Thursday, September 21, 2006

Hospitals & Face Masks

Interesting article in my Clay Times magazine titled "Hospitals, HEPAs, and Health." The article is primarily about "Studio Health & Safety" each month but due to a mix-up in the previous edition expanded into hospital health and facemasks in this particular issue (March/April 2006).

The previous month the author, Monona Rossol, had covered the need for potters to protect themselves from clay and glaze particles when working in a studio by wearing the appropriate facemask. Unbeknownst to the author, the magazine used a photo of a woman wearing the typical hospital facemask (she calls it the old "Ben Casey" mask).

Unfortunately, it turns out that the facemask is worthless and she notes that people in her field know they can only filter out "crumbs, flies and boulders." I probably wouldn't have continued reading the article if not for that phrase. It caught my attention as I would have thought hospitals with all the associated health risks and germs floating around would have tighter regulations than other work environments.

Not so. Per the article, when OSHA rules were expanded, the hospitals opted not to follow the rules saying it was too costly. They wanted their own rules. Rossol notes that since the 1970s hospitals "have maintained that they were exempt from many of the Occupational Safety & health Administration (OSHA) respiratory protection rules."

It wasn't until about two years ago that the hospitals were forced to apply the same standards everyone else has to follow. However, in each of the last two years Congress has passed bills "prohibiting OSHA from fining hospitals for failing to meet the respiratory protection requirements."

What? Why?

It may be simply old-wives-tales and hearsay, but I'm sure everyone reading this has heard that the biggest problem with going in the hospital for surgery or another illness is that you have a high chance of catching something else.

I will be checking into the practices of our local hospitals to find out what standards they adhere to when it comes to face masks. I was already concerned about what I might catch from others in the hospital and the much-talked-about problem with staph infections, etc. in the event I ever had to seek treatment. If the people who are ministering medically to me are breathing in the germs of others, they could easily be expelling them into MY space. If they have an illness and they are not wearing a proper mask, that little piece of cloth isn't going to help either of us.

As Rossol notes when closing her article, "if your doctor, nurse, dentist, dental technician, or other health professional puts on a mask in the course of your treatment, take a look at it. If it has a single strap or is of loose cloth, be aware that neither of you is well-protected from passing viruses or bacteria." Yuk.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

PSC Strangely Quiet?

It seems that with all the hue and cry about the problems at the Philip Services Corporation (PSC) waste treatment plant in Fairburn that they might be doing a bit more to respond to the complaints of the citizens than they have been.

I understand they are probably being counseled by their legal arm not to do anything to incriminate, but you'd think their public relations on this issue might be just a bit more in play.

As I've wandered around the Internet looking up PSC, I've noted they've had a number of problems over the years and have had a similar lack-luster response from what I could tell.

The Georgia EPD should be hanging their head in shame. They let this company go for 16 years without filing the required reports. PSC bought the company, had to go through all the required political and regulatory hoops to do so, yet they didn't pick up on the fact that their were reports to be filed? Did the EPD not send them or provide them with the requirements? Did they choose to ignore them?

I have been less than impressed with our state's response and with the response from the PSC on this one.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Is this the best we can expect?

New blog, old topic. We in Georiga have been dealing with a problem caused by the Philip Services Corporation in Fairburn. The only reason anyone became aware of a problem at this waste treatment plant was because one of the toxins had mercaptan in it. Propyl mercaptan smells. Bad. They use it in tiny, tiny amounts in natrual gas to give it an odor. They put it in pesticides and other similar things to give them a smell.

Smells like rotton onions.

The odor wafted across a fairly large area of South Fulton and Fayette counties. People started raising a ruckus. Finally, and I do mean FINALLY, enough people raised enough of a stink to bring in the EPD, various health agencies and other governmental agencies.

I've been writing about this issue in my Fayette Life blog, but decided to set up a new one just so I could keep the negative stuff out of that blog (it's supposed to be a happy blog ;-) Anyway, if you'd like to read more about the issue, visit and click on Fayette Life in the far right column, visit and click on issues, or go to I'm not going to bore you with all the background since you can go to those excellent sources and read to your hearts content.

Now that we've been dealing with this issue for a while and I've had a chance to watch the government's reaction, I've realized we are in big trouble if we're hit with a serious problem (like a pandemic, a terror action, or some other catastrophic event of similar magnitude).

Our government is so bogged down with rules they can't act. No one is willing to take any initiative. The agencies can't talk to each other. The EPD can't act based on a recommendation from Public Health. The EPD can't do testing unless they catch an agency in the act almost.

I see this huge, huge overblown bunch of agencies that SHOULD be able to react, but their bloated and lethargic and crippled by their own actions. Inefficient. Scared almost.

I also wonder at a system where the EPD is regulating a company they use, or at least my understanding is that they use the Philip Services Corporation to get rid of toxins. The EPD didn't notice that Philip hadn't turned in reports, required reports, for TWO years... why? I can see missing one month, one report, but two entire years?

If they find a problem now at Philip, who looks bad? They do. Is there any incentive for them to FIND a problem? What happens if they do find a problem? They shut them down? Nah, they simply fine them.

That's going to hurt. The EPD levied the largest fine ever in the history of their existance ($100,000). I've been out wandering around the Internet and see where the EPA fined them one MILLION. When you're dealing with a Goliath like PSC, what good does it do to fine them?

Do the citizens who are dealing with illnesses resulting from the toxins released from PSC benefit from the fine. Nope. The system puts the money into a pot for cleaning up toxic messes.

Seems like the punishment should match the "crime.' Fix those who were affected by the mercaptan, MOCAP, ethoprop dumped into the air, or the dirt, and/or the water. What you want to bet that the company would be willing to spend more in litigation than the cost of everyone's doctors bills combined? Can't let those stock prices fall. Can't let the pubic lose confidence. Can't lose those lucrative contracts. Admit you goofed and the dominos start to fall.