|Just out today from the CDC – too many kids believe that energy drinks are safe to consume, and that they are a type of sports drink. More efforts to promote water consumption are needed, particularly among this age group! According to the CDC:|
The study, “Perceptions About Energy Drinks Are Associated with Energy Drink Intake Among US Youth,” is available online in the American Journal of Health Promotion. It looks at factors associated with energy drink consumption among young people and the relationship between what young people perceive about energy drinks and their energy drink consumption.
CDC researchers used data from the 2011 Youth Styles Survey to conduct this analysis. Youth Styles is an online survey that looks at health beliefs and behaviors of young people between 12 and 17 years of age on important public health topics. The following are results of a survey taken from 779 youths:
Energy drinks are growing in popularity among young people with about half of the energy drink market consisting of adolescents and young adults. Given their potential harmful effects, it is important to examine how young people perceive the health risks of energy drinks. The findings from this study suggest that many young people wrongly perceive that energy drinks are safe and may need additional information about them.”
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The Berkeley Science Review recently featured the ongoing work of Dr. Amy Pruden (and her collaborators) here at Virginia Tech on devising probiotic approaches to controlling pathogens in premise plumbing* (i.e. potable and hot water piping systems in buildings which are the private property of homeowners).
The idea is to understand the complex microbiome prevailing in plumbing systems by studying the role of important variables (like pipe materials, water chemistry, disinfection, water flow and temperature) on microbes. This can provide insights into altering the microbial ecology inside pipes and creating suitable conditions which include, among others, prevention of opportunistic pathogens from proliferating in the pipe systems inside biofilms. Opportunistic pathogens are harmful microorganisms like Legionella pneumophila that can affect immunocompromised populations like the young, elderly and HIV-affected among others and cause life-threatening diseases like Legionnaire’s disease (About 8000 – 18000 people are hospitalized each year due to this disease although the actual number of infections could be much higher).
What is immensely fascinating is the possibility of changing conditions in pipe materials that inhibits growth of such pathogens and perhaps encourages that of harmless microbes. This would be a novel methodology of ensuring drinking water safety and aid or perhaps even surpass conventional disinfection from the treatment plant. Even more interesting is Dr. Pruden’s observation of the idea emerging from fecal transplants and their phenomenal success in treating gut infections by Clostridium difficile.
Check out the Berkeley article here: Researchers consider a probiotic approach to plumbing
Students: Dr. Hong Wang, Pan Ji, Caitlin Proctor
And the original ES&T review paper: Wang H, Edwards MA, Falkinham JO 3rd and Pruden, A. Probiotic approach to pathogen control in premise plumbing systems? A review. Environ Sci Technol. 2013 Sep 17;47(18):10117-28. doi: 10.1021/es402455r
Dr. Pruden, Dr. Edwards and Dr. Falkinham are core Water INTERface IGEP Faculty.
*If you are interested to learn more about premise plumbing and associated problems, watch this seminar by Dr. Marc Edwards
I stumbled upon the Water INTERface IGEP program by accident. It was never a part of my “MS To-Do List” to begin with. I heard of it during the first ‘Engineering Ethics and the Public’ (see launch info here) class in Fall ’12 when students talked of Ethics being a requirement for an “IGEP” or a certain ‘Professoriate’ certificate. I took Engineering Ethics because it was a welcome breather in the whirlwind of interesting yet primarily technical courses and, in retrospect, was one of the most rewarding classes I have ever taken. It gave me my current advisor – Dr. Marc Edwards, a fantastic research group but most importantly a platform of sound values on which I have the choice to build my career and my life. Fascinating ongoing and past cases of questionable ethics, their implications to public health and the taxpayer’s money and a whole new way of approaching the way scientists and engineers operate in the 21st century and what is missing in their education and their decision making. Ethics changed my life for the better and I wouldn’t be surprised if I hear the same from others who have taken it over the years.
In Spring ’13, ‘Water For Health: Seminar’ was advertised as a 1-credit course and the title was all it took for me to sign up. While understanding the nitty-gritties of drinking water, wastewater – their associated technical and regulatory elements in regular classes, this 1-hour/week breeze of a class was what I needed to just go to and listen to people from different ‘water’ backgrounds and, essentially, help expand my binoculars of understanding the role of water in society and our lives. Having the chance to “create” one’s own white paper in a group was so much fun! “Do the benefits of water reuse/recycling outweigh perceived and real risks?” was what we worked on.
It paid off later (well, kinda) at a banquet during the 50th Association of Environmental Engineering Scientists and Professors (AEESP) Conference in Golden, CO in June ’13 when one of the pioneers of the water field, Dr. Richard Luthy (Stanford) talked about the critical role ‘water reuse’ was going to play in the coming years in the US and around the world. I got up to ask a question on public perception of why ‘direct reuse’ was not so readily accepted in the US like Singapore (because ‘direct reuse’ = ‘Singapore’ was what my research had revealed while working on the white paper) and while I got a good answer from him, another industry leader (He Who Shalt Not Be Named) shot my question down stating Singapore was ‘indirect’ reuse and that projects were coming up in Texas which were ‘direct’ reuse. A little red-faced, I understood how there can be differing viewpoints about the ‘technical’ way the water reuse technology, or for that matter any technology, is viewed. Dr. Pruden (CEE) did come by later chuckling and pointing out that the ‘Water for Health’ class should be given credit for that question coming up in a room full of industrial stalwarts by a student; this, while, I struggled with getting over being shot down for the next hour or two.
I was now familiar with how the IGEP operated and that unknowingly I had completed two requirements of the certificate. It dawned on me that getting into the Water IGEP should definitely be put on my ‘MS To-Do List’. It was a cool happenstance that the third requirement of the IGEP – working on an independent study with a core-IGEP faculty who’s not your advisor – was pretty straightforward. Dr. Davy (Water IGEP Director/HNFE) had an intriguing project lined up on evaluating the readability and clarity of EPA mandated water quality reports by water utilities across the US and Katherine (CEE) Phetxumphou and I put in the effort to analyzing reports from across the country using various tools to answer the question if an average American understood the content and context of the water quality reports s/he receives every year. The interdisciplinary nature of working on this research question (ranging from Environmental Engineering and Human Nutrition to Public Health and Communication Studies) was, I believe, an invaluable experience and a critical learning pitstop for me. The results are eye-opening and we hope to get them to larger audiences in the coming months.
The final piece of the Water IGEP puzzle is the ‘Interdisciplinary Research’ course being offered this semester (Spring ’14) and has a fantastic line-up of mini-projects and expert talks that has me all psyched. From personality tests to group NIH (National Institutes of Health) proposals, I’m curious to see how they help shape or shatter the ways I (and my fellow classmates) think on collaboration and winning sledge races in the roles of being at the helm as well as one of the sledge dogs (the metaphor belongs to Dr. John Little (CEE)).
This course will be the end of my IGEP journey but the connections, the insights and the collaborations I’ve made and have are hopefully going to contribute to a more holistic growth of my academic journey here at Virginia Tech: especially since my ‘MS To-Do List’ has become a lot longer. It has transformed into ‘The PhD Bucket List’.
The spillage of over 7500 gallons of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM) from a storage tank in the Elk river has contaminated the drinking water supply of over 200, 000 citizens in and around Charleston, West Virginia. President Obama declared a state of emergency for the state and the public has been instructed to not use tap water for drinking, bathing, brushing teeth and preparing infant formula. Toilet flushing is the only designated ‘safe’ activity for the water they are currently receiving in their homes.
The storage tank is owned by Freedom Industries which deals in specialty chemicals for mining, steel, and cement industries. MCHM is used to wash coal and separate impurities via a floatation process. MCHM is harmful if swallowed or inhaled. It causes skin and eye irritation. Although, it is not reportedly toxic, MCHM levels in the water are still above the safe 1 parts per million limit. It looks like cooking oil floating on water but being colorless it’d be hard to distinguish when it flows down from the taps.
Stores like Kroger have been swept clean of all their bottled water supply and people are relying on tankers to deliver drinking water and are into their third day without ‘drinkable’ water flowing from their taps.
So much for the facts.
It is mind boggling – the scale on which these environmental contamination disasters (or less) from industries and non-public entities occur and often render hundreds of thousands of people without safe water for days despite no fault of their own. It also raises important questions on the installation of factories near water bodies and the safety practices of these private entities along with the quality of federal oversight. Despite no reported hospitalizations and illness cases so far, it has impacted homes, businesses, restaurants, day care and all major forms of business-as-usual.
Drinking water is a fundamental need of the human population and we must do a better job at protecting any and all resources that fulfill this irreplaceable need of ours’.
The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/11/us/west-virginia-chemical-spill.html?hp&_r=0
MCHM Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS): http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/wvpn/files/201401/MSDS-MCHM_I140109214955.pdf
Dallas News: http://www.dallasnews.com/news/metro/20140112-river-chemical-spill-in-west-virginia-larger-than-first-believed.ece
It’s great to see that water has a celebrity advocate-Matt Damon! In our graduate water seminar a few years back, the class came to the collective realization that celebrity advocates can really help to advance a cause (think about the Got Milk? campaign!). His organization, located at water.org, raises funds to bring water and toilets to developing countries-a truly worthwhile cause given that Water and sanitation are linked to public health. how can we also get more attention to our domestic water challenges-crumbling infrastructure, awareness of the health benefits of water consumption? We need a domestic water advocate to help raise awareness!
Had I not been an Environmental Engineering student, I doubt I’d really think about what happens to the water after it leaves the kitchen sink. It is amazing – the technology out there in waste water treatment plants which incorporates both chemical and biological treatment processes and technologies to clean water to federal standards.
We are delighted to launch a brand new edition of the Water INTERface newsletter for the Fall semester of 2013. In this edition, we feature:
- A fascinating research thrust area of Dr. Amy Pruden-Bagchi, a core IGEP faculty, in understanding the growth of opportunistic pathogens and the complex microbial ecology in drinking water systems (premise plumbing). Read on to find out why conventional modes of water disinfection are ineffective in containing these pathogens and how her team’s research aims to fill in the blanks.
- Amanda Sain, a PhD candidate, working with Dr. Andrea Dietrich, on evaluating the potential role of household humidifiers as a health risk – how, if the source water contains Manganese, the humidifiers might aerosolize it and increase direct exposure to the brain. She was named “Outstanding Masters’ Student: in the College of Engineering in 2013.
- Event highlights for this semester, including Dr. Rebecca Muckelbauer’s (from the Berlin School of Public Health) talk on water consumption and weight management on December 9th 2013 and updates on IGEP student publications and achievements.
Download the issue here:
With support from the WaterInterface IGEP, I recently had the opportunity to give a talk at the International Water Association (IWA) Tenth Symposium on Off-Flavours in the Aquatic Environment, which was held at the National Cheng Kung University in Tainan, Taiwan.
The conference included speakers from all over the world including: Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, the UK, and the USA. It is clear to me after attending the conference that taste and odor issues in drinking water are very important to utilities and consumers. Although much progress been made in the past decades to identify and treat causes of tastes and odors, the pressures on freshwater resources from climate change, nutrient/industrial inputs, and increased demand for potable and palatable water all demand a continued emphasis on taste and odor research and corresponding solutions. The final program from the conference with a full list of the topics presented can be viewed here, and the slides from the keynote speakers can be accessed from this link.
Dr. Andrea Dietrich of the Via Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering here at Virginia Tech was invited to give a keynote speech titled “The Chemistry and Qualities of Good Tasting Drinking Water” which was an overview of the way people perceive taste of drinking water globally, how specific minerals impact the taste of a drinking water, how we can measure human perception of the taste of water, and different treatment strategies for utilities.
My talk was focused on the taste and visual perception of manganese and iron in drinking water and an evaluation of the current global regulations for both of these metals in drinking water. My findings indicated that utilities should aim to remove both manganese and iron to the best of their ability, and below what current guidelines recommend in order to prevent off-colors caused by manganese and off-flavors caused by iron. The research discussed in this talk has been submitted to the International Water Association for publication in the International Water Association’s Journal of Water Supply: Research and Technology – AQUA.
Just out in the International Journal of Obesity-Harvard researchers demonstrated that water intake is inversely related to weight gain over time, using data from three longitudinal trials (>10,000 individuals).