Chemical informatio​n and the Jan 2014 West Virginia Elk River chemical release


You may be aware from multiple news sources that little information was available about 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol at the time of the spill in West Virginia’s Elk River earlier this month. Since the spill, government and private sector scientists have contributed to collecting and verifying information about the chemical. As a result, there is now a page on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website about the chemical and the methodology used by CDC to develop its recommendations.

There is also a new record in the NLM Hazardous Substances Data Bank (HSDB) for the chemical 4-Methylcyclohexanemethanol, which has a Chemical Abstracts Service registry number (CASRN) of 34885-03-5. Other terms for the spilled substance are “MCHM” or “crude MCHM” or “4-Methylcyclohexane methanol.”

Please note that in some social media and early news reports, the chemical was MISIDENTIFIED as Methylcyclohexanol (CASRN: 25639-42-3). This is NOT the correct chemical. In chemical incidents, it is unusual for little online information to be available about a substance. Chemicals can often be readily identified using online resources such as TOXNET and WISER. In the absence of published information, local and state officials request consultation with local, state, federal and industry experts. Typically, following such an incident there is immediate, ongoing, extensive consultation and communication among responders and experts to determine appropriate actions. When planning for providing health information following chemical incidents, it is critical for institutions and government agencies to know who to contact in uncommon situations as well as knowing the authoritative published sources of chemical information.


New edition of Health Communication Science Digest

From the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC):

This month in the Digest there are several papers reporting the effectiveness of public health communication messaging (Auchincloss et al; Beales & Kulick; Chang [2 papers]; Dillard & Main; Glanz et al; Huang & Yang; Lee, J.). Other reports examine audience segmentation and targeting (McInnes et al; Owen et al; Stanton & Guion) and aspects of health message framing (Berger & Iyengar; Jernigan et al; Kang & Walsh-Childers; Lee, S. et al; Schuldt; Smith et al). Issues in public health communication via new media (Abroms et al) and risk communication (Blanton et al) are reported. Health communication strategies are also highlighted (Marshall; Parvanta et al).

Read the complete Digest here.

E-cigarette poisonings & more in the new edition of Public Health Law News

From the CDC’s Office for State, Tribal, Local, & Territorial Support:

The new edition of Public Health Law News reprints an article from USA Today on the rise in reports of poisonings in children by e-cigarettes.

Other stories include reports from the states on changes in public health laws and an interview with Chester Antone, Councilman of the Tohono O’odham Nation Legislature.

Read the complete newsletter here.

Hospital preparedness and the Boston Marathon bombing

From the CDC’s Public Health Matters Blog:

In the last eight years, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston has conducted 78 large scale emergency drills.  On the afternoon of April 15, immediately following the two bombs set off during the Boston marathon, it was time to put their well-practiced plans into action.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital had prepared for a variety of events, both natural and man-made.  Casting a wide net and taking an all-hazards approach, they ran drills for oil spills, chemical attacks, active shooters, blizzards, train crashes, hurricanes and building evacuations. The hospital ran exercises and responded to real-life events at a division, departmental, hospital, city-wide and state-wide level.  No doubt, the drills helped to establish routines and relationships across departments and across systems.

On Monday, April 15, there was a short turnaround between finding out about the event and implementing a plan.  At 2:54 p.m., when  the call came in about two explosions at the race, the already busy 55-bed emergency department had 66 patients.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital implemented what they call a Code Amber, activating the hospital disaster response system.  The hospital-wide response plan that they practiced regularly started with building capacity and capability in the emergency department, in the operating rooms, and throughout the hospital.  Where possible, patients were discharged or transitioned to other departments to disperse the crowded area.  Multiple operating rooms were rapidly opened and staffed for potential emergency surgeries.

The hospital cared for 39 patients from the bombing, 23 in the first 45 minutes. Staff set up a primary triage team to assess immediate need before a secondary triage team identified patients that needed emergent surgery.   Patients requiring surgery went directly to the operating room from the Emergency Department, just as they had drilled in prior exercises.   Patients were rapidly cared for throughout the hospital.

Read the complete post here.

CDC Finds Childhood Obesity Declined

Here’s some good news from the CDC to start your day! According to a report released earlier this month, childhood obesity among low income preschoolers is on the decline. Here’s the breakdown:

CDC map

Figure 1. Decreases and increases in obesity prevalence. Adapted from “Vital Signs: Obesity Among Low-Income, Preschool-Aged Children — United States, 2008–2011” from CDC 2013.

  • Nineteen states saw decreases. Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey, South Dakota, and the U.S. Virgin Islands showed the greatest decreases

  • Twenty states and Puerto Rico saw no significant change

  • Three states experienced increases

This has significant public health implications since childhood obesity often times translates into adulthood obesity and a myriad of health consequences. Understanding current trends on a state level helps guide the need for and impact of preventive programs.

The CDC doesn’t know specifically what accounts for the decrease, but suspects it’s the result of a host of federal, state and local initiatives that deal with this issue. Although there are many truly impressive programs, one highlighted in the report is Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Initiative. The Move Your Body routine is s a fun, surprisingly athletic dance that makes fitness fun!

Public health’s wicked problems: Can InfoVis save lives?

IEEE-VisualAnalytics2013From the CDC’s Office of Infectious Diseases:  Call for submissions



Public health is charged with assessing current and emerging health threats and issues, developing effective population-based policies and interventions to address these problems, and monitoring delivery and outcomes of public health actions (IOM, 2010 & 2008). Many public health problems, such as the obesity epidemic, HIV/STI transmission, and environmental hazards are called “wicked” due to their complexity and multi-layered causal factors at individual, group, and social levels (Kreuter, 2004). Such problems must be tackled with a mix of interventions that can include changes in health care delivery systems, community and neighborhood planning, social and educational institutions, and social and individual behavior change programs (Dahlgreen and Whitehead, 1991; Dean and Fenton, 2010). Other public health actions require rapid response and public engagement using the best data possible as it emerges in real-time, such as emerging infectious diseases, outbreaks, and emergency operations to protect public safety.

To make decisions about when and where to deploy resources that produce the greatest net benefits in complex or rapidly evolving situations, public health practitioners need new tools to integrate multiple sources of data from formal disease surveillance systems, secondary sources of geographic and demographic data, and new data streams such as real-time social media content. The field of information visualization, in which datasets are explored, analyzed, and presented through a range of graphical means, could offer entirely new ways of representing, seeing, and solving population-based health problems (Isenberg, 2011; Khan, 2009; Sopan, 2012).

We are soliciting full papers and extended abstracts/presentations across the range of focus areas of visualization, from issues in data collection for maximizing visualization opportunities, to analysis techniques, traditional and novel presentation formats, and data storytelling. Submissions should focus on the use of visualization to identify, analyze, and solve public health and related health system challenges.

For more information and to submit a proposal, click here.

Deadline:  6 September 2013

CDC Spends $626,00 on the Future of First Responder Training

In my never ending quest to find innovative uses for technology in healthcare, I came across an article on the CDC’s most recent use of virtual reality for the training of their emergency responders. Apparently they value virtual reality tools a lot- $626,000 worth.

As part of phase III of “Protecting the health, safety, resilience of deployed staff” for the CDC’s WorkLife Wellness Office, they made a sizable investment in the training of their workers through a virtual reality training program. Their ultimate objective is to prepare staff by “safely experiencing potentially-stressful sights, sounds and smells in scenarios as well as mitigating against the possibility of trauma-related psychological harm.”

“Forewarned is forearmed,” according to the CDC.

This immersive emergency response training technology is state-of-the-art (hence the steep price tag), and promises to prepare staff working in some of the most stressful, chaotic workplaces imaginable.

New Health Communication Science Digest available

This month in the Digest several papers explore the uses, benefits, and limitations of new media in public health communication. Other studies examine how media news and entertainment content may shape public perceptions ofhealth risks and healthy lifestyle behaviorsHealth message design and presentation is the focus of many studies. Aspects of health literacy and risk communication are discussed in others.

The June issue of the Health Communication Science Digest is available at

Solve the Outbreak – CDC iPad app updated!

CDC_SolveappFrom the CDC:

Are you ready to work your way closer to becoming a Disease Detective?  CDC has released an update to Solve the Outbreak, the popular, free iPad app that puts you in the shoes of a member of the Epidemic Intelligence Service. The app now has twice as many outbreaks as before, giving you double the opportunity to have fun.

The immensely popular app has had fans clamoring for more.  So if you’ve been stuck as an Apprentice, now’s your chance to work your way through the new outbreaks to earn more badges!

New, exciting features such as sound effects, new levels, and achievements.

Work hard to earn an achievement such as Clever Clogs and Smarty Pants; but beware of the Grim Reaper and Underachiever if you fail to Solve the Outbreak.

Whether you’re a teen considering a career in the sciences, a teacher looking for a great new way to show epidemiology at work, or a germ nerd of any age, Solve the Outbreak is a fascinating peek into the work that real-life Disease Detectives do every day to keep us safe.

As soon as a new outbreak is suspected, you race to the scene and need to figure out what’s happening, why, how it started, and how it’s spread. Act fast and you can save a whole town, or a state, or even a country. Come up with the wrong answers and, well… You can always try again!

Download the app from the iTunes Store:

CDC Director’s Hepatitis C Twitter Chat 5/30

Join CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden and experts Dr. John Ward, Director of CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis, and Dr. Hazel Dean, Deputy Director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention for a live Twitter chat on Thursday, May 30th about the importance of life-saving Hepatitis C testing. Hepatitis C is a silent epidemic in the United States. More than 3 million adults are infected with the Hepatitis C virus and most are baby boomers, people born 1945-1965. CDC wants all baby boomers to get a blood test for Hepatitis C since many are unaware of their infection. 

Earlier this month, CDC issued updated guidance for doctors and other health care providers about how to test for Hepatitis C, emphasizing the importance of identifying current infection. Join Dr. Frieden & CDC Hepatitis experts for a discussion with baby boomers, health care providers and partners about why testing is critical to reduce the increasing disease burden from Hepatitis C in the U.S.

When:  Thursday, May 30, 2:00-3:00PM EDT

Join the conversation:  Follow Dr. Frieden on Twitter @DrFriedenCDC  and use the hashtag #CDCchat.