Economy / Politics / Regulation / Uncategorized

Food Disease, Pesticides, and Funny Pictures

On Wednesday evening, while attending the American Industrial Hygiene Association’s January Meeting, I was electrified by the horrifying statics presented in the presentations. This was a thrilling experience, especially do to the lectures I was able to attend, and the statistics I was able to surmount.

Foodborne illness was the topic of the first of discussion. Expertly presented  was “Using Informal Reporting Methods to Evaluate the Burden of Foodborne and Waterborne Diseases,” in which data was surmounted summarizing the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) analysis of food and waterborne disease outbreak surveillance data. By the end of the lecture, the process of data collection was summarized, showing shocking statistics on cholera, e.coli, and syphilis world-wide for the years of 2009 & 2010. This being said, data for 2009 seemed to show much greater rates for incidence of disease, especially when comparing for the same diseases in the same regions.  Noting this immediately upon looking the data, I questioned on the correlation on monetary involvement by WHO and  impact of public health surveillance practice. “Some would claim this is due to different management practices by the WHO at this time” noted the speaker, “but that certainly could claim an impact.” My follow-up question may have sparked some controversy: “so, you believe that elevated budgets for different diseases with similar vectors (H1N1 vs. food borne illness) would potentially contribute to elevations of disease incidences, as there are more funds to explore potential disease outbreaks in certain areas? For instance, the US spent $453 million during 2009 on Emergency Public Health versus the original budget for of $116 million for the year. You’re saying this would only moderately contribute to the impact of overall disease surveillance while looking for h1n1, when similar vectors and symptoms occur between diseases?” A quick “I think you certainly have a point and a logical explanation. The two are probably correlated,” was surmounted, and further questions were taken. My explanation for this: perhaps disease monitoring and wealth are directly correlated. Yes, strange outbreaks do, in fact, occur in wealthy areas from time-to-time. This being said, the brunt of disease outbreaks tend to occur in underfunded, undereducated, and poorly informed areas. Perhaps our Center for Disease control need to focus more on community health stratification measures by expanding case definitions by keeping narrow case definitions in “higher” societies and expanding this definition as one descends the social ladder. What do I mean by this? If exploring for H1N1 in a culture, for families earning greater than six figures, screen for acute and chronic symptoms of specifically for H1N1, and expand this case definition to nearly any dysfunction as a culture moves to a lower income area. Does this sound insane? Probably. Some would claim this idea would be class warfare based on economic stratification. I would state that generally better public health surveillance methods. When looking for H1N1 in rich communities, a researcher would not necessarily find a greater incidence of chlamydia, as generally those members would probably get monitored and treated for the associated symptoms if, in fact, that disease occurred. This being said, in a slum area, a researcher may going looking for elevated levels of H1N1, and find elevated levels of chlamydia or something completely different. Perhaps it’s better to treat that in these communities pre-outbreak as opposed to the current policy of post-outbreak response…especially if these numbers include an elevated budget of nearly 1/3 of a billion excess in the US alone. I’m not claiming class warfare. I’m instead claiming disease solution and treatment of a disease before escalation of this disease to more people; I’m proposing disease containment method for those that may not be aware of diseases contracted before these diseases impact others from both the same or higher social spheres.

Pesticides were the second presentation in “Children and Pesticides in Washington, DC: Regulation, Education and Communication.” In this research, it was shown how more affluent households demonstrated greater use of insecticides, while utilizing some of the more unsafe (misuse) practices of these products. Hilariously, it seems that nearly 30% of DC experience insect problems and that 2/3 of our total population use roach sprays at least once in the last year. What does this suggest? The thesis presented was that due to current regulation in Washington, DC, perhaps industry is to blame? I disagree. Let’s put the answer on the labels. Let’s not punish distributors for misuse, but rather vocalize problems on the product used. If FDA is doing it for cigarettes, insecticides should certainly be mandated to place clear instructional use on the bottle. Maybe regulation should mandate big enough containers to place all the relevant information on them. Regardless, insane warning label pictures are always more entertaining.

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