March 5, 2015

Radon-resistant new homes the focus of bill before Unicameral

Sen. Bob Krist

Sen. Bob Krist

Nebraska has one of the worst radon emission rates in the country and the Unicameral is considering a bill that could eventually lead to all new homes in the state being built with radon-resistant measures.

Senator Bob Krist of Omaha authored the legislation. “This sets up a task force which will work on the issue of radon-resistant construction standards over the next year and then make recommendations back to us in the legislature in December,” Krist says. “These recommendations would then be used as a basis of statutory changes I would introduce to be taken up in the 2016 legislative session.”

Radon is an odorless, colorless gas that is the third-leading cause of cancer in Nebraska, behind smoking and second-hand smoke.

Krist first introduced legislation addressing radon levels in 2013, at the urging of the American Cancer Society. A state study finds radon concentration is highest in eastern Nebraska counties, but Dan Holmquist, of the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, says much of the state has unsafe radon levels.

Holmquist says, “Seventy-two of our 93 counties have radon concentrations in excess of the recommended 4.0 picocuries per liter action level, stated by the Environmental Protection Agency.”

Passive systems that remove radon gas from homes are estimated to cost about $250. More advanced active systems can run $800 to $1,000. Several states have laws that require radon resistance systems in new construction.

During a hearing before the Unicameral’s Health and Human Services Committee, only one opponent spoke out about Krist’s bill. Allen Steiner of Waverly says the choice should be left up to the homeowner. “I will always respect the right of my fellow citizens to build or to buy a new home with radon mitigation,” Steiner says. “All I ask today is that my fellow citizens do not take away my right to build or buy a new home without radon mitigation.”

Several counties in southeast Nebraska radon levels that are considered higher than safe. The two with the highest concentration levels are Johnson and Nemaha.

By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice

UNMC/Nebraska Medicine will take part in Ebola clinical trial

The University of Nebraska Medical Center and Nebraska Medicine will be part of Liberia – U.S. clinical research partnership to test Ebola treatments that includes an experimental drug. The drug, ZMapp has been used to treat several patients with Ebola but not during a clinical trial to determine the exact benefits.

Dr. Andre Kalil is a professor at UNMC and an infectious disease physician at Nebraska Medicine and was involved in designing the study.

Dr. Kalil says, “We will find out what is working and what is not working while the clinical trial is ongoing and adapt the study on patients’ clinical response. The idea is to discover and offer the safest and best therapies in the shortest period of time.”

UNMC/Nebraska Medicine expects to receive approval of the study in a few weeks. Health officials plan to enroll adults and children diagnosed with Ebola in Liberia, health care workers infected and have returned to the U.S for treatment and those in the U.S who were infected through secondary transmission.

Several other universities and medical centers around the country are taking part.

Fire extinguishers being recalled as they may not work

A company that makes a popular line of fire extinguishers for homes, businesses and vehicles is recalling more than four-million of the devices as they may not work when they’re needed the most.

Jason Whalen, fire administrator for the Kearney Volunteer Fire Department, says 31 different models of Kidde fire extinguishers are being recalled due to safety concerns.

“Most of the extinguishers are either red, white or silver and they’re the ABC or BC-rated type extinguishers,” Whalen says. “You can go online to and look up the model numbers. All of the details are right there. Just click on the safety notice. It’ll give you the list of all the models, or you can call Kidde toll free.”

The company’s toll free number is (855) 283-7991.

Many of the fire extinguishers were purchased at Home Depot, Menards, Walmart and other department, home, and hardware stores. There are no injuries reported involving any of the models.

Whalen says anyone who has a fire extinguisher should periodically check to see it’s capable of functioning properly if needed. If you have more questions, check with your local experts.

“Inspect your extinguishers at least once a month,” Whalen says. “If they have questions, contact us at the fire department and we’ll go over the information with them.”

The recall is on Kidde fire extinguishers manufactured between July 23, 2013 and October 15, 2014 and sold between August of 2013 and November of 2014.

By Brent Wiethorn, KKPR, Kearney


Nebraska ranks 49th in US for school breakfast program

Food Research and Action Center photo

Food Research and Action Center photo

Nebraska placed near the very bottom of a new study ranking the states for the percentage of low-income students who take part in government-funded school breakfast and lunch programs.

Crystal FitzSimons, spokeswoman for the Food Research and Action Center, says only two states had a worse showing.

“Nebraska is feeding about 50,000 low-income kids for every 123,000 who participate in the school lunch program,” FitzSimons say. “So, they’re serving 40 low-income kids for every 100 who participate in school lunch and they’re ranked 49th nationally.”

More than 11-million low-income kids are receiving free or reduced-price school breakfast across the country. She says Nebraska’s numbers are growing, but there’s much progress to be made.

“There’s a lot of families that are struggling to put food on the table,” FitzSimons says. “Families who rely on free and reduced-price school lunch often would really benefit from having access to breakfast as well. The challenge with the school breakfast program is that it’s often run before the school day starts so kids have to get to school early in order to participate.”

Given commute times and bus schedules, the hour of day often makes it difficult for a child to get to school early enough to take part. Some schools have moved breakfast into the classroom, making it part of the school day, and FitzSimons says that seems to be working.

“States that are having an easier time feeding low-income children breakfast are doing those kinds of models,” FitzSimons says. “They’re delivering breakfast in the classroom, they have grab-and-go breakfasts where kids can grab breakfast when they get off the bus and take it into the classroom or eat it on their way to class and those strategies really do increase participation in the school breakfast program.”

Research shows good nutrition, and eating breakfast in particular, is important for cognitive functioning and academic success.

The survey of the 50 states and the District of Columbia ranked Nebraska 49th, only ahead of New Hampshire and Utah. The top performers are: West Virginia, New Mexico and Washington D-C.

The Food Research and Action Center is a national non-profit anti-hunger organization that does research, advocacy and policy work to increase families’ access to federal nutrition programs.



CHI Health again included in EMS rotation

Starting today, the Omaha Fire Department and EMS providers in five counties will resume the odd/even calendar day rotation that includes CHI Health. They took Creighton University Medical Center out of rotation in January after they failed to meet the criteria for a level one trauma center. Creighton officials were notified last Friday by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services that all the corrections were made and their certification was restored.

CHI Health Creighton University Medical Center President Kevin Nokels released a statement saying, “We appreciate the decision of the Midwest Protocol Committee to once again bring trauma patients to CHI Health Creighton University Medical Center. We are pleased to have the state’s highest trauma designation and are standing ready to care for the people of Omaha and the region.” 

CHI Health will receive critical care patients on even days and Nebraska Medicine on odd numbered days. Non-critical adult patients will be given the choice as to which hospital they would like to be transported.