The AEHA Annual Educational Conference, held October 7-9, 2016 was another success in the books for our organization. This year’s conference, “Environmental Health: Foundations for the Future,” featured a bevy of insightful speakers. Each day started with a keynote from some pretty impressive folk. Bill Marler, accomplished lawyer and food safety advocate, kicked off the conference on day 1. Mr. Marler is known for representing Brianne Kiner, the most seriously injured survivor of the Jack in the Box E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak in 1993. Remember that? Well, you should (if you’re old enough)! Check out the Marler Blog for more commentary from Bill on food poisoning outbreaks and litigation.
Other keynotes included NEHA’s Region 1 Vice President, Ned Therien, who informed us of updates and priorities for NEHA and shared personal anecdotes from his environmental health career. On our final day we heard from Alice Edwards, Deputy Commissioner for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. Ms. Edwards spoke with eloquence and expertise about each environmental health program within the department and put emphasis on these and supporting programs within all of Alaska.
There were multiple food safety related presentations on the menu this year. “Botulism in Alaska;” the “Alaska Traditional Foods Movement;” and “Shellfish Consumption near Contaminated Sites” to name a few. We also had a variety of emergency preparedness topics provided; this included “Wildfire Preparedness: Drinking Water and Air Quality Concerns” and “Emergency Preparedness for Alaska” among others.
As always, there were a couple of presentations that really stood out from the pack.
Dorothy Melambianakis with the State of Alaska provided an overview of the Japanese tsunami marine debris removal program in Alaska. The state has been conducting removal since 2012; she provided information on the debris survey and mapping along with impressive photos of the barge and airlift removal efforts that began this year. Leif Albertson with UAF Cooperative Extension Service contributed to a topic that is somewhat controversial, lead-free rifle ammunition. He shared available research on potential human health concerns associated with lead-core rifle ammunition that is so commonly used in hunting and offered information on non-lead alternatives and their viability as a substitute for lead. This topic spurred some entertaining discussion!
Of course it would not be the AEHA conference without the AEHA social and awards reception. Kudos to social organizers this year for implementing some fun changes to our evening, like environmental health Jeopardy and door prizes! All the conference planners and organizers really are to be commended. This continues to be one of my favorite conferences each year.
Contributed by Katie Bante, Tanana Chiefs Conference