Environmental Health

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Environmental health is the branch of public health concerned with all aspects of the natural and built environment affecting human health. Our goal is to prevent injury and illness and promote the well-being of you and your family by identifying and evaluating environmental sources and limiting exposure to hazardous physical, chemical, and biological agents in air, water, soil, and food.

Environmental Health Programs


Water and Sanitation Projects

IHS can provide tribal homeowners a sanitation facility bid package for the installation of new wells and septic systems and the renovation of previously installed projects.

Application for Sanitation Facilities

Contacts:

Carissa Caruso-DiPaolo, Environmental Health Specialist
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Thomas Palmer, Engineering Technician
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Well Water

Private well owners are responsible for keeping contaminants out of their drinking water. Private wells can be contaminated by naturally occurring sources or natural sources. These contaminants can cause water-associated disease and outbreaks, including gastrointestinal illness, reproductive problems, and neurological disorders. The top causes of outbreaks in wells are Hepatitis A, Giardia, Campylobacter, E. coli, Shigella, Cryptosporidium, Salmonella, Arsenic, Gasoline, Nitrate, Phenol, and Selenium.

Well owners should monitor their wells to keep unchecked environmental factors from contaminating their well water. Well owners can conduct physical well checks, as well as test their water for contaminants.

For routine well water testing:

Test once a year in the spring for bacteria (total coliform and E. coli), nitrates, and nitrites.

Test every 3-5 years for chloride, pH, hardness, copper, iron, manganese, uranium, arsenic, calcium magnesium, and radon.

Maine’s Health and Environmental Testing Lab Water Test Kits:

https://www1.maine.gov/cgi-bin/WebShop/public/index?store_id=10 

Well Flyer

Indoor Air Quality

Good indoor air quality is an essential piece component to overall health. While poor indoor air quality has been linked to compromised health and symptoms like headaches, irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and lungs, some chronic diseases have been linked to specific air contaminants. Air contaminants should be monitor and prevented whenever possible.

Mold

The breathing in or touching of mold spores can cause an allergic reaction in sensitive people, resulting in fever-like symptoms. Some molds can contain mycotoxins, toxic chemicals, which cause adverse health effects ranging from acute poisoning to long term effects like immune deficiency and cancer. Generally, the health effects of mold in buildings pose a minimal health risk to most people, but some people are more at risk than others. These people are generally in susceptible groups like the very young, elderly, those with respiratory problems (i.e. asthma), and immunocompromised.

Prevent mold growth by limiting moisture and humidity in your home.

For more on mold:

More Info

https://www.penobscotnation.org/indoor-air-quality

Radon

There are no immediate symptoms for radon poisoning. Rather, health problems from radon exposure, like lung cancer, will show up many years later. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.

A new or old house can have a radon problem. The only way to know if your house has a radon problem is by testing.

All homeowners are recommended to air test for radon every 2 years. Homeowners with a well should also do a radon water test. Homeowners that use municipal water do not need to test their water for radon.

Contact the health department at 817-7430 for assistance in purchasing a radon testing kit.

Maine’s Health and Environmental Testing Lab Air and Water Test Kits:

Maine Radon Air Kit: https://www1.maine.gov/cgi-bin/WebShop/public/product?store_id=10&product_id=406

Maine Radon Water Kit: https://www1.maine.gov/cgi-bin/WebShop/public/product?store_id=10&product_id=405

For more on radon:

More Info

https://www.penobscotnation.org/indoor-air-quality

Tickborne Illnesses

Tickborne diseases are illnesses that can be spread to humans by the bite of an infected tick.  There are four ticks that can be found in Maine that are vectors for disease: American Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis), Blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis), Brown Dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus), Lone Star tick (Amblyomma americanum). These ticks can transmit various diseases including Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Heartland virus, Lyme disease, Tularemia, Powassan virus, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness (STARI). Many tickborne disease early symptoms include flu-like symptoms. Flu-like symptoms include: fever, chills, sweats, headache, body aches, loss of appetite, nausea, or fatigue. If you are feeling unwell and have been in high risk areas for ticks or have recently been bit by a tick, consult your doctor.

Contact the health department at 817-7430 to receive your own tick prevention kit.

To submit a tick specimen to the University of Maine for identification or disease testing:

https://extension.umaine.edu/ticks/submit/

More Info 

For more on ticks and Lyme disease:

https://www.penobscotnation.org/149-natural-resources/wildlife/wildlife-disease-information

Lead

Lead can be found in older homes with lead-based paint, soil, yards, playgrounds, dust, or drinking water. Lead exposure can affect almost every organ and system in your body. Children six years and younger are the most susceptible to lead poisoning. Lead poisoning in children can result in behavior and learning problems, lower IQ, hyperactivity, slowed growth and anemia. Lead poisoning in adults can result in increased blood pressure and incidence of hypertension, decreased kidney function, and reproductive problems in men and women. During pregnancy, calcium and lead build up from previous exposure is released from the mother’s bones to the fetus or through breastfeeding. As a result, the developing fetus or baby to be born too early or small, hurt the baby’s brain, kidney’s, and nervous system, or put the mother at risk for a miscarriage.

Contact the health department at 817-7430 for assistance in purchasing an environmental sampling lead dust wipes kit or for pediatric blood lead testing.

Environmental Sampling Lead Dust Wipes Kits:

https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/public-health-systems/health-and-environmental-testing/lead/leadin.htm

Lead Flyer

Food Safety

Healthy eating plans include safe food handling, cooking, and storage practices that prevent food poisoning and foodborne illness. The most common virus and bacteria that cause illness in the United States are Norovirus, Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, Campylobacter, and Staphylococcus. Food poisoning symptoms can range from mild to very serious. The most common food poisoning symptoms are upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. It can take hours or days to develop symptoms. People that have a higher risk of serious food borne illness are children under the age of 5, pregnant woman, elders, and the immunocompromised.

For more on how to prevent foodborne illnesses in the kitchen:

https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/communication/food-safety-in-the-kitchen.html

Eat Wild Foods Safely:

https://www.penobscotnation.org/departments/natural-resources/eat-wild-foods-safely