June 2003

EDITORIAL: West Nile Virus

The West Nile Virus will in all probability be a major problem in the United States as spring brings warm weather and mosquitoes begin to breed.  In a short number of recent years this virus has spread across the entire continental U.S.  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that "West Nile Virus has been commonly found in humans and birds and other vertebrates in Africa, Eastern Europe, West Asia, and the Middle East, but until 1999 had not previously been documented in the Western Hemisphere.  It is not known from where the U.S. virus originated, but it is most closely related to strains found in the Middle East.  

     The best prevention against contracting this virus is to avoid mosquito bites to avoid infection.  "Human illness from West Nile Virus is rare, even in areas where the virus has been reported.  The chance that any one person is going to become ill from a mosquito bite is low".  "West Nile Virus is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito, and can infect people, horses, many types of birds, and some other animals".  That said, as the old saying goes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure".  Here are some tips from the CDC that may help you reduce your chances of becoming infected by protecting yourself from mosquito bites:

  • Apply insect repellent containing DEET (N'N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) when you are out of doors.  There are safety issues related to use of insect repellent, and information and literature is available regarding this from the Environmental Protection Agency.  There are warnings related to young children regarding DEET.  Read the label on whatever repellent you buy and follow directions.  Do not hesitate to ask for a Material Safety Data Sheet when you purchase.
  • When possible wear long-sleeved clothes and long pants treated with repellents containing permethrin or DEET, as mosquitoes may be able to bite through thin clothing.
  • When possible, consider staying indoors at dawn, dusk and in the early evening, which are considered to be peak mosquito biting times.
  • Limit the number of places available for mosquitoes to lay their eggs by eliminating standing water sources from around your living areas.  It is also wise to report standing waster to authorities who may be able to eliminate the problem.


Click it, Don't Risk it Fact Sheet

  • The Click It...Don't Risk It Nebraska Coalition to Increase Safety Belt Usage has grown to nearly 370 members since February 2002.
  • The human and financial costs are overwhelming.  It is not just deaths, but also injuries.  At the end of 2001, there were 26,013 injuries at a cost of approximately $35,300 per person, which equals almost $1,000,000.  (About 20-25% or $250,000 of which is covered by the state).
  • In Nebraska, a motor vehicle crash occurs every 11 minutes,  80 people are injured each day, and one person is killed every 32 hours.
  • Safety belts would have stopped a number of these fatalities and injuries.
  • In 2002, of the 277 fatalities in automobile accidents, 85 people were 21 years old or younger.  Of those 85, only 12 were restrained.  That is only a 14% usage rate!
  • Males 20-34 years of age and all teenage drivers are the groups most at risk to be in an automobile accident.
  • Safety belts cut the risk of death or serious injury in a car crash by 50 to 55 percent.


It seems like I see either an article in some publication, or hear something on the news just about every day concerning mold.  There is currently an appreciable amount of paranoia associated with the subject, and quite often limited understanding of the issue(s).  So...what is mold?  It is a group of organisms belonging to the kingdom called Fungi.  In addition, fungi also contains a diverse group of plants that contain no chlorophyll, leaves, or flowers and is reproduced through spores.  Molds grow on dead and decaying organic matter.  According to some authorities on the subject,  approximately 25 percent of the worlds biomass is fungi.  Some molds are very beneficial and some are essential for life to exist.

     There are numerous sources of mold.  Outdoor sources include:  Trees, shrubs, tall grass growing near buildings, landscape irrigation near exterior walls etc.  Indoor sources usually originate from outdoor sources, the exceptions being mold strains called Aspergillius and Penicillium.  These strains can grow and reproduce effectively indoors.  They are most routinely found in air samples of "dry" buildings.

     There are numerous sources of mold seasonal variability.  Allergy sufferers can attest to that statement.  Airborne mold spores vary in concentration by geographical location and seasonal effects.  Spores tend to be most common in the warm seasons and least common in the dry cold winter.  Regardless, mold spoors are present at all times, in all seasons, in all localities and are a function of nature.

     So what causes mold and supports mold growth?  There are a number of conditions worth review.  These include: 

  • Temperature ranges between 40-100 degrees F.
  • Viable spores (source of mold)
  • Moisture
  • Nutrient source (organic matter)
  • Oxygen (in most cases)

      Note:  Mold can grow with or without a light source.

     Chances are that most people can detect mold/mildew by the musty smell that it generates.  It is important to respond and remediate mold as soon as possible after it is detected.  Clean up and remediation at an early stage of development is not difficult, and can normally be accomplished by a cleaning with bleach solution and a drying process.  Advances stages however, particularly those associated with building materials (wallboard, ceiling tiles, porous materials, etc.) may be difficult to clean and remediate.  Often in advanced cases, replacement of walls, ceilings, insulation and other building materials is required in addition to cleaning and at appreciable cost.

     If mold is detected on campus, notify either Environmental Health and Safety at 546-6400, or Facilties Management at 280-2780 for review, clean up and remediation.  


Tips to Foil Burglars

 According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), burglars break into apartments, condominiums or houses every 11 seconds.  Here's a checklist of things to do to fend off criminals:

  • Light up all entry points--doors and windows.  Consider outdoor motion-detection lights.
  • Use timers to turn your lights, radios and televisions on and off.
  • Secure doors and windows--choose exterior doors made of solid metal or wood.
  • Install heavy-duty deadbolt locks on doors.
  •       Use door and window locks.
  •       Close the garage door and always lock the door to an attached garage.
  •       Close curtains and blinds a night.
  •       Ask to see identification should a stranger show up at the door.
  •       Keep an eye on repair people and meter readers.
  •       Trim outside bushes so a prowler can't hide easily.
  •       Ask neighbors to keep an eye out for each other's property.

     During vacations or business travel:


      Stop newspaper delivery.

      Have someone pick up your mail

      Make the home look occupied--keep some shades and blinds up, keep a car parked in the driveway and have the lawn and walks maintained.

      Use a business address and telephone number on luggage rather than a home address.

     Pinpoint weak spots in home security by sizing up the home the way a burglar would.  Then take the steps needed to deter criminals.


~excerpt from "Techlines" a publication of Laboratory Safety Supply; June 2003

June is National Safety Month

June 1-7 Driving Safety Week

     In just one year, motor vehicle crashes cause 1.5 million disabling injuries and 43,000 deaths.  Most are caused by driver error-which means they are preventable.  Know how to protect yourself,  your passenger, and other drivers.

June 8-15 Home & Community Week

     Safe at home?  Not necessarily.  You're eight times more likely to be hurt at home than at work.  Falls, poisonings and fires are just a few of the dangers.

June 15-21 Preparedness Week

     It's not just for disasters or acts of terrorism.  Emergencies can happen anytime, anywhere, to anyone.  Are you prepared to respond to sudden illness or injury?  Learn first aid and CPR.

June 22-30 Workplace Safety Week

     Companies with solid safety programs have fewer injuries -and higher productivity.  Take the initiative on preventing injuries in your workplace.

     For more information on any of these, visit the National Safety Month Website at http://www.nsc.org/nsm .

From the National Safety Council

Laboratory Fires

Academic laboratory fires continue to occur.  The University of California at Irvine lost a chemistry lab to a multimillion-dollar fire.  The University of California at Santa Cruz lost a genetics research lab to a fire.  The UCI fire was caused by the mishandling of a distillation.  At UC Santa Cruz major damage was contained to two biology labs on the fourth floor of Sinsheimer Labs on Science Hill, but other parts of the structure-the main biology building on campus-also received substantial smoke and water damage.  The blaze destroyed computer equipment and DNA samples.

     In the event of a fire in a laboratory, do the following things:


  1. Assist any person in danger to safety, if it can be accomplished without personal risk.
  2. Activate the building fire alarm. This will sound the fire alarm to evacuate the building and will automatically notify the Public Safety.
  3. If the fire is small enough, use a fire extinguisher to control and extinguish the fire.  Don't fight the fire if these conditions exist:
          *The fire is too large or out-of-control.
          *If the atmosphere is toxic
  4. If the first attempts to put out the fire do not succeed, evacuate the building immediately.
  5. Doors, and if possible, windows should be closed so as to not draw flames and smoke into the rooms.
  6. Do not use elevators...use building stairwells.
  7. Upon evacuating the building, personnel shall proceed to the designated meeting area where the supervisors  are responsible for a head count and accounting of personnel.

     Laboratory fires are preventable.  It takes work on a the part of everyone, from the lab personnel through the most senior administrators.  The choice is simple:  do the work every day or pay a much higher price some day.

-excert from Chemical Health & Safety, Vol. 9, No.2

New Poison Control Center Phone Number

The American Association of Poison Control Centers has established a single telephone number to reach local poison control centers:  800-222-1222.  Callers are automatically connected to the poison center nearest to them.

     These centers are equipped and staffed to answer poisoning questions pertinent to the territory and to direct callers to local health care centers and experts. 

     Follow these steps if someone ingests, inhales or touches a poisonous substance or splashes something in his or her eyes:

  1. Don't panic!
  2. If you suspect a poisoning bring the container to the phone and call 800-222-1222 immediately.
  3. Follow the poison center's advice.


     For more information, please see:


~excerpt from "Techlines" a publication of Laboratory Safety Supply; June 2003