- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
The first study of California law that requires schools to test tap water for lead found that the majority completed the testing on time, and only 3% reported any tested taps with lead in the water higher than the state's 15 parts per billion (ppb) limit. About 30% of the 240 randomly selected public schools in the study didn't report their results within three months of the deadline.
The study, Water Safety in California Public Schools Following Implementation of School Drinking Water Policies, was published in the January issue of Preventing Chronic Disease, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention online publication.
“Because we strongly encourage people to drink water rather than sugary beverages, we need to have confidence that tap water is safe,” she said. “But this is a complex issue with shared responsibility among public water systems, school administrators and regulating agencies.”
Access to safe drinking water in schools is essential to help avoid the developmental and health consequences for children associated with consuming contaminated water, under hydration or excessive intake of sugary beverages.
Schools that get water from public utilities can expect the water they receive to meet federal and state water quality standards. However, 16% of study schools received water from a utility that violated health-based standards, such as elevated levels of contaminants or failure to adhere to disinfectant protocols. When water flows into buildings through pipes that contain lead – such as those made entirely of lead, or galvanized iron or leaded brass, or connected with lead solder – and especially when water sits stagnant in lead-containing plumbing, lead may leach into the water before it flows from the tap.
In October 2017, California passed Assembly Bill 746, which mandated that public water utilities sample and test for lead in tap water of public schools that were built before 2010. The law is designed to identify and mitigate sources of lead in water. Funds to upgrade school drinking-water plumbing were also earmarked in the state budget. Working with their local water suppliers, the schools selected taps for sampling. The number of taps that released water with lead was very low, and even those sources are not necessarily unhealthy for drinking, Hecht said.
“When we test tap water, we're not talking about every drop of water that comes from the tap,” she said. “We test the first water that comes out of the tap after it has been stagnant in the pipes. Once the taps are in use and water is flowing, the lead level should drop dramatically.”
Although few schools (3%) had even one tap in violation of California state standards for lead, violations increased to 16% when the federal Food and Drug Administration standard for bottled water was applied. The FDA requires that bottled water not exceed 5 ppb of lead.
The 174 schools in the study collectively tested 1,238 independent water sources – such as playground, hallway and gym drinking fountains, classroom faucets, food service areas and restroom taps in 2019. Some of the tests took place in locations that serve staff, such as teachers' lounges, nurses' stations, distribution sources and maintenance areas. Without detailed guidelines to follow, some schools tested only 1 tap; others tested as many as 76.
“Testing only a subset of taps in a facility prevents full identification of which schools need to undertake lead remediation actions,” Hecht said.
Hecht and her co-authors – Isioma Umunna, Anisha Patel and Lauren Blacker of Stanford University, Marc Edwards of Virginia Tech, and Emily Altman of UC Berkeley – conclude that, in the future, states should require schools to test to nondetectable levels of lead for maximum data collection and require that at least one water source in food service areas be tested.
The information and recommendations from the study are already informing California legislation designed to protect children from lead exposure from water. A new law, Assembly Bill 2370, will require all licensed childcare centers to test taps for lead by 2021 and every 5 years thereafter. The inconsistencies experienced in AB 746 compliance revealed the need for detailed guidelines on the number of taps facilities should test, the required locations for testing, clear naming conventions to identify taps and reporting procedures.
- Author: Deepa Srivastava
The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) in Tulare County conducted virtual nutrition education and cooking demonstration classes last fall, empowering families to support their health with knowledge and skills to adopt healthy behaviors. The training covered nutrition/physical activity, food resource management, food security and food safety.
Step 1: EFNEP integrated virtual food demonstration in nutrition education classes
EFNEP Tulare collaborated with Native American Tribal organizations and Tulare Adult School to provide virtual food demonstration classes integrated with nutrition education to parents with children. Mariana Lopez, bilingual EFNEP adult nutrition educator, led the classes in English and Spanish in four 60- to 90-minute sessions over four weeks.
Step 2. Planning, preparation and implementation of virtual food demonstration
Community partners provided the ingredients to the participants. Lopez found ways to make the virtual food demonstration successful by planning and preparing ahead of time. Participants engaged in hands-on learning about cost-effective cooking at home. Participants learned about food planning, budgeting and shopping, healthy foods, food safety practices and physical activity.
Step 3. Family engagement during virtual food demonstration
Lopez conducted virtual nutrition education classes with 48 families; 38 families graduated.
Community partners expressed their gratitude and willingness to continue with the collaboration.
“The participants really enjoyed the class and wished it was longer. They looked forward to meeting each week and getting their food and cooking together with the nutrition teacher and their families.” - site manager
Participants engaged their families to enjoy the virtual food demonstration classes.
“Thank you. Class was fun being able to cook with my girls and I learned so much.”
~ class participant
Overall, EFNEP Tulare created excitement with virtual nutrition education classes through food demonstrations, promoted family engagement, strengthened community partnerships, and empowered families to be resourceful, eat healthy on a budget and live a healthy lifestyle.
- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
An international team of researchers has established a connection between ancient Indian rock art painted in a Kern County cave and a common California plant that was used by Native Americans in their sacred rituals.
This is the first time a hallucinogen has been tied to rock art, the researchers said in their article published in the November 2020 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
UC Cooperative Extension advisor David Haviland, a Kern County entomology expert, was able to work with the researchers to confirm the notion that one of the images painted on the Pinwheel Cave in Wild Wolves Preserve is likely a sphinx moth, an insect that pollinates Datura. Datura is a genus of plants native to North America that include the common agricultural pest jimson weed (Datura stramonium) and sacred thornapple (Datura wrightii).
“I've experienced hundreds of sphinx moths pollinating Datura,” Haviland said. “The sun starts to go down, the large white flowers open up and attract the moths. Scientists have reported that, after drinking the nectar with their long proboscises, they fly a little erratically, suggesting that, even to the moths, the nectar has a small narcotic effect.”
An image in the cave appears to show a human figure with a sphinx moth head. In another part of the cave, Native Americans painted a bright red pinwheel shape, which the scientists believe depicts a Datura flower as it swirls open. The most telling evidence that connects the Datura to the cave art is dozens of masticated wads of Datura plant fiber that were found pressed into crevices inside the cave.
“This indicates that Datura was ingested in the cave and that the rock painting represents the plant itself, serving to codify communal rituals involving this powerful entheogen,” wrote the researchers in their PNAS article.
Datura is known to have been used by Native American youth when initiated into adulthood, where the root was processed into a tea known historically as toloache. Datura could also be taken throughout their lives to invoke supernatural power for doctoring, counteract negative supernatural events, ward off ghosts or see the future.
Today, Native Americans' descendants recognize the plant's toxicity and no longer ingest Datura, while still respecting their ancestors' knowledge in using a substance that was dangerous and could result in death if the dosage were miscalculated.
“The authors of the article agree: the plant can be highly toxic and should never be consumed,” said David Robinson, United Kingdom archaeologist and the research leader.
Robinson and his team noticed the clumps of fiber, or quids, tucked into crevices on the wall when they were researching Pinwheel Cave in 2007. Quids are commonly found where Native Americans have chewed vegetation to extract nutrition. The scientists analyzed the quids for ancient DNA evidence, but found none. They did discover the wads of vegetation were not comprised of a typical Native dietary staples.
The scientists used three-dimensional digital microscopy on 15 clumps found in the cave, and identified evidence that the Native Americans' chewed and bit the quids with their teeth to extract atropine and scopolamine – two hallucinogenic alkaloids found in Datura. Almost all the samples are Datura wrightii. One exception was a quid of Yucca.
Fifty-six clearly identifiable quids were found in the Pinwheel Cave crevices, but traces of fibrous materials in crevices indicate there were many more in the past that are now gone. Based on radiocarbon dating, the oldest quid studied contained 400-year-old plant material; the newest one was from 130 years ago.
With the scientific analysis of the quids, the researchers were able to interpret the ancient rock art images.
“Rather than the art depicting what is seen in a trance, the pinwheel is likely a representation of the plant causing the trance,” the article says. “The rock art thus established the space where individuals underwent a deeply meaningful first-hand entheogenic experience within the context of an important communal site.”
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
Bed bugs can hitch rides on secondhand furniture, luggage, backpacks and other personal items to invade homes and attack people. While we rest and sleep on sofas and beds, the insects come out to feed. They want to suck our blood. A new web-based, interactive training course shows how to prevent and detect bed bug infestations.
“The training helps tenants recognize, restrict and report bed bugs and helps landlords comply with California state regulations on bed bugs,” said Andrew Sutherland, University of California Cooperative Extension integrated pest management advisor for the Bay Area.
Landlords are required by Assembly Bill 551, which became law in 2016, to provide bed bug information to renters in California. Renters and other residents can learn how to spot signs of bed bugs from an online course designed by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources integrated pest management experts, web designers, pest management professionals, housing management professionals and public health officers.
The online bed-bug education is available in full-length and shorter versions in both English and Spanish. The animated, fun and self-paced course is available for free at stopbedbugs.org.
Although bed bugs have never been shown to transmit disease to humans, their bites can cause itchy, red welts on the skin.
People shouldn't be embarrassed about having bed bugs, says Sutherland. Cluttered spaces give bed bugs places to hide and breed, but the tiny insects don't require a dirty environment. Even the nicest hotels sometimes play host to bed bugs.
“This training will help destigmatize having bed bugs and, by emphasizing prompt reporting and cooperation, will help landlords and residents fight bed bugs as a team,” said Heidi Palutke, senior vice president of compliance and education for the California Apartment Association.
The animated narrator, modeled after UCCE staff researcher Casey Hubble, urges renters to alert their property manager promptly if they suspect bed bugs are in their home so pest management professionals can rid the home of the biting insects and prevent them from spreading.
Bed bugs can go without feeding for many days to several months, depending on life stage, temperature and humidity, according to the UC Integrated Pest Management Program. Adult bed bugs may live one year or more and produce as many as four generations.
The bed bug course was produced with funding from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. The digital artistry was created by Sergey Litvinenko and his colleagues at Geosphere LLC.
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
Termites can eat you out of house and home by chewing through wood and weakening the structure. The results of a new termite study led by entomologists at UC Riverside may enable homeowners to rid their homes of termites with a safer, effective pest control approach.
“Combining a volatile essential oil with heat might reduce callbacks for pest management professionals and potentially lead to lower risk of heat damage to things in the homes,” said Dong-Hwan Choe, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Entomology at UC Riverside.
The conventional method of exterminating termites requires residents to vacate the house while pest control professionals tent the structure then pump in toxic chemicals to kill the termites. While insecticides are effective at killing termites, urban pest managers are under pressure from regulators and residents to find alternatives that won't harm people, pets or the environment.
To rid structures of termites without using chemicals, pest control professionals heat the air inside structures to lethal temperatures. However, termites can survive in hard-to-heat areas such as in wood positioned against concrete foundation walls. In a recent study, Choe found adding essential oils to heat treatments can kill termites insulated from the heat.
“You need some kind of insecticide to kill the termites in those locations that are hard to heat,” said Daniel Perry, who conducted the study as a UC Riverside graduate student with Choe.
“By using an essential oil, which is toxic to termites, we can kill them without really any risk to humans or other animals that live in the house.”
The western drywood termite, Incisitermes minor (Hagen), is a common structural pest in the United States native to California, from the border with Mexico to Central California and inland to the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
“We tested several insecticidal essential oils on individual western drywood termites and found that methyl salicylate, or wintergreen oil, killed them the fastest,” said Choe.
Wintergreen oil kills termites, but it doesn't hurt people or their pets. Although pest control professionals commonly use orange oil for localized drywood termite treatments, wintergreen oil has about twice the flash point so it's safer to use with the heat treatment, Perry said.
To test the synergy of the volatile essential oil and heat, the research team placed wood blocks infested with 20 drywood termites each in Villa Termiti, a small wooden structure built for pest management research at the UC Berkeley Richmond Field Station. They applied 160microliters (about 16 drops) of wintergreen oil to some infested wood blocks (the treatment) and no wintergreen oil to other infested blocks (the untreated control), then used propane heaters to heat the house to between 134 degrees and 146 degrees Fahrenheit for 140 minutes. After seven days, they found that 92% to 100% of the drywood termites were dead when treated. In contrast, in blocks without the wintergreen oil, only 36% to 44% of the termites died in the same time period when treated within areas near the concrete foundation wall. Incorporation of the essential oil substantially increased the control efficacy for this area near the foundation, resulting in more than 90% mortality.
Lethal temperatures and essential oils will kill termites at all life stages, but the scientists used immature termites at the pseudergate (worker) stage. The wingless, pale pseudergates do most of the work for the colony, excavating tunnels and chewing up food for the other termites to eat.
“If you can kill all of the pseudergates, then the rest of the colony will likely collapse,” said Perry, who went to work for Procter & Gamble after finishing this project and his master's degree at UC Riverside.
“The most common treatment is fumigation and that requires three or four days during which the structure has to be vacated,” said Perry. "With the heat treatments, all you have to do is heat up the structure until the wood inside gets to the temperature that will kill the termites, hold the lethal temperature for a few hours, and then let the house cool off. You only have to be out of the house for maybe six hours, so it's a lot more convenient.”
Andrew Sutherland, UC Cooperative Extension integrated pest management advisor for the Bay Area, offers training for pest management professionals. He is encouraged by the results.
Sutherland said, “It means that folks will be able to heat effectively at lower target temperatures and lower durations, so it's less cost for everybody, and probably less time for everybody. It's a way to really synergize the heat treatment and no fumigant gas is released to the atmosphere.”
“Volatile Essential Oils Can Be Used to Improve the Efficacy of Heat Treatments Targeting the Western Drywood Termite: Evidence from Simulated Whole House Heat Treatment Trials” was published in the October 2020 edition of Journal of Economic Entomology.