06/14/15 5:59am
06/14/2015 5:59 AM
(Credit: Caroline, Flickr)

(Credit: Caroline, Flickr)

A new bill passed unanimously last week by the Suffolk County Legislature will help keep kids healthy by blocking the sale of toys containing potentially unsafe levels of lead and other chemicals linked to serious health conditions.

The Toxin Free Toys Act aims to protect children from toys that contain “potentially unsafe levels of six hazardous chemicals” and known carcinogens, according to a press release. If the proposal is signed into law by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, the county Department of Health will begin notifying retailers in January. Beginning December 2016, inspectors would conduct random checks for unsafe toys at stores using an X-ray fluorescence analyzer, which evaluates the items’ chemical composition.

“As a mother, I am outraged that children’s toys contain these toxic chemicals that can cause cancer, learning and developmental disabilities and respiratory, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal disorders,” said county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), who sponsored the bill.

Similar anti-toxin measures were recently signed into law in Albany and Westchester counties.

Under the proposal, toys sold in Suffolk County would only be allowed to contain strictly regulated amounts of antimony, arsenic, cadmium, cobalt, lead and mercury.

“I certainly wouldn’t want to give anything bad or toxic to a child,” said Kathy Halliwell, owner of Goldsmith’s Toys and Electronics in Greenport. “We carry all quality toys here.”

Suffolk County’s initiative was introduced in response to a report issued by the New York League of Conservation Voters and Clean & Healthy New York that found “several products” containing toxic components on Long Island store shelves.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lead paint was banned by the United States in 1978 but is still widely used by other countries in manufacturing toys. Because lead is odorless and invisible to the naked eye, young children can inadvertently expose themselves to it when they put toys that contain lead in their mouths.

While the use of lead paint is prohibited, the use of lead in plastic toys hasn’t been banned in the U.S. According to the CDC, lead softens plastic and makes it more flexible.

Only a certified laboratory can accurately test a toy for lead, the CDC said, and a blood test is the only way a child’s lead levels can be measured.

For a list of recalled toys, visit cpsc.gov.

Have a health column idea or question for Rachel Young? Email her at ryoung@timesreview.com

06/12/15 5:59am
06/12/2015 5:59 AM
From left, Walter Dawydiak, director of the Suffolk County Health Department Division Of Environmental Quality; Dr. Alison Branco, director of the Peconic Estuary Program; Dr. Christopher Gobler, biologist at Stony Brook University; and Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment at Thursday's meeting in Hauppauge. The panel discussed water quality issues. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)

From right, Walter Dawydiak, Dr. Alison Branco, Dr. Christopher Gobler and Adrienne Esposito. The panel discussed water quality issues Thursday in Hauppauge. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)

County lawmakers, scientists and environmentalists acknowledge nitrogen overloading in local waterways is the biggest contributor to the recent die-off of fish and turtles.

They also agree aging septic tanks and failing cesspool systems are mostly to blame for brown and red tides in the Peconic Estuary, as well as toxic blue-green algae at Lake Marratooka in Mattituck.

The public’s reliance of fertilizers is a problem, too, experts say.

In an effort to address the recent fish kill in Riverhead that some experts have described as unprecedented, Legislator Dr. William Spencer (D-Centerport), chairman of the Suffolk County Health Committee, assembled a panel discussion at Thursday’s health committee meeting in Hauppauge.


06/09/15 12:52pm
06/09/2015 12:52 PM
Neal Lewis (second from right) presents a proposed county Climate Action Plan at Tuesday's meeting. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Neal Lewis (second from right) presents a proposed county Climate Action Plan at Tuesday’s meeting. (Credit: Paul Squire)

In an effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions, Suffolk County is hoping an incentive for business and homeowners to improve their buildings will help spur upgrades on outdated structures.

A low-cost, long-term financing program to help cover the costs of those upgrades was pitched on Monday as a means to help finance them.


06/07/15 5:58am
06/07/2015 5:58 AM
Aside from being delicious, strawberries are packed with antioxidants and vitamin C. What's not to love? (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

Aside from being delicious, strawberries are packed with antioxidants and vitamin C. What’s not to love? (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

“Popeye” character J. Wellington Wimpy famously promised that he’d “gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today,” but I’d rather have a cup of fresh strawberries. And, like Wimpy, I want them right now.

Aside from being delicious, strawberries are fat-free, rich in dietary fiber and packed with vitamin C and antioxidants. Combined, these attributes make my favorite fruit “nutritional jewels,” said dietitian Lara McNeil of East End Nutrition in Riverhead.  (more…)

06/05/15 12:00pm
06/05/2015 12:00 PM

An osprey couple is preparing for the birth of its three babies in a nest on the North Fork.

Best of all, you can be there to watch it. The hatchlings’ arrival — expected any day now — is being filmed and shown via a live video stream online.

Tax Reduction Services (TRS) is sponsoring Osprey Zone, a website that allows people to watch the osprey couple, affectionately named George and Gracie, in their nest with a view of the Peconic Bay.

The exact location of the nest hasn’t been revealed since the company doesn’t want people spooking the birds, said TRS president Paul Henry.

The feed has been live on the site since June 1. The osprey family has been seen nesting in that location since April, according to comments on the site.

Mr. Henry, who set up the streaming software, said he plans on making the website a permanent installation. He’ll use clips from the footage filmed this summer to make a documentary that will run on the site during the winter.

“We have footage from last year when they started building the nest and we’re getting footage of the babies being born and fed and learning to fly,” he said. “Hopefully during next spring, they come back and do it all again.”

Osprey Zone also features saved videos. The one- to two-minute long clips feature the birds returning to the nest with a fish, guarding the eggs, communicating with each other and more.

Mr. Henry said that while the hatching of the babies is exciting, there’s more to the birds’s story than that.

“There’s a wonderful story about how [the osprey] came back from near extinction,” he said. “That’s a very big part of story and my interest as well.”

He said that while he has a personal interest in both the osprey and filming, TRS is sponsoring the livestream for the community and Long Island as a whole to enjoy.

“I really think this is a really valuable thing here,” said Mr. Henry. “We have people contacting us who are bedridden, students, or disabled who are just watching it and enjoying it. It’s kind of calming. I think there’s a certain medicinal value to it in the way it affects people.”



06/04/15 4:06pm
Some dead fish from last week's kill still lined the beach at Indian Island. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

Some dead fish from last week’s kill still lined the beach at Indian Island. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

The high tide went out Wednesday night, and with it went hundreds of dead fish. That’s exactly the news Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller wanted to hear.

Chief Hegermiller — who has been put in charge of cleanup in the wake of last week’s massive fish kill in the Peconic Estuary — said the tides cleared most of the town properties of carcasses.

The fortunate tide will spare town employees the hassle of disposing of thousands of dead bunker.

“It’s getting better all the time,” he said. “We’re watching what’s going on every day.”

The bait fish began washing ashore around Flanders Bay and in the creeks in Aquebogue and Jamesport last week. Experts said the kill was caused by a bloom of red tide algae in the creeks, which have also been blamed for an unprecedented die-off of diamondback terrapin turtles last month.

Though Southampton Town’s Board of Trustees began removing the fish earlier this week, Mr. Walter said Riverhead Town was waiting for the full moon tide Wednesday before making a decision.

That patience appears to have paid off. At South Jamesport Beach Thursday afternoon the coast was fish-free, with the exception of a lone dead fish that had washed ashore.

But county property at Indian Island still had dozens of remains buried in the sand. Swarmed by flies, the fish continued to form a long line a few feet out from the shoreline.

That county land will be cleaned by county parks employees, said Legislator Al Krupski, though it was unclear when the cleanup would begin.

Residents who have dead fish on their private property will have to bag the fish themselves; Riverhead Town will coordinate pickup of the bags.

Some environmentalists have warned that allowing the tide to take the remains back out to sea to rot may cause further issues for the ecosystem.

“Having the bottom buried in rotting fish can’t be a good thing for the survival of other marine life,” Defend H20 founder Kevin McAllister told the News-Review this week. “Things are going to be stressed from this … You’re talking an enormous amount of biomass just rotting on the bottom of the bays or the creeks.”


What Causes a  Fish Kill- (3)

06/02/15 12:00pm
06/02/2015 12:00 PM
Rainfall on Monday and Tuesday came as a welcome change of pace for local crops. (Credit: Joseph Pinciaro)

Rainfall on Monday and Tuesday came as a welcome change of pace for local crops. (Credit: Joseph Pinciaro)

It might seem like a distant memory now, but last month proved to be the driest May on record, according to the National Weather Service, making the steady rainfall of June 1 and June 2 a relief to some farmers in the area.

The meteorological agency reported that a scant 0.42 inches fell throughout the month, as measured in Islip — the official NWS station on Long Island.

That’s the least rainfall ever recorded in May since records started being kept in 1984. (more…)