Category Archives: sanitation

Respirator fit of a medium mask on a group of South Africans: a cross-sectional study

Background: In South Africa, respiratory protective equipment is often the primary control method used to protect workers. This preliminary study investigated how well a common disposable P2 respirator fitted persons with a range of facial dimensions. Methods: Quantitative respirator fit tests were performed on 29 volunteers from different racial, gender and face size groups. Two facial dimensions width (bizygomatic) and length (menton-sellion) were measured for all participants. Results: In this study 13.8% of the participants demonstrated a successful fit with the medium sized mask. These included participants from three different racial and both gender groups. The large percentage of failed fit tests (86%) indicates that reliance on off-the-shelf respirators could be problematic in South Africa. Conclusions: The limitations of this preliminary study notwithstanding, respirator fit appear to be associated with individual facial characteristics and are not specific to racial/ethnic or gender characteristics.

This is one reason why I think the Totobobo mask is so useful. It is much easier to modify the mask to fit different faces. The Totobobo mask really needs to be tested in a place like Alaska where we have faces from many different populations. See the Flickr set at Respirators masks for pandemics, volcanoes, dust, woodworking, cycling

poorly fitted respirator on TV news person

Primary entry about respirators is Masks — Types, Choosing (PPE)

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Request for Information– Dettol vs Lysol

This is an interesting question that came in, that I hope readers may know more about than I do–

I am a dentist and have a purely academic query — which has a better antimicrobial spectrum: Chloroxylenol or Benzalkonium chloride?

I’ll have to try looking that up. As an anthropologist, I suspect the answer will be different depending on
— the type of organism targeted
— the intended use (hands? instruments? countertops?)
— ease or thoroughness of use

plus, whatever the chemistry shows.

Can anyone help?

see also earlier posts

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Some costs of not using the Alaska PFD and leading by example

Andrew Halcro last week wrote a succinct piece on an all too common tragedy in Alaska and New Mexico.

At first glance it had all the makings of a Hollywood movie set. But this was no Hollywood movie set, it was my front yard on Sand Lake and it was 3am on June 10. For two days, fire and police vehicles were fixtures in my front yard, as the search for a missing canoeist continued. Family members gathered outside my front window, watching and waiting as they held hands, cried and prayed….

One APD officer on the scene told me that these kinds of tragedies are all too frequently due to an unfortunate combination of events. … In this case, the costliest hole was when the two young men launched their canoe at the public access point, they walked right past a newly erected life jacket stand that offered boaters free personal flotations devices.

Alaska initiated the “Kids Don’t Float” program. Fireman Bob Painter of Homer founded the program after a number of children drowned in Homer.

(May 29, 2009, Anchorage, Alaska) – The “Kids Don’t Float” and boating safety programs will continue this summer… Under these boating safety programs, children learn about boating safety in schools, and life jackets are available for loan at many lakes and rivers across Alaska. …Representative Mark Neuman of Wasilla sponsored HB 151 and Governor Palin signed the legislation in May.

Both NM and Alaska rank high in the USA for the prevalence of drownings (the number of deaths divided by the population). Alaska is a semi-arid region with a lot of riparian and coast line; New Mexico is a semi-arid region. Both states share a cultural norm that things go better with alcohol, especially if activities involve an engine (boat, auto, snowmachine). Both states seem to believe “accidents” [not my fault] are always happening but ones with bad consequences only happen to others, the less deserving.

PFDs (personal flotation devices, once referred to as lifevests) are no substitute for sobriety but they can buy time, if properly used. Even without alcohol present, PFDs are valuable. Take a look at these numbers–
1. Alaska has one of the highest boating fatality rates in the nation
a. at least 6 out of 10 are NOT wearing a life jacket
b. 9 out of 10 involve boats 26 feet and under
c. 5 out of 6 are due to capsizing or falling overboard
d. 8 out of 10 are Alaska residents
e. 9 out of 10 are adult males
f. at least 1 out of 3 involve alcohol
g. nearly all incidents involve cold water immersion

The state law allows adults to endanger themselves, but not underage children.

5. Legal requirements
a. everyone in the boat must have a life jacket of the proper size readily accessible
b. anyone under the age of 13 must be wearing a life jacket when on deck or in an open boat

c. must be suitable for the activity and wearer
1. read the label
d. must be in serviceable condition
1. free of defects (tears, missing zippers, broken buckles)
e. must be USCG-approved

A child’s coloring book encourages children to grow up to remember the law’s requirements.

It’s the LAW!
Persons under the age of thirteen
MUST wear their
PFD in an open boat
or on a deck.

Alaskan 8-year old on open boat without PFD

Alaskan 8-year old on open boat without PFD

Gov. Sarah Palin issued this proclamation in May to remind all of us that being safe around water, whether or not boating or fishing, is smart and more than the easily remembered “do what you otter around water, wear a pfd”

“WHEREAS, Alaska is blessed with an extensive coastline, millions of lakes, and thousands of rivers, making Alaska’s waters an important part of daily life; and

WHEREAS, our state offers many diverse boating opportunities for transportation, subsistence, and recreation, including kayaking, canoeing, rafting, and power boating; and

WHEREAS, boating can also be dangerous, and often fatal; and

WHEREAS, Alaska’s frigid waters can kill the unprepared, regardless of swimming ability; and

WHEREAS, four out of five of Alaska’s boating fatalities involve a sudden, unexpected capsize or fall overboard; and

WHEREAS, to help prevent accidents or fatalities while boating, boaters can take the simple step of wearing life jackets when in an open boat or on an open boat deck. In an emergency, life jackets provide an important advantage, and allow all efforts to be focused on self-rescue or getting help from others; and

WHEREAS, the newest designs make today’s life jackets more comfortable, functional, and affordable than ever. There is no reason to not wear one; and

WHEREAS, by wearing life jackets while boating, Alaskans demonstrate that when enjoying the outdoors, safety always comes first;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Sarah Palin, Governor of the state of Alaska, do hereby proclaim May 16-22, 2009 as:

Safe Boating Week

in Alaska, and encourage all boaters to make their boating memories this season good ones by always wearing life jackets, carefully preparing for each trip, carrying appropriate communications and signaling devices, and by serving as a positive example on the water for other boaters.
Dated: May 7, 2009

To test a life jacket, lift it at the shoulders. If the life jacket comes up over the ears, it is too big.

Test Alaska child's PFD fit. Will she slip out of unfastened PFD on open boat? SEAN COCKERHAM / Anchorage Daily News

Test Alaska child's PFD fit. Will she slip out of unzipped PFD on open boat?

Today comes this tragic reminder of the example set “on the water for other boaters.”

A 56-year-old man drowned in Bristol Bay this morning, the Coast Guard said. He was fishing in an 18-foot skiff with his two teenage daughters when he went overboard while pulling in a net, said Coast Guard spokeswoman Sara Francis. … The accident happened in Togiak Bay around 9 a.m. and a nearby fisherman immediately called for Coast Guard help. The skiff was only 10 to 20 yards from shore but the man was not wearing a life jacket.

2009-08-11 Very nice picture guide to Alaska Safe Boating Course.

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Talk of Alaska about swine flu

Steve Heimel yesterday discussed on Talk of Alaska: Holding Off Swine Flu, with Dr. Jay Butler, State Epidemiologist, Department of Health and Social Services. Swine Flu Talk of Alaska

Their blog comments are handled by Disqus which means it is nearly impossible to participate (my browser re-draws into one pixel wide; log-ins never work; comments don’t appear) so I will post my comment here and hope it trackbacks over there.

Preparedness comes in many forms, including (or especially) accurate information for the public to decide their risk. I think creating a false sense of security about infectious diseases or flooding and erosion is worse than the emergency condition itself.

My 3 things everyone should know to prevent bird flu (pandemic flu) are * Katrina was no Girl Scout (be prepared);
* learn the words and tune to Happy Birthday (wash hands while singing two rounds of Happy Birthday or Good Morning to You, properly, in English or Yup’ik); and
* practice safe sex (which implies that one has enough respect for self and other not to abuse alcohol and drugs, too. The result is fewer chronic illnesses like untreated depression, chlamydia, TB, and hepatitis which weakens one’s immune system.) More at How to avoid swine flu H1N1, or any other, quick list, from

Always ask yourself and your experts– does it make sense?
Does mass dispensing exercise prove disaster readiness
Mass disease pass, 2007

Why didn’t they they do this 3 years ago– public’s health

Alaska Airlines said it was removing pillows and blankets from all of its 114 planes, and would disinfect and sanitize all of its planes during overnight maintenance.

Now we won’t have any pillows for lumbar support to overcome the cramped seating and they’ll probably turn the heat too high to compensate for no blankets.

Bring back the antimacassar!

I always assumed pillows and blankets were disinfected regularly on planes (but nevertheless was queasy that it didn’t occur). Whole Foods doesn’t provide hand gel near the food counters or exits– a precaution to not so much to prevent illness but to remind patrons to practice safe sneezing. On the other hand, the Johnny Appleseed Trail of North Central Massachusetts, Visitor Center wipes down the doorknobs and door handles every hour as routine (they get lots of visitors per hour on the highways). Johnny Appleseed Rest Area, Massachusetts

2009-05-05 I found out yesterday that Northwest/Delta airlines does have antimacassars and free pillows and blankets for lumbar support. Food is still extra.

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How to avoid swine flu H1N1, or any other, quick list

Just visited western Massachusetts, Amherst area. None of the stores (including Whole Foods) and doctors’ offices, medical centers, or retirement places that I saw had any hand sanitizer available for visitors. It doesn’t take much to provide a safe reminder about hand washing and sneezing. See also, Mr Purell goes to City Hall

Another source of information about preparedness (in multiple languages), How the 1918 flu prepares for 21st Century, in a comic book

More fungus among us (Olympian ringworm request)

Gem asked several interesting questions on the Ringworm post about how much “housekeeping” is safe and reasonable and what additional steps could be taken for habitat ringworm. That is, if one does the usual steps to prevent the fungus and looks for the obvious culprits, what else can one prudently do?

I’m reluctant to offer any other suggestions as I am at the limit of my knowledge. A couple of things to keep in mind–

  • People are very large (micro)organisms. So what kills fungus, bacteria,  etc. will also disrupt the big stuff (us) with a large enough dose or frequent enough application  or mixed with something else. Much the way chemotherapy can be said to kill the cancer cells but just before it kills the body, there needs to be a careful balance between treatment and over-treatment.
  • Be sure you know what you are dealing with. Lots of conditions look similar but may have different causes and thus different treatments. For ringworm, I would rely on someone skilled in diagnosing different kinds of skin lesions.

I asked the veterinary Worms-and-germs folks to do a post or commentary here about ringworm but haven’t heard back, yet.

On topic and timely, Olympic ringsworm–

J&J Wins Favored Status By Curing Statue Fungus Woes
By JASON LEOW in Beijing and SHIRLEY S. WANG and KELLY CROW in New York
August 18, 2008; Page A16

Inside Olympian sneakers in Beijing surely rages a case or two of athlete’s foot.

But that fungus no longer plagues a handful of 2,000-year-old statues here, which explains why China lent the artifacts to the corporate pavilion of Johnson & Johnson. A maker of athlete’s foot cream for half a century, J&J helped rescue one of China’s most precious archaeological treasures from a damaging athlete’s-foot-like fungus.

“We know everything about fungus,” says Chong Siong Hin, a J&J executive.

… The statues are called terracotta warriors…

Upon Emperor Qin’s death, he and his warriors were sealed in his mausoleum and forgotten until 1974, when owners of a persimmon orchard discovered the site while digging a well.

Archaeologists hailed the terracotta warriors as the find of the century. But soon after they were unearthed, heat and humidity attracted tiny spores of tinea pedis and other types of fungus that attacked the clay statues. Fungi excrete acid that began corroding the relics….

About a decade later, J&J learned of the fungus problem and started to wage battle against it.

Never having fought fungus on nonhumans, J&J invested years and hundreds of thousands of dollars researching molds on clay tiles and flowerpots.

Museum officials sent chunks of terracotta to J&J’s laboratory outside Antwerp, Belgium, to test for organisms. Ultimately, J&J and Chinese scientists identified 60 different fungi growing on the statues, including a variation of athlete’s foot.

The identification of the fungus helped to lead to the development of some fungicides that are proving effective. […]

The mention of acid in the passage brings up an aspect of fungus habitat I haven’t read about– pH of the skin surface. I suppose it might be worth daubing on Milk of Magnesia as a counterbalance (this was supposed to work to get rid of tomato blisters around the mouth, but I have NOT seen any demonstration that this in fact occurs). Does anyone have suggestions that are demonstrated safe and effective , please comment here.

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