chemicals

Keep Pesticides and Other Chemicals in Their Original Containers to Prevent Poisonings

By Darlene Dinkins

Neighbors often save money by sharing things like tools and lawn and garden products. But, sometimes a neighbor’s good intentions may lead to tragic consequences – like when a neighbor shares a weed control product and gives it to you in an old water bottle. His good intentions could quickly turn dangerous if someone mistakes the bottle for a beverage.

Poison centers are all too familiar with accidental poisonings that occur after a person ingests a chemical that was transferred from its original container into a beverage container. In California, poison centers identified more than 1,400 cases of accidental poisoning caused by storage of non-food substances in soda bottles, unmarked bottles, cups, or glasses from 1998 to 2009. For example, there was the case of a 49-year-old man who reached for his coffee cup and took a sip while working in the barn one morning. He forgot that he had just poured an herbicide into his cup because he was concerned about the deterioration of the original pesticide bottle when he initially opened the container.

National Poison Prevention Week is March 16-22. It’s a time to raise awareness about simple steps that we can all take to prevent poisoning. I want to highlight the dangers of removing pesticides and other household chemicals from their original containers and storing them in bottles or cans that can be mistaken for beverages. One of the simplest ways to prevent poisoning is to always keep products in their original containers. Product labels contain valuable use instructions, important precautions, and first aid information that is needed in case of an emergency.

Take action to prevent a poisoning from occurring in your home:

  • Post the Poison Control Center national helpline number, 1-800-222-1222, near your phone or program the number into your phone’s speed dial feature.
  •  Read the product label first before using a product and follow the directions to the letter.
  •  Never transfer pesticides and other household chemical products to containers that may be mistaken for food or beverages.
  • Don’t use empty pesticide containers to store anything else. Even if you wash the container, it could still contain residues of the pesticide and could hurt someone.
  • Seal products after each use and store them out of children’s reach.
  • If you use mouse or rat poison, use products with tamper-resistant bait stations to protect children and pets.
  • Remove children, pets, and toys before applying pesticides either inside or outside your home.
  • Follow label directions to determine when children and pets can re-enter the area that has been treated.

Poisoning incidents are preventable. Take these steps today and help us raise awareness of how to prevent poisonings and exposures to household cleaners and pesticides.

About the author: Darlene Dinkins is in Communications Services Branch of EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs. Darlene represents EPA on the Poison Prevention Week Council, which promotes National Poison Prevention Week, and distributes the Council’s materials and messages.

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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Is Your Child’s School Stuck on a Pest Control Treadmill?

Many schools are stuck on a “treadmill” of never-ending pesticide applications, without addressing the underlying issues that make schools attractive to pests. If we can make it so pests aren’t attracted in the first place, the need for pesticides in schools would be greatly reduced.

Choosing a smart, sensible, and sustainable approach can reduce pests and pesticide risks, create a healthier environment for our children, and save schools money in pesticide treatment and energy costs from improved insulation as a result of sealing cracks and adding door sweeps. We call this approach Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

John McDonogh High

Jim Jones, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, and school leaders toured John Mcdonogh High School

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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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Ingredients for a Safer (Chemical) Recipe

EPA's Safer Chemical Ingredients List helps manufacturers formulate products that are safer for families and the environment.

EPA’s Safer Chemical Ingredients Lists helps manufacturers formulate products that are safer for families and the environment.

Have you ever wondered what chemical ingredients are in those cleaning products we all keep under the sink or in the garage?  Here at EPA, we want to ensure that the products Americans are using in theirs homes are as safe as possible.

Until recently, choosing ingredients to make a safer and effective product has been challenging for manufacturers, requiring lots of research and educated guessing.  No single resource existed to help manufacturers select safer ingredients.

EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) program has taken much of the guesswork out of safer ingredient selection by making available the Safer Chemical Ingredients List (SCIL). EPA just added close to 50 chemicals (including 40 fragrance chemicals) to this dynamic database bringing the tallies to nearly 650 chemicals in all.  The list will continue to be updated with chemicals that meet the DfE safer ingredient criteria in key ingredient classes such as solvents, surfactants, and fragrances.  These ingredients help make products including household cleaners, laundry detergents, car care products, floor finishes and even a firefighting foam.  More

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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You Can Help Make a Difference for Kids with this One Easy Step

By Jessica Orquina

Will you lend us your voice to protect children from pollutants? Children are more sensitive to pollutants: their bodies are still developing; they eat, drink, and breathe more in proportion to their body size; and their behavior can expose them more to chemicals and microbes.

We have simple tips for how to protect children from environmental harms, and we need your help to tell the world. Social media has changed the way we communicate, but it’s also given us new ways to amplify our voices. This week, we’re using Thunderclap to get the word out about tips for protecting kids. Lend us your voice by allowing us to send a message to your social media followers.

Our first Thunderclap will go out on October 31 at 2:00 pm EDT:

“You protect your kids from strangers and bullies. What about harmful pollutants?

What is Thunderclap? It’s a system that helps people share a message at the same time.  How does it work? We’ve created a message, and you can sign up to let Thunderclap post that message to any combination of your Twitter, FB, and Tumblr accounts. It’s like a virtual flash mob – the messages will go out on everyone’s walls and feeds at the same time. Note that you’re signing up for only this message,  not future thunderclaps.

We need you, because in order to send our Thunderclap, we need 500 people to sign up!

Join us today and add your voice. Thanks for your support!

About the author: Jessica Orquina works in the Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education as the social media lead for the agency. Prior to joining EPA, she served military and commercial airline pilot. She lives, works, and writes in Washington, DC.

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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Evaluating Studies to Understand if a Chemical Causes Cancer

IRIS graphic identifier

By Kacee Deener

When friends ask me what I do, I always mention the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program and explain that through IRIS, EPA scientists help protect public health by evaluating scientific information on the health effects that may result from exposure to environmental contaminants.  The questions inevitably come up—how do you do that, and what kind of information do you look at?

Scientists around the world contribute to the knowledgebase about the health effects of chemicals.  A particular area of interest has been chemicals’ potential to cause cancer.

Because EPA’s work must be grounded in the best possible science, we recently updated how we consider some of the cancer research of the Ramazzini Institute (RI), a laboratory in Italy known throughout the world for their extensive work in this area, completing cancer studies for more than 200 compounds.

A few years ago, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) identified differences of opinion between their own scientists and those from the Ramazzini Institute in diagnosing certain types of cancers in a study on methanol.  The scientific community—including EPA—was concerned, since Ramazzini data was included in IRIS evaluations.  We reviewed all of our IRIS assessments to determine which, if any, relied substantially on RI data; we found four that did, and we put those assessments on hold.

To follow up, EPA and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences cosponsored a group of scientists with expertise in evaluating tissue samples and making disease diagnoses, a Pathology Working Group (PWG), to review several Ramazzini Institute studies. They found some instances where respiratory infections in Ramazzini study animals made definitive diagnoses difficult, and disagreed with some Ramazzini diagnoses, primarily certain leukemias and lymphomas that had been identified. Therefore, EPA decided not to rely on RI data on lymphomas and leukemias in IRIS assessments. There was agreement, though, in diagnosing solid tumors, and EPA decided to continue to consider Ramazzini Institute solid tumor data in IRIS assessments.

This has been an important issue in the world of chemical risk assessment. Last week, this was highlighted once again when a paper authored by EPA scientists, Scientific Considerations for Evaluating Cancer Bioassays Conducted by the Ramazzini Institute, was published in Environmental Health Perspectives.  The article interprets Ramazzini Institute study results and compares their testing protocols with those used by other federal agencies.  The results were consistent with the PWG findings—Ramazzini Institute results for cancer endpoints other than lymphoma and leukemias, and some cases of tumors of the inner ear and cranium, are generally consistent with those of the National Toxicology Program and other laboratories.  The paper also notes that, while differences in Ramazzini Institute testing protocols can complicate the interpretation of study results, they may also provide chemical risk assessors with insights that might not be observed in other laboratories.

The short answer to my friends’ questions is that EPA works to use the best available science—from across the U.S. and around the world—to support IRIS and our other assessments designed to protect public health.

About the Author:  Kacee Deener is the Communications Director in EPA’s National Center for Environmental Assessment, home of the IRIS Program.  She joined EPA 12 years ago and has a Masters degree in Public Health.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Writing Down IRIS

By Kacee Deener IRIS

As a scientist now working in science communications, I’m constantly surprised by the writing process.  You put something down on paper, revise it a few times, and then make tweaks here and there until you’re satisfied.  Then you look at it again later, and you make a few more changes.

Turns out lots of things in life are like that—including science programs.  In May 2009, EPA announced a new Integrated Risk Information System – or IRIS – assessment development process.

IRIS is an important program because it provides information on the health effects caused by exposure to chemicals in the environment.  People use IRIS, along with other science information, to inform decisions that protect public health across the U.S.

The new 2009 process was good for the IRIS Program.  But – as I’ve learned with writing – a few tweaks can make something even better.  Since 2009, we’ve learned a lot.  We’ve also received recommendations from the National Research Council (NRC) about improving IRIS assessments and about planning and scoping and stakeholder engagement in risk assessment.  So we’re making some common sense changes that will help us produce more high quality assessments in a timely and transparent manner.

In a nutshell, here’s what we are doing

  • Before beginning an assessment, we will meet with EPA’s regulatory programs – the folks who make decisions that help protect public health – to make sure we understand the big picture of why they need an assessment.
  • We will then hold a public meeting to discuss the plan for the assessment (so we better understand who needs it and why) and gather input about some technical aspects of developing the assessment (for example, are we concerned about people being exposed by breathing the chemical, ingesting it, or both?).
  • Next we will release a literature search for the chemical, evidence tables that summarize the critical scientific studies, and exposure-response figures that graphically depict the responses at different levels of exposure for each study in the evidence table. These materials highlight our thought process for determining which studies are most important for the assessment, help make sure we didn’t miss any important research, and help identify any potential scientific controversies early on.
  • We’re also using “stopping rules” so IRIS assessments are not delayed by ongoing research or scientific debate after certain points of the process have passed.
  • Finally, we’ve strengthened our practices for peer review and conflict of interest.

And this isn’t a complete list – you can read about all of the enhancements on our website.

These changes to IRIS are practical, common-sense improvements that emphasize scientific rigor and transparency.  They will also be good for our stakeholders, so like a well written story, it’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Like a committed science writer, we’ll always be revising whenever improvements are needed, but take a minute to check out the latest edition.  I think you’ll like the improvements.

About the Author: Kacee Deener is the Communications Director in EPA’s National Center for Environmental Assessment, home of the IRIS Program.  She joined EPA 12 years ago and has a Masters degree in Public Health.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Nothing like the Smell of Safer Chemistry

Reposted from the EPA Connect

By Jim Jones

When buying cleaning products, you probably first look for a product that will get a particular job done, then compare prices. You might even smell the product, or look for a fragrance-free product. While you may choose a scent based on personal preference, if you care about product safety, it‘s worth taking a closer look at the specific chemicals that add scent to cleaning products.

In September 2012, EPA created a Safer Chemical Ingredients List to assist companies interested in making safer products and to increase public access to important chemical information. And announced today,  EPA has added 119 chemicals that add fragrance to the list of over 600 approved chemical ingredients.

The list is also useful to companies seeking EPA’s Design for the Environment Safer Product Label by providing them with a list of chemical ingredients that already meet EPA’s rigorous, scientific standard for protecting human health and the environment. Chemicals on the Safer Chemical Ingredients List can be used in Design for the Environment-labeled products. Design for the Environment is a voluntary program that involves industry, environmental groups, and academia working in partnership to help protect people and the planet by identifying safer chemicals and allowing safer chemical-based products to carry the Design for the Environment label.

Right now, more than 2,500 products carry the Design for the Environment Safer Product Label, including a range of all-purpose cleaners, laundry and dishwasher detergents, window cleaners, car care, and many other products. When you see the Safer Product Label on a product, it means the Design for the Environment scientific review team has screened each ingredient for potential human health and environmental effects and determined that the product contains only the safest chemical ingredients available.

Using Design for the Environment-labeled products is an important thing you can do to help reduce your family’s exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. Look for the label on products when you shop. You can be sure that these products are safer and work as well as they smell.

To view the Safer Chemical Ingredients List, visit

About the author: Jim Jones is the Acting Assistant Administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. He is responsible for managing the office which implements the nation’s pesticide, toxic chemical, and pollution prevention laws. The office has an annual budget of approximately $260 million and more than 1,300 employees. Jim’s career with EPA spans more than 26 years. From April through November 2011, Jim served as the Deputy Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. He has an M.A. from the University of California at Santa Barbara and a B.A. from the University of Maryland, both in Economics.

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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Staying Active with Asthma

runner

In celebration of Asthma Awareness Month, I thought it would be fun to talk with a student who has asthma herself.  I interviewed Shannyn, an energetic 10 year-old who taught me all about what it is like to have asthma.  Shannyn let me know that she doesn’t let asthma get in the way of her active lifestyle and love of playing outdoors with her sisters and friends. At around age 3, Shannyn experienced her first asthma attack.  She explained to me that an asthma attack is an episode, accompanied by wheezing and coughing, which makes it very difficult to breathe.  Triggers, such as dust, chemicals and seasonal allergies, are things that can provoke the event of an asthma attack.  Lucky enough for this smart girl, she knows to avoid these triggers by staying away from heavy bathroom cleaners and helping her mom to clean the house of dust.  

Asthma doesn’t get in the way of Shannyn’s busy lifestyle.  Her love of running club, tumbling, soccer, kickball and playing in the pool are what keep Shannyn going.  By taking a daily preventative inhaler, she is able to participate in these sports and after school activities.  Shannyn is careful to also carry her rescue inhaler with her when going for runs, in case this physical activity makes her asthma worse.  She let me know that although her asthma can sometimes make it hard to keep up with others when running, that she has a few good friends that will run at a steady pace with her.  I am impressed with all the fun, physical activities this girl does!  When telling me about how she is teaching one of her friends how to do a kart wheel, I asked if she could teach me.  At age 22, I still haven’t picked up how to do a kart-wheel. 

It’s no secret that Shannyn doesn’t let her asthma define how she spends her time and what kinds of activities she does.  By knowing which triggers to avoid, taking the proper medication, and doing routine activities like running club to control her asthma, Shannyn is able to live a very spirited life.  She is looking forward to the summer, where she is planning to spend lots of time swimming in the pool with her two sisters.  She has even started to plan her next birthday party, where she and friends will have a spa day.  Shannyn let me know that asthma doesn’t get in the way of staying active and having fun with friends and family.  She is a role model to people of all ages who have asthma.

Shelby Egan was an extern in the EPA’s Air and Radiation Division in Region 5. She is currently obtaining her Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She has a passion for protecting natural resources, cities she’s never been to and cooking any recipe by The Pioneer Woman. 

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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Rainy Day Lesson

Several links below exit EPA Exit EPA Disclaimer

Greetings from New England!Each Monday we write about the New England environment and way of life seen through our local perspective. Previous posts

By Dave Deegan

Like many New Englanders, we’ve been really busy lately with our garden. The warm growing months are so fleeting here that you have to be ready the minute you can plant veggies and herbs to harvest some good food later in the summer.

It’s been even more hectic this year, because my wife and I acted on our carefully-developed plans of long-overdue landscaping in our yard. But as any homeowner can tell you, there usually is no simple plan. If you do this, then it triggers that. And that. And something else.

As we thought about how we wanted our yard to be, we knew we needed to address some drainage issues: gutters were draining directly onto a walkway, and in the winter that’s a recipe for dangerous slick ice. So we excavated a channel for the gutter to drain under the walkway, leading into a dry well. Now the water will slowly infiltrate into the earth without turning into mud or ice where we need to walk.

We have another area nearby, where a gutter channels rainwater from our garage, and we thought, “this is a great spot for a rain barrel!”

Diverting rain by collecting it in a rain barrel, or channeling into a dry well (or a rain garden) has a lot of advantages besides our immediate need to address extra runoff in our garden. Stormwater runoff can collect a lot of bad stuff, especially in urban areas with lots of pavement and other hard impermeable surfaces. As water runs off roofs, parking lots and roads, it collects all the trace residues of chemicals, nutrients, silt and debris that have accumulated, and swiftly deposits it all in the nearest storm sewer, and from there it often goes directly into nearby streams, ponds or another water body. In other words, pollution.

It’s amazing how quickly our 55 gallon rain barrel fills up, just waiting for a dry spell when we need to water our garden. It’s been raining steadily for about the past six hours – not even pouring hard – and the rain barrel is full. That’s just one section of roof and gutter. It makes me realize how much water comes down in a typical rainstorm, and how much of a difference our household decisions can make to help solve a problem.

Find more New England resources on how to “Soak Up the Rain.”

More Green infrastructure solutions to stormwater

About the author:  Dave Deegan works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. When he’s not digging rocks out of his garden, he loves being outdoors in one of New England’s many special places.

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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Reducing Exposure to Formaldehyde in Composite Wood Products

By Jim Jones, Acting Assistant Administrator, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention

The mention of the word “formaldehyde” might conjure up memories of a school science class or museum visits and seeing animals preserved in liquid-filled jars. While formaldehyde may no longer be used for these purposes, it is still used in adhesives to make composite wood products, like particle board and other building materials for furniture and other products. Composite wood products are made from pieces, chips, particles of wood that are bonded together with resins that may contain formaldehyde. The chemical can cause adverse health effects, including eye, nose, and throat irritation, as well as respiratory symptoms and cancer.

In 2010, Congress passed the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act, or Title VI of the Toxic Substances Control Act. As required by the Act, today we are proposing limits on how much formaldehyde can be released from a variety of composite wood products and to establish requirements to ensure these products comply with the regulations. The proposed rules align where practical with existing requirements for composite wood products in California.

These requirements, when final, will further reduce the public’s exposure to the formaldehyde found in many products in our homes and workplaces. For new and renovated homes formaldehyde may be reduced up to 26%. Also, when final, they will encourage the industry trend toward switching to no-added formaldehyde resins in products, further reducing you and your family’s exposure to formaldehyde.

While many manufacturers are already complying with the requirements in place in California, EPA’s actions will ensure the same protections for all Americans, no matter what State you live in. In addition, EPA’s proposal expands upon the California regulation by including laminated products, which is estimated to reduce formaldehyde emissions from these products 45 – 90%. The actions will also ensure that the composite wood products sold in this country meet the same standards for formaldehyde regardless of whether they are made in the United States or abroad.

The proposals released today are an example of what can be accomplished when there is adequate statutory authority for action. This lies in stark contrast to the lack of authority EPA has to regulate other chemicals and highlights the on-going need for reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act, this country’s chemicals management legislation. All Americans have the right to expect that the chemicals used in the products they use every day are safe. The time has come to provide EPA with the tools necessary to protect you and your families from unnecessary risks from all chemicals.

About the author: Jim Jones is the Acting Assistant Administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. He is responsible for managing the office which implements the nation’s pesticide, toxic chemical, and pollution prevention laws. The office has an annual budget of approximately $260 million and more than 1,300 employees. Jim’s career with EPA spans more than 26 years. From April through November 2011, Jim served as the Deputy Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. He has an M.A. from the University of California at Santa Barbara and a B.A. from the University of Maryland, both in Economics.

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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