Jim Jones

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American Innovators are Cracking the Code to Solve Environmental Problems

Two weeks ago, I visited the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, which is across the street from my office here at EPA. Its new American Enterprise exhibition in the museum’s recently opened Innovators wing is packed with breakthroughs of the last few centuries. From the light bulb to medical and farm devices to personal computers you’re struck by how creativity and ingenuity played a role in our country’s history and progress.

The same is proving to be true for environmental progress. American innovation is playing a pivotal role in helping us solve environmental issues such as climate change, limited water resources, waste and chemical safety, turning these problems into business opportunities and spurring investment.

Today we’re announcing the winners of the 20th Annual Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards, another opportunity to celebrate the power of American innovation and entrepreneurs that bring these technologies to the marketplace.

Take a look at the 2015 innovative winning technologies and pictures from the award ceremony!

Developing Safer Floors, Wood Furniture and Foam Insulation. Hybrid Coating Technologies/Nanotech Industries (Daly City, California) developed a safer polyurethane that isn’t made with isocyanates, which causes skin and breathing problems and workplace asthma. Isocyanates have always been used in making polyurethane, most often a flexible plastic material used in many consumer products, and last year the U.S. produced 5.5 billion pounds of it. So, this is clearly a breakthrough technology. The technology is also reducing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and manufacturing costs and making the end products safer for people and the environment.

Producing Safer Additives for Car Lubricants and Gasoline. SOLTEX (Synthetic Oils and Lubricants of Texas, Houston, Texas) has developed a technology that, if widely used, could eliminate millions of gallons of wastewater per year and reduce the use of a hazardous chemical by 50 percent. The technology has the potential to improve the production of other products such as caulks, adhesives, and personal care products.

Using Waste Gas to Create Products.
LanzaTech (Skokie, Illinois) is using waste gas from steel plants to create fuels and chemicals while reducing the carbon footprint. A facility captures and converts the gas, which would otherwise be emitted into the air, into a substance with commercial value. Two facilities already use the technology to produce 100,000 gallons per year of ethanol. This technology is an excellent example of creating valuable fuel from waste.

Creating Fuel from Algae
Algenol (Fort Myers, Florida) developed a blue-green algae that can be used to create valuable fuel. The technology combines sunlight with waste carbon dioxide from air or industrial emitters to create fuel while dramatically reducing costs, water usage, and carbon footprint. The ethanol and green crude produced are substitutes for petroleum-derived fuels and chemicals.

Using Consumer and Municipal Trash to Make Products. Renmatix (King of Prussia, Pennsylvania) developed a cost-effective process using high temperature and high pressure water to break down woody biomass, plant material, and even some municipal waste into sugars to make plant-based chemicals and fuels. Production can be set up with whatever plant-based material is available. The production also can be set up anywhere, which makes the technology easy to replicate regionally and globally. The technology could significantly reduce dependence on petroleum-based chemicals and fuels.

Using Plants to Make Plastics, Chemicals and Fuels. Professor Eugene Chen of Colorado State University developed a process that uses plant-based materials in the production of renewable chemicals and liquid fuels. This new technology is waste-free and metal-free. It offers significant potential for the production of renewable chemicals, fuels, and bioplastics that can be used in a wide range of safer industrial and consumer products.

I am confident that these types of innovative technologies will be showcased in future exhibits highlighting American innovation. The winners have great scientific expertise and keen business sense. Their innovative technologies have the potential to be “game changers” to solve important environmental problems and show that we can innovate towards a sustainable economy.

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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Integrating Environmental Justice Into Our Work

We work to achieve our mission to protect public health and the environment in a myriad of ways by providing for grants to states, incentive programs, and technical assistance – but we also issue rules. And, because we’re committed to environmental justice, we want to ensure that our regulations serve all people, including those who are often the most impacted by environmental harm and public health concerns.

We’ve been integrating environmental justice into our rules for years. Today, we’re advancing our efforts by releasing our final Guidance on Considering Environmental Justice During the Development of a Regulatory Action. Building on our July 2010 interim guidance, this is an essential resource that gives our rulemaking teams the tools, guidance and specific strategies they need to consider environmental justice. This final guidance helps us expand the scope and impact we have in American communities.

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The guidance will also continue the commitment we’ve had to environmental justice since President Clinton signed Executive Order 12898 directing federal agencies to address disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects on minority and low-income populations. Over the past year, our rulemaking teams have been hard at work engaging communities, learning about the environmental impacts that affect them, and developing rules with these considerations in mind. Here are a few examples:

  • Earlier this year, we released our final Definition of Solid Waste Rule, which addresses the disproportionate impacts on minority and low-income populations from when hazardous materials are mismanaged and sent to recycling. We conducted a rigorous environmental justice analysis that examined the location of recycling facilities and their proximity and potential impact to adjacent residents. This process led to a final rule that encourages safe and legitimate recycling, and that gives communities a voice prior to recycling operations beginning.
  • In June of 2014, we proposed an updated rule to achieve further controls on toxic air emissions from petroleum refineries. In addition to evaluating the lessons learned from enforcement settlements, and data analysis from an extensive data collection effort, we conducted robust community engagement. This included community conference calls, webinars, trainings and public hearings to learn from those affected, and help them understand how the proposed rule could help. The proposed rule includes requirements that will benefit these communities, including emission controls for storage tanks, flares and coking units; higher combustion efficiency for flaring operations; and monitoring of air concentrations at the fenceline of refinery facilities.
  • In March of 2014, we published a proposed rule to revise the current Worker Protection Standard, designed to protect the nation’s two million farmworkers and their families from exposure to pesticides. It will afford farm workers similar health protections to those already enjoyed by workers in other jobs. In developing the proposed and final rules, we sought extensive input from the farmworker community. The final rule expected this fall will help protect farm workers and their families through better training, increased access to information, improved safety precautions, and modernized compliance standards.

These are just three examples – see more by reading our memo to EPA staff announcing the final guidance. We take seriously our obligation to lead on environmental justice, and to set an example for others. Administrator McCarthy has set the tone, and this final guidance supports her leadership. It’s another way we’re doing our part to fulfill the spirit of Executive Order 12898, and to protect our environment and every American’s fundamental right to breathe clean air, drink clean water and live on clean land.

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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Farmers Shift Towards Virtually Non-Toxic Alternatives for Pest Control

When you’ve had mosquitos in your yard, you might have lit a citronella candle, or you might have used some garlic oil to reduce the number of aphids in your garden. At some point we’ve all done something to reduce the number of pests in our environment. When their populations get out of control they can spread and cause disease, and destroy farmers’ crops.

There’s a whole range of what we call biological pesticides, or “biopesticides,” that are made of naturally occurring substances derived from animals, plants, bacteria, fungi and minerals – like citronella, garlic oil and acetic acid. The great news about biopesticides is that they are virtually non-toxic to people and the environment. They usually target specific pests, reducing risks to beneficial insects, birds and mammals. Even better, they’re becoming more common – and that means that safer alternatives to control pests are becoming more widely available.

Biopesticides have long been used in organic farming, but their use in conventional farming is growing now as well. We created a new division focused on raising the profile of biopesticides and helping them to get licensed. Our Biopesticides Division has registered more than 430 biological active ingredients and, in partnership with the USDA, awarded over 70 grants across the country to research biopesticides for specialty and minor crops. Our more efficient registration process for biopesticides helps keep up with demand. We’re helping agriculture to shift towards biopesticides, and minimizing risks to people and the environment.

The use of biopesticides in U.S. agriculture has more than quadrupled lately, going from 900,000 pounds of active ingredient applied in 2000 to 4.1 million pounds in 2012, the most recent year for which we have data. Nearly 18 million acres are being treated with biopesticides, producing crops that are better for people’s health and the planet. Many farmers use them as part of their Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs so they can rely less on higher-risk pesticides and effectively produce higher crop yields and quality with lower impact on the environment.

I’m thrilled to see a significant and steady increase in the registration of new biopesticide products as well as demand from farmers, growers, retailers and consumers. We have long been committed to encouraging the development and use of low-risk biopesticides as alternatives to conventional chemical pesticides, and our commitment and efforts will continue over time.

For more about our efforts with pesticides, visit: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/.

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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Want Kids to Do Better in School? This Environmental Approach Can Help

Schools are busy places, with bustling schoolyards, kitchens full of lunchboxes and trays, and kids and adults who constantly come and go. These busy environments can sometimes have pest problems that need to be addressed – like flies, spiders, yellow jackets, roaches and ants, for example.

As a parent, I know how important it is to me that my kids and their classmates have a healthy environment to learn, thrive and grow. Unhealthy school environments – including poor air quality — can affect children’s health, attendance, concentration and performance. Pest exposure can also trigger asthma, which can cause kids to miss class and a chance to learn.

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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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Working Across the Globe to Tackle Risks from Lead in Paint

It’s striking to me that children in developing countries still face serious health threats because lead continues to be legally used in paints in places where children live and play. Paints with concentrations as high as 10,000 ppm can be sold and used in homes and schools because there are no legal limits on lead. In addition, children may also be exposed to risks from lead in the air, soil and water in these countries. Lead is particularly dangerous to children because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults do and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.

That’s why last month in New Delhi, India, we stood with our partners in the Global Alliance to End Lead Paint to work toward establishing legal limits on lead in decorative paint in other countries. We presented elements of U.S. legislation and coordinated technical expertise from the U.S. and countries around the world.

group picture of conference attendees

At home in the U.S., we already have in place federal and state regulatory standards that have helped minimize or eliminate the amount of lead in gas, air, drinking water, soil, consumer products, food, and the workplace. Our health and environment has significantly improved with these restrictions and blood lead levels have declined. The median concentration of lead in the blood of children between the ages of 1 and 5 years dropped from 15 µg/dL in 1976-1980 to 1.2 µg/dL in 2009-2010.

However, our work is not done. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 2009-2012 show an estimated 535,000 children (or 2.1 percent of children) in the U.S. have blood lead levels greater than or equal to 5 micrograms per deciliter, levels known to put children’s academic and later life success at risk. Also, CDC’s blood lead surveillance data, collected from state and local health departments, continues to identify a disproportionate share of children with elevated blood comes from low income and minority communities. Finally, it is estimated that 37 million homes still contain lead-based paint.

Because there is no known safe blood lead level for children, EPA and other federal partners continue to work together to control or eliminate lead hazards before children are exposed. While we have made significant progress to reduce children’s exposure to lead, there is still more work to do.

Find out more about reducing risk from lead.

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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American Innovators Step in Again – This Time to Tackle Pesticide Spray Drift and Protect People and the Environment

When I am out in the field in rural farm communities it’s obvious to me that when pesticides drift it creates problems for everyone. Drift happens when pesticide application sprays and dusts move through the air and land where they’re not intended to be. Both farmers and neighbors want them landing on the crop rather than on nearby properties, streams, and wildlife.

American innovators are stepping in to solve the problem. For several years, EPA has worked with innovators from government to industry to academia to facilitate a viable approach to pesticide drift. These innovators are turning the drift problem into a business opportunity, spurring innovation.

We are now launching the Drift Reduction Technology (DRT) program, which has the potential to reduce up to 90 percent of pesticide drift. The voluntary program encourages the manufacture, marketing and use of safer spray technologies and equipment (like low drift nozzles, spray shields and certain drift-reduction oils or other liquids that can be added to the pesticide spray tank), scientifically verified to significantly reduce pesticide drift.

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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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Who Are This Year’s Innovators Tackling Climate Change and Promoting Energy Efficiency?

The 2014 winners of the Presidential Green Chemistry Awards have done it again. These scientists are helping to crack the code and solve some of the most challenging problems facing our modern society. They are turning climate risk and other problems into a business opportunity, spurring innovation and investment. They are reducing waste – energy, chemicals and water waste – while cutting manufacturing costs, and sparking investments.
Take a look at some of this year’s promising innovations:

New Bus Fuel Could Reduce Greenhouse Gases by 82%. Making and burning this new fuel could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to petroleum diesel. Amyris (in California) has engineered a yeast to make a renewable fuel replacement for petroleum diesel. Since carbon pollution increases our costs in health care and other impacts, this technology could save tens of thousands of dollars each year.

New LED Lighting Material Could Save you 36% on Energy Bills. If QD Vision, Inc’s (in Massachusetts) technology were used in just 10% of flat-screen TVs, we could save 600 million kilowatt-hours worldwide every year – enough to provide electricity for 50,000 homes for one year! Even better, producing these materials avoids the need for about 40,000 gallons of solvents per year. This technology brings massive energy savings and is good for the planet, with reduced carbon emissions, heavy metals emissions, and less use of toxic chemicals.

New Safer Firefighting foam. This new foam doesn’t contain persistent toxic chemicals that can accumulate in our blood and that of animals. The Solberg Company (in Wisconsin) used surfactants and sugars that can fight fires more effectively than before. One of the world’s largest oil and gas companies will use it to fight fuel fires and spills. The product works better and is safer – a win-win for industry and for protecting our health and the environment.

Making Pills While Reducing Chemicals and Waste. The manufacturing process for pills can create toxic waste. Professor Shannon S. Stahl at the University of Wisconsin has discovered a way to safely use oxygen instead of hazardous chemicals in a step commonly used while making medicine. If brought to market, these methods could have a big impact on the industry, reducing chemicals, reducing waste, and saving companies time and money.

Making Soaps, Laundry Detergents, Food Products, and Fuels While Reducing Energy and Water Use, Waste, and Impacts on Forests. These everyday products can now be produced with much less energy, water, and waste, thus saving money. Solazyme, Inc. (in California) has developed novel oils from sugar and engineered algae in a way that significantly reduces the environmental effects that typically occur in producing and processing some oils. Also, the company’s palm-oil equivalent can help reduce deforestation and greenhouse gases that can occur from cultivation of palm oil.

As you can see, the Presidential Green Chemistry Award winners are solving real-world problems through scientific innovations. These prestigious awards are challenging American researchers and innovators to use their talent to improve our health, environment, and the economy.

During the 19 years of EPA’s Green Chemistry program, we have received more than 1,500 nominations and presented awards to 98 technologies. Winning technologies are responsible for annually reducing the use or generation of more than 826 million pounds of hazardous chemicals, saving 21 billion gallons of water, and eliminating 7.8 billion pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent releases to air.

An independent panel of technical experts convened by the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute formally judged the 2014 submissions from among scores of nominated technologies and made recommendations to EPA for the 2014 winners. The 2014 awards event will be held in conjunction with an industry partners’ roundtable.

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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Ayúdenos a elaborar una nueva marca para productos más seguros

Por Jim Jones

El Swoosh. Los Arcos Dorados. Es posible que usted pueda reconocer estos productos sin tener que ver el nombre de la compañía que los fabrica ya que los logotipos simplifican el proceso de identificación de la marcas. ¿Pero, qué se necesita para la creación de un buen logotipo? ¿Qué sería conveniente para que un logo adquiera significado y pueda ser identificado con facilidad?

Ayúdenos a contestar estas preguntas al participar del proceso de rediseño de la etiqueta de aprobación de la EPA. Dicha etiqueta se utiliza para identificar los productos que además de ser de buena calidad también cuentan con los requisitos para ser considerados como seguros para su familia y el medio ambiente. Usted podrá encontrar la etiqueta tanto en artículos de limpieza del hogar, autos e interiores al igual que en productos para el cuidado de su mascota. Eche un vistazo a los diseños de las etiquetas propuestas a continuación y déjenos saber lo que piensa al respecto. Tendrá la oportunidad de dejarnos saber su opinion sobre las propuestas de rediseño hasta el 31 de octubre.

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Cuando observe las opciones, considere detalles como: ¿Cuál de los diseños capta su atención? ¿Qué elementos o detalles transmiten mejor el concepto de productos más seguros para la salud de su familia? ¿Qué le parecen las palabras, gráficas, colores y figuras utilizadas? Valoramos realmente sus aportaciones y comentarios.

En la actualidad, más de 2,500 productos han adoptado la iniciativa de llevar la existente Etiqueta de Productos Más Seguros de EPA. Muchos de estos productos ya se pueden encontrar en los anaqueles de sus tiendas favoritas y los principales detallistas. De hecho, una de las principales cadenas minoristas del mundo al igual que otros importantes minoristas y manufactureros ven la etiqueta como una excelente manera de ayudarles a adoptar prácticas más seguras y un mayor uso de sustancias químicas sostenibles en sus productos. Todos los ingredientes en los productos que llevan la etiqueta pasan por un proceso de evaluacion exhaustivo para asegurar que reúnen los estándares de cualificación para la seguridad y rendimiento.

Gracias por su aportación y por ayudarnos a crear una etiqueta más reconocible para productos seguros y eficaces de uso doméstico para consumidores como usted.

 

Favor de notar que el rediseño no cambiará ni afectará en ninguna manera los estándares del programa. Busque la etiqueta vigente en el empaque de productos domésticos durante la transición mientras se efectúe el rediseño de la etiqueta.

 

 

 

Nota del editor: Las opiniones expresadas aquí tienen la intension de explicar las políticas de EPA. Las mismas no cambian los derechos u obligaciones de ningún individuo.

Le invitamos a compartir esta publicación. Sin embargo, solicitamos que no se cambie el titulo o el contenido. En el caso que se realicen cambios, no atribuya el título o contenido editado a EPA o el autor de este artículo.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Help Us Make a (New) Mark on Safer Products

The Swoosh. The Golden Arches. You probably recognize these companies without even seeing the name of the company. They are symbolic logos of their respective companies. So what makes a great label or logo? How can it be meaningful and easily recognizable?

Help us answer these questions as we redesign the EPA label to help you identify products like laundry and dish detergents, all-purpose cleaners, pet care products and cleaners for cars, decks, RVs and boats that are safer for your family and the environment and also work well. Take a look at the proposed label designs below and let us know what you think by October 31, 2014.

When looking at these options, consider: What is most appealing to you? What best conveys the concept of safer products for your family’s health? What are your thoughts on the words, graphic, colors and shapes? We really value your input and all comments are welcome.

Already, there are more than 2,500 products that carry the existing EPA Safer Product label, many of which can be found on the shelves of your favorite stores and major retailers. In fact, the world’s largest retailer and other major retailers and manufacturers look to the existing label to help them move toward safer, more sustainable chemicals in their products. All ingredients in products that earn the label have undergone a thorough evaluation to ensure they meet high standards for safety and performance.

Thank you for your input and helping us create a more recognizable label for safer and effective household products for consumers like you!

Note: The redesign will in no way change or affect the program standards. Look for the current label on packaging until the transition to the redesigned labe

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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Using Prevention and Biopesticides to Protect against Mosquitoes

A closeup of a mosquito on a person's skinThere are around 200 different species of mosquitoes in the United States, and if you’ve spent time outdoors in warmer weather, you’ve probably encountered a mosquito—or thirty. While itchy bites (a reaction to the mosquito’s saliva) can be annoying, the possibility of mosquito-borne diseases is more worrisome. You may have heard about one that has recently found its way here: the Chikungunya virus.

One of the earliest Chikungunya (meaning “to become contorted” in the Kimakonde language) outbreaks occurred in the early 1950’s in Africa. More recently, the virus has been reported in the Caribbean. Since the beginning of this year, the CDC reports that several hundred travel-associated cases have been found in the United States, while a small number of locally-transmitted cases have been identified in Florida. Common symptoms are fever and joint pain, which may be accompanied by headache, muscle pain, or rash.

Knowledge and prevention are key to protecting yourself against mosquito-borne diseases.

Protect yourself and your loved ones with repellants

While conventional insect repellents with active ingredients such as DEET are an effective way to prevent insect bites, biologically-based “biopesticide” products can also help keep pesky mosquitoes at bay. Biopesticides such as Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus and IR3535 are effective as mosquito repellents and can be found in many repellent products. With EPA’s online tool, you can search for and find the repellent that is best for you. Our website also offers tips to help protect yourself from mosquitoes.

EPA recently unveiled a new graphic that will help you make more informed choices about how and when to apply repellents. You should start seeing the new graphic next mosquito season.

Tips for controlling mosquito growth

The first step to control mosquitoes around your home is making sure they don’t have a place to lay their eggs. EPA offers tips for limiting areas where mosquitoes breed.

EPA also registers biopesticide products with the active ingredient methoprene, and with strains of bacterial insecticides such as Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis or Bacillus sphaericus. These products control mosquito larvae in standing water and help reduce the adult mosquito population.

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.