Bath Salts Alert? Legal & Illegal.


Eight Ballz Ultra Premium Bath Salts
Eight Ballz Ultra Premium Bath Salts purchased at the Livermore Smoke Shop in Livermore, CA

Bath salts, legal and scary

By Sophia Kazmi
Contra Costa Times

A powdery substance being legally sold in California under the name of “bath salts” contains a synthetic drug that health officials say can cause hallucinations, paranoia and violent behavior when smoked, snorted or injected.

Police and health workers are so concerned, state legislators will decide this week if California should join more than 30 states that have already banned the synthetic stimulant.

“These drugs have nothing to do with bath salts that you might find at Bed, Bath and Beyond,” said Dr. Rick Geller, director of the California Poison Control Systems.

“These are very, very, very dangerous agents. … People who are under the influence of bath salts are prone to have abrupt, bizarre behavior including grotesque suicide.”

They may not be the same bath salts as sold at cosmetic counters, but they are just as easy to find. The product can be found at convenience stores, head shops and online. A gram of packaged bath salts sold at a Livermore smoke shop for $29.99 plus tax. The package came with two vials of powder, but no instructions.

The number of reports of adverse effects from bath salts are rising nationwide.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers had 302 calls reporting exposure to bath salts in 2010. As of July 31, the association has had 4,137 reports.

The same is true in California. Last year, Geller said the state poison control system saw a handful of cases. As of July 20, that number was 72, of which 55 cases were treated at hospitals.
Users have been reported at times to mutilate themselves, barricade themselves and have psychotic episodes.

A federal ban is making its way through Congress. And, on Monday, a bill for a statewide ban of bath salts sales is expected to be heard on the California Senate floor. Assembly Bill 486, written by Assemblyman Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, would make it a misdemeanor to sell bath salts. The punishment would be as much as six months in county jail, a fine of as much as $1,000, or both. It has already passed the Assembly. The bill seeks an emergency clause approval, which requires approval by two-thirds of the vote, so it could be enacted immediately if signed by the governor.

Continue reading Bath Salts Alert? Legal & Illegal.

Surgeon General OK’s Bad Hair Days

By ANAHAD O’CONNORDr. Regina M. Benjamin, U.S. Surgeon General
Stephanie Diani for The New York Times

The United States surgeon general has a new message for American women: It is O.K. to have a bad hair day.

As the country’s leading spokespeople on public health, surgeons general often weigh in on issues of national importance like tobacco and disease prevention. But when the current surgeon general, Dr. Regina M. Benjamin, visited a trade show in Atlanta this month, it was to talk about what has become something of a pet cause: Too many women forgoing exercise because they’re worried it will ruin their hair.

“Oftentimes you get women saying, ‘I can’t exercise today because I don’t want to sweat my hair back or get my hair wet,’ ” she said in an interview. “When you’re starting to exercise, you look for reasons not to, and sometimes the hair is one of those reasons.”

The problem, Dr. Benjamin said, is that many women — particularly black women, like herself — invest considerable amounts of time and money in chemical relaxers and other treatments that transform naturally tight curls into silky, straight locks. Moisture and motion can quickly undo those efforts, with the result that many women end up avoiding physical activity altogether.

The trade show where she spoke, the Bronner Bros. International Hair Show, draws 60,000 hairstylists, including those who specialize in the styling needs of black women.

“I hate to use the word ‘excuse,’ but that’s one of them,” said Dr. Benjamin, the founder of a rural health clinic in Bayou La Batre, Ala., on the Gulf Coast. “We want to encourage people, and also give women the ability to look good and feel good and to be empowered about their own health.”

As the titular head of the Public Health Service, the surgeon general holds a largely ceremonial post, but it is not without its outspoken leaders and controversies. Dr. C. Everett Koop helped shift the debate over AIDS in the 1980s to respect for infected patients. A decade later Dr. Joycelyn Elders came under fire for broaching the topic of teaching about masturbation.

Today, some question Dr. Benjamin’s focus on such a “niche” issue.

Continue reading Surgeon General OK’s Bad Hair Days

California Workers’ Compensation Benefits Decline

WASHINGTON, /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ —
Workers’ compensation benefits for workers injured on the job in California decreased 1.6 percent to $9.3 billion in 2009, according to a study released today by the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI). In 2009 (the most recent year with complete data), the number of covered workers in California fell to 14.4 million, a 5.7 percent drop from the previous year, due in large part to the economic downturn.

Workers’ compensation benefits for medical care in California declined by 1.8 percent to $5.1 billion and cash benefits declined by 1.4 percent to $4.2 billion. Spending on medical care continued to make up more than half of total benefits in California.

Nationally, workers’ compensation benefits increased 0.4 percent to $58.3 billion. This change included both a 1.1 percent decrease in medical benefits and 1.9 percent increase in cash benefits. Employment of covered workers fell by 4.4 percent, while employer costs declined by 7.6 percent; both numbers represent the biggest percentage declines in over 20 years.

The new report, Workers’ Compensation: Benefits, Coverage and Costs, 2009 (PDF), is the fourteenth in the series which provides the only comprehensive data on workers’ compensation benefits for the nation, the states, the District of Columbia, and federal programs.

Health Care Debate and Switch

We thought this was intephoto of a health reform demonstrationsresting perspective on the continuing debate over heath care policies in the U.S. See what you think!

One Way to Reduce Heath Insurance


Suburban Trends

We all know how expensive medical care is today. We try to justify the cost by acknowledging that there have been more advances in medical care in the last 40 years than in the entire history of the study of medicine. We readily admit that there are some medications that can eliminate the need for surgery. But how are we going to continue to pay for this? Is health care a privilege or a right? Is there a limit to how much health care one can expect to receive?

There is a fairly simple solution to save a great deal of money.

To write this article, I read so many acronyms that I had to write up a separate sheet describing all of them. There is a massive cost savings in electronic medical records. This is known as EHR– electronic health records. The vast majority of doctors have not yet adopted the standardized use of electronic health records. This allows doctors, hospitals, rehab facilities, skilled nursing homes and other health care providers to be able to share health information about a patient between each other electronically. As of 2010, the percentage of physicians who have fully functional systems for electronic health records ( EHR) ranged from only 9.7 percent to 27.2 percent.

Dr. Angel Garcia is the CEO of EHR Solutions. He states that, “Tracking medical problems can prevent complications of chronic illnesses such as heart attacks, strokes an can increase overall quality of care. The cost savings of having widespread adoption of electronic health records (EHR) in the U.S. healthcare industry would reduce healthcare costs by more than 30 percent per year. This equates to a staggering savings of more than $720 billion per year! That is actually more than enough savings to insure all 47 million Americans currently without health insurance.”

On a personal note, our son-in-law who lived in California was dealing with Stage 3 colon cancer when he had to journey to a family emergency in Illinois. While in Illinois, he had to be hospitalized. Because he was being treated where they had electronic medical records, the hospital in Illinois was able to retrieve his complete medical history which eliminated the need for them to order tests that had recently been done. This is a real plus for the patient as we all know some of these tests aren’t too pleasant. You can quickly see how the savings can add up. Aside from that, the quality of care has now improved dramatically, very quickly.

Continue reading Health Care Debate and Switch

Joel Fox: State veto of health hikes ignores costs to business

Veto rubber stampBy Joel Fox

Despite alarm raised in many corners over costly new regulations, the California Legislature is pursuing AB 52 to clamp new regulations on health insurance premiums.

The purpose of the bill, according to the author, Assemblyman Mike Feuer, is to control dramatically rising health care costs by giving state regulators the authority to deny or moderate proposed insurance premium increases.

Once again a measure that purportedly is designed to protect consumers ignores the cost of doing business. Ironically, the increased cost of regulation will find its way to the consumers either through increased costs or reduced services.

The bill’s intent to control premiums carelessly ignores the underlying problems of rising health care costs, such as the cost of new technologies.

Unless some check is put on the driving force behind health care costs, reducing premiums will only serve to limit services.

If an insurance company cannot afford the rising costs of health care across the board with premiums limited by government regulation, the insurance companies would undoubtedly restrict medical services and pay only what they can afford.

Beside this practical business reality, there are other costs built into AB 52.

Continue reading Joel Fox: State veto of health hikes ignores costs to business

“Hot” New App from OSHA!

graphic with iPhone and flames on words "Hot Apps" OSHA Releases Mobile App To Help Protect Workers From Heat-Related Illnesses

As part of continuing educational efforts by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration about the dangers of extreme heat, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis today announced a free application for mobile devices that will enable workers and supervisors to monitor the heat index at their work sites in order to prevent heat-related illnesses.

“Summer heat presents a serious issue that affects some of the most vulnerable workers in our country, and education is crucial to keeping them safe,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “Heat-related illnesses are preventable. This new app is just one way the Labor Department is getting that message out.”

The app, available in English and Spanish, combines heat index data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with the user’s location to determine necessary protective measures. Based on the risk level of the heat index, the app provides users with information about precautions they make take such as drinking fluids, taking rest breaks and adjusting work operations. Users also can review the signs and symptoms of heat stroke, heat exhaustion and other heat-related illnesses, and learn about first aid steps to take in an emergency. Information for supervisors is also available through the app on how to gradually build up the workload for new workers as well as how to train employees on heat illness signs and symptoms. Additionally, users can contact OSHA directly through the app.

The app is designed for devices using an Android platform, and versions for BlackBerry and iPhone users will be released shortly. To download it, visit

More than 30 workers died from heat stroke in 2010. Thousands become ill from heat exhaustion and other heat illnesses every year. Some of the highest illness rates occur among construction workers, farmworkers, roofers, landscapers, baggage handlers and other air transportation workers.

Effective heat illness prevention requires simple planning. Employers are responsible for protecting workers by providing plenty of water, scheduling rest breaks in the shade or air-conditioned spaces, planning heavy work early in the day, preparing for medical emergencies, training workers about heat and other job hazards, taking steps to help workers – especially those who are new to working outdoors or who have been away from work for a period of time – acclimatize to the heat, and gradually increasing workloads or allowing more frequent breaks during the first week of an outdoor project.

Information for employers about using the heat index to calculate and address risks posed to workers also is available through OSHA’s new Web-based tool “Using the Heat Index: Employer Guidance,” which is accessible at OSHA’s other educational and training tools about heat illnesses prevention, available in English and Spanish, can be found at .

“OSHA’s prevention message is clear: Water. Rest. Shade. These are three little words that make a big difference for outdoor workers during the hot summer months,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels.

Dial 211 for information on whooping cough shots

Call 211 Pertussis hotline sign
Calling for coughing

A new California law for the upcoming school year requires all students entering grades 7 through 12 to have proof of an adolescent whooping cough booster shot called Tdap.

Information on whooping cough (also known as pertussis) and Tdap is available in more than 150 languages by dialing 211.

Tdap is a booster vaccine for older children, adolescents and adults that protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough.

Whooping cough can be deadly for infants, and cases have been on the rise.

The new Tdap requirement is for current students, new students and transfer students in both private and public schools.

Residents who can’t dial 211 can call 1-800-273-6222 to reach the 211 call center in their area.

For the hearing impaired, dial (415) 808-4440 (TTY) or 711.

Slashing the Price of Health With Common Sense?

Common Sense card that looks like an American Express cardBy DAVID BORNSTEIN

As health care costs continue to spiral out of control, it’s often forgotten that one of the best ways to lower health care expenditures is to reduce the amount of medical care that’s needed to keep people healthy. This is no revelation. However, because of the financial incentives in our health system, the things we can do to promote health, and prevent illness, are not prioritized.

On Friday, I wrote about an organization called Health Leads, which is addressing this problem. Health Leads mobilizes student volunteers in 23 health centers and hospitals who help low-income families gain access to resources that doctors and other health care providers deem vital. The volunteers complement the social workers (who can focus on problems like mental health, abuse and neglect) by providing families with connections to housing services, food supplements, exercise programs and fuel assistance. They also help patients’ family members get access to things like subsidized child care, English language classes, transportation vouchers and quality after school programs — making it easier for them to find work so they can afford to live healthier lives.

Most readers thought that it made good sense to address the social factors behind illnesses at the same time that we treat the illnesses themselves. Sarah Bachman from California (20) wrote: “The United States could use more of this kind of wide-angle thinking about how to address health symptoms that are really symptoms of broader problems.” And BEW from Colorado (29) added: “The right food and environment are generally a lot less expensive than the medical care and remedial social services required to fix the problems if these factors are ignored.”

One reader suggested widening the angle even further. “Consider the coal plant,” wrote Niko Segal-Wright from Arlington, Mass. (46). “Studies have shown that the health care costs of a coal plant are far larger than its revenue.”

Continue reading Slashing the Price of Health With Common Sense?

We Need to Cut the Fat … to Prevent Injuries! Plus, Eight Suggestions.

illustration of junk food, bathroom scale28 July, 2011 08:57:56 Republished with permission from

If you were the producer of a Broadway show, would your hire a 300-pound ballerina? The idea seems absurd, but most employers shy away from hiring and retaining obese employees. (Obesity discrimination is illegal in Michigan, the District of Columbia, San Francisco, and Santa Cruz, CA). Obesity is not a disability that falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) unless is has a proven physiological cause. We do not advocate obesity discrimination, but feel you should be aware that the more obese people you hire and employ, the higher the cost of your workers compensation insurance will be. This is also true in life insurance, one must fall into the appropriate body weight range to qualify for reasonably priced life insurance. Sad but true. And there may be ample justification for such increase in rates.

There are many ways to define obesity. To most people, a “fat person” is someone who weights 50 or 100 pounds more than they do.  Medically speaking, a person with a body mass index – BMI (a weight-to-height ratio, calculated by dividing one’s weight in kilograms by the square of one’s height in meters) of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered to be of normal weight, 25 to 29.9 is considered to be overweight, with 30 and above is considered obese. The doctor once told my husband he was obese which was very surprising because I don’t view him as obese — a beer tummy maybe, but certainly not obese to my way of thinking.

In a often-sited Duke University study based on 100 full-time employees with a body mass index of 40, the impact of obesity on the cost of workers compensation is tremendous. Statistics show the impact on workers compensation cost of obese employees who are injured on the job including:
1.  Claims: Obese employees have twice as many workers compensation claims (11.65 claims vs. 5.8 claims for non-obese employees.)
2. Lost days from work: Obese employees lose 13 times more work days for their injury (183.63 days vs 14.19 days).
3. Medical cost: Obese employees medical cost is seven times higher ($51,901 vs. $7,503).
4. Indemnity Cost: Obese employees indemnity cost is 11 times higher ($59,178 vs. $5,396).
Another study by researchers at John Hopkins found similar results with a direct correlation between the number of injuries and the amount of obesity, with the odds of injury at work increasing with the waistline. The more obese the employee, the greater the odds the employee would be hurt on the job.
With nearly two-thirds of all American adults either overweight or obese, obesity is now being divided into subgroups with their own definitions including:
1.      Overweight – 1 to 29 pounds above normal
2.      Obese – 30 to 59 pounds overweight
3.      Severely obese – 60 to 99 pounds overweight
4.      Morbidly obese – at least 100 pounds overweight
5.      Super obese – 200 or more pounds overweight
As an employer, there are some steps you can take to reduce the cost of workers compensation related to obesity. The following are some approaches employers have taken to deal with this issue:
1.      Health insurance premium discounts for employees with a BMI of 18 to 25.
2.      A weight-reduction program offered through your human resources department.
3.      Encourage physical activity at work whether it is taking the steps instead of the elevator or parking at the far end of the parking lot.
4.      Use weight loss seminars from Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig.
5.      On-site or off site fitness centers with free membership or reduced price membership.
6.      A fitness program that includes healthy eating, health improvement seminars, exercise classes, and company sponsored athletic teams.
7.      Use of the company intranet to post weight loss guides, cooking light suggestions, and any topic on good health.
8.      A recognition program for employees who meet a weight-loss goal.