The environment we live in is directly related to our health. Air pollution can impact our breathing, radon can cause cancer, excessive noise can damage our hearing and the water we drink can make us sick. Therefore, the Warren Township Health Department monitors and evaluates environmental conditions on a regular basis. We also maintain files to preserve and environmental history. If you have a question or concern about the environment, contact us as we may be able to provide some valuable information.
Radon is an odorless, tasteless and invisible gas that occurs naturally in soil. It is produced by the natural breakdown of uranium and radium in rock formations, and occurs in higher concentrations in certain areas of the state. Radon does not cause any immediate symptoms, such as asthma or respiratory problems, but is known to increase the risk of developing lung cancer. In fact, it is the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers. For smokers, the risk of developing lung cancer is increased dramatically if they also are exposed to excess radon.
Testing for radon in your home is the only way to know if there is a problem and testing is recommended once the weather starts to get colder and homes are closed up for the season. Testing can be accomplished by yourself or by hiring someone. Prior to the winter season the Health Department typically has radon test kits available at a small fee. Please call first to see that they are available. We encourage residents to have their homes tested, even if your neighbor states they have no problem. It’s not uncommon to find homes on the same block will have very different test results. Contact the Health Department for more information, test kit availability and guidance.
New Jersey has an impressive record of cleaning up and improving our environment as well as maintaining our natural resources. The environment of New Jersey is also incredibly diverse; including large urban centers, the Jersey shore and even a piece of one of the oldest mountain ranges on earth, the Appalachians. It is in our best interest to preserve our environment and yet we have a long and storied history of environmental contamination. Therefore we strongly encourage prospective property buyers to investigate the property and the neighborhood to avoid future surprises. The NJ Department of Environmental Protection maintains an extensive database on environmental sites that is accessible online. You can search their database, Dataminer and find out if there are current or past environmental conditions of concern.
Lead is a naturally occurring metal that has been put to good use by humans however; lead is also a poison, particularly to children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately a half million children between the ages of 1 and 5 have elevated lead levels in their body. Often this poisoning occurs with no symptoms and so the health department strongly urges testing of children for lead. Untreated lead poisoning may lead to symptoms such as learning disabilities and behavioral problems. In severe cases it can cause seizures, coma, and even death. We can avoid these consequences by testing children. When a child is identified with elevated lead levels the health department is notified and we work to assure that the source is identified and eliminated. Common sources are lead paint in homes, lead in soils where children play, and lead in drinking water. Lead can also be found in certain earthenware, dyes and pigments, and even in imported spices and candies. So make sure your child has been tested by speaking to your doctor.
Animals are the source of many diseases. We call these diseases, which are passed from animals to humans, zoonotic diseases or zoonoses. There are many of them and the can be from a bacteria, virus, fungus or parasite. Specific commonly known examples are: Rabies, Salmonella, E. coli, West Nile Virus, Lyme Disease, and Avian Influenza. Less common examples include: Toxoplasmosis, Giardiasis, Hantavirus, Anthrax and many, many more. The number of these diseases is growing as a result of increased movement of people around the world exposing us to new animals and diseases and also as a side effect of human expansion into areas historically reserved for animals. As a result your health department works to investigate cases of these diseases and even more to prevent them. Prevention efforts can take many forms such as licensing of pets assuring appropriate vaccination against rabies, offering of rabies clinics, educating the public about reducing or eliminating exposure to disease carrying animals such as ticks and wildlife, and arranging for testing of animals.
Rabies is caused by a virus which can infect both people and animals. It is virtually always fatal. While the majority of rabies cases in the state have been in wild animals such as bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes, cats are also a relatively common victim of rabies. These cases can pose a significant threat to unvaccinated domestic animals, which can contract the virus from wild animals and transmit the infection to humans. Residents are reminded to take these rabies prevention measures:
- Immediately report a bite from a wild or domestic animal to the health department (so post-exposure treatment can begin immediately if needed)
- Immediately report any wild animal showing signs of unusual behavior
- Be sure all family pets and agricultural animals are up to date on their rabies vaccinations
- Animal-proof home and yard
- Do not feed or handle wild animals
- Avoid contact with stray animals or pets other than your own
- Try to prevent your pets from coming into contact with wild animals
- Screen off vents to attics and other areas that could provide shelter
- Call the health department if you find a bat in your home
Lyme disease is transmitted through the bite of an infected blacklegged tick, also known as a deer tick. The ticks are often found on the body in the groin area, armpits, and scalp. Typical symptoms of Lyme disease are fever, headache, fatigue and sometimes a skin rash that looks like a bull’s eye. The good news is that Lyme disease is treatable and preventable. Lyme disease, once diagnosed, can be treated through the use of antibiotics. It is preventable because ticks need to be attached to you for 36 to 48 hours for them to transmit the disease.
To prevent Lyme disease, keep the ticks off of you or remove them immediately. Use an insect repellent that contains at least 20% DEET and remove tick habitats (high grass and weeds). Avoid walking in wooded, bushy areas with high grass or leaves and when walking in the woods, walk in the center of the trails. Perform “tick-checks” regularly to prevent ticks from attaching and follow the steps below to remove identified ticks.
- Use a fine-tipped tweezers and grasp tick as close to the skin as possible.
- Pull upward with a steady, even pressure. (If head part remains in the skin and can’t be removed, leave it alone and let skin heal.)
- After removing tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub or soap and water.
More detailed information on preventing Lyme Disease can be found from the Rutgers Cooperative Extension.
If you feel that you have been exposed to Lyme disease please contact your local physician for follow-up.