Public Health Week Promotes Healthy Communities And Healthy Kids

Contact: T.J. Bucholz (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health

April 7, 2006

As part of National Public Health Week, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) is promoting awareness of a different public health issue each day this week. Clean Air Day highlights the importance of smoke-free air and reducing indoor and outdoor pollution as critical solutions toward building healthier communities and raising healthier children.

Exposure to secondhand smoke is the second leading cause of preventable death in Michigan and results in approximately 2,500 deaths in Michigan each year. Smoking-related illnesses in adults include heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lower respiratory illnesses, and diabetes. Children and adolescents exposed to secondhand smoke can develop asthma, ear infections, colds and pneumonia.

Smoke-free environments can play a critical role in the prevention of smoking-related illnesses, especially among children. In addition, smoke-free environments can prevent youth from starting to smoke and can encourage smokers to quit.

"Michigan has made great strides in protecting the health of Michigan families from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke. Involvement from all Michigan communities to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke and increase access to smoking cessation services can greatly improve the health of all Michigan residents," said Janet Olszewski, MDCH Director.

Several Michigan communities have been involved in significant efforts to protect youth and families from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke and reduce youth tobacco use. For example, in 2005, the City of Vassar in Tuscola County adopted a smoke-free parks and recreational areas policy, protecting families from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke while they are active and at play.

"Communities can play a significant role in decreasing tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure among Michigan residents by increasing smoke-free environments where most adults work and play, such as at work sites, schools, parks and recreational areas and other public places," said Dr. Kimberlydawn Wisdom, Michigan Surgeon General.

For more information about secondhand smoke and smoke-free environments, please visit www.michigan.gov/tobacco or contact the MDCH Tobacco Section at (517) 335-8376. 

Asthma is a serious chronic disease of the lungs that is caused by swelling (inflammation) in the airways. Air pollution can make it harder to breath and can cause other symptoms, like coughing, wheezing, chest discomfort, and a burning feeling in the lungs. However, steps can be taken to protect your health from air pollution.

Citizens can find out how clean the outside air is by looking at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Air Quality Index, or AQI. It is a simple tool that provides a color-coded "picture" of current air pollution levels and health effects. The AQI fact sheet is found at: http://www.deq.state.mi.us/documents/DEQ-AQD-AQIFACTS.PDF, or you can call the DEQ Environmental Assistance Center during office hours at 1-800-662-9278. Ask that your call be forwarded to the Air Quality Division.

EnviroFlash is a service that automatically delivers air quality forecasts directly to the public via email or cell phone, so people can adjust their daily activities when poor air conditions are expected. Enroll in EnviroFlash via DEQ's website at http://www.michigan.gov/deqair and click on the EnviroFlash icon.

Radon comes from the natural (radioactive) breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water and gets into the air you breathe. Radon can be found all over the U.S. and can get into any type of building - homes, offices, and schools - and result in a high indoor radon level. However, families are most likely to be exposed to radon in the home, where they spend most of their time. The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Surgeon General have strongly recommended that all residences (except those above the second floor in multi-level buildings) be tested for radon.

Radon detection kits are inexpensive and easy to use. Kits can be purchased at local health departments, or from some hardware stores or other retail outlets. If you are not sure how to contact your local health department, call the DEQ Indoor Radon Program at 1-800-RADON GAS (1- 800-723-6642) for assistance.

Lead poisoning can cause health and behavior problems in young children and can make them less able to learn when they get to school. Children should be tested for lead poisoning at one and two years of age or more often depending on their contact with sources of lead.

Mercury is a very toxic or poisonous substance that people can be exposed to in several ways. If swallowed, such as from a broken thermometer, it mostly passes through your body and very little is absorbed. If you touch it, a small amount may pass through your skin, but not usually enough to harm you. Mercury is most harmful when you breathe in the vapors that are released when a container is open or a spill occurs. Pregnant women, infants and young children are particularly sensitive to the harmful effects of mercury.

To learn more about Public Health Week and events taking place across the state this week, visit www.apha.org/nphw.