seal  Purdue News

Experts can talk about issues related to the upcoming
July 4 holiday

The issues include fireworks and hearing safety, picnic food safety, patriotism and civic participation.


June 27, 2003

Fireworks have potential to blast hearing health

The boom from Fourth of July fireworks may send shivers down a person's spine, but for a Purdue University audiologist the sound rings of potential hearing problems.

"People generally underestimate the effect loud noises have on their hearing, and they do not realize that if they are relatively close to a fireworks blast, it may take only one blast to cause permanent hearing damage," says Robert Novak, director of clinical education in audiology and associate department head.

Novak says people should remember to bring disposable ear plugs with them to any fireworks show and to use them when noises get so loud they can no longer carry on a conversation without yelling to someone who is standing less than three feet from them.

"Large public fireworks shows can be compared to attending a concert with loud, amplified music blaring from speakers that are pointed at the audience," Novak says. "The distance from fireworks explosions is the deciding factor as to how loud the sound will be, as well as if there are reflective surfaces, such as tall buildings, to echo or amplify the sound."

People who are using their own personal fireworks should set them off in an open field to reduce echoes. They should also move as far away from the blast as possible after each device is ignited.

Novak also can talk about how to properly fit ear protection and describe the dangerous decibel levels.

CONTACT: Novak, (765) 494-1534,


Food safety - hot topic at picnic table

Keeping uninvited food-borne illnesses from becoming guests at your summer picnic can be as easy as keeping foods properly chilled and making sure vegetables are well washed before consumption, says a Purdue University food safety expert.

"I use the basics of clean, separate, cook and chill when it comes to food safety," says Charles Santerre, a professor of food and nutrition, who also specializes in toxicology related to contaminants in food, especially fish, fruits and vegetables.

He says practicing food safety can be as simple as using a new plate for grilled meat instead of the same dish the raw meat was on first. Santerre also is a spokesperson for the Institute of Food Technologists.

CONTACT: Santerre, (765) 496-3443,


Patriotism not as clear as red, white and blue

The number of American flags on display this Fourth of July is not the most accurate way to measure patriotism, says a Purdue University expert in public opinion.

"If you want to measure patriotism, look at the number of individuals who enlisted with the military," says James McCann, a professor of political science in the School of Liberal Arts. "There has been an influx of recruits since 9/11 and the war in Iraq, but we have not seen the large numbers that we saw when our fathers and grandfathers rushed to enlist in World War I.I.

"People are very open about expressing their love for the flag and other national symbols, but these sentiments don't always bring about changes in behavior."

McCann also says the country has not seen a great increase in the number of individuals volunteering in community organizations. So, why does it seem that there is a surge in American patriotism?

"The country still seems to be in a rally mode, due to the ongoing war on terrorism and military deployments abroad," McCann says. "It is not clear how long such a rally might last. George W. Bush was a cheerleader at Yale University, and he has certainly shown his rallying skills over the last two years.

"The loyal opposition - individuals, mostly democrats, who are skeptical of administration policies - has not yet found their voice."

CONTACT: McCann, (765) 494-0738 or (703) 967-9302.


Nation needs new focus on civic participation, professor says

As Independence Day approaches, a Purdue University social studies education professor says the nation's schools must regain a lost focus on one of their most basic tenants.

"We need to reprioritize citizenship education to address problems with civic participation - and to recall the original mission of the public schools in the United States - to educate good citizens," said Phillip VanFossen, director of Purdue's James F. Ackerman Center for Democratic Citizenship and an education professor.

Studies continually show that not only do Americans vote in lower numbers than any of their western counterparts, VanFossen said, but poll after poll also show the cynicism the American public feels with respect to the government.

He said this is of particular concern because of the public plays such a vital role in the government that they feel negatively about and disinterested in.

"It is paradoxical that as we celebrate the birth of our nation, citizen participation is, in many respects, at an all-time low," VanFossen, said.

"We may be facing a crisis within our own system of self-government."

CONTACT: VanFossen, (765) 494-2367,