Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Calhoun woman overcomes adversities
BY Mary Mobley

You know that feeling when you walk into a dark room and fumble for the light switch, but your fingers feel nothing but the smoothness of the wall? That panic in the pit of your stomach, standing there encumbered in the blackness? 

Now imagine that being your everyday life. Teresa Chastain has adapted to a world that looks completely different from the world we see.

Born and raised in the small town of Calhoun, GA, Teresa led a simple but fulfilled life. She married her high school sweetheart, had two children, and raised them in their quaint, ranch style home. Teresa had no idea that the year she turned 38 would be the one when her world she saw would be forever altered.

“It started as a spot; just a simple little spot,” she says.

After going to several doctors in both the Calhoun and Rome area, her frustration and worry escalated. Chastain was determined to find out the reason for her spotty vision.

“They referred me to a doctor in Chattanooga,” she says, “and that’s when I was diagnosed with macular degeneration.”

In simple terms, macular degeneration is a condition where the blood vessels in the eye burst. In Teresa’s case, the blood collected on the macula in her retinas, causing a blockage of light. The bleeding did eventually stop, but the damage was already done. Her retinas were permanently damaged.

Damage to the macula results in loss of central vision, which is exactly what happened to Teresa.

“When the doctors looked at the backs of my eyes, they said it looked like an old lady’s skin... wrinkled,” she says.

Because the blood vessels had burst and then clotted on top of Teresa’s retinas, they were no longer smooth like they should have been. She says they are now “knotted” and “crinkly.”

When Teresa was 43, she underwent a surgery to attempt to correct this problem. The surgeon’s objective was to “pull the blood vessels out,” she says, and to leave the macula unharmed.

“The doctor said there was only a slight chance that it would actually work,” she says.

Unfortunately, the surgery did not correct Teresa’s vision. Instead of pulling just the blood vessels out, the macula came out along with the blood vessels.

Although Teresa lost most of her vision, her attitude and outlook on life remained positive.

“Just because I couldn’t see the way I used to didn’t mean I could stop living my life!” she says.

For the past 23 years, Teresa has worked as a medical transcriptionist for Alpha Services in Calhoun. But instead of working in an office like she used to, Teresa now works out of her home.

Everyday she receives dictations from doctors in Calhoun and Rome on cassette tapes and types up their reports.

But how does a woman who is legally blind use a computer?

Teresa uses a low vision closed circuit television magnification system, or CCTV, which enables her to read any document. She simply places the document she needs to read onto her CCTV, and it magnifies the text large enough onto the screen so she can see it.

 “I also have a program on my computer that blows up the text I’m typing, so I can read that too!” she says.

Teresa’s work ethic is amazing. She receives 2 or 3 dictations at around 10 a.m. everyday, and has to have them completed by 5 p.m. This would be a challenge for someone who wasn’t visually impaired, but Teresa says she “doesn’t think about that.”

“She’s a fighter, that’s for sure. I don’t think I’ve ever heard her once complain,” says her son, Joshua Chastain.

Growing up, Joshua remembers his mom riding her childhood bike to the grocery store, around the neighborhood, or to a friend’s house for a lunch date.

“That thing was…IS…so old!” he says.

Teresa still rides the same bike she rode as a child. From the 1960’s, it’s apparent it’s in need of some tender loving care. Both the front and back fenders are covered in rust, and the handlebars look as if they might fall off at any given moment. But Teresa stands firm on her decision to keep riding it. 

“I like my bike. It may be old, but hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” she says.

But how does a woman who is legally blind ride a bike?

“It’s a good thing I’ve lived in the same area for about 30 years; you get to know the streets and sidewalks pretty darn well!” she says.

Since the area in which Teresa lives hasn’t gone through any major renovations, it is still relatively simple for her to navigate a few miles to the Piggly Wiggly or the Wal Mart.

“I was always afraid for her going out on that thing, but she’s never had an accident. Can you believe that?” says her daughter, Christy Chastain.

Teresa says she is happy with the way her life has turned out. She feels “blessed beyond all measure.”

“God knew what he was doing, he knew I could handle it. I’m thankful He’s given me the strength to be able to overcome this,” she says.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bottled water: the ugly side
BY Mary Mobley

The drinking fountain. Remember that? Not too long ago, people relished it, passing by one on a scorching summer day, grateful for the cool refreshment. Not anymore. Now the drinking fountain has been replaced by its arch nemesis: bottled water.

We’ve all seen the ads: beautiful landscapes with ice-capped mountaintops against a bright blue sky, crisp clean lines with icy blue backgrounds. These labels have convinced us that what we’re drinking is only the finest water from the most pristine areas.


While some bottled water does come from natural springs and other pure sources, more than 40 percent of it comes from a community supply.  The water is treated, purified, and then sold to the consumer, who is blissfully unaware, at a price that is increased drastically.

These people are drinking puffed up tap water.

So now that the secret’s out, just how good is it?

“The Environmental Protection Agency sets standards and regulations for the presence and amount of over 100 different contaminants in public drinking water,” says Karen Osborne, the Laboratory Division Manager at the Cobb County-Marrieta Water Authority.

In the most recent tests conducted by the Cobb County Water System, every regulated contaminant was below the MCL (maximum contaminant level).

According to the CCWS, the acceptable amount of copper in tap water is 1.3 ppm. The amount detected in 2008 was 0.032 ppm. Similarly, the acceptable amount of lead in tap water is 15 ppm (parts per million). The amount detected in 2008 was only 9.7 ppm.

In 2010, the CCWS tested the amount of fluoride and nitrate/nitrite in the municipal water supply. The acceptable amount of fluoride is 4 ppm. The amount detected was 1.02 ppm. The acceptable amount of nitrate/nitrite is 10 ppm. The amount detected was 0.48 ppm.

“The CCMWA meets or exceeds the EPA regulatory requirements,” says Osborne.

Here’s a fun fact: in the United States, tap water is actually held to higher purity standards than bottled water is. Tap water is regulated under the EPA’s Safe Water Drinking Act, while bottled water is regulated under less stringent standards by the U.S. FDA’s Federal Food, Drug, & Cosmetic Act.

While a majority of companies that produce bottled water use the municipal supply, some companies, such as Zephyrhills, maintain that their water only comes from “carefully selected springs.”

“We’re committed to providing products that live up to the high standards for taste, quality, nutrition and enjoyment,” says Consumer Response Representative
Beverly Watson.

Zephyrhills has several springs in which their source water comes from.

“We have a source in Pasco County, FL called Crystal Springs. There’s also one in Washington County called Cypress Springs, and another in Madison County named Blue Springs,” says Watson.

A test conducted in 2010 by Zephyrhills showed that the level of fluoride, copper, lead, and nitrate/nitrite was below the MCL (maximum contaminant level), as was the water tested by the Cobb County Water System.

The MCL for fluoride was 2 ppm, and the amount detected was 0.064-0.13 ppm. The MCL for copper was 1 ppm, and, surprisingly, there was no copper detected. The MCL for lead was 0.005 ppm, and, again, there was no lead detected. The MCL for nitrate/nitrite was 10 ppm, and the amount detected was 0.14-2.1 ppm.

So, according to these two tests, the evidence does show that the Zephyrhills spring water does indeed have less contaminants than the tap water tested in Cobb County.

Here’s another fun fact: In 2002 The FDA conducted a study concerning drinking bottled water versus tap water.

It found that people preferred drinking filtered tap water over all over beverages, including coffee, soft drinks, and, of course, bottled water.

So even though drinking Zephyrhills brand bottled water might be healthier for you to drink versus tap water, how environmentally friendly is it to consume?

What about recycling all that plastic?

Even though recycling is readily available in most major cities in the United States, only 1 in 5 bottles of water ever gets recycled, creating about 3 billion pounds of waste in plastic.

It is estimated that in 2005 alone approximately 30 billion plastic water bottles were purchased in the US, with only 12 percent recycled.

“Of all the materials I see go through this recycling center, plastic is definitely on the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to the amount,” says Walt, one of the owners of All-Waste Sani and Recycling.

Zephyrhills assures its customers that “every bottle…is recyclable” and that their 100 percent natural spring water “has one of the lightest carbon footprints.”

They’re trying to be greener, introducing lighter-weight bottles that use up to 30 percent less plastic.

But what does that really matter if we, as the consumers, don’t do our part in recycling?

According to estimates by the Container Recycling Institute, the bottles that aren’t recycled are tossed into landfills, where it takes approximately 1,000 to decompose.

The consumers need to do their part in educating themselves on the health issues concerning drinking bottled water, and the carbon footprint they want to leave behind.

What, as a consumer of plastic products, can you do to ease your carbon footprint?