chemicals

TSCA Reform: A Bipartisan Milestone to Protect Our Health from Dangerous Chemicals


By Gina McCarthy

President Obama just signed a bipartisan bill to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the first major update to an environmental statute in 20 years. That’s great news for the environment and for the health of all Americans.

TSCA was first passed in 1976 to help keep dangerous chemicals off the market and avoid making people sick. Back then, health experts already knew that certain chemicals could cause very serious health impacts, including cancer, birth defects, and reproductive harm.

While the intent of the original TSCA law was spot-on, it fell far short of giving EPA the authority we needed to get the job done.

It became clear that without major changes to the law, EPA couldn’t take the actions necessary to protect people from toxic chemicals. Diverse stakeholders, including industry, retailers, and public health and environmental experts, recognized these deficiencies and began to demand major reforms to the law.

Today, in a culmination of years of effort from both sides of the aisle, President Obama signed a bill that achieves those reforms.

The updated law gives EPA the authorities we need to protect American families from the health effects of dangerous chemicals. I welcome this bipartisan bill as a major step forward to protect Americans’ health. And at EPA, we’re excited to get to work putting it into action.

The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (H.R. 2576) was made possible by years of hard work by both Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate, as well as EPA staff who have provided significant technical assistance. I applaud everyone who stepped up and made it happen. It’s historic, and it’ll make Americans’ lives better.

TSCA was intended to be one of our nation’s foundational environmental laws. In terms of its potential for positive impact, it should have ranked right alongside the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, which, since the 70’s, have dramatically improved water quality and helped clean up 70 percent of our nation’s air pollution. But it hasn’t.

Forty years after TSCA was enacted, there are still tens of thousands of chemicals on the market that have never been evaluated for safety, because TSCA didn’t require it. And the original law set analytical requirements that were nearly impossible to meet, leaving EPA’s hands tied – even when the science demanded action on certain chemicals.

The dangers of inaction were never more stark than in the case of asbestos, a chemical known to cause cancer through decades of research.

During the first Bush Administration, EPA tried to ban asbestos under TSCA, but the rule was overturned in court. In the law’s 40-year history, only a handful of the tens of thousands of chemicals on the market when the law passed have ever been reviewed for health impacts, and only 5 have ever been banned.

Because EPA was not empowered to act on dangerous chemicals, American families were left vulnerable to serious health impacts. At the same time, some states tried to fill the gap to protect their citizens’ health—but state-by-state rules are no substitute for a strong national program that protects all Americans. Chemical manufacturers, consumer retailers, and others in industry agreed: reform was sorely needed.

As with any major policy reform, this one includes compromises. But the new bipartisan bill is a win for the American people—because it’s a victory for EPA’s mission to protect public health and the environment.

Here are a few highlights:

  • The new law requires EPA to evaluate existing chemicals, with clear and enforceable deadlines. Under the old law, the tens of thousands of chemicals already in existence in 1976 were considered in compliance, without any requirement or schedule for EPA to review them for safety. EPA is now required to systematically prioritize and evaluate chemicals on a specific and enforceable schedule. Within a few years, EPA’s chemicals program will have to assess at least 20 chemicals at a time, beginning another chemical review as soon as one is completed.
  • Under the new law, EPA will evaluate chemicals purely on the basis of the health risks they pose. The old law was so burdensome that it prevented EPA from taking action to protect public health and the environment–even when a chemical posed a known health threat. Now, EPA will have evaluate a chemical’s safety purely based on the health risks it poses—including to vulnerable groups like children and the elderly, and to workers who use chemicals daily as part of their jobs—and then take steps to eliminate any unreasonable risks we find.
  • The new law provides a consistent source of funding for EPA to carry out its new responsibilities. EPA will now be able to collect up to $25 million a year in user fees from chemical manufacturers and processers, supplemented by Congressional budgeting, to pay for these improvements.

Bottom line: this law is a huge win for public health, and EPA is eager to get to work.

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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Preventing and Better Preparing for Emergencies at Chemical Plants is Job One

By Mathy Stanislaus

The chemical industry provides critical products we use every day, creates jobs, and is a staple of the U.S. economy. While numerous chemical plants operate safely, in the past 10 years nearly 60 people died, some 17,000 people were injured or sought medical treatment, and almost 500,000 people were evacuated or sheltered-in-place as a result of accidental releases at chemical plants. During that time, more than 1,500 incidents were reported causing over $2 billion in property damages.

To prevent and reduce the number of accidents and protect communities and first responders, we are proposing revisions to the accidental release prevention requirements under the Clean Air Act, also known as our Risk Management Program (RMP). In the Report to the President on implementing Executive Order (EO) 13650, Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security (August 2013), we committed to amending the RMP regulations in 2016.

This proposal is based on extensive engagement over two years with community leaders, first responders, local and state governments, industry and many other stakeholders – nearly 1,800 participants across the country in over 25 states. The Executive Order Working group reviewed existing programs, recommendations from the safety and security communities, and feedback from the EO listening session, as well as investigative reports of major incidents. In 2014 the EO Working Group published for stakeholder comment a preliminary list of options for improving chemical facility safety and security. The May 2014 Progress Report to the President, Actions to Improve Chemical Facility Safety and Security – A Shared Commitment, summarized the federal governments’ progress. Modernizing the RMP rule was identified as one of the top priorities to improve chemical facility safety and security. In July, 2014 we sought comment on potential revisions to modernize EPA’s regulations, guidance and policies by issuing a Request for Information. In 2015, prior to convening a Small Business Advocacy Review Panel, we conducted outreach with small entities potentially affected by these regulations. EPA invited the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and 32 potentially affected small entity representatives to a conference call and solicited comments from them on preliminary information. These comments and concerns have been reflected in today’s proposal.

The proposed amendments are intended to improve existing risk management plan requirements to enhance chemical safety at RMP facilities by:

  • •Requiring the consideration of safer technologies and alternatives by including the assessment of Inherently Safer Technologies and Designs in the Process Hazard Assessment
    •
  • Requiring third party audits and root cause analysis to identify process safety improvements for accident prevention
  • Enhancing emergency planning and preparedness requirements to ensure coordination between facilities and local communities
    •
  • Ensuring that  emergency response capabilities are available to mitigate the effects of a chemical accident
    •
  • Improving the ability of local emergency planning committees and local  emergency response officials to better prepare for emergencies
    •
  • Increasing public access to information to help the public understand the risks at RMP facilities, and increase community involvement in accident planning for when communities need to evacuate or shelter-in-place during an accident

I participated in many of the listening sessions and stakeholder conferences and heard first-hand from local responders and communities about their concerns about accidental chemical releases and their ideas to improve planning and prevent emergencies. Together we can work to strengthen preparedness and prevention efforts in our communities.

This proposal is a step in the right direction.  We want to build on the success of leaders in the chemical industry by enhancing their operations to prevent accidents, and we want to make sure that communities are fully prepared for a chemical plant accident, so that first responders, workers, and neighboring community members are protected.

The proposed rule is just one of the actions the U.S. government has undertaken to enhance the safety and security of chemical facilities under EO 13650. In addition to these revisions, we continue our work under EO 13650 by assisting local communities in developing local emergency contingency plans and facilitating a dialog between communities and chemical facilities on chemical accident prevention and preparedness.

Learn more about the proposal here: http://www.epa.gov/rmp/proposed-changes-risk-management-program-rmp-rule

Follow us on Twitter at @EPAland.

 

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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A Greener 2016

By Lina Younes

Happy New Year! As we begin the new year, we’re looking for a fresh start to a healthier and happier life. How about finding ways to embrace a greener lifestyle for 2016?

Personally, I’ve selected some green resolutions that will help me make better environmentally sound choices for my family, my community and the planet. I think they’re easy to follow now and throughout the year. I’m sharing them with you. What do you think?water

Resolution #1: Save energy.

Saving energy at home, at school, or in the office can start with one simple light bulb. I know I often sound like a broken record trying to convince my youngest to turn off the lights in her room when she leaves. This year I want both of us to make that special effort. This simple action can go a long way to save energy.
Also, at home, we’ve made sure that all our major appliances have the Energy Star label.  Are you planning to to replace an old computer or household appliance this year? You can save energy and money, too, if you choose a new appliance with the label.

Resolution #2: Save water.

We definitely cannot live without water. So, why not do our best to use this precious resource as efficiently as possible? Saving water saves energy and money. This year, I’m making a special effort to take shorter showers and turn off the faucet while I brush my teeth. These simple steps can go a long way.

Do you have a leaky faucet or toilet? Did you know that household leaks waste more than 1 trillion gallons of water every year in the U.S. alone? I’ve had problems with leaky toilets at home and learned from the experience! Don’t let a leak break the bank.  Look for the WaterSense label when buying new water efficient toilets and other plumbing fixtures to save valuable water and money every day.

Resolution #3: Use safer chemicals.

We’ve all heard the expression: “cleanliness is next to godliness.” So, why not look for safer cleaning products to protect ourselves, our family and the environment? Did you know that we have a program that helps us do just that? It’s called SaferChoice. Products with the SaferChoice label have met high EPA standards to ensure that they’re greener to better protect people, pets, workers’ health and the environment. Personally, I seek greener chemicals to help protect my family. I’m glad there will be more products available with the SaferChoice label this year.

Resolution #4: Reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Make an effort to reduce waste from the outset. Why not use reusable containers at home, at school, and at the office? Reducing disposable packaging and waste saves you money and ultimately protects the environment. Looking for additional tips on how to reduce waste? Here are more suggestions on what you can do every day.

For starters, I’m focusing on waste free lunches. When I prepare lunches for my youngest to take to school or for me to bring to work, I’m avoiding disposable plastic bags. I’m using reusable containers for the food and beverages. Not only am I preventing those bags from ending up in a landfill, but I’m saving money, too.

By the way, don’t forget the other two R’s—reuse and recycle. For additional tips, visit: http://www.epa.gov/recycle.

Resolution #5: Be more active.

While we often include losing weight as a New Year’s resolution, how about aspiring to become more active as the means to a healthier lifestyle? You don’t have to sign up for an expensive gym membership to achieve that goal. It’s much easier and less costly than you think. How about simply walking more often? Take your dog on longer walks. How about visiting your local park?

Personally, I’m taking the stairs more often at work. I also have a new standing desk. So, I’m not as sedentary as in the past. Being more active at work, becoming healthier, and protecting the environment sound like a win-win to me!

So, what green resolutions will you embrace in 2016? We’d love to hear from you.

About the author:  Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Communications Liaison in EPA’s Office of Web Communications. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several federal and state government agencies over the years.

 

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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Release of the Energy-Positive Water Resource Recovery Workshop Report

By Adriane Koenig

I’m excited to announce the release of a new joint report from EPA, DOE and NSF that articulates a bold vision for water treatment. Energy-Positive Water Resource Recovery Workshop Report outlines a range of research and actions to transform today’s treatment plants into water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs) that generate clean drinking water, biofuels, chemicals, and other water grades for specific uses, like agriculture. The report summarizes discussions and ideas presented at the Energy-Positive Water Resource Recovery Workshop held last April in Arlington, Virginia.

The meeting was convened as many wastewater treatment facilities, pipes, and related infrastructure in cities around the country approach the end of their expected service life. EPA estimates that it will require an investment of about $600 billion over the next 20 years to continue reliably transporting and treating wastewater and delivering clean drinking water. Given the state of the country’s water infrastructure, this is a prime opportunity to encourage an industry shift from wastewater treatment to water resource recovery. By applying new research and technology, this shift offers the potential to reduce the financial burdens on municipalities, decrease stress on energy systems, cut air and water pollution, improve system resiliency to climate impacts, and support local economic activity.

Experts from industry, academia, national laboratories, and government who participated in the workshop determined that WRRFs should perform four major types of functions:

  1. Efficiently recover the resources in wastewater
  2. Integrate production with other utilities
  3. Engage and inform stakeholders
  4. Run “smart systems”

The group also discussed challenges, including regulatory, technical, social, and financial barriers, all of which must be overcome to enable wide-scale evolution toward energy-positive WRRFs. Finally, participants identified research opportunities that could produce or significantly advance the needed technology.

This report is intended to stimulate further dialogue and accelerate the wide-scale transition of advanced WRRFs. The agencies, in cooperation with the Water Environment Research Foundation, are already addressing one frequent suggestion at the workshop by identifying facilities to serve as potential test beds for new technologies. I encourage you to visit the DOE website to view workshop materials and presentations as well as the full-length report.

Water Headlines

A new report outlines a range of research and actions needed to transform today’s water treatment plants into water resource recovery facilities that generate clean drinking water, biofuels, chemicals, and other water grades for specific uses, like agriculture. Energy-Positive Water Resource Recovery Workshop Report summarizes discussions and ideas presented at workshop held jointly last April by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

With the nation’s aging water infrastructure, a unique window of opportunity exists to apply new knowledge and technology to create an industry shift from wastewater treatment to water resource recovery. Such a shift offers the potential to reduce the financial burdens on municipalities, decrease stress on energy systems, cut air and water pollution, improve system resiliency to climate impacts, and support local economic activity.

Read more.

About the author: Adriane Koenig is an ORISE Research Participant serving in EPA’s Office of Water, where she promotes new technologies and innovative practices that advance sustainability in the water sector. She has a M.S. in Environmental Sciences and Policy from Johns Hopkins University. 

 

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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EPA Continues Support for Local Preparedness/Prevention Activities

By Mathy Stanislaus

In 2014, after several catastrophic chemical facility incidents, I represented EPA as a Tri-Chair for the creation of The Report for the President, Actions to Improve Chemical Facility Safety and Security – A Shared Commitment, to recognize the central role of local community preparedness to advance safety of chemical plants. Local communities – working through Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) and State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs) – are the lynchpin to advancing safety of chemical plants, as well as other hazards such as the transport of chemicals and oil by rail. Under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-know Act (EPCRA), these local and state organizations receive information from more than 400,000 chemical plants about the volumes and hazards of chemicals. (This contrasts with the 12,500 chemical plants that we have direct oversight through the Risk Management Planning Program.) They then have the responsibility to analyze the information and develop plans for the safety of their communities from chemical plant accidents, working with local community members and organizations, as well as representatives from the chemical plants.

Enhancing Local Planning under EPCRA

To strengthen local planning efforts, we released a new guide for LEPCs that encourages collaboration through outreach to facilities, illustrating the importance of public safety and the need to comply with EPCRA, as well as steps that can be taken to prevent chemical accidents. This guide discusses the requirements of the EPCRA, roles and responsibilities of the various partners involved in local preparedness efforts, how to develop an emergency response plan, tools for planning and response, and how to enhance community engagement and public access to information. LEPCs and Tribal Emergency Planning Committees (TEPCs) play a key role in meeting the goals of EPCRA.

Public Engagement

We also recognize that members of the public have a role to play in assisting the LEPC or TEPC to understand the unique needs of the community regarding communication about the chemical risks and emergency response procedures. For example, individuals with special medical needs, such as the elderly, disabled/handicapped, children, and those with transportation challenges. Tailoring outreach to meet the specific considerations of the local community enables effective participation in the planning process and an efficient response to ensure safety of the public.

LEPCs and TEPCs notify the public of their activities and hold public meetings to discuss the emergency plan with the community, educate the public about chemical risks, and share information on what is to be done during an emergency (i.e., evacuation or shelter-in-place). LEPCs and TEPCs ensure procedures are in place for notifying the public when a chemical accident occurs (via reverse 911 or other system) and that the public understands what to do when they receive that information.
We’re also working with industry associations to develop and distribute similar communications to plant managers and process safety officials to clarify their role and responsibilities in engaging LEPCs and communities in emergency preparedness and response planning efforts. Efforts focusing on community involvement, evacuation and shelter-in-place planning, environmental justice issues, and vulnerable populations are critical to enhancing chemical facility safety, for both employees and the surrounding communities. It takes engagement from all partners to make an impactful change and increase chemical facility safety for those working in and living around hundreds of thousands of chemical plants around the nation.

While we are aware of extensive engagement in communities throughout the nation to collectively address the issues mentioned above, we recognize that there are communities where industry, government, and community partners would benefit from support from the EPA in strengthening their local efforts. I understand this importance and encourage communities to utilize existing tools and resources to work together to achieve local goals.

Tools and Resources

To assist state, tribal, and local agencies in collecting, managing, and using this information, we worked with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to create the Computer-Aided Management of Emergency Operations (CAMEO). CAMEO (http://www2.epa.gov/cameo) is a system of software applications used to plan for and respond to chemical emergencies. CAMEO assists chemical emergency planners and responders to access, store, and evaluate information critical for developing emergency plans. CAMEO is updated frequently to address needs raised by users throughout the nation. The most recent upgrades will help support local communities and first responders in their planning efforts.

Together, we can work to continue to strengthen the preparedness and prevention efforts in our communities. We are committed to continuing our support to all of you working every day to protect human health and the environment.

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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Chemical Facility Safety is a Shared Commitment

Recently I attended meetings in Austin, TX organized by the Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS). CCPS is part of the not-for-profit American Institute of Chemical Engineers that was formed 30 years ago in the wake of the Bhopal, India chemical release tragedy, to eliminate chemical facility major process safety incidents.

During the first session, I was asked about collaborative opportunities between EPA and CCPS to advance CCPS’s Vision 20/20. Vision 20/20 looks into the not-too-distant future to describe how the right process safety can be delivered when it is collectively and strongly supported by industry, regulators, academia, and the community worldwide. I identified a number of areas where EPA can collaborate with stakeholders to reduce chemical facility releases and deliver Vision 20/20. For example, Vision 20/20 calls for a range of stakeholders to work together “to effectively remove barriers to reporting of incidents, develop reporting databases, and promote mutual understanding of risks and effective process safety systems.” EPA strongly supports this concept and made it a core recommendation in the report for the president, Actions to Improve Chemical Facility Safety and Security – A Shared Commitment. This federal interagency working group report resulted from President Obama’s Executive Order 13650,Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security.

There is a tremendous nexus between Vision 20/20 and the report for the president. The federal working group identified the shared commitment for safety between companies, local preparedness officials, responders, federal government and state government that requires engaging through mutual sharing of information and mutual understanding of risks. This relates to another important element of Vision 20/20: Enhanced Stakeholder Knowledge, which “allows the public to effectively challenge industry to prevent process safety incidents.” I believe that EPA can be a tremendous partner to CCPS to advance this goal and simultaneously advance the commitments articulated in the report for the president.

Other areas that I highlighted from CCPS’ Vision 2020 included the need for strenuous verification by independent parties of engineered systems and process safety management to help companies evaluate their process safety programs as a supplement to internal audits. A committed culture includes executive, managers, supervisors and all employees, as well as vibrant management systems that emphasize vulnerability of accidents and enable a consistent adherence to process safety.    As documented in the report for the president, accidents continue to occur that cause death and property damage.  These incidents are infrequent but the consequences are severe to local communities. Vision 20/20’s emphasis on a vibrant management system engrained throughout an organization based on incident vulnerability is welcome and would advance chemical plant safety. One strategy identified in Vision 20/20 is enhanced application and sharing of lessons learned: “to reduce incidents, everyone needs to continually learn”.  I agree that we learn from accidents, near misses, industry benchmarking and success stories.

The collaboration with CCPS to advance the operationalization of Vision 20/20 is precisely the type of actions envisioned by the commitment in the report for the president. The dialogue needs to continue. As duly noted in the title of the report, chemical facility safety and security is a shared commitment. Through the combined efforts of all stakeholders, we can make a positive difference in, near, and around chemical facilities.

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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How you can help people make safer choices every day

By David DiFiore

How many people can say they really love their job? Lucky for me, I’m one of those people. As part of the Safer Choice Program the work I do helps people make safer choices for their families, pets, and the environment every day.

Safer Choice is our label for safer chemical-based products, like all-purpose cleaners, laundry detergents, degreasers, and many others.  Each day, consumers, custodians, cleaning staffs, and others use these products, and families, building occupants, and visitors are exposed to them.  The Safer Choice program ensures that labeled products—and every ingredient in them—meet the program’s stringent health and environmental criteria—and perform well, too.

Working in the Safer Choice Program, I have the privilege of seeing the results of our work in many tangible forms in real-time, every day. When I go to the grocery store and see a labeled product on the shelf, I know that the work I do helps protect people, animals and the environment from toxic chemicals.

So how can you help people make safer choices?

Also, if you’re interested in helping people make safer choices across the country, take a look at two new Safer Choice job announcements.  We’re looking to build our team to take on the enormous opportunities in labeling safer personal care products.  Perhaps we’ll get to share the adventure.

Learn more about Safer Choice

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About the Author: David DiFiore has worked for the Safer Choice Program since 1997. Before that, David worked in several other EPA programs, including the New Chemicals Program, where he learned the science and art of identifying and promoting safer chemicals and products.

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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Poison Prevention Starts with You – Protect Your Kids and Pets

By: Administrator Gina McCarthy & Elliot Kaye, Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission

There are some things in life we can’t control – like traffic or our favorite sports team’s performance. But there are plenty of things we can control—and protecting our kids from poison is one.

This is National Poison Prevention Week, which leads into the start of spring cleaning. It’s important to remember that kids and pets are more sensitive to chemicals than adults. Every second in the United States, there are 25 calls to poison control centers, with the majority related to children. Each year, an estimated 80,000 children go to the emergency room with poisonings. Almost 75 percent of those are from sources in their homes. Let’s make sure our loved ones are not part of those statistics.

Most of us know that household cleaners and sanitizers, insect repellents and medicines can pose a serious poison risk for children. Some of these products are colorful and appealing, and could look like candy or toys to young children. But other poison hazards around our homes might be less familiar. Here are three for you to be especially aware of:

  1. Coin sized batteries in TV remotes and other electronics can cause chemical burns if lodged in the throat. With encouragement from the government, battery manufacturers are working on a design solution that would prevent the deadly poisoning hazard with coin cell/button batteries. But, they are not there yet.
  2. Exposure to the contents of single-load liquid laundry packets have led to at least one tragic death and thousands of children being treated in emergency rooms. At the urging of the government, manufacturers are developing a safety standard that would make it harder for children to get their hands on these poisonous packets. They, too, are not there yet.
  3. Old mercury thermometers can break and must be properly disposed of and cleaned up. Also, mercury is USED IN TRACE AMOUNTS IN [an essential part of] CFL lightbulbs. It allows a bulb to be an efficient light source. No mercury is released when the bulbs are intact (i.e., not broken) or in use. If a bulb breaks, follow these important steps: http://www2.epa.gov/cfl/cleaning-broken-cfl.

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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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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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Time for a Change: The DfE Safer Product Label

By David DiFiore

Change isn’t easy. Whether it’s starting a new job, moving to a new city, or even something simple like trying a new laundry detergent, change often involves parting with the familiar and embracing the unknown. But sometimes change is necessary—to get to a better place. As a founding member of the Design for the Environment Safer Product Labeling Program, there are many aspects of the program I’d never want to change, like our ability to understand and advance safer chemistry—the use of chemical ingredients in products that help protect people, other living things, and the environment. However, one prominent feature of the program—the label shown on products that meet our program’s stringent standards—is getting a much needed makeover.

As the DfE program has grown stronger and more valuable, our label, with its seventies-era graphic, increasingly appeared behind-the-times. Inarguably familiar and comfortable to some (like me), the program—with strong encouragement from our partners, especially in the consumer product sector — realized that the time for a change had come. Even our name, “Design for the Environment,” only tells half the mission, leaving human health protection unrepresented. And a globe with longitude and latitude lines is not only dated, but is hard to reproduce and even harder to reduce in size to legibly fit product labels.

So, about a year-and-a-half-ago we launched our logo redesign. We wanted to take our time to ensure that all our partners and stakeholders—as well as the general public—had an opportunity to weigh in on the draft designs. Redesigns are infrequent and listening to commenters is key to getting it right; for us, that means a logo that not only better communicates our mission, is modern and easy to manipulate, but also eye-catching and memorable.

After all, we have high hopes for the new logo and its ability to propel our efforts with retailers and growth in the consumer product sector. A logo that connects with consumers will make it easy to spot safer products, again and again.

Are you interested in helping us redesign our DfE Safer Product Label? Do you look for safer products in stores? Whether you’re familiar with our program or not, we hope you will join us for a Twitter Chat on the DfE Safer Product Label, on October 22 at 2:00pm EDT by following @EPAlive and using the #saferproducts hashtag. Ask us a question, share your ideas, and join the conversation on safer products.

Learn more about Design for the Environment
Learn more about the DfE Label Redesign
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About the Author: David DiFiore joined the Design for the Environment program in 1997. Before that, David worked in several other EPA programs, including the New Chemicals Program, where he learned the science and art of identifying and promoting safer chemicals and products.

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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