Editorial Roundup: Michigan

Traverse City Record-Eagle. June 30, 2022.

Editorial: ICA, Pitter Patter partnership a sight for parents’ sore eyes

If it takes a village to raise a child, some of us may need to ask ourselves if we’re falling down on the job.

The numbers are alarming: As reported in Sunday’s Record-Eagle, nearly half of Michigan residents live in “child care deserts,” where the ratio of children ages 0-5 to the number of licensed child care locations is greater than three, according to the Michigan League for Public Policy.

The state has a mere 8,000 providers to take care of almost 560,000 children under the age of 5, a ratio of 70 children for every one child care provider.

As the people of northern Michigan — policymakers, part-time residents and all points between — we also need to ask ourselves what type of “village” we want to be. Do we want to be a community which welcomes working families and provides the resources young children need to thrive?

Thankfully, there are some who have answered that question with a resounding “yes.”

Interlochen Center for the Arts is planning to open a child care center for 1- to 12-year-olds in the former Interlochen Community School building. The center is to be a collaboration between ICA and Pitter Patter Preschool and Childcare and will start by offering 42 slots for local families.

“We know in general, in the community at-large, there’s been a shortage of day care as well,” said Pat Kessel, ICA vice president of finance and operations. “So, we thought we would not only help our employees, but we’d also help the community as well, as they drive all over the place to find day care and/or they can’t find day care at all.”

It’s the kind of project our area needs — different entities willing to think creatively and work together to help fix a problem.

We need our local governments to be part of the solution too, but the problem is too big and too urgent to rely solely on bureaucracy.

The new child care center is an isolated rainstorm in the desert — it’s desperately needed and a big help to the families who get to enroll. But much more is necessary to meet the needs of northwest Michigan families, and hopefully this is part of a movement that continues to grow.

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Iron Mountain Daily News. July 1, 2022.

Editorial: Health agency: Steer clear of foam on waterbodies

The science around PFAS is still developing.

PFAS are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. They are widely used, long-lasting chemicals, the components of which break down very slowly over time.

There are thousands of PFAS chemicals, and they are found in many different consumer, commercial and industrial products. This makes it challenging to study and assess the potential human health and environmental risks, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

But scientific studies have shown that exposure to some PFAS in the environment may be linked to harmful health effects in humans and animals.

As the weather warms up, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services recommends Michiganders and visitors avoid foam on Michigan waterbodies such as lakes, rivers and streams.

Foam can form on any waterbody, and sometimes foam can have harmful chemicals in it. This can include high levels of PFAS.

PFAS-containing foam tends to be bright white in color, lightweight and may pile up along shores or blow onto beaches.

An MDHHS evaluation suggests young children who come into contact with PFAS-containing foam for a few hours a day may be more at risk of negative health effects. Some studies in people have shown that higher PFAS exposure is linked to higher cholesterol and thyroid disease.

Natural foam without PFAS is usually off-white and/or brown in color, often has an earthy or fishy scent, and tends to pile up in bays, eddies or at river barriers such as dams.

For those who do come in contact with foam, MDHHS recommends rinsing off or bathing as soon as possible. This is especially true if the waterbody has suspected PFAS contamination. Coming into contact with foam without rinsing off or bathing can lead to accidentally swallowing foam or foam residue.

“Studies have shown that the risk of PFAS getting into your body from skin contact is low, but you can accidentally swallow PFAS or other chemicals and bacteria if you do not rinse off or bathe after coming into contact with foam,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, MDHHS chief medical executive. “Washing your hands and rinsing off after water activities can protect you from chemicals or bacteria that may be in water or foam.”

MDHHS works with local health departments to issue recommendations and health advisories for foam on waterbodies. Health advisories have been issued for some waterbodies where PFAS-containing foam has been found.

These advisories can be found in the “PFAS Foam on Lakes and Streams” section of the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team website. MDHHS continues to review data on PFAS-containing foam as it is available and will issue advisories as needed.

To date, foam recommendations and/or advisories have been issued by MDHHS and implemented by local health departments for the following waterbodies: Van Etten Lake, Oscoda, September 1, 2017; Lake Margrethe, Grayling, June 5, 2018; Rogue River, Rockford, June 5, 2018; Thornapple River, Grand Rapids, June 29, 2018; and Huron River, southeast Michigan, September 18, 2018.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development also recommends people do not allow their animals to come into contact or swallow foam on waterbodies. If animals do come in contact with foam, they should be rinsed off and bathed with fresh water, as foam can build up in animal fur. Animal owners with questions related to animals and foam ingestion should contact their veterinarian.

PFAS have been used in practically everything, including carpeting, waterproof clothing, food paper wrappings, upholstery, takeout containers, furniture, some cosmetics and more, according to the Michigan Environmental Council. They were also in a firefighting foam called AFFF, which branches of the armed forces and fire departments used all across the country.

Some forms of PFAS have been phased out of use, but many others are still used widely in commercial products and manufacturing processes today.

Anyone with questions about exposure to PFAS or foam can call the MDHHS Environmental Health hotline at 1-800-648-6942. More information is available on the MPART website at https://www.michigan.gov/pfasresponse.

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The Alpena News. June 30, 2022.

Editorial: Guardians, conservators serve important role

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, some tens of thousands of older Michiganders fall victim to abuse, neglect, or exploitation every year.

Others, not yet elderly, also fall prey to scams, theft, neglect, and other abuses — often at the hands of people they love and trust, News staff writer Julie Riddle reported recently.

That’s why guardians and conservators, appointed by judges to help with developmental disabilities, mental illness, dementia, and other incapacitating circumstances make important life decisions, play such an important role.

Conservators — who assume control of a vulnerable person’s financial life — and guardians, who take over other decisions, develop close bonds with the people they serve, sometimes becoming both friend and family to people who have neither, or whose loved ones have tried to exploit their vulnerability, Kathleen Robson, owner of Assisting Services, told Riddle.

While anyone can be taken in by a scammer — an earlier story by Riddle told of a police officer who almost fell victim to a scam, himself, and thousands of scams and attempted scams are reported to state officials every year — those with incapacitating circumstances can more easily fall prey to scammers.

Guardians and conservators step in to help make sure that doesn’t happen.

We’re glad such positions exist.

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