States around the region are taking measures to protect against terrorism against agriculture. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Maria Hickey reports on a pilot program that will begin tracking the food supply:
States around the region are taking measures to protect against terrorism against agriculture. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Maria Hickey reports on a pilot program that will begin tracking the food supply:
States record the number of livestock and the amount of grain grown in each county. But it’s not clear which farms are raising the meat and produce. As a food security measure some states want to keep track of animal and produce movement. In Illinois, Department of Agriculture Director Chuck Hartke says a satellite tracking system will allow the state to pinpoint food producers, grain elevators, food processing facilities and distributors as well.
“Right now we don’t know exactly where things are going, and how much, so this tracking
system is a first step in identifying our resources in a given county and then we can do it
A computer program will allow the state to develop disaster plans. That will help the state deal with terrorism, diseases such as mad cow and natural disasters. If the one-county pilot program works, the project will be extended statewide in Illinois. Other Great Lakes states are looking at similar programs and trading notes on what works.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium I’m Maria Hickey.
Most people understand the relationship between clean water or clean air and their own health. But having a healthy environment doesn’t stop with natural ecosystems. It also includes our manmade environment – the places we work… and the places we play. One doctor says the places we play are putting us at risk. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s David Hammond has the story:
Most people understand the relationship between clean water or clean air and their
But having a healthy environment doesn’t stop with natural ecosystems. It also
manmade environment. The places we work and the places we play. But one doctor
places we play are putting us at risk. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s David
(sound of Cheetah parents cheering)
It’s a chilly fall morning in Canton, Michigan and the 12 soccer
fields at Independence Park are humming with activity. On this
field, the Cheetahs are playing the Dolphins. And in this battle
of nine-year-old girls, the Cheetahs seem to have the edge.
Small groups of parents huddle under blankets, sipping coffee,
and shouting encouragement. The cheering is high-spirited, but
no one seems to take the action too seriously. The biggest
decision of the day will probably be where to go for lunch after
But with increasing frequency, the next stop for these kids is not
the pizza parlor, but the emergency room. According to the U.S.
Consumer Products Safety Commission, nearly 12 million
children seek treatment for sports injuries each year.
Michael Kedroske is one of those kids. He’s a six-grader from
Dexter, Michigan. A year ago, Kedrowski played soccer for a
premiere traveling team. That ended after a head injury. His
mother Beth, says it was a freak accident.
“They were all just kind of gathered around for a water break,
getting ready to start their scrimmage, and he just happened to be
walking on the field as the other person was just kicking the ball.
Just wrong place, wrong time kind of thing.”
Michael had a headache for a couple of days and sat out from the
team. After being pain-free for a week, he started playing again.
But in his first game back, he had a relapse. After using his head
to pass the ball to a teammate, he collapsed. For the next three
months, Michael suffered constant headaches. For the next six
months, he had to limit all physical activity.
It’s just not fun at all, your sitting out from everything, and you just want to
play a sport,
but you can’t, cause, you’re even gonna get hurt more, so, really, you’ve got to be
on yourself about not doing anything that is going to effect your injury even more.”
Unfortunately, injuries like this are becoming more common.
And its not just soccer. Baseball, softball and basketball all send
hundreds of thousands of people to the emergency room each
“One of the real fallacies about sports injuries is that they’re little bumps and
that they don’t carry with them long term ramifications and there is nothing you can
That’s Dr. David Janda. He’s an orthopedic surgeon and founder of the Institute for
Preventative Sports Medicine. The Institute is a small, non-profit focused on
“The hope is when folks get our studies they realize that many of these injuries are
severe. They carry with them life long costs from an economic standpoint, but
disability as well.”
It’s a passion for Dr. Janda. He doesn’t take a salary and
volunteers his time. He says the Institute’s emphasis on injury
prevention makes it unique.
“Throughout my education, throughout high school, college, medical school, internship,
residency, fellowship, it all focused on one thing. Wait for someone to get hurt,
them to get cancer, then do something. What the Institute is all about is teaching
how to be proactive, how to identify problems before they occur, act upon them, and
prevent the negative ramifications that occur when problems develop.”
Janda’s Institute has studied the effectiveness of things like
padded soccer goalposts, breakaway bases in softball and
eyeshields in hockey. Over its fourteen year history, the Institute
has published nearly 60 such studies in peer-reviewed journals.
Most have focused on children’s sports. The studies have given
Dr. Janda a respected voice within sports medicine. A voice that
Janda’s not shy about using. He’s a frequent guest on network
television and radio shows, and he even co-hosted an episode of
the Oprah Winfrey show.
“I do a disservice to the Institute, to my efforts at the Institute, to our
researchers’ efforts at the
Institute, if I publish a study that has significant positive ramifications for the
public welfare, and
I don’t let people know about it.”
Dr. Janda’s emphasis on injury prevention is not just attracting
attention from parents, but from the private sector as well. Bill
Young is CEO and President of Plasticpak Packaging Group.
It’s one of North America’s largest manufacturers of rigid-
After learning about Janda’s work, Young thought the same
ideas could benefit his company. He saw parallels between
injury prevention in sports and injury prevention in the
workplace. He worked with Janda to identify safety hazards in
his factories. Since Plasticpak made injury prevention a priority,
Young says workers compensation claims have gone down
“Since we are self-insured. We are paying less out. Which helps tremendously and
important than that, anytime you lose valuable employees in the workplace. Due to any
downtime that they have to take. That in itself is a major interruption. And the
being as competitive as it is today. That’s been beneficial for us.”
For his part, Dr. Janda says he’s happy he’s saving companies
money, but his emphasis is on children. He wants parents and
coaches to understand the importance of injury prevention. He
also wants them to realize that small changes can make a big
difference. To help them, he’s developed a safety checklist of 20
questions. Dr. Janda says that parents can use this simple
checklist to ensure that their children have the safest possible
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m David Hammond.
When abandoned wells aren’t sealed properly, they can pollute the water below. A number of states across the region are working to solve the problem. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Erika Johnson has more:
When abandoned wells aren’t sealed properly, they can pollute the water below. And in some of
these wells, children and animals have gotten trapped. A number of states across the region are
working to solve the problem. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Erika Johnson has more:
All states across the region have certain regulations for plugging abandoned wells. But not all
states have specialized programs to address the problem.
Programs to cap abandoned wells have existed in Minnesota and Wisconsin for decades. Now,
other states are developing their own programs.
Officials in Michigan face a particular challenge because more of these wells exist there than in
any other state in the country – close to 2-million by some estimates.
Jim McEwan is with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. He says surface
pollutants can be channeled down into unplugged wells:
“The contaminants can gain access by penetrating the corroded well casing because many of them
have been in the ground for 70 to 100 years, or so, and then going right down, like a drain, into
the lower drinking water aquifers.”
So far, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin each plug about 10-to-20-thousand wells per year.
It generally takes several hours and costs a few hundred dollars to seal each well. And
homeowners have to pay for the sealing of any unused wells on their property. But some states
do offer financial assistance.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Erika Johnson.
Alison Clarke shows how high the bear in her yard reached. Her bird feeder is more than 8 feet tall. Photo by Chris Julin.
Bears, like this black bear peering from a north woods forest, have been moving into the city of Duluth.
The black bear population is growing throughout the upper Great Lakes region. Most of those bears live where you’d expect – in the woods. But now, a few bears have decided to move to town. And that’s making some people anxious. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chris Julin has this report:
The black bear population is growing throughout the upper Great Lakes region. Most those bears
live where you’d expect – in the woods. But now, a few bears have decided to move to town.
And that’s making some people anxious. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chris Julin has
Alison Clarke lives in northern Minnesota in the city of Duluth. She has big windows that look out on her
backyard. There’s a pair of binoculars on the dining room table. And there’s a list of birds she’s
seen in the yard. Actually, she has more than birds on her list.
“Let’s see. March 16th was the first observation of bears this year. Grabbed the neighbors’ suet
that was hanging out there. That was probably the 300 pound or so sized one.”
Alison Clarke records a bear sighting every two or three days – sometimes in the middle of the
(sound of outdoors)
Out in her yard, she points to a bird feeder sitting on top of a wooden post.
“It’s eight and a half feet from the ground to the base of the feeder. The largest bear that we’ve
known can reach with its claws and nose up to the base of that feeder.”
This is the middle of town, but the yards are full of pine trees. Creeks and rivers wander all
through the neighborhood on their way to Lake Superior. And they make great thoroughfares for
bears. Bears have always walked through Duluth – on occasion. Now, about 10 bears have taken
up permanent residence in town.
Alison Clarke is on the lookout for bears. She keeps her garbage in the garage. She doesn’t leave
her windows or her sliding door open unless she’s nearby. But one time she walked around the
corner of her house and came face-to-face with a mother bear and her cubs.
“They’re not going to eat me, but if I were to surprise them, it’s
a significant potential danger.”
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources put a trap in the yard a couple years ago. They
didn’t catch anything. The bears are so wise to the ways of people that one of them would stick
his head in the trap to check out the bait, but he never stepped into the cage.
So Alison Clarke wants the city of Duluth to get rid of the bears that live in town. That means
killing them. The Department of Natural Resources says there’s nowhere to relocate the bears.
Minnesota’s woods are full of bears. And besides, they say bears come right back if you catch and
Some people in the neighborhood want the bears removed. Some of the neighbors want the bears
left alone. And some of them aren’t sure.
(sound of Kirstin & Kyra)
Kirstin Peterson is digging in the garden with her four-year-old daughter, Kyra. They don’t come
out in the backyard after dusk. And Kyra isn’t allowed to play in the yard alone.
“I’m conflicted. I don’t know if I want the bear to be killed by humans just because we’ve entered
their territory. Or I’m not sure if they’ve entered ours. (Kyra: “Bears are scary.”). When it comes
to threatening my child, I get to be myself a mother bear. (Julin: “So what do you want to have
happen?”). For it to go away (nervous laugh).”
That probably isn’t going to happen. Martha Minchak is the state’s wildlife manager in Duluth.
She says the bears are comfortable in the city. She says the state will bring in professional
trappers to catch bears that are persistent trouble-makers – but that’s a last resort.
“If we do have really chronic problems, where folks have tried everything else they can do to
clean up the situation – remove the bird feeders, gas grills, pet food, that kind of thing – and the
bears continue to come back, then we’ll try to get the contract trappers out wherever we can set up
the traps and try and remove some of these bears.”
Last year in Duluth, a bear took a swipe at a 10-year-old boy on a bicycle. Martha Minchak says
people are lucky that no one’s gotten hurt yet. She wants the city of Duluth to bring in sharp-shooters, or have an archery hunt. But she says state and city budgets are so tight that nothing
like that will happen this year.
City hall is getting some phone calls about bears, but the city has no plans to take any action.
Some bear activists from Minneapolis are planning a workshop in Duluth. They want to
demonstrate guns that fire bean bags, and other “non-lethal” methods to chase bears away. State
wildlife managers say they’ll go to the workshop, but their number one priority is to get people in
Duluth to lock up their garbage and pet food and quit tempting the bears.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Chris Julin.
Lorraine Kellerman operates the mercury separator in one dental office. Kellerman says it's easy and satisfying to recycle the mercury.
Tim Tuominen has been working with Duluth area dentists to reduce the mercury going into the city's wastewater.
Health officials warn pregnant women and children to avoid eating certain kinds of fish. Mercury built up in the fish can damage the nervous system and impair children’s mental development. The National Academy of Sciences says at least 60,000 American children are born at risk for impaired development every year because their mothers were exposed to mercury. Mercury has been eliminated from paint, batteries, and other products. Now, some dentists are doing their part to reduce the mercury going into the environment. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Stephanie Hemphill reports:
Health officials warn pregnant women and children to avoid eating certain kinds of fish.
Mercury built up in the fish can damage the nervous system and impair children’s mental
development. The National Academy of Sciences says at least 60,000 American children
are born at risk for impaired development every year because their mothers were exposed
to mercury. Mercury has been eliminated from paint, batteries, and other products. Now,
some dentists are doing their part to reduce the mercury going into the environment. The
Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Stephanie Hemphill reports:
Mercury is an essential part of dental amalgam, the silver stuff used to fill cavities. The
mercury keeps the amalgam soft until it’s pressed into the cavity, then it bonds to form a
very stable, durable filling. The problem is the small bits of amalgam that are left over
after the cavity is filled. The suction hose that cleans them out of your mouth generally
dumps them down the drain. So they can easily end up in a lake or river, where they can
be eaten by fish.
The average dental office creates about a half pound of waste mercury every year. Just a
tiny portion of that would be enough to warrant fish advisories.
“The amount that’s sewered from dental offices is probably the largest input to the sewer
Tim Tuominen is a pollution prevention specialist with the Western Lake Superior
Sanitary District in Duluth. He’s been working with dentists in the city for nearly ten
years to reduce the mercury they wash down the drain.
He started with the vacuum systems nearly all dentists already have. When the suction
hose whisks amalgam out of your mouth, the pieces are held in a container to keep them
from damaging the vacuum pump. Tuominen showed the dentists how to empty the
container and bring the contents to the district’s recycling program.
In the first two years, the amount of mercury coming into Duluth’s wastewater treatment
plant was cut in half, and it’s been reduced even further since then.
To cut down on mercury even more, Tuominen got a grant to buy more expensive
equipment that captures up to 99% of the amalgam. He offered the equipment free to any
dentist who would agree to use it.
“I’ll go in and install them, train the assistants and the dentists how they operate, that only
takes about half an hour, then after six months I show them how to manage the solids
particles that collect in them over that time period. So it’s really pretty simple.”
Most of the dental offices in Duluth have installed the systems, and Tuominen expects the
rest to follow suit.
Lorraine Kellerman operates the system in one dental office. Once a week she empties
the chair-side traps and puts the chunks of amalgam into a container for recycling. Then
she goes down to the basement where a tank, like an aquarium, collects the finer particles.
The heavy amalgam settles to the bottom of the tank.
“We just put the hose in the drain, turn the lever, and you just wait ’til the fluid runs out
and then you can come back down, it doesn’t take long, it only takes a few minutes
Once a year the amalgam that collects at the bottom is cleaned out and recycled.
Kellerman’s boss is dentist Jim Westman.
“The beauty of this technology is in its simplicity. Gravity works, it’s simple, it’s very
Westman says the dentists in Duluth are happy to use the equipment. It costs about
$500, and the recycling charge is about $50 a year.
Westman is chair of the Minnesota Dental Association’s environmental committee. It’s
been working on a plan to help dentists around the state of Minnesota reduce their output
of mercury. Westman says they want to make it easy for dentists.
“No matter where someone has question in regards to what’s going to work in my
equipment, there’s so many variations from one office to the next, who are my resources
to call or handling, transport, process materials, it’s that who you going to call side of the
question that’s going to make a difference as we build a bigger program. ”
If the voluntary program catches on in Minnesota, it could spread to other states. Michael
Bender is director of the Mercury Policy Project, a national organization working to
reduce mercury in the environment. He says dentists around the country are beginning to
feel they should do their part.
“It’s part of the cost of doing business. It’s not going to break any dentist’s back
financially to cover the cost of doing whatever it takes to be a good business, responsible
to the community, responsible to the environment.”
In December, the Environmental Protection Agency is convening a meeting on dental
mercury. The agency will publish information on ways state and local governments can
keep dental mercury out of the environment.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Stephanie Hemphill.
A just-released study by two environmental groups has found high levels of arsenic on the surface of pressure-treated wood products. The Environmental Working Group and the Healthy Building Network tested pressure-treated wood purchased from home improvement stores in 13 cities. In releasing their findings, the groups are calling for a ban on the use of the lumber in construction. Their findings add to the growing concern about the safety of the chemicals used to treat this wood. Those chemicals are now being re-evaluated by both the Canadian and American governments. But as the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports, the two governments are approaching the issue differently:
A just released study by two environmental groups has found high levels of arsenic on the surface of pressure-treated wood products. The Environmental Working Group and the Healthy Building Network tested pressure-treated wood purchased from home improvement stores in 13 cities. In releasing their findings, the groups are calling for a ban on the use of the lumber in construction. Their findings add to the growing concern about the safety of the chemicals used to treat this wood. Those chemicals are now being re-evaluated by both the Canadian and American governments. But as the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports, the two governments are approaching the issue differently.
For years, Don Houston at the Canadian Institute of Child Health has been calling for warning labels on pressure-treated wood. The lumber is used in playground structures and picnic tables throughout North America. And it’s treated with a preservative called Chromated Copper Arsenate, which protects the wood from insects and fungi. The preservative is made from arsenic, chromium and copper. And Houston says children who are exposed to the wood may be exposed to those chemicals, as well.
“It’s not just children’s play structures. I’d rather suspect even more problematic is the deck that’s on the back of their house because often times children spend more time there. It’s all sorts of structures that are put in outdoors – decks, balconies, retaining walls; even the telephone pole that might be in a schoolyard might be problematic.”
Houston says the problem arises when arsenic and chromium, which are both carcinogens, remain on the surface of the wood. A study of ten playgrounds conducted by Health Canada in the late 1980’s detected both substances on the surface of play structures made with pressure treated wood. Arsenic and chromium were also found in the nearby soil. Health Canada warns people who work with pressure-treated wood to wear gloves and a mask and to thoroughly wash clothing and exposed skin once they’re finished. The agency also warns against burning pressure treated wood. But Houston says there are still no guidelines for children.
“It doesn’t make a lot of sense for the guy who’s building it to use gloves and then the child ten minutes after it’s built to be walking over it and running on it barefoot and having greater potential health impact from the exposure.”
But scientists at Health Canada say the research findings have been mixed. They point to studies conducted by the U.S. EPA in the late 1980’s that found minimal health risks. Now, fifteen years since they last evaluated these chemicals, both Health Canada and the EPA are taking another look. The update is required by law in both countries. Richard Martin is a toxicologist at Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency. He says the presence of arsenic is not always a cause for concern.
“Although there’s a number of reports out there of arsenic being found in soil, and although they’re useful, arsenic is found in all soil. So we need to go the extra step to determine to what extent there’s potential for exposure to children and that type of thing.”
Martin says his agency is reviewing research to determine the effect of exposure on both adults who work with cca-treated wood and children who play near it. But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is taking the review a step further. Jim Jones, the deputy director of the EPA’s office of pesticide programs, says they’re concentrating on the exposure to children first.
“It was the children’s exposure through cca-treated wood we think are the most important to look at as they’re the group in the population that is likely to have the greatest exposures, just because of the way in which they interact with playground equipment and on decks.”
The EPA also plans to take soil samples near cca-treated wood structures in 75 playgrounds around the United States. And it’s considering a recommendation that people apply sealants to pressure-treated wood in the interim. The EPA’s scientific advisory panel suggested the agency take that measure. The EPA and Health Canada are collaborating on the re-evaluation – sharing their findings and their recommendations. Don Houston of the Canadian Institute of Child Health hopes that will lead to legislation in both countries that will restrict the use of this lumber in places where children play. The EPA and Health Canada are expected to announce their recommendations next spring.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Karen Kelly.