Reflections on Children’s Health Month: Looking Back to Move Ahead

By Ruth Etzel, MD

In October we celebrated Children’s Health Month. As I reflect on the month, I think of the many exciting events and activities that highlighted the importance of our work to protect children’s health. One event in particular, a meeting of The President’s Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children (Task Force), stands out in my mind. Not because it was the biggest or the most visible, but because of who attended and what their participation and leadership means for the health of our nation’s children.

The Task Force was established in 1997 by Executive Order 13045 and is co-chaired by Administrator Gina McCarthy of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell of the Department of Health and Human Services. The Task Force’s 17 member agencies and offices work to accomplish the goals set out by the Executive Order, including:

  • Identifying priority risks and issues
  • Developing strategies
  • Recommending and implementing interagency actions
  • Communicating information to decision makers for use in protecting children’s environmental health and safety

The Task Force accomplishes its activities through four subcommittees focused on asthma disparities, healthy settings, chemical risks, and climate change. Recent achievements of the Task Force include the development of a Coordinated Federal Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Asthma Disparities aimed at reducing the burden of asthma among minority children and those with family incomes below the poverty level; guidance to the Federal Healthy Homes Work Group in the development of its plan, “Advancing Healthy Housing — A Strategy for Action”; and consulting on the impacts of climate change on children’s environmental health, to inform the U.S. Global Change Research Program Climate and Health Assessment.

At the October 14 meeting, representatives from eighteen different government agencies and offices participated and discussed their commitments related to work of the subcommittees and other children’s environmental health topics. In a time where government agencies have such varying priorities and limited resources to address the growing number of public concerns and challenges, I was proud to see that children’s health is one issue that remains a priority. Having so many different federal agencies come together to weigh-in, share accomplishments and recommit to continuing to work around this issue is a testament to how critically important children’s environmental health is at a national level. One of the highlights of the meeting was the level of support and commitment to the Task Force’s next unified goal: a new work plan to guide the group’s efforts over the next year and into the future. This product is currently in the development phase and I’m looking forward to being able to share more information with federal partners as it is finalized early next year.

This meeting reminded me of why I chose public service: to be part of an integrated and sustained effort to ensure that all children, regardless of where they live, have the opportunity to live, learn, work and play in healthy environments that enable them to reach their full potential.

As we move beyond Children’s Health month, I’m hopeful that our partnerships with other federal agencies and colleagues in communities across the nation will continue to flourish. There is still much work to be done. By working together, we can continue make the environment a better place for the next generation.

For more information about the Task Force, visit:

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Recognizing the 25th Anniversary of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments

By Janet McCabe

November 15 marked the 25th anniversary of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. A lot can change over a quarter of a century, and air quality is a good example. Our nation can be proud that we have improved our air quality dramatically during the last 25 years. This success is due to the combined efforts of state, local, tribal and federal government, regulated industries and businesses, environmental and citizen groups, and scientists and technological innovators.

In 1990, prominent environmental issues like acid rain and ozone layer depletion were frequently in the headlines. Forests, lakes and the creatures that depend on them were dying because of acid rain, and the depletion of the ozone layer was a global problem that seemed almost too big to fix. Thanks to the Clean Air Act and a lot of innovation and commitment, there has been great progress. Power plants have cut sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants dramatically, reducing acid rain and ecosystem damage, with tremendous public health benefits from cleaner air. At the same time, we have phased out the most damaging ozone-depleting substances, and the ozone layer is making a gradual recovery. Over a period of decades, this will save millions of lives by avoiding skin cancers caused by dangerous ultraviolet radiation, while also preventing hundreds of millions of cases of eye cataracts.

In 1990, many more Americans were breathing unhealthy air compared to today. For example, as Congress deliberated on the 1990 amendments, there were 41 areas of the country, home to 30 million people, with unhealthy levels of carbon monoxide (CO) pollution, which is linked to heart attack risks and other health effects. Today, there are none — all of the areas that were identified in the 1990s as having unhealthy levels of CO now meet our health-based air quality standards. Additionally, since 1990, particle pollution and ground-level ozone smog, which are associated with premature death and other serious health effects, are down by 36 percent and 23 percent respectively. As a result, millions of Americans are breathing cleaner, healthier air. And today, thanks to the AirNow program, people can get daily updates on air quality forecasts in their area; there is even an app for it.

The cars that we drove to the movie theater to see “Home Alone” (which was released 25 years ago this week) are a lot different than cars being sold today. Not only did they lack backup cameras and Bluetooth connectivity, they were a lot dirtier. Thanks to the Clean Air Act amendments almost all vehicles and engines – including passenger cars, trucks, locomotives, ships, and engines used in construction, industrial, farm and recreational equipment – have become significantly cleaner through improved performance standards. You couldn’t buy an electric or hybrid in 1990; today there are dozens of models to choose from. Cleaner fuels and vehicle emission control technologies have had a dramatic impact in cutting particle pollution and smog, especially in urban areas, cut our oil use and save money.

The scenic vistas in our national parks and wilderness areas are clearer due to reductions in pollution-caused haze. Clean Air Act programs have cut pollution over broad regions, and further visibility improvements are taking place through state regional haze plans mandated by the 1990 amendments that are now in place for virtually all the states. Toxic pollutants were another focus of the 1990 amendments. Since 1990, as a result of toxic emissions standards for industrial facilities, there are about 1.5 million fewer tons of toxic air pollution released each year, as well as large reductions due to vehicle and fuels standards. This trend will continue as we implement newer programs like our Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and the Tier 3 Vehicle and Fuel Standards to further reduce toxic pollution.

As we work to reduce today’s health and environmental risks from air pollution, including risks from climate change and other major environmental issues, it is encouraging to look back and see how far we have come. I imagine that our 1990 selves would be impressed by the internet, smartphones and electric vehicles. I hope that 25 years from now an EPA official will write a blog post – or whatever they write in 2040 – to commemorate how much more progress has been made. As Congress overwhelmingly agreed in 1990, clean air is a public health issue, not a political one. We all deserve to breathe clean air and to live in a safe environment.

For more information on progress cleaning the air, remaining air pollution and climate protection challenges, and the Clean Air Act, see the EPA’s CAA Overview web site.

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EPA Takes Next Steps to Protect Drinking Water from Harmful Algal Blooms

2015 brought a summer of green water, with many areas of the nation seeing a record year for the growth of harmful algal blooms (HABs) in rivers and lakes – including a 700-mile long bloom on the Ohio River and the largest bloom ever in Lake Erie. These HABs contain toxins that pose serious risks to our health and drinking water quality. EPA estimates that between 30 and 48 million people use drinking water from lakes and reservoirs that may be vulnerable to contamination by algal toxins. In 2014, the City of Toledo had to curtail drinking water use for three days as a result in Lake Erie, which supplies the city’s drinking water.

Last spring EPA issued health advisory values that states and utilities can use to protect Americans from elevated levels of algal toxins in drinking water. We also provided recommendations to water system operators on how to monitor and treat drinking water for algal toxins and notify the public if drinking water exceeds protective levels. Additionally, we are working with NASA, NOAA, and the U.S. Geological Survey to develop an early warning indicator system and mobile app powered by satellite data to detect algal blooms.

Today, we’re releasing a comprehensive strategic plan outlining ongoing actions to address algal toxins in drinking water. Solving the challenge of algal toxins in drinking water will require action at all levels of government and approaches that are collaborative, innovative, and persistent. EPA will work closely with other federal agencies, state and local governments, and the public to provide scientific and technical leadership on a number of fronts, including health effects studies. We will work on treatment techniques and monitoring technologies, develop innovative mapping tools to help protect drinking water sources, provide technical support to states and public water systems, issue health advisories, and support activities to protect drinking water sources.

In the next year alone, EPA intends to:

  • Develop and propose recreational water quality criteria for two types of algal toxins (microcystins and cylindrospermopsin), which will help protect people who paddle, swim, and spend time by the water.
  • Collaborate on workshops to address HABs’ impacts on drinking water and activities to protect drinking water sources.
  • Evaluate whether to include certain cyanotoxins in the fourth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, which will require the collection of drinking water to better understand whether these toxins are present in drinking water systems.
  • Assist utilities in managing the risks from cyanotoxins to drinking water.
  • Publish monitoring data for cyanobacteria and microcystins in the National Aquatic Resource Survey National Lakes Assessment.
  • Accelerate development and use of technologies that can recover nitrogen and phosphorus from animal manure and generate value-added products by partnering with the dairy and swine industries on the Nutrient Recycling Challenge.
  • Improve EPA’s Drinking Water Mapping Application for Protecting Source Waters.
  • Co-lead an interagency working group to develop a Comprehensive Research Plan and Action Strategy to address marine and freshwater HABs and hypoxia.
  • Provide funding for critical projects that reduce nutrient pollution that fuels HABs in the Great Lakes.

Algal toxins are a growing problem in the United States
Naturally occurring blue-green algae in surface water can form HABs. Some species of HABs produce toxic compounds, called algal toxins or cyanotoxins, which can pose health risks to humans and animals. These blooms and their toxins are more than a nuisance – they also have the ability to cause fish kills and contaminate drinking water supplies. Their presence can disrupt recreational activities and harm the liver, kidney, and nervous system.

HABs are a national problem that is growing in frequency and duration across the country. Excess nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) pollution is a leading factor contributing to HAB formation in water bodies. These excess nutrients can originate from urban, agricultural, and industrial sources as well as from atmospheric deposition. Additionally, increased temperatures and changes in frequency and intensity of rainfall associated with climate change can also favor bloom formation. Three significant HAB events plagued parts of the nation the summer of 2015, including:

  • A massive toxic bloom in marine waters that hit the west coast extending from central California to Alaska with some of the highest bloom-related toxin levels ever reported,
  • The largest biomass of algae ever recorded on Lake Erie,
  • A river algal bloom in the Ohio River spanning over 700 miles from Wheeling, WV to Louisville, KY.

The cost of these events is significant and impacts our ability to work, our health, and our environment.  In 2015 alone, we had numerous closures of fisheries and beaches as well as increased costs for treating drinking water for the millions of people that rely on Lake Erie and the Ohio River for their drinking water. The good news is that no drinking water systems stopped service to customers due to algal toxin contamination this year. Unfortunately, this was not the case in 2014, when another large HAB on Lake Erie impacted Toledo, Ohio’s finished drinking water. The elevated levels of a cyanotoxin called microcystin in the city’s drinking water led to a state of emergency in OH, preventing approximately half a million people access to safe public drinking water for over two days.

This wasn’t the first drinking water system to be impacted by cyanotoxins, but this event in Toledo highlighted the need to strategically address HABs in drinking water across the country.

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Celebrating Two Legendary Environmental Champions

By Gina McCarthy

Today, President Obama named this year’s recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian honor. I am thrilled and proud that two environmental champions—William Ruckelshaus and Billy Frank, Jr.—are among the seventeen honorees.

William Ruckelshaus

William Ruckelshaus

William Ruckelshaus was the first Administrator of the EPA, appointed by President Nixon when the agency was created in 1970. He compiled an astonishing list of accomplishments in three short years: banning the dangerous pesticide DDT; setting the first air quality standards to protect public health under the fledgling Clean Air Act; establishing standards for cleaner cars and lead-free gasoline; building an environmental law-enforcement program with teeth; creating clean-water-permit requirements for cities and industries; and building a foundation for so many of the environmental protections we now take for granted.

During the 1960s, smog in many cities had become deadly and rivers were so polluted they caught on fire. Ruckelshaus helped set the nation on a new path to protect and preserve our environment, and in turn, our health. And he established a set of core values that still drive this agency today: respecting the law, following the science, and operating openly and transparently.

In 1973, he was tapped to serve as Acting FBI Director, and soon after as Deputy Attorney General—a position which spanned the Watergate crisis and from which he resigned as a matter of integrity and principle. In 1983, Ruckelshaus returned to EPA for a second stint in which he launched our Superfund program—initiating clean-up of thousands of contaminated sites across America. He also started work on Chesapeake Bay protections, and set the agency on a course to address the challenge of acid rain.

Ruckelshaus is remembered at EPA for his integrity and his commitment to protecting public health and the environment. Today, he continues to advance his legacy of collaborative problem solving on tough environmental issues at the University of Washington and Washington State University.

Billy Frank Jr. - Photo: Washington LSS

Billy Frank Jr. – Photo: Washington LSS

Similarly, Billy Frank, Jr., a Nisqually tribal member, was a tireless advocate for environmental stewardship and Indian treaty rights, which we continue to work on today. Frank’s work on tribal management of salmon resources helped paved the way for the 1974 “Boldt decision.” This was a hugely important legal precedent requiring the federal government to honor tribal treaty rights.

During the tribal Fish Wars of the 1960s and 1970s, when activists from dozens of Northwest tribes demanded that the treaties their ancestors signed with white settlers be honored, Frank led “fish-ins,” modeled after the sit-ins of the civil rights movement. His magnetic personality and tireless advocacy over more than five decades made him a revered figure both domestically and abroad.

Frank chaired the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission for more than 30 years, supporting natural resource management among the 20 treaty Indian tribes in western Washington. Upon his death in 2014, the Nisqually tribe stated, “Billy dedicated his life to protecting our traditional way of life and our salmon for more than 60 years.” Washington governor Jay Inslee wrote, “Billy was a champion of tribal rights of the salmon, and the environment. He did that even when it meant putting himself in physical danger or facing jail.”

Frank was the recipient of many awards, including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Distinguished Service Award for Humanitarian Achievement. Frank left an Indian Country strengthened by greater sovereignty and a nation fortified by his example of service to one’s community, his humility, and his dedication to the principles of human rights and environmental sustainability.

I am proud that one of our nation’s most extraordinary public servants and one of its most extraordinary environmental advocates are receiving this high honor. Americans today are healthier, the environment is safer, and tribal treaty rights are intact thanks to the tireless efforts of these two leaders. Please join me in congratulating Bill Ruckelshaus and the family of Billy Frank, Jr.



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Recycling Saves Resources and Creates Green Jobs

By Mathy Stanislaus

Recycling is an important and significant aspect of a material’s lifecycle. It helps reduce the use of raw materials in the manufacturing sector and conserves resources like timber, water and minerals. Over the next 15 years, global demand for materials is predicted to rise more than 35 percent. This makes the efficient use of natural resources vital for economic development. In an effort to promote resource conservation across the globe, leaders from the world’s largest economies formed The Alliance for Resource Efficiency.

The Alliance is an international initiative dedicated to developing new strategies for environmental conservation in ways that promote sustainable management of our natural resources. In the United States, we call this sustainable materials management, or SMM. SMM encourages consumers, businesses and communities to consider the entire lifecycle of the materials we use – from extraction or harvest of materials and food (e.g., mining, forestry, and agriculture), to production and transport of goods, provision of services, reuse of materials, and, if necessary, disposal. Considering the full lifecycle of a product allows us to minimize environmental impacts as we use and manage material resources flowing through the economy.

In the last several decades, through improved materials management practices, we have successfully raised the national recycling rate to 34%, reducing 186 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions annually. That rate represents 87 million tons of material that were recycled or composted. Every 10,000 metric tons of recyclables generates 37 jobs, which equates to $1.1 million in wages and $330,000 in tax revenues . By working together consumers, businesses and communities can build on this success.


Consider buying used clothing and building materials at reuse centers and consignment shops – they can be just as durable as a new product and save you money. Instead of discarding unwanted appliances, tools and electronics, try selling or donating them. This not only reduces waste, but it also benefits the community. What’s more, donating used items prevents goods from ending up in landfills and may create a tax benefit. Also, look for products with less packaging. The money manufacturers save by using less packaging is often passed down to you.


Businesses can utilize lifecycle analysis to make better decisions during product design, such as using fewer toxics and more materials that have a longer, useful life. To help conserve resources, businesses can practice careful industrial and product design that minimizes the use of virgin materials and reuses them in an effort to reduce environmental impacts.

Companies can establish policies that support using and purchasing recycled products and materials. By expanding workplace recycling programs to include all types of paper, businesses can reduce paper waste. Installing built-in recycling centers and receptacles throughout buildings can encourage employees to rethink how they dispose of their wastes.


Communities can make efforts to encourage and collaborate with both businesses and consumers. This can help ensure that materials are used more efficiently and effectively. Government organizations can also begin to create awareness for the environmental consequences of our actions when using materials and purchasing products.

Local governments have a central role in increasing recycling in their communities, as they are responsible for implementing effective materials management strategies in their areas. They can do their part to make recycling a priority by ensuring residents are aware of regulation and policies that simplify recycling in their homes.

Ongoing Efforts

Next spring, we will host an event on sustainable supply chains with a focus on the automotive sector. The workshop will focus on identifying and sharing best practices and successes that are transferrable to other industries.

This event, and many other promising efforts to come, brings us closer to advancing SMM and combating climate change both domestically and internationally. I am proud and excited to be a part of a strategic initiative that will help the United States achieve economic, social and environmental sustainability.

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Women Businesses-Owners Lead the Way with Safer Products

By Gina McCarthy

Administrator Gina McCarthy and Assistant Administrator Jim Jones with women owners of businesses that manufacture Safer Choice products.

Elisa Cuan immigrated to the United States from Peru at the age of 16. After battling allergies for many years, she set out to learn more about the science behind air quality and allergens. She vowed to help prevent others from suffering the way she had.

Meanwhile, Mary Anne Auer, a registered nurse, saw first-hand that cleaning measures are essential to protecting medical staff and patients. She wanted to make sure that the products being used to keep people healthy weren’t also causing damage.

Today, both women are CEOs. And they both run companies that carry products with EPA’s Safer Choice label.

Last Friday, I sat down with Elisa from JOSELI LLC, Mary Anne from Wexford Labs, Inc. and other women CEOs and senior managers from Earth Friendly Products, Grignard Company LLC, Case Medical, Sun Products, Jelmar, LLC, Osprey Biotechnics, and State Industrial Products.

All of these companies voluntarily participate in EPA’s Safer Choice Program. And all of them are run by women. In fact, women-owned and women-run businesses were incredibly well represented at this year’s Safer Choice Partner of the Year awards, which recognizes achievements in the design, manufacture, and promotion of Safer Choice products into the marketplace.

During Friday’s discussion, I heard from many of this year’s awardees about opportunities for innovation, barriers to progress, and ways that women-owned businesses can play a leading role in the shift toward safer products.

Safer Choice is about empowering parents and families to choose household products that use safer ingredients. Whether its kitchen & bath cleaners, carpet cleaners, or laundry detergents – when consumers see the Safer Choice label, they can feel good about the products being used around their kids, grandkids, and pets.

That’s because Safer Choice products are backed by rigorous EPA science. Our experts use a stringent set of health and environmental safety standards to review products for the program. So when consumers see the label, they know it’s a credible stamp they can trust.

After meeting Mary Anne and Elisa and other women leaders on Friday, it was crystal clear that these women aren’t just health-conscious, they’re also business-savvy.

They know that safer products aren’t just healthier for people, and better for the environment, they’re also profitable. They recognize that using safer chemicals creates competition. It promotes consumer choice. It brings newer, better products to market that people want to buy.

Innovation in safer products presents an incredible business opportunity, and the CEOs I met with on Friday are seizing it. They are some of the best and brightest minds in product innovation – and they also happen to be fearless females.

At Wexford Labs, Mary Anne leads the development of disinfectants and antimicrobials that can keep people healthy and safe at the same time. Two of Wexford Labs products are Safer Choice certified.

At Joseli LLC, Elisa helped develop and introduce a dust-control product to the global marketplace that is Safer-Choice certified. All of the green technology solutions developed by her company are 100% biodegradable.

Elisa and Mary Anne are just two examples of a trend toward the use of products that are health- and Earth-friendly. Today, more than 2,000 products qualify to carry the Safer Choice label. And the list is growing.

Coincidence or not, many of those leading the way are women.

I’ve been in the business of protecting public health and the environment for more than three decades. Today, many more women have visible leadership roles in this arena – whether it’s in government, academia, or the private sector. But we have a long way to go.

Friday’s conversation left me more optimistic than ever. And I can’t wait to see what comes next.

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The Role of Biomass in Achieving Clean Power Plan Goals – A 2016 Workshop to Foster a Constructive Discussion

By Janet McCabe

Since issuing the Clean Power Plan (CPP), states and stakeholders have shown a strong interest in the role biomass can play in state plans to reduce carbon emissions under the rule. Many states are seeking to better understand how maintaining and building on their existing approaches to sound carbon- and greenhouse gas (GHG)-beneficial forestry and land management practices can yield biomass resources that will help them meet their CPP goals, and how to craft plans that will be federally approvable under the final CPP guidelines. To respond to this interest and to support state and stakeholder efforts to incorporate bioenergy in their CPP plans, we will be holding a public workshop in early 2016 for stakeholders to share their successes, experiences and approaches to deploying biomass in ways that have been, and can be, carbon beneficial.

The president’s Climate Action Plan and a range of the administration’s policies recognize that America’s forests and other lands must continue to play an essential role in mitigating the effects of carbon pollution. Biomass derived from land that is managed under programs that ensure the long-term maintenance of healthy forests can serve as an integral part of a broader forestry-based climate strategy, so the CPP expressly includes bioenergy as an option for states and utilities in CPP compliance.  It reflects the fact that, in many cases, biomass and bioenergy products in the power system can be an integral part of state programs and foster responsible land management and renewable energy.

State flexibility is a key component of the CPP. It recognizes the unique circumstances of each state’s energy mix and approaches to energy efficiency and renewable energy.  Many states already have extensive expertise in sound carbon- and GHG-beneficial forestry and land management practices, and the CPP’s flexibility will give states the ability to build in approaches to biomass and bioenergy unique to their forests and land management programs and policies.  It recognizes the importance of forests and other lands for climate resilience – in addition to the carbon benefits of biomass – fostered by a variety of land use policies, renewable energy incentives and standards, and GHG strategies. Working with stakeholders, these states promote viable forestry and agricultural product markets, which help protect and preserve healthy and productive lands and contribute to the continued and improved management of these lands.

That is why the CPP creates a pathway for states to use biomass as part of their plans to meet their emission reduction guidelines, and we expect many states to include biomass as a component in their state plans. We look forward to reviewing plans that incorporate well-developed forestry and other land management programs producing biomass that can qualify under the guidelines laid out in the CPP, and we are confident that the CPP offers sufficient lead time and flexibility for states to develop approvable programs.

So a key goal of the workshop we’ll be holding is to provide an opportunity for states with well-developed forestry and land management practices to share their experiences.  Another is to foster a constructive dialogue about how states can best include biomass in their compliance plans if that is a path they choose to follow.  The workshop will showcase the constructive compliance approaches many states are already implementing or developing.  And to prepare for the workshop, our first step is to reach out to key stakeholders to get ideas on the agenda.

We look forward to working with states and stakeholders to ensure that biomass continues to play an important role in accomplishing our climate change goals. Open lines of communication and sharing information helped shape the final Clean Power Plan, and continued constructive engagement will be vital for us to achieve significant climate and health benefits as we implement the CPP.

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The Story of a Veteran

By John E. Reeder

I remember my first Veterans Day after I began working at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  At first I didn’t realize we had the day off.  I’d been assigned to work with a more senior staff member, a Vietnam vet, who said “of course” Veterans Day is a federal holiday, “to honor our vets…to honor you!”

I joined the U.S. Army right out of high school, in part to help me pay for college, in part to see the world, and in part because I had a bug about public service.  Then, I spent a good part of my college and graduate school years downplaying my military service. Not that I was embarrassed, but it always seemed to need an explanation and I just wanted to blend into the college scene.  I joined the army in 1979, at a time when the military was having trouble recruiting anyone with a high school degree.  So, I often got a quizzical look when people learned I had enlisted in the army, followed by, “what’d you do that for?”  By the time I finished college and grad school, my service seemed like a story from someone else’s life.

For many men and women, military service is a life-shaping experience. It certainly was for me. I grew up on a farm in Minnesota, and had never been to a military installation. I knew my great grandfather served in the Civil War, and then homesteaded our family’s farm in Minnesota.  However, our family didn’t have a military tradition. So, when I turned 17 and told my parents I was joining the army, it was the first time I saw my father cry.  It was all very foreign to them. We were baling hay one day, and the next I was shipped off to Alabama for basic training (my first time on an airplane!).

I know my parents worried every step of the way, , but my military service wasn’t any real hardship or dangerous. I spent 2000 hours in a guard tower during my 20 months in Germany, and on my days off I got to go sightseeing throughout Germany and parts of France. I made amazing friends, bonded by the shared experience of shipping off to basic training and having no idea where we’d end up.  We were all making a move of some sort, away from or toward something.  While intersecting for a brief point in our lives, we did our jobs and made memories that lasted forever. I think it’s that way for a lot of young men and women in the military.

Everyone who has served in the military has given something of themselves. They gave their time, they trained and prepared for potentially risky assignments. They went to forward locations, or they went into battle.  Or, maybe they sat in guard towers in Germany.  But, they all stepped out of the life they had, and gave themselves to the larger endeavor of protecting America.

There have been millions of service men and women before me, and after me.  Many have seen the horrors of war, and suffered physical or psychological damage. There are no words to thank them enough.  Many have done their time and left, like I did.  Some stayed for full careers.

What we know for sure is that every day and through the night, around the globe, there have been and will be American service men and women on duty monitoring radar, patrolling perimeters, assessing threats, and deterring our enemies. They are standing ready to put their life on the line so we can expect to wake up each morning, take our kids to school, and go to work.  We expect that our businesses can do business, our schools can teach, our utilities can deliver services, and we can fly or ride wherever we want any day. It’s hard to even imagine war on our soil, and that is truly the most amazing gift from many, many generations of American veterans.

Thank you veterans.

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EPA Honors 2015 Green Power Leaders

By Janet McCabe

On October 19th, I had the honor of presenting EPA’s 15th Annual Green Power Leadership Awards to 25 organizations that are leading the charge in using renewable energy and setting an example for their peers, helping to accelerate development of a strong clean energy portfolio nationwide. The awards honor a range of organizations for innovative achievements in acquiring and using renewable electricity as well as commitments to responding to climate change.

In addition to large corporations, nonprofit and educational institutions were also highlighted. From Northwestern University, to Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences, Tucson Unified School District, and the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, these groups educate students and the public about the environment. For instance, Crossroads School (K-12) in Santa Monica, California sourced 100 percent of their electricity use from wind, biomass, and biogas resources through a collective procurement and includes green power in its academic curriculum. And at Phipps, a public garden in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with 100 percent of its electricity sourced from renewable resources, its 350,000+ visitors annually get an in-depth look at photovoltaic arrays, a wind turbine, geothermal wells, and many, many other sustainable energy features—all within a single accessible site. In addition, Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) installed one of the largest on-site solar generation projects at a K-12 school system in the nation last year, and shares the lessons it learned far and wide. TUSD also is working closely with a local Native American tribe on developing its own solar project.

As we’ve seen in the past few years, local governments are doing more with green power. This year’s government winners—Government of the District of Columbia, Ulster County, NY, and the City of Hayward CA Water Pollution Control Facility (WPCF)—are leading the way in innovative approaches. For instance, Hayward WPCF’s new cogeneration facility uses the methane produced from the digesters as fuel. Waste heat from the new cogeneration system is captured and used to heat the city’s anaerobic digesters, further reducing reliance on natural gas formerly used to heat the sludge during colder months of the year. This cogeneration facility, along with the facility’s solar array, produces more renewable electricity than it needs, so it exports the excess renewable electricity to other city facilities.

The Sustained Excellence category winners – Intel, Kohl’s, and TD Bank – continue to uphold their outstanding work in driving the green energy market, and first-time winners like Traditional Medicinals and National Hockey League have been investing in sustainable operations, including clean energy and electricity use, for years. What a tremendous inspiration for all!
The Green Power Leadership Awards are sponsored by EPA’s Green Power Partnership Program in collaboration with the Center for Resource Solutions. See the award list for more about all the green power leaders.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Join the Fight against Childhood Lead Poisoning

By Jim Jones

Why is it so hard to prevent childhood lead poisoning? Lead paint was banned over 30 years ago, but lead poisoning continues to plague communities across the country. One thing that makes this problem so hard to solve is that millions of homes built before the lead paint ban in 1978 still contain lead paint. In fact, lead from paint, particularly lead-contaminated dust, is one of the most common causes of lead poisoning.

Lead can cause decreases in IQ, nervous system damage and behavioral changes, which not only can change a person, but can significantly impact a community. Every individual exposed to lead could mean one less child going to college or one more violent crime next door.

Here at EPA we work hard every day to spread awareness about the dangers of lead, provide advice on preventing lead poisoning and enforce our Renovation Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule, which requires the use of lead-safe work practices during renovations in older homes. But we can’t do it alone.

The solution lies in everyone playing a role. We need state and local governments to ensure that communities with the greatest risk for lead poisoning become a priority for action. We also need help from community organizations and concerned citizens. Organizations need to help families find lead-safe housing. Teachers need to help educate our families. Individuals need to be aware in order to protect themselves and their families.

Wondering what you can do to prevent lead from ever affecting your kids, your grandchildren, or your best friend?

  • Get your home tested. If your home was built before 1978, there is a good chance it has lead-based paint. Find a certified inspector or risk assessor to get your home checked for lead hazards.
  • Get your child tested. Find out if your child has elevated levels of lead in his or her blood. You can test your child for lead poisoning by asking your pediatrician to do a simple blood test.
  • Help spread the word about Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, happening now! Join our Twitter Townhall on October 28, 2015 at 2 pm EST by following @EPAlive and using the hashtag #LeadChat2015. We’ll be answering questions and providing tips on how to protect your family from lead poisoning.

The good news in this story is lead poisoning is 100% preventable. Everyone is responsible for preventing lead poisoning; we need all hands on deck!

Learn more about lead and get tips to protect your family.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.