HHSA’s Public Health Branch is like a huge umbrella covering numerous entities, small and large, that contribute to the overall health and well-being of all residents of Tulare County. On any given day, you probably benefit from a number of Public Health’s programs.
Public Health’s Environmental Health Division covers a lot of ground all by itself. Take that first glass of water you drink after waking up in the morning; the Well Drilling program ensures that the well your drinking water comes from has met all required regulations and was drilled and evaluated with health and safety in mind.
Time for breakfast? Perhaps on the way home from your morning swim at the gym (yes, that water has been inspected, too) you scored some bagels from the bakery around the corner. The Food Safety program conducts inspections of grocery stores, bakeries, schools, bars, produce stands, and other food outlets to make sure the products you buy come from facilities that are clean and are following the rules and regulations that ensure a high standard of food handling.
And you’re off to work—but not before your spouse reminds you that there’s a box full of empty paint and aerosol cans in the garage that needs to be dropped off at the hazardous waste collection center. The Household Hazardous Waste program manages several locations (Visalia, Porterville, and Cutler) in Tulare County where items such as these as well as used oil filters, pool chemicals, batteries, and other hazardous materials can be dropped off, free of charge. In addition, cleanup events are scheduled on a seasonal basis, and items such as small appliances and fluorescent tubes or bulbs can be recycled at several locations.
After a happy and productive day at the office, you drive by a new housing development not far from your home, and you wonder how it is going to impact your community. Rest assured that before ground is even broken, the Land Use Regulation program has already reviewed and approved permits and evaluated an environmental impact study (in conjunction with the Resource Management Agency). Not to worry.
Back at home, over dinner with your cousins, you are surprised to discover that one of them now has a large, colorful bouquet of flowers tattooed on her arm. Knowing you’d be concerned about the safety aspect of tattoos, your cousin informs you that she did a lot of research before getting hers done. You are happy to learn that all tattoo (or body art) facilities are required to be licensed and have processes in place to prevent spreading infection; only single-use needles are used and are collected for disposal by an authorized medical waste hauler. Additionally, the Body Art program makes sure that all body art practitioners certify they’ve had all the appropriate vaccinations and have received training regarding bloodborne diseases (like hepatitis and HIV).
Just before bed, you treat your kids to a glass of warm milk. You probably didn’t know that the Environmental Health Division conducts inspections that ensure the safety and quality of dairy products like milk, butter, and cheese produced in Tulare County. Dairy inspectors routinely inspect dairy farms, bulk milk tanks, and even the little shop at the mall where you buy soft-serve ice cream for your kids (let’s be honest here—for yourself, too!).
Environmental Health also maintains programs that regulate petroleum storage, treatment plants for hazardous waste, and underground storage tanks, and it provides oversight of septic waste collection—all of which reduce the public’s exposure to these and other health hazards.
You can contact the Environmental Health Division for tips on safe food handling in the home and for educational information to teach your children about food safety. It’s also the place to call with complaints about insects or rodents in restaurants, bars, licensed health care facilities, school kitchens, and other food-processing facilities. And whenever health or safety issues do arise, the Environmental Health program provides information to the public and takes immediate steps to prevent human exposure to any dangers.
As you can see, Environmental Health programs are working for you every day to protect your quality of life, help prevent disease and injury, and keep the public safe.
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