It’s hard to say if the old saying “March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb,” applies to every part of the world.  It seems like the lion has been showing more of his teeth lately, with the horrible tragedies in Japan – an earthquake, tsunami, and the nuclear concerns.  Also, in the United States, tornadoes have already hit several areas.  Every year they start a littler earlier, or so it appears!  Floods, as well, have occurred as a result of heavy rains in certain parts of the country, and drought in others.  It’s either feast or famine, when it comes to the weather. 

In the eastern United States, March came in like a lamb, but is really threatening to go out like a lion.  In Texas, we have seen a few beautiful spring days; however, we have experienced some very unusually cold and windy March days, too.  Whatever has gone on in your corner of the world, it is hoped that it will get better soon.  April hopefully will bring showers, as rain is really needed in our state.  The threat of wildfires continues because of  extremely dry conditions. 

It is hard to realize that the first three months of 2011 have already passed us by.  We need to start preparing for spring and warm weather.  A few pretty days get us motivated to get outside and start yard work.  Take your time and gradually build up, as those muscles may not be quite ready for a full-throttle workout.  Stock up on work gloves, Eye safety glasses,  (for trimming tree limbs and mowing grass), and wear long-sleeves on your arms, and sunscreen on your face.  Spring brings a new beginning for the rest of the year, and it’s a time we all look forward to – before the heat comes around!  

Think about stocking up your emergency kit just in case bad weather should happen.  Keep plenty of water handy, some non-perishable foods, flashlights, NOAA weather radio, batteries, pet food, and other supplies ready.  Pay attention to weather warnings in your area.  Know where you can pick up your school children in case of a weather emergency, or where they will be taken for safety at their school.  Preparedness pays, regardless of weather conditions, or any other emergency situation.  Most everyone loves springtime, and yet Mother Nature can find ways to really get our attention during that season.   

Last, but not least, here’s hoping that everyone’s final day of March will mosey on out like a sweet little lamb.  But beware……….there’s one more thing to be prepared for:  April Fools’ Day!


This past Wednesday, there were two separate but related incidents of what “sleeping on the job” could have caused, when not one, but two commercial airplanes were unable to hail the traffic controller for landing clearance, yet landed safely with assistance from a regional control center.  This happened at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.  A United Airbus A320 was carrying sixty-three passengers and a crew of five, while an American Boeing 737 was flying with ninety-one passengers with a crew of six.  Thankfully, 165 persons were safe on the ground.  The lone controller, who had worked four consecutive overnight shifts,  had fallen asleep during the period of time the two pilots were calling in.   Concerns about worker fatigue have been voiced by The National Air Traffic Controllers Union and safety advocates for years.  

The FAA was asked four years ago to work with the controllers union to revise work schedules and practices and to develop a fatigue awareness program.  Their safety board stressed the “especially problematic” concerns regarding the common practice of scheduling controllers to work increasingly early shifts over a week.  Patrick Forrey, former president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association said several towers in the U.S. have only one worker during the midnight shift.  It’s unknown just how common this practice is.  Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood noted that Reagan’s tower will get a second nighttime controller and he has asked the FAA to study staffing levels at other airports around the country.  Secretary LaHood stated, “One-person shifts are unsafe. Period.” 

Working at night has a greater impact than working the same number of hours in the daytime.  On average, shift workers lose 1 – 1 ½ hours of sleep for each 24-hour period.  This can build up a sleep debt of 6 hours after 4 nights.  Working more than three or four night shifts in a row can likely cause a significant sleep debt, bringing serious consequences for safety.  Our body clock is programmed to be awake during the day and asleep at night.  Night workers have to override their body clock to remain active at night. 

Prior to 2007, a study made by FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute showed there was widespread evidence of fatigue among air controllers.  Some of those findings were:

  • More than 2/3 of those interviewed said they experienced attention lapses driving to work for early morning or midnight shifts;
  • More than 1/3 reported falling asleep while driving to or from a midnight shift;
  • 60 to 80 per cent had caught themselves about to doze off during early morning or midnight shifts. 

Fatigue has lead to many human errors. Mistakes made by shift workers in the early morning hours were critical factors in disasters at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Bhopal, and the Exxon Valdez oil spillage.  Fatigue-induced human errors bring major consequences for public safety, as well as for the workers involved.  It has been estimated that in the U.S., fatigue contributes to between 20 and 40 per cent of all commercial vehicle crashes, causing the loss of more than 15,000 lives.  Extreme fatigue may cause a person to “disengage” briefly into a “micro-sleep”.  When this happens at a critical time, an accident may result.  Micro-sleeps have been observed in train drivers and airline pilots during periods of critical operations, with the drivers and pilots sometimes being unaware that it was happening.  

There is no single method of shift management that fits all circumstances, but whichever method is used, should be tailored to the needs of the particular organization.  One thing is for sure, when it comes to airline safety, there should never be only one person in the control tower during late hours.  One person working alone with the responsibilities of that job should be able to take breaks, such as for meals and restroom. The pressures of such concentrated mental and visual work could be relieved by the presence of a co-worker.  Those that choose to fly night or day, as well as the airline crews, deserve to have their safety a top priority.

Source: Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Bloomberg News; Department of Labour, New


The world we live in is inhabited by many predators, some who prey on women; regardless of their age, females are targets, and must do all they can to be aware of their surroundings in order to be safe.  Women may be victims of domestic abuse – violence committed by a boyfriend or someone they know.  Some acts of aggression are drug or alcohol related.  Statistics show that many acts of crime against women go unreported. 

According to the National Crime Victims Rights Resource Guide, the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs and Office of Victims of Crimes, statistics from 2007 show that in the next hour, somewhere in the United States, the following will happen:

  • 900 thefts;
  • 189 violent crimes;
  • 124 assaults;
  • 66 robberies;
  • 24 sexual assaults;
  • 12 rapes; and
  • 2 murders.

Note: these numbers were from a 2007 report; without doubt, the totals have increased since that time.  Of course, not all these will result in crimes against women, but our focus for today is to help women understand how to live more safely.  One suggestion is to wear expensive jewelry on special occasions only, when you are not alone. 

In vehicles, remember:

  • Stepping out of the car either at home or in an isolated area can be a danger area.
  • Check your car before entering it.
  • Always be alert in parking lots, especially if it is dark.  If you are at a mall, don’t be shy about asking security to walk you to your car.
  • Never leave the car unlocked, even for a few minutes.
  • If someone pulls up beside you and points to a tire, don’t pull over.  Drive to a police station or busy place before you get out of your car.
  • Be sure your doors are locked and windows are up when you stop at an intersection.
  • If someone is pointing a knife or handgun at you from inside the car, don’t get into it, but run and scream.  More than likely, he will drive off, but if you enter the car, he has a better chance to harm you. 

If you take public transportation, remember:

  • Wait inside a coffee shop until the bus or train arrives.
  • Don’t sit by a window, in order to avoid someone sitting beside you and blocking your exit.
  • Choose train compartments carrying the most passengers or sit directly behind the driver.
  • Sit behind the bus driver or next to the door for a quick exit. 

At work:

  • Be thoughtful about the clothing you plan to wear.  You don’t want to get the wrong kind of attention.
  • Be friendly and polite, but be attentive for signs of “odd” behavior.  Do not flirt.
  • Be firm about unwanted attention.
  • Do not share personal information such as living alone, marital status, etc.
  • Trust your instincts. 

While walking or jogging:

  • If you are in an isolated area, don’t use your music headset; stay alert.
  • Change your routes on a regular basis.
  • Don’t be temped to use your cell phone while walking; don’t become distracted.
  • The “buddy system” is always best; don’t go alone.  There is safety in numbers.
  • If you feel as though someone in a car is following you, turn around and take another route.
  • If you walk/jog in your neighborhood, find houses that you feel you are welcome to use as a “safe house,” – one that you can find refuge in, owned by a friend or acquaintance.
  • Always have your cell phone with you. 

In social settings:

  • Do not drink excessive amounts of alcohol, or take drugs that can alter your personality and actions.
  • Stay with your group.
  • Do not leave with strangers.
  • Never leave any food or drink unattended where it could be tampered with. 

Keep in mind, that you need your cell phone with you at all times.  There are safety items that may be purchased to give you a little peace of mind, such as pepper spray, or a personal alarm, which is a small but loud device that will draw attention to an emergency situation.  The pepper spray causes pain to an attacker, and lasts about 20-30 minutes but causes no permanent damage.  In many states, it is unlawful to use something such as pepper spray or mace unless it is for self-defense. 

Many sexual acts are committed by people that the victims know, or thought they did.  An attack is usually preceded by a visual sign, which is often preceded by a verbal approach before the physical action.  Recognize the sequence: the look – the talk – the attack.  Most women think this can never happen to them, but it can occur anytime, anywhere, to all ages.  Recently, a 60-something year-old  lady was kidnapped and assaulted for days by a 58 year-old man.  He had been asking her out, but she was not interested.  After telling her family about the man, he took her hostage, burning her house and car.  Because she had mentioned the man to her family, law authorities found both of them in his home several miles away.  Because he tied her up, she was virtually helpless.  Now he is in jail, and hopefully, will be put away for a long time, where he cannot hurt or threaten anyone else.

Be aware of your surroundings at all times.  Stay in touch with family and friends so they know where you can be reached.  We just can’t be too careful!


It seems that the Top Ten List of Violations on OSHA’s Top Ten for 2009, were still on their Top Ten List for 2010, many of them just in different places.  The third highest on the penalties assessed list for 2010 was violation of (29CFR 1910.21), Safety Training and Education, Construction, Walking and Working Surfaces.  Serious, willful, or repeat violations can result in harm or death from hazards, and it seems that employers would do everything in their power to protect their employees from such hazards, rather than pay stiff penalties. 

Slips, trips, and falls constitute the majority of general industry accidents; fifteen per cent of all accidental deaths are caused by slips, trips, or falls – second only to motor vehicles as a cause of fatalities.  OSHA standards for walking/working surfaces apply to all permanent places of employment, except where only domestic, mining, or agricultural work is performed.  Annually, about 20 workplace fatalities happen, with another 3,700 injuries resulting  in lost workdays.   

As in any job, on-the-job training is first and foremost, with the accent on safety.  Employees who could be exposed to specific hazards related to walking and working surfaces, scaffolding, mobile elevated work platforms, and portable and fixed ladders, should have full knowledge of the safeguards and precautions to prevent injuries.  Retraining is imperative for affected employees whenever there is a change in the appropriate area, or when an employee is seen deviating from the prescribed safe work practices.  Training should be done by experienced and qualified persons.  Training should be certified with written training records, and actual work observations should verify the effectiveness of such training. 

  • Proper guarding should be provided for open pits, ditches, floor openings, and other open areas by covering or guarding with a standard railing.  If not guarded or covered, it must be protected by a temporary barrier on all exposed sides or attended by an assigned person.
  • Appropriate railings for stairways that are 30” – 34” to tread should be provided. 
  • A standard railing on all open sides should guard all open-sided platforms that measure four feet or more above the adjacent floor of ground level.
  • Six foot controlled access zones along pits, floors, and flat roof edges where fall protection is not feasible should be set up.  A controlled access zone must use control lines or other barriers to restrict employee access to fall hazards.  Warning signs must be posted at controlled access zones.
  • Employees working on steep slope roofs (greater than four inches of run per twelve inches of rise) that are four feet or more above a lower level must be protected from falls by a guard rail system, personal fall arrest system, or safety net system; and
  • Employees working on low slope roofs (less than or equal to four inches of run per twelve inches of rise) with unprotected sides and edges that are four feet or more above a lower level are protected by one of the following methods:

(1) A guard railing system; (2) personal fall arrest system; (3) safety net system; (4) combination of a “warning line” and any other of the above; or  (5) a combination of a “warning line” and a safety monitor. 

Walking and working surfaces should have the strength and integrity to support employees safely.  Floors should not be overloaded with materials and/or equipment over the approved load limits.  Elevated storage and other platforms should be marked with the load bearing weight.  Aisles and passageways should be clearly visible and allow space for both moving equipment and employees.  There should also be safe clearance room at all turns, doors, and passageways, and the areas should not be obstructed by physical barriers or stored materials.  Work environments should be kept neat and orderly, waste properly discarded, and floors kept clean.  Mats and grating could be used when appropriate. 

Hopefully, this year will bring fewer violations of this standard, as well as many others.  Training employees, protecting them from workplace injuries by better planning and housekeeping, and giving them the right PPE for each particular job will pay dividends for companies, along with the reward of a safe workday every day for each person.  That would be the best reward for everyone involved!


The word “practice” can mean  many things to different people.  We’ve all heard the saying, “Practice Makes Perfect.”  My best friend was great at playing the piano, but it infuriated her when her mom made us stop doing what we wanted to do so she could practice.  I loved to listen to her play, but she just hated it.  At the time, I just didn’t understand why she resented that so badly, because she was very talented.  The answer was, she simply hated to practice! 

When we enjoy learning a new game, it’s fun, and we get better at it the longer we play.  That’s why computer games or games on cell phones are so popular. Getting to the next level on a computer game is very challenging, and this promotes practice until one can move up to higher levels.  Many times, school classes are boring, and young people are not motivated to learn, but when it’s fun, they become more interested.  The fact is, however, that we can’t be entertained 100 per cent of the time.  Being from the old school, we learned reading, writing, and arithmetic by going over and over and over and over it, until we had it down pat.   Practice, practice, practice! 

You may have noticed that many young persons who work in fast food restaurants or other industries depend on that calculator/cash register to figure the change they owe you.  If the electricity goes out, they are in trouble.  Please understand, that it is very important that young people grasp the basic fundamentals of math, etc.,  to get ahead in the world.  Knowing how to figure out a problem with paper and pen helps.

Practice can mean drill, and that’s a word that turns folks off.  Unless it’s football drills, or other athletic drills, and then young people can’t wait to get out on the field. Practice makes players safer, too.  You may have a fire drill at work, and that’s a type of practice, too. (One that is important for your safety.)  Musicians must practice every day in order to excel, as well as actors, who rehearse over and over until their performance is (almost) perfect.  

So for everyone who works for a living, practice is a very important part of being successful.  Practice is necessary to execute ones job with proficiency.  Leaders of safety teams must learn the demands of the job first, and then be able to motivate workers to reach attainable goals.  Repeated performances mean that the more we do something, the better at it we will become.  Technology many times lets us avoid repetition.  However, many jobs require us to do it the hard way – through years of experience and finding out what works best to accomplish the goals we have set for ourselves. 

When employees work as a team, and share their knowledge with each other, problems can be more easily solved.  Once we know what is expected of us in our particular job description, we can accomplish it through hard work and practice.  Working with others and keeping each other and ourselves safe through good work practices will allow everyone to achieve their goals.


With the state of the economy in the United States, it is very important that we search for and support those who are developing important strategies in creating clean and renewable energy.  By investing in clean energy, industries can create thousands of new “green” jobs.  It’s already taking place throughout the country.  By laying the foundation for young generations, the people who work in “green” jobs are forging a new way of life for all of us.  

Solar energy is a growing sector for green energy and green jobs.  Two viable solar energy sectors are solar electric and solar thermal or solar water heating.  By concentrating solar power, solar energy is converted into electricity using photovoltaics.  PV systems are the most common and use semi-conductors and sunlight to make electricity.  Solar water heating systems include direct and indirect (Glycol) systems and are determined mostly by climate. 

Worker’s health and safety hazards exist in installation, manufacture, and maintenance of solar energy.  Workers must understand how to protect themselves from the hazards involved, and employers must protect their workers from these hazards.  OSHA’s Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution Standard (29 CFR 1910.269), covers the safe work practices and worker training requirements.  Although solar energy is a growing industry, the hazards are not unique.  Some of the hazards that workers in the solar industry may face are: 

  • Crane and Hoist Safety.  Cranes must be inspected and used properly.   
  • Electrical hazards;
  • Lockout/Tagout;
  • Falls;
  • Heat/Cold Stress.  Workers often work in hot weather where hazards include dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and death.  Workers should be monitored by the employer and trained to identify and report symptoms of any heat-related illness.  They may also be exposed to cold weather conditions and should be protected from such conditions. 

Wind energy is another important “green” job.  In our part of the country, these huge “windmills” are popping up everywhere!  These turbines generate electricity from wind, and are being installed all across the nation.  Wind energy workers face many of the same hazards as those in the solar power industry:

  • Confined spaces. If the employee is working in a space large enough to enter and perform assigned work, but is not designed for continuous occupancy by the employee, and has a limited or restricted means of entry or exit.
  • Falls;
  • Lockout/Tagout;
  • Crane and Hoist Safety;
  • Electrical
  • Heat/Cold Stress. 

Of course, the hazards and risks of any particular job require the use of personal protective equipment right for the job.  Those working in solar energy or wind energy fields may require using safety glasses, hard hats, head protection, gloves, respirators, or other PPE. 

“Green” jobs offer work to those who are already trained in specific occupations – such as welders, electricians, and construction workers.  Besides helping our country be more environmentally conscious, these jobs provide new careers with livable wages.  We must put our fellow Americans back to work.  Most of the hazards we have described are commonplace to many occupations.  Training and educating employees in these jobs is a very important part of our future.  Regardless of having a blue-collar job, white-collar job, or “green” job, risks exist, and it is the responsibility of the employer to fulfill its obligation to provide their workers with a safe environment. 

Source: OSHA


It is a proven fact that persons who work in loud places for long periods of time can suffer loss of hearing, but researchers are now saying that they may also risk developing heart disease.  Can you imagine spending eight or ten hours per day working in an atmosphere where you have to yell at each other to be heard?  More than twenty million Americans work in noisy industrial settings. 

A new finding from animal research also shows evidence that too much noise can be bad for the heart; however, some scientists suggest that the changes may be no more than part of the body’s general response to stress.  Research over the past twenty years suggests that noise exposure contributes to high blood pressure, which has been apparent in studies.  It makes sense that the excessive noise can be as stressful to the body as extreme physical exercise or high-anxiety. Noise increases the body’s level of adrenaline and cortisol, (stress hormones), meaning that your heart could be affected.  Whether at the factory or on a construction site, noise at work is a known health hazard, with studies showing it increases hearing loss, sleep problems and psychological stress, but what about the heart? 

Currently, researchers have analyzed data on more than 6,0000 working adults, age 20 and older, to see if those working in a loud environment for at least three months have a higher risk of heart disease and related problems.  Data was taken from a large ongoing study called the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which included interviews of participants about their health and lifestyle, as well as work situation.  They were given medical exams, as well.  The findings were striking – after taking into account several factors that are known to increase the risk of heart problems, (age, smoking, and overweight), researchers discovered that workers in loud environments were twice as likely to have heart disease compared with those in quieter settings.  They were almost three times as likely to have chest pain (angina).  The link was particularly strong for people under 50, who were between three and four times more likely to have angina or heart disease.  These workers’ “bad” cholesterol levels were not particularly high, nor were their overall blood pressure readings.  However, they were twice as likely to have high diastolic blood pressure (the lower number on a blood pressure reading).  Raised diastolic pressure has been linked to a higher risk of heart disease. 

Workplace noise is an occupational hazard that managers and employers should be concerned about.  It should be discussed by workers with their managers for prompt corrective measures, not only because it could possibly lead to heart disease, but more importantly, it can cause hearing impairment.  There are not too many options to reduce noise hazards in the industrial setting.  The most straightforward is wearing of earplugs, which can lower noise intensity by 20-30 decibels.  Finding the connection between industrial noise and heart disease is perplexing; some researchers think that noise is the stressor, so maybe that is where it all starts.  More research is being done on this important subject, but in the meantime, this study provides extra incentive to take precautions, such as wearing earplugs or safety earmuffs, to minimize noise exposure.


Do you put as much thought into the vehicle that you rent for a business or pleasure trip as you would into the car you plan to purchase?  Probably, your answer is, of course, NO.  There are some facts about rental cars that you may not know, which may change your mind about considering just how safe that rental car is, such as: 

  • There is no current law that requires rental car companies to make repairs to recalled vehicles before renting or selling them to consumers.
  • Once they have been notified of a recall by the manufacturer, auto dealers have a legal obligation not to sell a new vehicle until the defect has been remedied.
  • NHTSA does not have the legal authority to require consumers, including fleet owners like rental car companies, to have recalled vehicles fixed.
  • Rental companies receive notices at the same time car owners do. 

For the past four months, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been investigating three million rental cars that had been recalled for defects. Just recently, some automakers informed NHTSA that tens of thousands of these recalled rental cars went unrepaired for months or longer.  GM and Chrysler told NHTSA that, 30 days after a recall, 10 to 30 per cent of the recalled vehicles in rental-car fleets had been repaired.  By 90 days, the repair rate had improved to about 30 per cent, and within a year, the repair rate had increased to 50 per cent or higher.  Clarence Ditlow, Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety (CAS) has noted that the Federal Trade Commission Act states that companies “shall not engage in unfair trade practices.  Not repairing a defective vehicle after it has been recalled, before renting it out, is an unfair trade practice, and is a violation of the act.”  He hopes that the investigation will lead to a more pointed law that specifically addresses this practice.  U.S. Senator, Charles Schumer, D-NY, has recently introduced the proposed Safe Car Rental Act, which would make it illegal for cars to be rented out if they are subject to a recall. 

Two young women were killed in a car wreck back in 2004, when the rental car they were driving was involved in a collision with a semi-trailer truck.  The car had been recalled due to a risk of under-hood fires, but the women were not informed of the risk.  While driving the car, it caught fire, causing a loss of steering power that led to the collision, killing the women instantly. It was noted that the vehicle had been rented at least four times after the agency received a recall notice.  Following five years of fighting a lawsuit, the rental agency admitted liability, and the parents of the sisters were awarded a damages only – $15 million verdict. 

USA TODAY’s analysis reveals that more than 95% of 167 different vehicles in rental fleets are rated “good” in head-on crashes – the most frequent type of fatal accidents.  However, in safety ratings, the side, rear, and roll-over crashes, have a large disparity.  Cars must have good ratings in these crashes, as well,  in order to avoid death or serious injury. 

The next time you plan to rent a car, do a little investigating about the safety ratings of the agency you plan to deal with.  Take a little time to check out the car before you leave the lot; make sure that  it has the right safety equipment, has been maintained properly, such as fluid levels checked, tires aired up well, and that wiper blades work.  You may have to pay a little more money for a bigger, heavier vehicle, but you will be safer than in a smaller, lighter one. 

Rental car companies have a responsibility to their customers to provide safe vehicles for use.


It is time to announce that this week – March 20 – 26,  is National Poison Prevention Week.  In the United States, it is reported that sixty-one poison control centers receive more than four million calls each year regarding how to deal with poison.  The American Association of Poison Control Centers reports that the majority of non-fatal poison incidents involve children younger than six years old, and 90% of the time these incidents happen in the home.  The same association, (AAPCC) reports that poisoning is one of the leading causes of death among adults.  This is a warning to all of us that we should be constantly aware of the threat of poisoning on an every-day basis; hopefully, this week will bring more understanding of the threat of poisonous substances, and how to prevent it. 

Prevention is the key to keeping children safe.  Toddlers are especially curious, and they’ll try just about anything.  If you have children in your home, or visiting your home, you should have all medicines under lock and key.  Do not take medications in front of children – they learn by imitation.  Take your meds where children can’t watch.  Also, never refer to pills or liquid meds as candy when you are encouraging a child to take their medicine.  If you carry pills in your purse, be sure they are in a tamper-proof bottle; even so, they are not child-proof, so you should provide constant supervision. 

Children can also be unintentionally exposed to harmful pesticides and cleaning products.  These items should be locked up so they cannot harm youngsters.  Poison control centers receive many calls from adults who believe they may have exposed to hazardous chemicals contained in pesticides and/or household cleaners.  Be sure to read the directions and caution labels on these products, never mixing household and chemical products together, as this could create a poisonous gas.  Wear protective clothing, such as long sleeve shirts, long pants, shoes and socks, gloves, and eye protection, when spraying chemicals.  Pesticides can be absorbed through the skin and can be extremely poisonous.  

 A reaction to certain medications can cause a different type of poisoning.  Consult your doctor or pharmacist if you are concerned about this, and also, don’t mix drugs and alcohol.  Certain drugs interact dangerously with food or other medicines.  Be sure your doctor knows all medicines, either prescription or over-the-counter, that you are currently taking.  Never give your prescription medicine to anyone else.  Dispose of old or outdated medicines safely.  

Animals can fall victim to poison, as well.  Be sure if you spray your yard, to keep your animal in the house until the pesticide or chemical you have sprayed has dried or been watered into the ground.  Also, keep harmful products where they cannot get into them.  Our “grandpug” got into some medicine that was stored with the dog food in a lower cabinet, and the other four dogs in the family got into it after he scattered it all over the kitchen!  All five dogs had to have their stomachs pumped, and it was determined that three of them had ingested some of the meds.  Thankfully, they were all alright; but I am thankful that I didn’t have to pay that vet bill! 

Since it is the beginning of spring, we want to also warn you that snakes and other critters will start slithering around.  This is another type of poison that you don’t want to have to deal with.  Our daughter was bitten by a rattlesnake when she was 16; she spent a week in the hospital, followed by several weeks of physical therapy.  It was a very painful experience for her.  In the United States, venomous snakes that we have to contend with are cottonmouths/water mocassins, rattlesnakes, pit vipers, and copperheads.  If a person is bitten by a snake, they should seek medical treatment immediately, and try to remain calm.   There are antidotes used to treat snake bites, once testing for allergies is done.  Most hospitals are stocked with the appropriate anti-venom medicines. 

Hopefully, this message will help us all be more aware of the potential harm that can come to anyone, our children, grandchildren, and our pets if we are not cautious about dangerous substances in our homes.  We must be vigilant in watching the children, what they are putting in their mouths, and all the harmful products that are sitting around in our cabinets or storerooms.  If there is any question that someone has been exposed to or ingested a harmful ingredient, call the National Poison Center hotline at 1-800-222-1222.  Keep that number handy, just in case!


Did you know that more than 26 million Americans  have been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, and many of them had no idea they had it?  According to a new report published in the March issue of the American Journal of Kidney Diseases, (the official journal of the National Kidney Foundation), persons who have kidney disease have a limited understanding of symptoms, the course of kidney disease and risk factors –  diabetes and hypertension.  This disease can be silent, with few symptoms.   All too often, we do not realize the importance of the organs that basically keep our bodies healthy.  Many do not understand that the kidneys:

  • Remove waste from the body;
  • Remove drugs from the body;
  • Balance fluids in the body;
  • Release hormones that regulate blood pressure;
  • Produce an active form of Vitamin D, which promotes healthy, strong bones;
  • Control production of blood cells.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee,  surveyed 401 people with kidney disease attending a nephrology clinic.  More than three-fourths of participants had stage 3 chronic kidney disease or above.  While 94% of patients surveyed knew they had a kidney “problem,” more than 30% were unaware they had a serious, potentially life-threatening disease.  All of the patients surveyed were under the care of a nephrologist ( kidney specialist).  Also, those patients taking part in the 34-question survey showed that 78% of them did not realize that the disease may progress with no symptoms.  More than 34% were unaware that they were at an increased risk for heart disease, and 32% did not know that the kidneys make urine.  This study highlights the need for providers to better communicate with their patients, the seriousness of the disease.  Persons at risk – those with high blood pressure, diabetes or a family history of kidney disease, should get their kidney function checked regularly.

Physicians should stress the importance of the patient taking action to prevent the disease from worsening.  Patients should get involved in their own care, by avoiding medications, such as overuse of NSAIDS and over-the-counter pain medications that are toxic to the kidneys, keeping their blood pressure under control, and understanding the risk factor of diabetes.  They should talk to their physician about diabetes and high blood pressure, and know how to keep their kidneys healthy.  There are many steps that persons can take to save their health.  Choosing a healthier diet – one with a moderate amount of protein, fluids (water), and a reduction of salt will be helpful.  Cranberry juice is also beneficial for urinary tract infections and cleaning out the kidneys.  Exercise is also recommended – patients should have a goal of two and one-half hours per week of physical activity.

At one time or another, many of us have been curious about using herbal supplements for certain ailments.  Use of herbal supplements may be unsafe for chronic kidney disease patients, since their body is not able to clear waste products the same as those who do not have kidney disease.  Very few herbs have been studied in CKD patients.  While they may be safe for healthy individuals, they may not be for someone who has CKD;  in fact, they could be dangerous.  The exact contents of these products are unknown because the government does not regulate these supplements.  Also, there are no requirements for testing, so the safety, purity, and effectiveness of supplements are also unknown.  In addition, they may be contaminated with toxic, heavy metals, such as lead or mercury, and minerals that are harmful to CKD patients, like potassium.

A healthy habit for all of us is to drink more water, and fewer soft drinks.  Many drinks that contain caffeine actually do not hydrate us, but just the opposite. Carbonated drinks (especially dark ones) should be limited to one every 2-3 days.  Choose water or lemonade instead. 

March is National Kidney Month; the National Kidney Foundation will be offering free screenings for those at risk throughout the country.  This program is called the Kidney Early Evaluation Program (KEEP).    And remember, have regular checkups, expecially if you have any health issues.  Stay in touch with your doctor.