Health Concerns Related to the Current Porter Ranch Gas Leak

Dr Nordella was asked to write an article for the Valley Voice Newspaper about health concerns related to the current Porter Ranch gas leak.

Natural Gas

Starting in late October, the Southern California Gas Company’s Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility, owned by Sempra Energy began leaking gas that affected the community of Porter Ranch.  It’s speculated that the repair process can take up to 2 to 4 months. This has led to numerous people being moved out of the area. 

My name is Jeffery Nordella and I’m a physician and Medical Director for Porter Ranch Quality Care, the Urgent Care clinic sitting in the heart of the gas leak. Our facility has seen an increased number of patients with a wide variety of complaints. I’ve been asked to write this article to give a basic explanation of what the gas leak means to people in the affected area.  

It is important for you to understand that I am not a toxicologist nor a pulmonologist.  I am reporting what I have reviewed in the literature.

Natural gas is a naturally occurring hydrocarbongas mixture consisting primarily of methane. It is formed when layers of decomposing plant and animal matter are exposed to intense heat and pressure over thousands of years. A hydrocarbon is a molecule of carbon with surrounding hydrogen atoms. Specifically, methane contains a single carbon atom with four hydrogen atoms. Natural gas does contain other hydrocarbons such as ethane, propane, butane and others. In addition, natural gas also contains a small percentage of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and hydrogen sulfide along with other chemicals which we will discuss later. The energy that the plants originally obtained from the sun is stored in the form of chemical bonds within the gas, which we transform into energy for our use in our homes.

The gas in its natural form is essentially odorless. A chemical, Mercaptan, is added. This sulfur-containing compound has the odor of rotten eggs and is what gives natural gas its distinctive scent.

Toxicity is a function a few principles: the amount (concentration) of chemical someone is exposed to, the route of exposure, the total time of exposure and the health of the patient prior to exposure. Most gaseous chemicals are measured in parts per million (ppm). When it comes to actually measuring chemicals there are numerous variables that contributes to inaccurate measurements, such as if the chemical is measured in an unconfined open space like our atmosphere. One of the biggest challenges when determining toxicity is to accurately distinguish exactly just how much and for how long someone has been exposed to a given chemical.  Therefore it’s imperative to look more at the symptoms and lab results of the person exposed.

Let’s start with Methane, the main component of natural gas. It is classified as an asphyxiant, which is defined as something that displaces oxygen from hemoglobin.  We all know what happens when we do not have enough oxygen to our tissues, especially the brain and heart, the tissue can be damaged. Most literature suggests that methane needs to be present in very high amounts in order to create damage. The problem is I could find nothing in the literature that talked about lower concentration exposures for prolonged periods of time.  So this creates, in my mind, an unknown.  As a point of interest, miners previously placed canaries in deep mines to check methane gas levels. Reportedly, when the canaries died it indicated it was time to leave.

Hydrogen sulfide, also present in natural gas, is considered a broad-spectrum poison, meaning that it can poison several different organ systems in the body, although the nervous system is most affected. It has a direct vasodilatation effect on the vascular system, in other words it widens the blood vessels, and could have beneficial effects of course only under appropriate dosing.

Since hydrogen sulfide occurs naturally in the body, the gut enzymes are capable of detoxifying it by oxidation to (harmless) sulfate. Hence, low levels of hydrogen sulfide may be tolerated indefinitely.  Another point of interest is that a diagnostic clue of extreme poisoning by hydrogen sulfide is the discoloration of copper coins in the pockets of the victim.

Exposure to lower concentrations can result in eye irritation, a sore throat and cough, nosebleeds, nausea, shortness of breath, and fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema). These effects are believed to be due to the fact that hydrogen sulfide combines with chemicals present in moist surface tissues to form a caustic agent. These symptoms usually go away in a few weeks if the person is no longer exposed to hydrogen sulfide.  Long-term, low-level exposure may result in fatigue, loss of appetite, headaches, irritability, poor memory, and dizziness.

Two other chemicals have been disclosed by the Department of Public Health. The first is Benzene. This has long been known for a significant carcinogen, or cancer-causing agent, of course again at toxic levels and at toxic durations. This potentially could affect your bone marrow causing anything from anemia to leukemia.

Radon is a radioactive chemical in a gaseous form that can be inhaled.  It is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. Its half-life is 3.8 days which basically means that half of its concentration spontaneously decays in approximately four days. This only happens if the supply is halted.

There is solid scientific evidence that shows there is a clear link between breathing high concentrations of radon and an increase incidence of lung cancer in non-smokers.  It also raises the likelihood of lung cancer beyond the already-high rates for smokers. The Surgeon General of the United States has declared radon to be the second leading cause of lung cancer today.

In conclusion, while we know a lot about these chemicals in high concentration, very little work has been done on their effects at a low concentration for a prolonged period of time. In my opinion everyone in charge is still in a “wait and see mindset”.

Therefore, I would highly recommend first to be removed from the area where you might be exposed to these chemicals.  Second, if you are symptomatic with any of the effects listed above, see your physician for a baseline evaluation; it might be a good time to get your annual physical done. And third, follow up for continued testing so the results can be compared with earlier tests, especially if your symptoms persist.

I hope this helps.

J. Nordella M.D.
Medical Director
Porter Ranch Quality Care 

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5 Reasons Your Small Business Needs Content Marketing

Constantly clamoring to grab the attention of prospective customers, small businesses are competing with a lot of noise. Consumers are cutting through clutter by fast-forwarding television shows, subscribing to ad-free digital radio, installing ad-blockers to browse their favorite websites sans-ads and customizing what’s in their social media feeds.

To avoid getting skipped over or ignored, savvy digital marketers must craft messages that their target audience wants to see. When small businesses communicate with their customers by providing information instead of offering a sales pitch, the consumer will listen. The message and the brand is no longer an interruption, but a valued information provider.

There’s a name for this tricky tactic — it’s called content marketing. Content marketing means consistently creating and distributing information that is valuable and relevant to those people within a small business’s target audience. Ultimately, the goal is for your content to entice a consumer to do business with your company.

You might be thinking, “That’s not what I do — I’m not a writer!” But whether you sell gizmos, fix cars or build homes, content marketing for your company can help you attract and retain customers.

Here are some of the ways content marketing drives results for small businesses.

1. Boosts brand awareness.

Consistency is a key ingredient to a successful content marketing strategy. This means publishing fresh content at a regular frequency, creating many opportunities for a target market to see the company’s name. Your brand becomes familiar to them, and you’ll be top-of-mind the next time they need your services.

2. Builds an identity as a trusted expert.

If there are 10 plumbers in a town but only one provides helpful information that educates the community about plumbing maintenance, problems, options and innovations, that brand will stand out as the expert. By doing this, a brand is demonstrating its expertise, so prospective customers need not question or research its know-how. Since this small business is helping consumers without getting paid for this advice, it will also earn a reputation of being trustworthy.

3. Encourages your customer to take action.

When consumers need to spend money or make time for a service, it’s natural to procrastinate. However, once a consumer gets clear answers to his or her questions, or hears a story that he or she can relate to, that person could finally be motivated to make a purchase or schedule an appointment. Producing content that guides a consumer through the buyer’s journey (awareness, evaluation and purchase) results in more sales.

4. Shareable content brings people in the door.

Creating a steady stream of fresh information on a variety of topics opens several avenues to drive traffic to a website — through search, social media, traditional media and more — which ultimately results in phone calls, orders or foot traffic. Marketing tactics that are already in place, such as pay-per-click advertising, digital banner ads, public relations efforts, social media accounts and search engine optimization don’t work as well without content to promote.

These vehicles need something to talk about and link to. Publishing new, relevant content gives people a reason to click. Covering unique, timely and seasonal topics will interest a broader audience and encourage repeat visitors. It also boosts ranking in search results, making it more likely that potential customers will find your small business before one of your competitors.

5. Keeps your website fresh.

Most consumers today rely on the web to find information they need to make decisions. So, a website often will be a consumer’s first impression of that business. A stagnant, stale website is less interesting and less professional than one with updated content that changes regularly. Undecided consumers who are researching their options might check out a website and social media presence more than once. When they come back, seeing something new and relevant makes their visit a better experience — and shows that the brand is a professional organization.

Original article can be found here.

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Business of the Month

Les Sisters Southern Kitchen & BBQ
21818 Devonshire Street
Chatsworth, CA 91311

Contact: Kevin Huling
Phone: (818) 998-0755

A Tale of Les Sisters:

Founders of Les Sisters
(Left to Right) Rhoda Hadi, Willie Stanford, and Clara Huling

Les Sisters sign

When Clara Huling, Roda Hadi, and Willie Stanford opened a small café in Chatsworth in 1986, none of them could possibly have predicted the bright future of their venture. For them, it was an adventure; an attempt to realize lifelong dreams. Each brought to the table a special talent. At the time, Roda was a master Cajun chef, and ran the seafood bar at the popular Fireside Inn in Encino. Willie was the owner-operator of Our Place, a very popular bar and gathering place in Northridge. Clara’s mother owned a restaurant in Yuma where Clara learned the trade as a young girl. They got together and decided to try it, but each agreed to keep their “day jobs.”

The first year was a trying experience, but after a few rave reviews from the likes of Elmer Dills, the LA Times, and Valley News, they survived. Meanwhile, due to personal setbacks and illness, Roda and Willie had to leave the fledgling business, and Clara had to go it alone. She briefly turned the restaurant management over to another team, but in the end, she had to reassume the helm. That’s when fate stepped in and administered a devastating blow. Clara succumbed suddenly to a stroke in June 1992, and Les Sisters’ was devastated. That’s when Kevin, Clara’s son, stepped up and took charge of the restaurant. With the support of a loyal staff (especially Susan Warner, our head server), and loving customers, Les Sisters rode out the storm and thrived . . . until the earthquake of 1994. They rebuilt, reopened, and regained their customer’s support.

Unfortunately, the following year, Les Sisters were victimized by a fire, and were once again sidelined. After a few setbacks with building codes, they were able to reopen in a scant three weeks and there were their clients waiting, clamoring to have another go at their unique menu.

In 2006, Les Sisters celebrated their 25th anniversary. Kevin’s daughter, Jessica, and son, Kevin, joined the staff.

Les Sisters was named Number 1 by Zagat many years in a row. The restaurant was also selected as the best in class by City Search.

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Nonprofit Highlight

Habitat for Humanity

9606 De Soto Avenue
Chatsworth, CA 91311

Contact:  Sherijo Damico
Phone: (818) 884-8808

Habitat for Humanity is a locally run, independent, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization serving North Los Angeles City and County, building houses and futures for low-income families. They specialize in building the unique Enriched Neighborhood® communities in collaboration with Homes for Families, which they are currently building for low-income veterans in collaboration with the California Department of Veterans Affairs. To date, Habitat for Humanity has built 271 homes placing them in the top 5% of Habitat affiliates nationwide to reach the goal of building more than 100 homes. Habitat for Humanity San Fernando/Santa Clarita Valleys was founded in 1990 as an affiliate for Habitat for Humanity International.

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