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Slated this week are four classes (45 minutes apiece) at the Anchorage Extension office (16th and C Street).  The topics are Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), Energy Efficiency, Household Hazardous Materials and Home Safety.  Friday the Alaska Forum on the Environment will be hosting a halfday workshop on all dozen or so Healthy Homes topics.

One of the areas which EPA, HUD and USDA have included in the Healthy Homes curricula we use is lead contamination.  This is a hot topic currently, as Flint Michigan has seen an evolving exodus developing due to a change in water supply from a nearby river, which has delivered the possibility of lead poisoning.  In Environmental Health, there certainly is attention given to the actual chemical and material properties of contaminants, but as important is the human decisions which bring on and limit exposure.  When reading a major article on the current situation, there is a lot of variation as to what people will do with lead contaminated water!  Read https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/for-the-people-of-flint-hope–and-clean-water–remains-elusive/2016/02/06/1a6013c0-caa0-11e5-88ff-e2d1b4289c2f_story.html if you have an opportunity.  The original impetus, a decision to change water sources pushed through existing lead piping, isn’t even the focus but rather individual households choosing what they are willing to risk- or leave- seems to be the focus now.

In Alaska, we thankfully do not have to worry about lead from pipes as most of the population’s overall growth (and demand for housing) came about after copper became widely available to builders.  And the other major source, lead based paint, was often too expensive to send up to Alaska due to the increased weight (other than at Department of Defense or other facilities).  Yet we do have the natural contaminant of Arsenic in various parts of the state that effect drinking water decisions on whether people will wash clothes, cook, bathe or drink their well water.  Their are now cost effective ways such as reverse osmosis filters that can be put on the individual home to remove the contaminant…and even better for Alaskans we have the choice in most communities to haul our own water from washeterias and water vendors!