms, including fever, chest pain, coughing, rash, and muscle aches, the CDC says.

The condition is more common among people living in the Southwest than other parts of the U.S., but it is relatively rare — one study reported that 0.04 percent of people in Maricopa County, Ariz., were infected in one year.

Germy hands

In a drought, people may feel the need to reduce hand washing and other hygiene practices to conserve water, the CDC says. This may increase the spread of infectious diseases, such as acute respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses.

“Conservation efforts should not hinder proper sanitation and hygiene,” the CDC says. People can install low-flow faucet aerators to reduce water use while still maintaining proper hygiene, the agency says.

Mental health effects

Those whose livelihood is directly tied to the water supply — including farmers, horticulturalists and nursery owners — may suffer adverse mental health effects during a drought, according to the CDC.

“Financial-related stress and worry can cause depression, anxiety, and a host of other mental and behavioral health conditions,” the CDC says. Studies have found an increased rate of suicide among people living in farming areas during droughts, the agency says.

Unhealthy eating

Reduced rainfall can limit the growing season for farmers, and further reduce crop yields by creating ideal conditions for insect infestations that damage crops. This can bring increases in food prices, or shortages of certain foods, potentially leading to malnutrition, the CDC says. Read the complete article at myhealthnewsdaily.com

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Arsenic Testing for Groundwater

Ohio to survey arsenic in water

By Spencer Hunt |The Columbus Dispatch Monday July 9, 2012 8:27 AM

A government-led effort to find Ohio’s arsenic “hot spots” in groundwater is taking its first steps in Licking County.

State and county health officials plan to hand out sample bottles to residents at a Tuesday-night workshop and offer free lab tests to determine whether the poisonous metal is in their well water.

The test results will serve a broader public need, providing the U.S. Geological Survey and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency with information on where arsenic could pose a health threat.

“We’re trying to fill in our understanding of which parts of the state and which settings are most vulnerable for arsenic,” said Mary Ann Thomas, a geological survey hydrologist.

Officials say they hope the public can help tailor a statewide program in which Ohioans pitch in to identify where this hazard exists. A second workshop is scheduled for Aug. 14.

“What most people aren’t aware of is at lower levels, it’s not an acute poison, but it can be a chronic one,” said Bob Frey, the health-assessment chief at the Ohio Department of Health.

People who drink water contaminated with arsenic for years are at higher risk of developing skin, liver, bladder and lung cancers. In 2001, the U.S. EPA lowered its safe drinking-water standard for arsenic from a concentration of 50 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion.

Frey said the EPA would have lowered the safe concentration to 0 parts, but arsenic is so common in water across the United States that it would be impossible to get rid of all of it. Under certain chemical conditions, arsenic can leak into groundwater from soil and minerals. read complete article…

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Are You Going to Drink That Glass of Water?

Are you going to drink that glass of water? Restaurateur launches campaign to conserve precious Texas resource

06.22.12 | 11:13 am

“I wish I could take a picture of every water glass bussed off a table that’s still full or half full,” says Mimi Del Grande.

She is referring to all the water that restaurants waste when they automatically serve patrons water. And she should know. Del Grande is the wife of celebrity chef Robert Del Grande and one of the original partners in Schiller Del Grande Restaurant Group.

Of course she’s not alone, but she is certainly one of the stalwarts when it comes to “free” water.

Last March, some Houston diners got a little schooling in water when 36 local eateries participated in UNICEF’s World Water Week, a fundraising effort for the Tap Project that brings clean water to children around the world. During World Water Week, restaurant patrons were asked to pay $1 for that glass of tap water to help the project and they were informed about the lack of clean drinking water around the world. Nearly one billion people lack access to clean water.

You want tap water? Cough up a buck for charity. Any charity. Because someday, not that far away, it might be you who needs clean drinking water.

I thought that was the greatest thing since the invention of queso, I just was shocked that only 36 out of thousands of local restaurants participated. And I wish it could go on year-round.

You want tap water? Cough up a buck for charity. Any charity. Because someday, not that far away, it might be you who needs clean drinking water.

According to the Texas Water Development Board’s 2012 State Water Plan: “In serious drought conditions, Texas does not and will not have enough water to meet the needs of its people, its businesses, and its agricultural enterprises.”

And even if we don’t face another drought like last year’s, by 2060 the region’s population will almost double while our existing water supplies will be less. The Water Plan contains recommendations at a cost of $12 billion for the Houston area (called Region H) and part of that plan is increased conservation.

“When it was really bad last summer we did ask restaurants to only serve water on request,” says Greater Houston Restaurant Associationexecutive director Katie Clark. “We made a request in our membership newsletter, but we don’t have any policy on it. It’s hard because patrons are just used to the way it’s always been.”

At least in Houston.

In New York City there is a regulation that stipulates water in restaurants is only to be served upon request. Other cities have similar ordinances (Houston does not) but they aren’t always followed.

“Every time I go out to eat anywhere, even in California where they have restrictions, they are pouring water like crazy,” says Del Grande.

“I grew up in a very dry Riverside, California,” she adds. “Where we had droughts all the time. We used to take our used water out to water our plants and it was illegal to wash our cars.” Anyone remember Chinatown, the Jack Nicholson film about the California Water Wars in the ’20s and 30s?

And by the way, Texas is currently battling both Mexico and Oklahoma over water rights.

“Americans think they have a god given right to water on the table,” says Del Grande. “Seventy percent of the world doesn’t have access to enough fresh water. It’s just bad juju.”

So Del Grande instituted a water-on-request policy at all of the Schiller Del Grande restaurants. Some other eateries, like Giacomo’s cibo e vino, have notes on the menu saying water is only served on request, but Del Grande took it a little farther. The menu at Alto Pizzeria reads: “Please help us save our most precious resource. Water served upon request.”

So how’s that working out?

“The backlash I have gotten on this you would not believe,” Del Grande sighs. “Particularly at RDG, the customers were getting really mad at the waiters.”

“The backlash I have gotten on this you would not believe,” Del Grande sighs. “Particularly at RDG, the customers were getting really mad at the waiters.”

Which is why some of her waiters continue to bring big glasses of water whether you ask for it or not.

“You know people who order a glass of ice tea and a glass of water aren’t going to drink all the water,” Del Grande says. “It takes three glasses of water to wash one glass so you’re not wasting one glass, you’re wasting four.”

And yet we continue to do so. Wasting a precious resource that is itself wasting away as droughts get worse, subsidence reduces some of our water sources and our population continues to climb.

So what’s the answer? Education. Del Grande is hoping to produce some YouTube videos and wants to push the effort with other restaurants. She’s so passionate about it she would love to work on the issue fulltime, but she can’t.

So, in the meantime, next time you sit down at a restaurant table, tell your waiter you don’t want tap water. And if the bring it before you can decline, please ask them to recycle the water.

After all, it is one of our most precious resources.

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