January Health Beat… Radon Resolutions!

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley our local area public health nurse… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share!

Happy New Year to all! It is the time for New Years resolutions. I sincerely hope everyone will consider testing their homes and well water for radon this year.

The Environmental Protection Agency has designated January as National Radon Action Month. The goal is to increase the public’s awareness of radon, to promote radon testing, to decrease radon’s negative effects, and to advance the use of radon resistant new construction practices.

Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer deaths among non-smokers in the United States. Radon is responsible for about 20,000 deaths in America every year. If you smoke AND your home has high levels of radon, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.

Radon is a cancer causing radioactive gas and is found all over the United States. The rocks and soils of Maine create more radon than most any other state. Piscataquis County is a county in Maine identified as having high levels of radon.

Radon comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. Radon gas decays into radioactive particles that can get trapped in your lungs when you breathe. You can’t see, smell, or taste radon.

Radon moves up from the ground to the air and into buildings through cracks or holes in the foundation, gaps around service pipes, cracks in solid floors, through construction joints, or through well water. Once in a building, radon gets trapped inside. High levels of radon are found in all types of buildings including schools, offices, and homes.

Radon levels vary from building to building. Just because your neighbor does not have a problem with radon does not mean you do not!

The average indoor level of radon in the United States is 1.3 pCi/L (picocuries per liter). If you have a level between 2 and 4 pCi/L, you should consider radon reduction interventions. Any level above 4 pCi/L should be fixed immediately. Approximately one in three Maine homes has an air radon concentration over 4. The average indoor radon level of Piscataquis County as determined by test results is 4.4 pCi/L! The Radiation Control Program provides free information packets containing information about radon and radon tip sheets. You can access this information by visiting www.maine.gov/dhhs/eng/rad/Radon, county-radon.info/ME/, and state-radon.info/ME/.

Very high concentrations of radon can be found in Maine drinking water. Most risk comes from radon released into the air when water is used for showering or other household purposes. Any result 20,000 pCi/L or higher should be reduced. Studies have shown that nearly one in five Maine wells have radon concentrations 20,000 pCi/L or higher. If your water comes from a private well, your water should be tested for radon.

Radon testing is easy. You can test yourself using a home kit that can be purchased at a home improvement store or a hardware store. There are also private companies that will come to your home and test for radon. The Radiation Control Program does register radon service providers that have a proven level of training and expertise. Visit the Maine Radon/IAQ program at www.maineradiationcontrol.org for test kits. Different venting techniques are widely used to decrease or diminish radon levels in a building.

For much more information about radon, visit www.epa.gov/radon.

To decrease your risk of lung cancer, make this the year to stop smoking AND to test your home and well water for radon! Resolve to make 2011 a healthy year!

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Christmas Visit

Admittedly this has been around before… many times! But it seems worth repeating. Supposedly a teacher asked her students to write about what they did during Christmas vacation…

We always used to spend the holidays with Grandma and Grandpa.  They used to live in a big brick house, but Grandpa got retarded and they moved to Arizona .  Now they live in a tin box and have rocks painted green to look like grass.  They ride around on their bicycles, and wear name tags, because they don’t know who they are anymore.  They go to a building called a wreck center, but they must have got it fixed because it is all okay now, they do exercises there, but they don’t do them very well.  There is a swimming pool too, but they all jump up and down in it with hats on.  At their gate, there is a doll house with a little old man sitting in it.  He watches all day so nobody can escape.  Sometimes they sneak out, and go cruising in their golf carts.  Nobody there cooks, they just eat out.  And, they eat the same thing every night – early birds.   Some of the people can’t get out past the man in the doll house.  The ones who do get out, bring food back to the wrecked center for pot luck.  My Grandma says that Grandpa worked all his life to earn his retardment and, says I should work hard so I can be retarded someday too.   When I earn my retardment, I want to be the man in the doll house.  Then I will let people out, so they can visit their grandchildren.

Handling the Tough Stuff!

Last year while bookworming at school I noticed one young scholar looking  very troubled. Since she was usually quite bright and cheery and this was very out of character I approached her on the playground and casually asked if everything was ok. She snapped “yes!” and stomped off.

A few minutes later she sought me out and said, “Mr. Boomsma, I’m sorry but I lied to you. Everything is NOT ok. But I do NOT want to talk about it.”  I thanked her for apology and complimented her for being truthful and wanting to handle the situation on her own. (I later learned that her trouble involved a certain young man and some stiff competition with another classmate for his affections. Ah, second grade.)

We might chuckle at the issue my small friend was having, but I’ve heard Liza Deering, Guidance Counselor for PCES say, “We think because kids are small their problems are small, but it’s really all relative and what we think is small can be very big.” Whether we’re a parent, grandparent, volunteer at school or just have some friends who are kids, we know that kids today have  tough stuff to handle. How do we help kids handle the tough stuff?

Mrs. Deering has graciously agreed to attend the January Meeting of Valley Grange and offer some guidance for us bigger people. No matter the size of the person or problem, you’ll find Ms. Deering’s thoughts on “What to do about the tough stuff” practical and results-oriented. Parents, grandparents–anyone who knows a kid–should plan to attend this positive program on Friday, January 21st at the Valley Grange Hall. Join friends and neighbors for potluck supper at 6 PM (bring a dish to share). The meeting and program will begin at 7 PM. The program is open to the public without charge.

For additional information about the program call me at 876-4131 or send me an email.  I do want to talk about it!

January Bookworm Schedule

The best of a book is not the thought which it contains, but the thought which it suggests; just as the charm of music dwells not in the tones but in the echoes of our hearts.

~Oliver Wendell HolmesReading is fun!

Tuesday, January 4 – Mr. Boomsma

Thursday, Januray 6 – Mrs. Marsh

Tuesday, January 11 – Mr. Boomsma

Thursday, January 13 – Mr. Kevin

Tuesday, January 18 –  Mrs. Marsh

Thursday, January 20 – Mr. Boomsma

Tuesday, January 25 – Mrs. Marsh

Thursday, January 27 – Mr. Kevin

Christmas Wish!

I have always thought of Christmas time, when it comes round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.

~Charles Dickens

Wishing you an open heart, for open hearts quickly become filled…

and a Merry Christmas!

Winter Tips!

None of these have been verified, but they make sense!

Keep your headlights clear with car wax! Just wipe it on your headlights. It contains special water repellents that will prevent that messy mixture from accumulating on your lights – lasts 6 weeks.

Squeak-proof your wipers with rubbing alcohol! Wipe the wipers with a cloth saturated with rubbing alcohol or ammonia. It make badly streaking & squeaking wipers change to perfect silence and clarity.

Ice-proof your windows with vinegar! Frost on it’s way? Just fill a spray bottle with three parts vinegar to one part water & spritz it on all your windows at night. In the morning, they’ll be clear of icy mess. Vinegar contains acetic acid, which raises the melting point of ice.

Prevent car doors from freezing shut with cooking spray! Spritz cooking oil on the rubber seals around car doors & rub it in with a paper towel. It prevents water from melting into the rubber.

Fog-proof your windshield with shaving cream! Spray some shaving cream on the inside of your windshield & wipe if off with paper towels. Shaving cream has many of the same ingredients found in commercial defoggers.

De-ice your lock in seconds with hand sanitizer! Just put some hand sanitizer gel on the key & the lock & the problems solved!

Soils Test Savings

(From the Piscataquis/Penobscot Farming News Letter published UMaine Cooperative Extension, December 2010)

 Soil Testing Discount! Before the ground freezes again you may be able to get soil samples of your fields.  If you hold them until January 1 you can save $5.  Instead of paying $15 the cost of soil samples sent the the University of Maine Analytical Lab is $10 from January 1st to March 1st. For more information on soil testing you can go to UMaine Analytical Lab

Webmaster note: I’ll bet we all know at least one person who will probably be out there with a blowtorch to save the five bucks!

Santa Also Wants Letters!

The list is long. I need help!

This could be one of those “human interest” stories that people love to hear all year round… but they always seem especially important and appropriate during the holidays.

First, some things you might not know. (Warning: these are things you’d probably rather NOT know.) The post office will not deliver letters with a return address indicating they are from Santa Claus unless there are certain safeguards and approvals in place. You probably don’t have to think too much about this to understand why.

One person in our area has taken the time to do that. It started with her family and when she saw the excitement she realized when kids write a letter to Santa they really do deserve an answer. So for several years now, Sherry French has been making sure that happens for an ever-increasing list of kids. The letters are written on a computer, but the process is anything but automated. For example, if more than one kid writes from the same family she makes sure the paper is different for each one. She also personalizes each letter as much as possible and practical. As often as not, she’ll include some reindeer food. If you can get her talking about it, you’ll wonder if maybe she isn’t Santa Claus, because the giving spirit and the jolly just comes right through.

So here’s the deal. All you have to do is get your child (grandchild, nieces and nephews) to write to Santa. The little ones could just draw a picture. Make sure there’s a return mailing address on the envelope. Take the envelope either to the Guilford Post Office or to WDME Radio on Main Street in Dover Foxcroft. There’s a Santa Mailbox at both locations. Drop the letters in the box an wait for an answer!

Well… maybe instead of just waiting for an answer you could just savor the fact that there are some people who are keeping Santa alive… maybe you could even give Sherry a little hug if you stop at WDME!

Piscataquis Santa Needs Elves!

Here’s an updated report from Penquis Cap…

December has arrived in Piscataquis County and many holiday festivities are planned to make the season a little merrier, especially for our children. With 435 requests received, the Piscataquis Santa Project elves are busy working to grant each of the children’s wishes. Sheree Brown, project Coordinator says, “Despite the harsh economy, the community has really stepped up this year. Project friends, like folks at the Piscataquis Pomona Grange, the Piscataquis Regional YMCA, the Mountain View Youth Development Center, and Rowell’s Garage, have made it possible for many children to wake up with gifts on Christmas morning.” But, according to Brown, there are still more than 50 children with wishes to be granted. We are looking for people to “adopt” a child and grant his or her wishes.

Bringing the spirit of Christmas to a child is easy and it can be done from a computer. To choose the child/children to sponsor, go to http://www.penquis.org and click on the Piscataquis Santa Project logo. Then click “select a child” and follow the instructions on the page. Gifts may be dropped off unwrapped at the Penquis office at 50 North Street in Dover-Foxcroft by December 10, 2010.

This year, there is a real need for coats, boots, and warm clothing. To collect these types of donations, several drop box locations have been set up throughout the region, said James Macomber, Piscataquis Santa Project co-coordinator. Unwrapped gifts can be dropped off at the Camden National Bank locations in Dover-Foxcroft at 1083 West Main Street and in Greenville at 20 Lily Bay Road, the Piscataquis Regional YMCA in Dover-Foxcroft at 48 Park Street, and the Bangor Savings Bank in Dover-Foxcroft at 160 East Main Street or the Penquis office in Dover-Foxcroft at 50 North Street.

The Piscataquis Santa Projects supports children in MSAD#68 Dover-Foxcroft, MSAD # 4 Guilford, and MSAD #46 Dexter areas. For more information or to make a donation to the project, please call Sheree Brown at 564-7116.

North Country Strings Concert

"Fiddlin' Woodsprite"

If you were at the Hootenanny, you know how much fun you can have with North Country Strings. Now how about getting into the holiday spirit with a lively concert of traditional Yuletide carols arranged and performed by Susan Ramsey and The North Country Strings at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, December 19 at the Center Theatre in Dover-Foxcroft. Admission is by donation, and proceeds will benefit the String Program at Foxcroft Academy. Children are welcome to attend for free! Featuring something for everyone, it’s good music done well, and always with a sprinkling of educational snippets and humorous banter. Selections are drawn from sacred world, ancient folk melodies, and popular songs of the 20th century. You’ll even have a chance to sing along with the North Country Strings! Be inspired, energized, and filled with the joy and spirit of the holiday season!