Monday, June 27, 2011

New, More Powerful Fireworks, Longer Season Could Mean Trouble

(Salt Lake, UT) – From 1999-2009, there were 512 emergency room visits in Utah for injuries due to fireworks. The majority of the injuries occurred among children ages 5-14. As the summer holidays approach, the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) and Office of the State Fire Marshal are urging Utahns to use extreme caution when using fireworks.

“Fireworks are beautiful and add excitement and fun to holiday celebrations. But sometimes we don’t realize just how dangerous they can be,” said Jenny Johnson, Media Coordinator with the UDOH Violence and Injury Prevention Program. “For example, the tip of a sparkler can reach temperatures over 1,200 degrees, hot enough to cause severe third-degree burns,” Johnson said.

Changes made to state fireworks laws during the 2011 Utah legislative session now make it legal to use fireworks between June 26 and July 26. The law previously allowed fireworks to only be ignited three days before, on the day of, and three days following July 4 and July 24.

In addition, a new type of aerial firework is now legal to use. The devices, also known as “multiple tube,” “repeater,” or “cake” fireworks, often look like miniature professional displays and can shoot as high as 150 feet. Still not allowed are firecrackers, M-80s, cherry bombs, bottle rockets, Roman candles, single or reloadable mortars, and ground salutes.

“The changes to Utah’s fireworks laws are significant,” said Brent Halladay, Utah State Fire Marshal. “We’re asking for everyone’s help over the next several weeks by following the law and keeping your families and neighborhoods safe.”

Utahns can play it safe by following these tips:
    Never allow children to handle, play with, or light fireworks. You must be at least 16 years of age to handle or light fireworks. Adults should always supervise children when fireworks are nearby.
    Always keep water handy. Have a bucket of water or a running hose nearby while using fireworks. Soak used fireworks in water before throwing them away.
    Be very careful with sparklers. Though seemingly safe, sparklers cause thousands of injuries across the U.S. every year. Children under the age of 12 should use sparklers only under very close supervision by an adult. Children should be taught to hold a sparkler at arm’s length from their body and to not wave, throw, or run while holding them. And never hold more than one sparkler at one time.
    Keep fireworks at an adequate distance from obstacles. Fireworks should always point away from people, homes, trees, and other things that could catch fire. Aerial fireworks should be kept at least 30 feet away from these structures.
    Never relight a "dud" firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water. Never let children pick up pieces of fireworks after an event. Some may still be ignited and can explode at any time.
    Only use fireworks as they’re intended. Never attempt to alter or combine them.
    Only use fireworks outdoors.
    Don't hold fireworks in your hand or have any part of your body over them while lighting. Wear some sort of eye protection, and avoid carrying fireworks in your pocket — the friction could set them off.
    Think about your pet. Animals have sensitive ears and can be extremely frightened or stressed on the Fourth of July. Keep pets indoors to reduce the risk that they'll run loose or get injured.

“The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to let the professionals handle them and attend a public display,” said Halladay. 

To learn more about fireworks safety, visit 

Media Contact:
Jenny Johnson
Violence & Injury Prevention Program
(o) 801-538-9416 (m) 801-298-1569
Brent Halladay
Utah State Fire Marshal
(o) 801-284-6350 (m) 801-232-2398

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Utah Hosts ‘Connectivity’ Conference

 (Salt Lake City, UT) – Partners from Utah’s health care community will gather to address advancing the use of health information technology (HIT) in a secure way that protects patient privacy.  The “Utah Promontory Health Information Exchange and Technology Connectivity Conference” will address the implementation of state efforts funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants. Attendees will also explore how to align their efforts with Utah’s vision for health care transformation. 

“While the adoption and use of HIT is foundational to the implementation of true health care transformation, our vision is that standard, secure, accurate, electronic sharing of health information results in better care, lower costs, and healthier communities,” said Dr. David Patton, Executive Director, Utah Department of Health (UDOH). 

The two-day conference will feature federal and state officials, as well as HIT industry leaders from the Intermountain West. The conference is an opportunity for local business leaders to discuss strategies for effectively implementing health IT that will improve patient care and lower costs.

“Every day Utah health care professionals are making important decisions for their patients without access to critical medical information,” said Robert Rolfs, MD, Utah State HIT Coordinator and UDOH Deputy Director. “With community resources like the Clinical Health Information Exchange, patients can enable their health care providers to secure access to their medical information for better and more accurate care,” he added.

Farzad Mostashari, MD, ScM, National Coordinator for HIT, U.S. Health and Human Services, will participate in a morning session by teleconference and speak on the “Federal Direction and Perspective Forward for HIT.”

The Conference will be held in West Valley City June 21-22, 2011 at the Utah Multicultural Celebration Center. Utah Governor Gary Herbert and the Deputy Director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are among the confirmed speakers for the event. Registration is open to the public. For more information and a conference schedule, please visit

Media Contact:
Francesca Lanier
State HIE Program
(801) 538-6271

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Dad’s Health Can Affect His Fertility

Salt Lake City  – According to the Utah Pregnancy Risk Line, a Utah Department of Health (UDOH) program that educates the public about exposures to drugs, diseases, and hazardous chemicals during pregnancy and breastfeeding, more studies are needed to evaluate the potential effect of men’s illnesses, medications, and lifestyle habits on their own fertility and potential pregnancies.

“A paternal exposure is anything the father of the baby is exposed to before his partner’s pregnancy,” explained Julia Robertson, director of Utah’s Pregnancy Risk Line, a joint UDOH and University of Utah project. “Some exposures may affect a man’s ability to father a child by changing the size or shape of sperm, the number of sperm produced, or how the sperm work,” she added.

It’s estimated that for couples suffering fertility problems, the issue rests half of the time with the male. In approximately one-quarter of these cases, a specific cause is unknown.

Studies have found associations between the following risk factors and altered sperm, lower fertility, and infertility:

  Occupational: Chemicals like heavy metals, solvents, and fumes (welding fumes, for example).
  Physical agents: Heat, vibration, and extremes in temperature and pressure.
  Radiation: Radiation used to treat cancer.
  Lifestyle: Cigarette smoking and drug and alcohol abuse.
  Infections: For example, chlamydia, a common sexually-transmitted disease.
  Pollutants: As an example, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). PCBs were banned by the EPA in 1979, but still exist in the environment, including landfills, lakes, and streams.

“Dad is sometimes an afterthought when it comes to pregnancy,” said Robertson. “But the bottom line is it’s often just as important to consider Dad’s impact on a pregnancy as it is Mom’s,” she added. “So, what better time to remind the public of that than on Father’s Day?”
In Utah, questions or concerns about paternal exposures in pregnancy or breastfeeding can be directed to Pregnancy Risk Line counselors at (800) 822-2229. Outside Utah, please call the national affiliate, the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists, at (866) 626-6847. 
Media Contact:
Lynn Martinez
Pregnancy Risk Line
435-720-3314 (cell)
800-822-2229 M-Th

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

UDOH Creates New ‘Office of Health Disparities Reduction’

(Salt Lake City, UT) – In compliance with Senate Bill 33, the Utah Department of Health (UDOH), Center for Multicultural Health has been replaced with the Office of Health Disparities Reduction (OHD).  Dulce Díez, MPH, CHES, has been selected as its manager.

Díez says the new office will have a broader mission than the former Center for Multicultural Health, which focused only on racial and ethnic minority health.  “As the new Office of Health Disparities Reduction, we will continue our commitment to tackling those issues,  but we are also looking for opportunities to uncover and address health disparities by geography and income,” she explained.

“The name of the office reflects a goal that is a top priority for the Utah Department of Health,” said Dr. David Patton, UDOH Executive Director. “Many citizens of our state don’t enjoy the good health outcomes we have come to expect in Utah, but every citizen should have equal opportunities to become healthy.”

Utah recently slipped from 2nd to 7th healthiest state in the nation according to the 2010 America's Health Rankings report.  The United Health Foundation study highlighted geographic health disparities as one of three key Utah weaknesses, along with a shortage of primary care physicians and low funding for public health.  Utah ranked 44th in the "geographic disparity" category, which measures variations in death rates from one county to another.

Morgan, Cache, and Summit counties had the lowest death rates in the state, as well as the healthiest lifestyles.  Duchesne, Carbon, and Beaver counties had the highest death rates.  Rural areas of Utah had a number of problems with health care access. 

Media Contact:
April Young Bennett
(801) 703-0127

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