Archive for February, 2010

Help me reach my goal!Sponsor Me at March for Babies!

Team ExperTox will be hitting the pavement on April 25, 2010 in support of March of Dimes and March for Babies.  Interested in helping but not interested in walking?  We’ll take on the challenge, you just make a donation! 

Nearly 500,000 babies are born prematurely each year.  Premature infants are more susceptible to medical and development problems, learning disabilities and behavorial issues.  One reason for premature birth is mother’s drug use during pregnancy.  ExperTox works with many hospitals by testing a newborn’s first stool, called meconium, soon after the baby’s birth to determine if drugs were used during the last 20 weeks of gestation.  We perform this test on a STAT basis, knowing the doctors and nurses need the information to determine the best care for the child, both medically as well as socially.

Thanks for your support!


March of Dimes’ Kaleidoscope Conference 2010

ExperTox exhibited at the March of Dimes’ Kaleidoscope Conference in Galveston, Texas last week.  This conference is held annually for perinatal and women’s health care nurses, providing an educational platform to help medical professionals improve the quality of care for pregnant mothers, newborns and women of all ages.

We attended to share how ExperTox also contributes to improved newborn care through our STAT meconium drug testing, as well as breast milk testing for drugs and alcohol.  What we found is that many hospital nurses were unaware meconium drug screens could be completed in only 4 hours after specimen receipt  at our Houston area lab, and confirmations within 24 hours. 

So why is meconium drug testing so important to hospitals?  Meconium will contain traces of drugs that the mother may have ingested during the last 20 weeks of her pregnancy.  This information helps doctors and nurses in many ways, including:

  • Determining if special newborn care may be needed for possible drug withdrawal symptoms
  • Determining if the newborn may suffer from behavioral or development issues, or other medical problems
  • Determining whether or not Child Protective Services should become involved in deciding the future care and support for the baby

 The convention center was filled with many caring and supportive nurses, and we felt good that we are able to provide a service that helps them in their mission for quality patient care.  We want to specifically thank Rachelle Nurse, Director, Center For Women’s Health at The Methodist Hospital for recommending the March of Dimes conference to us.  We also want to thank Lois Tracy, Texas Children’s Hospital and Chairman of the Kaleidoscope Planning Committee, for coordinating this event.

Are you interested in helping March of Dimes?  March for Babies is coming up!  Put on your walking shoes this spring to help fight premature births, a leading cause of newborn death.

Carole Kanusky, Clinical Educator, The Family Place, Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital

A Meth Lab In My Community? No Way!

For the past week my nose has been running, eyes burning and all the seasonal symptoms of spring allergies.  It is almost March in Texas, so this is to be expected.  Off I go to my local pharmacy to pick up Zirtec-D, which you must get from the pharmacy area.  The technician looked at me, reminded me there is a limit on how much I could purchase, then asked for my I.D., giving me another look-over.  “Miss Goody-Two-Shoes” was feeling a little dirty with the evil-eye look.

Why?  Well, the medicine I need to control my allergies is the same medicine used in meth labs – pseudoephedrine.  I then remembered a recent workshop I attended, hosted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Houston Division.  Our presenter told us that the Conroe area in Montgomery County has the highest number of methamphetamine labs in the Greater Houston Metropolitan Area.  Guess who just happens to live in this area?  Moi.  Now I was glad my technician was taking her job so seriously.

Methamphetamine is bad in more ways than one.  Addiction and behaviors associated to its use are not the extent – it affects children (from ingestion/inhalation to child and sexual abuse), our neighborhoods and safety.  I feel for apartment owners, landlords and mortgage companies that own residences where meth labs were located.  They are now faced with expensive toxic clean-up from the residue.

We want to share an eye-opening video with you, “Meth:  A Social Plague”.  You might be surprised that meth labs and users are not just in lower-class neighborhoods.  They hide in middle to upper-class areas because no one suspects.  Become informed and watch this video directed by Joel Smith.

Video Link:

Monitor Your Blood Pressure for Heart Health Month

In support of the American Heart Association’s Heart Health and Go Red Month.

February is National Heart Health Awareness month. One of the simplest ways to monitor your heart health is by getting a regular blood pressure check.  Most people with high blood pressure have no symptoms at all.  There are no specific warning signs.  Some people may feel more tired than usual, get hot or sweaty easier, have difficulty sleeping or even feel more emotional.  These things are part of every day life and most folks just ignore the symptoms.  The only way to find out if you have high blood pressure or hypertension is by regular monitoring.

Blood pressure is the force exerted on the walls of your blood vessels or arteries as blood flows through them.  Your heart is a pump.  When it contracts or beats, it sends a surge of blood through the blood vessels and pressure increases.  This is the top number in a blood pressure reading or the systolic number.  When your heart relaxes between beats the blood pressure decreases.  This is the bottom number or diastolic pressure.

Normal blood pressure falls within a range – it’s not one set of numbers.  An adult should have a reading less than 140/90.  If you have another disease such as diabetes, kidney problems, or heart disease your doctor may want it no higher that 130/85.  I f your blood pressure stays above this threshold you have hypertension.

Hypertension adds to the workload of the heart and arteries.  The heart must pump with more force, and the arteries must carry blood that is moving under greater pressure.  If high blood pressure continues untreated for a long time the heart and arteries may not function as well as they should and other body organs may be affected.  There is greater chance of damage to the lungs and kidneys in particular. There is increased risk of stroke, heart failure, heart attacks, and kidney failure.

Since this month is heart month, I would like to encourage everyone to take some time and do a daily check of your blood pressure.  Try to take it at the same time every day as well as the same arm.  Make sure you are sitting down in approximately the same position.  Keep a record of the readings.  If you see that your blood pressure consistently reads over 140/90 for a week, take this information to your doctor for a discussion.

Keep in mind that your blood pressure changes constantly.  Blood pressure fluctuates from day to day and minute to minute according to your body’s needs.  If you exercise or are angry and check your blood pressure, it will be higher.  If you are relaxing or check it when you first wake up, it will be lower.  Note by your readings what your activity was at the time for the doctor.

The Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection and Treatment of High Blood Pressure has a general guideline.  Blood pressure also depends on our age, morbidity and several other factors.  CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN TO DETERMINE YOUR NORMAL BLOOD PRESSURE.  Normal blood pressure is normally classified as 120/80.  Pre-Hypertension is defined as 120-139 systolic and 80-89 diastolic. Stage 1 Hypertension is defined as 140-159 systolic and 90-99 diastolic.  Stage 2 Hypertension is defined as greater than 160 systolic and greater than 100 diastolic.

If you have high blood pressure, you can do a lot to reduce it.  Work with your doctor to determine the best treatment for you.  It may include a low fat or low salt diet, and changes to your lifestyle such as quitting smoking, losing weight, and getting more exercise.  Reducing your alcohol intake may be recommended.  Many medicines can also reduce and control high blood pressure. Your doctor will decide whether you need medicine in addition to dietary and lifestyle changes.

High blood pressure is a lifelong disease.  It can be controlled but not cured.  Once you begin to manage it and start a treatment program, maintaining a lower blood pressure is easier.  By controlling your high blood pressure, you’ll lower your risk of diseases like stroke, heart attack and kidney disease.

Lou Ann Enis, Occupational Health Supervisor and Registered Nurse

Keeping Up With the Trends: Substance Abuse Has Changed. Shouldn’t Your Workplace Drug Testing Program?

Although I am reluctant to admit it at my young age of 44, I read an article in an AARP magazine. It caught my eye on the coffee table because it boasted a list of the top 50 drugs prescribed in 2008. Hydrocodone (a pain reliever) topped the list, and amongst the top ten which consisted of antibiotics, cholesterol medications and hypertension drugs was Alprazolam (for depression) at number nine. I found the list to be painfully depressing, no pun intended.

 A recent SAMHSA Report asked past year nonmedical users of prescription drugs how they obtained the drugs. Can you believe that over half of the nonmedical users of prescription-type pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives said they got the drugs they used most recently “from a friend or relative for free.” In a follow-up question, the majority of these respondents indicated that their friend or relative had obtained the drugs from one doctor.

 It makes me wonder why the most commonly used drug tests do not detect either of these drugs. Wouldn’t it be worth it to find out if these seemingly “easy access” meds have made it into your workforce?

Is drug testing a good idea? Sure I think we can get a consensus on that. Employer drug testing programs not only save employers money by earning them discounts on their worker’s compensation premiums, they also protect the owners from the possibility of having a liability on the job. But once an employer decides to implement a program, how do they know they are creating a robust testing program with options that increase the chance of catching users?

Here’s what I think. A robust program needs to include not only pre employment testing, but random testing also. A recent Quest Diagnostics study backs this up. It also needs to include random specimen type testing so that the detection time for the test may not be known by the donor in advance. Oral fluid, urine and hair testing should be part of the program.

Also, employers need to begin testing for more than just the standard five (Marijuana, Cocaine, Phencyclidine, Amphetamines and Opiates). An underemphasized fact is that the standard five mentioned above, although it does include Opiates, it will not detect Hydrocodone. In most cases, this must be ordered separately.

So, with all of those choices out there, how can an employer screen out the potential liabilities?

  • Utilize a robust pre-employment test including an oral fluid, urine and hair specimens. Combined, this will give a 90 day window into the applicant’s past.
  • Test for more than the standard five drugs mentioned above. ExperTox offers the most robust product line of hair testing that will include the above mentioned synthetic opiate (Hydrocodone) and Benzodiazepine (Alprazolam) class drugs.
  • Random testing of at least 50% of the workforce yearly

Incorporating this into the workplace testing program may sound complicated and expensive. But with the help of providers like Any Lab Test Now and ExperTox, your drug testing needs can be evaluated and performed at an affordable cost. The money you spend on your drug testing program will protect your assets and improve productivity.

And now, I think it is time for me to go to the book store and improve my coffee table literature to something more suiting a youngster like me!

By Laura Bradbury, Toxicology Manager at Any Lab Test Now 

Thanks Laura and Any Lab Test Now for being our guest blogger this week.  Excellent points!

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