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Last Week of Internship!

At the end of this week I will be completed with my internship here at the CDC in Atlanta.  I was able to take a tour of the Emergency Operations Center.  Currently the EOC here at the CDC is working on Deepwater Horizon (Gulf Oil Spill), the earthquake in Haiti and H1N1.  The EOC was amazing because they had these televisions screens that filled an entire wall that monitored many different things.  One screen was monitoring all of the weather alerts across the entire country.  It was cool to see that because I could tell where there were flood warnings and many places that were under a heat advisory (including Atlanta).  It has been incredibly hot all summer here.  Also, there was a screen that was a map of the enter world.  This map showed any disease outbreak that was currently occurring and how many cases there were at the time.  It was pretty cool to see that because I never realized how many different outbreaks are occurring at one time throughout the world.  Each event that the EOC is dealing with such as the Haiti earthquake, H1N1 and Deepwater Horizon also get their own monitoring screen.   I really enjoyed getting a tour of this facility and seeing it in operation.

This summer I have been exposed to many new things and I have learned a lot.  I have been able to explore the issues with pesticides in  our food supply and the problems associated with the pesticides that are buried in other countries.  Since I was working in the Chemical Weapons Elimination Branch, I was able to see the issues that our country is facing with the disposal of these weapons.  I was even able to get an in-depth look at one specific facility.  It is amazing how these weapons are destroyed and how damaging it would be if they were ever released into the environment.  Throughout the summer I have also had many opportunities to network with the employees at the CDC.  I have gained some great recommendations and they have provided me with great advice as I enter into the job market and into graduate school.

Living in Atlanta was also a new experience.  I was able to see many of the tourist attractions here and meet many new people.  It was great to be living at Emory University with hundreds of other interns from around the country.  I have really enjoyed this summer and I will be happy to be coming back to Colorado!

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Presentation and More Pesticides!

This week I was able to finish up my PowerPoint and present all of the information that I collected to my branch.  Overall my presentation went very well and I think everyone that I presented to learned a lot about pesticides in our food supply.  The federal government is really lacking on how much of our food they inspect and what they test for.  I found out that the USDA has 7,500 inspectors for 6,500 food plants while the FDA has 650 inspectors for 57,000 plants.  The FDA also inspects 80% of food so the resources are not allocated properly.  I recommend that there be a shift in resources from the USDA to the FDA.  I think we could improve public health by monitoring more closely what types of foods are coming into the country and what types of pesticide residues are being detected.  This would decrease exposure to harmful chemicals found in pesticides.

My next project that I am going to be working on for the next few weeks also has to do with pesticides.  Since the branch I am working with deals with the destruction of the chemical weapons stores around the country I am going to look at them possibly helping destroy banned pesticides from pesticide tombs in the former USSR.  In the Kyrgyz Republic, which is located in the former USSR there are pesticide tombs filled with thousands of containers of banned pesticides.  These pesticides include Aldrin and DDT.  The people in these countries are living right on top of these tombs where the soil and water is contaminated.  Also these tombs are being dug up to collect the containers for sale on the black market.  There are many people suffering due to health problems caused by the exposure to these pesticides.  I am going to come up with a proposal stating how the Chemicals Weapons Elimination Branch here at the CDC would be able to become involved in the destruction of these pesticides.

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Pesticides and Organic Food!

This week marks the halfway point of my internship here at the CDC.  Next week I am going to be making my official presentation on pesticides in the food supply.  I have found some great research articles on pesticides in our food supply and the many different chemicals we are being exposed to.  I also looked into the concept of eating organic food rather than purchasing conventionally grown food items.  From all of the research that I have done, I concluded that it would definitely benefit our health to buy and consume organic food products.  Many of the studies show that are fruits and vegetables that are conventionally grown are contaminated with many pesticides some of which are illegal in the UNited States.  The CDC is looking at ways to reduce the amount of chemicals that the public is exposed to.  I think that creating a program to promote organic food would be a great start to reducing the ingestion of these harmful pesticides.  I also found out that we import 50% of our fresh fruits and vegetables from Mexico.  Throughout Mexico, they are still using pesticides that have been banned in the U.S. such as DDT and Chlordane.  The Mexican government is attempting to phase out the use of these chemicals but they just do not have the resources.  Also, I found that there are many gaps in the system that the FDA uses to inspect our food and that is why people end up consuming fruits and vegetables that have large amounts of pesticide residues some of which are illegal.

I was also able to attend the CDC Grand Rounds which is a seminar that includes speakers from several different backgrounds speaking on many topics.  This week they focused on global health.  I did not realize how much the CDC is working on global health issues such as accessibility to vaccinations and childhood mortality.  There are many programs that are being implemented to reduce childhood deaths from diarrhea and pneumonia.   One of the speakers was from UNICEF and she explained how their organization is working with the CDC to deal with global health issues.  So far I have gotten to see many aspects of the CDC and I can’t wait to see what the next few weeks will bring.

My Project!

Well I feel like I finally have a focus for my research project.  I am going to be researching pesticides in the food supply.  I am going to focus primarily on the deliberate contamination of the food supply that would cause harm to people and the economy.  I am also going to be reviewing cases from the past where there has been contamination of the food supply by pesticides.  I have already found several instances where people have been sickened by pesticides in their food.  I cannot believe what some people have done to intentionally harm others by poisoning their food.  This was an interesting case if you want to read about it: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5218a3.htm .  I am going to be researching mostly organophosphates because many of the chemicals weapons that my division deals with are derived from these pesticides.  The staff that I am working with are interested in the subject of food security because they believe that in the future it is going to be an issue for our country.  Some of the research that I am doing over the summer is going to help them develop a document that they are going to present to The Department of Homeland Security because the CDC wants to start becoming more involved in our food security around the county.   There are many ways that our food supply could become compromised because of the many processes our food goes through from the farm to table.

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Chemical Weapons, Ergonomics and More!!

This week started off a little slow because I am still waiting to get a computer in my office and I can’t do very much without it.  I did get to come up with plan of how I will be spending my internship hours.  I am going to get to take several FEMA courses and get the certificates for those so that will be something great that I can add to my resume.  I am also going to be reviewing and editing one of my preceptor’s manuscripts that she is writing for a paper.  I will get to analyze some of the data using a statistical program which will be great since I may have to do statistical analysis in the future.  I am also going to be working with an Industrial Hygienist throughout the summer on some occupational health and safety issues.  Today I got to complete an ergonomic evaluation of one of the CDC workstations to determine if there were and issues that could cause injury to the employee.  It was great to get to see this since I took the ergonomics class at CSU.  I got to work with the Health and Safety Officer who is part of the Public Health Service.  It was cool to experience one of the taks I would have to complete if I entered into the Ocupational Health and Safety field.  I am also going to get involved with an air quality assessment that is occurring over at the Emergency Operations Center.  We are going to evaluate the air quality and the lighting within the building to see if there needs to be any improvements made to the facility.

I also got to look more into the Chemical Weapons Elimination Program.  I am going to be visiting the Anniston, Alabama site near the end of my internship.  I am now going to be reading up on the layout of the facilities and the acronyms that they use when discussing the different processes that occur there.  There are also a lot of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)  requirements when entering these facilities.  I am trying to learn what types of equipment are required in all sections of the chemical weapons facility.  I definitely need to know what I am doing before I go visit the site!

First Week at the CDC

The weekend is finally here!  This week my preceptor was called home early from a business trip to help work on the oil spill.  I was able to get involved with the CDC’s response to the disaster in the Gulf.  The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at the CDC requested information regarding some of the possible adverse health effects from the oil.  I got to research what other components of oil besides Poly Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH’s) can be absorbed by marine life and could possibly cause a threat to humans during the consumption of seafood.  It was very interesting because  I got my first taste of emergency preparedness.  Through my reasearch, I learned a lot more about what parts of the fishing industry are being affected.  Heavy metals are a significant concern for the future in the gulf because the type of oil that is leaking in known to contain Arsenic, Mercury, Lead, Nickel and Cadmium.  The CDC is looking into the bioaccumulation of these heavy metals in seafood that is caught from the Gulf.  The Red Snapper is one of the largest commercial fishing operations that takes place in the Gulf.  I also found out that later in the summer I am probably going to get to visit one of the CDC’s Chemical Weapons Facilities.  This sounds like a great opportunity.  I am finally getting settled in Atlanta and this weekend I am going visit the Georgia Aquarium!  I can’t wait to see what next week will bring.

Finally in Atlanta!!!

My name is Alex and I am a senior Environmental Health major at CSU.  I am doing my internship in Atlanta this summer at the Centers for Disease Control.  I am going to be working with the Environmental Public Health Readiness Branch in the Chemical Weapons Elimination Branch.  They deal with all of the Chemical Weapons Facilities around the country and the demilitarization of them.  I was supposed to start on June first but because of some delays I just began this week.  The CDC facilities here in Atlanta are amazing!  The buildings are huge and are really nice inside.  They are very pro-active in preventing illness so they are hand sanitizers everywhere and everything in the bathrooms is automatic so you don’t have to touch anything.  The cafeteria is also really great.  They have really good food.  This week I had to go through several online trainings pertaining to the security at the CDC and what to do in emergency situations.  I have to be escorted everywhere in the building until I get an official name badge which will hopefully be tomorrow or Friday.  There is really tight security on all of the CDC campuses and they are very careful about who they let in.  I am working at the Chamblee Campus which is a bit smaller than the main campus but I really like it.  I did get to visit the main campus once this week and it was incredible.  They are definitely living up to being the best health organization.  I think that I am going to have a great experience and learn a lot from this internship!