chemical exposures

EPA Researchers in Duluth Profiled by White House for Protecting Honey Bee Habitat

By Lek Kadeli

About 10 years ago, EPA’s Research Laboratory in Duluth, Minnesota, turned 1.9 acres of manicured lawn back into native prairie, seeded with native grasses and wildflowers. This lab, recognized across the scientific community, centers its research on the effects of pollution and chemical exposures on the environment – particularly aquatic ecosystems, fish and wildlife.

The results of restoring the prairie have been inspiring. The lab saves $3,500 in maintenance costs every year, and EPA staff get to see butterflies, birds and spring and summer blooms that brighten their workdays. Instead of the periodic roar of lawnmowers, they can stroll the grounds during their breaks in quiet solitude, maybe even catching an occasional glimpse of deer, fox and other wildlife.

These 1.9 acres of prairie have also provided an important place for bees and other pollinators to thrive – and this relationship between the pollinators flying about and the habitat of native plants recently caught the attention of the White House. EPA’s Duluth Lab was highlighted in the recently-released White House document, Supporting the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. The document supports President Obama’s memorandum recognizing the critical role pollinators play in food production and our economy.

Honey bee pollination alone adds more than $15 billion in value to the nation’s agricultural crops each year, but populations of honey bees and other pollinators have declined over the past 50 years. EPA has taken a number of actions to protect pollinators – and there’s more to come.

There will be two listening sessions in the Washington, DC metro area, on November 12th and November 17th, where people can provide input into a federal strategy to be developed by the National Pollinator Health Task Force. The task force is co-chaired by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

Key parts of the strategy will include a research action plan, public-private partnerships, public education about the importance of a healthy environment that includes pollinators, and ways to increase and improve pollinator habitat. Learn more about the listening sessions here.

The EPA has a vital part to play in protecting bees and other pollinators. Some lucky employees looking for inspiration for their work can get it just by stepping away from their desks for a stroll.

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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Healthy Homes for Healthy Kids

By Kathy Seikel

Research shows links between chemical exposures during fetal development and health outcomes. As a DES offspring, I am a case in point. Diethylstilbestrol (DES) is a synthetic estrogen developed to supplement a woman’s natural estrogen production. First prescribed by physicians in 1938, and used extensively in the 1950s, DES was prescribed to prevent miscarriages or premature birth. At the time, it was considered safe and effective both for the pregnant woman and the developing baby.

Thirty years of research have proven that health risks are associated with DES exposure — including risks for the offspring (what scientists now call “trans-generational effects”). In the case of DES daughters, one of these health effects is infertility.

I am blessed with three gorgeous, healthy and thriving children. I came to motherhood through adoption –not my original plan. My medical history and my work at EPA give me a heightened appreciation for the importance of reducing our children’s exposure to potentially toxic chemicals – beginning in the womb and all the way into adulthood.

There’s a lot we can do to minimize our children’s exposure to environmental contaminants – starting right in our own homes! Did you know that children can spend about 90% of time indoors and that indoor pollution sources can create unhealthy conditions for children? And did you know that prenatal exposure to pollutants can increase the risk of low birth weight, pre-term delivery, infant mortality and developmental disabilities?

So what’s a mother to do? First of all, don’t smoke at home or allow anyone who visits to smoke inside your home. Reduce pesticide use by following a prevention-based approach to pest management that focuses on non-chemical control measures such as eliminating the food, water, entry points and harborage that pests need to survive. Make sure your house is properly ventilated. Open the windows and let the fresh air in now that summer’s heat wave is over! Find out how to identify – and eliminate — environmental hazards in your home by reading “Help Yourself to a Healthy Home.”

Learn how you to promote healthy communities for healthy children, during Children’s Health Month and every month, at www.epa.gov/children

About the author: Kathy Seikel is a senior program analyst with EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection where she coordinates EPA’s participation in the Federal Interagency Work Group on Healthy Homes.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.


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.

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.