pesticide

You Might Know the Next Rachel Carson

flaagRachel Carson wrote a famous book called Silent Spring, which led our country to ban DDT, a harmful pesticide, and rethink the relationship between our environment and our health. Before that, she served as a scientist and editor at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, eventually becoming Editor-in-Chief of all of the agency’s publications. In those days, it was rare for a woman to serve as a scientist, and even more rare to rise to a position of leadership.

Our country has made a lot of progress since then. In 1970, only 11% of women between the ages of 25 and 64 had a college degree. By 2012, that number had climbed to 38%. And since the late 1990s, women have been awarded about half of all bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering. But in spite of all these gains, only about one in four environmental scientists or geoscientists across the country are women – so we still have a long way to go.

EPA has been lucky to have many extraordinary women launch and grow their careers here. We make up a little more than half of EPA’s workforce, and about 44% of our supervisors and managers. Women do just about every job you can imagine — from running major research efforts to analyzing data to steering our work to protect clean air and water.

That includes environmental experts like Jane Nishida, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator in our Office of International and Tribal Affairs, and Janet McCabe, Acting Assistant Administrator for our Office of Air and Radiation, who worked to launch our international air quality monitoring effort that is helping us lead the way as we act on climate. It includes lawyers like Lorie Schmidt, who played a key role in last year’s Supreme Court win affirming our authority to regulate greenhouse gases, and who is heavily involved in finalizing our Clean Power Plan. It also includes innovative leaders like Cynthia Giles, our Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, who developed our Next-Generation Compliance program that leverages new technologies for monitoring, reporting, permitting and transparency, making it easier for companies and organizations to follow the law.

Five of our 13 Administrators since the agency was established have been women, including our current leader, Gina McCarthy. Five of our current Associate and Assistant Administrators are women, too. Three of our 10 Regional Administrators and seven of our 10 Deputy Regional Administrators are women who guide our work in different parts of the country. The women leaders here are too many to list, and for every one woman who has been in the public eye, there are dozens more driving our work forward throughout the organization.

Odds are good that you know a young woman who will soon be thinking about what she wants to study in school, and what path she wants her life to take. Encourage her to seek out a career where she can help protect the environment. That young woman you know could be the next Rachel Carson or Gina McCarthy, and she might step into a decades-long career in public service and environmental protection that changes the face of the world.

All throughout March, we’ll be highlighting women here at the EPA and at some of our sister agencies who are moving our work forward. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to join the conversation, and check out the slideshow below to meet a few of the women who work here at the EPA.

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 is for Ant: Keeping Ants Out of the Classroom (Part 2)

Close-up of ant feeding.

Close-up of ant feeding.

By Marcia Anderson

The Benefits of Ants in classrooms. Ants have been observed and documented as good examples for humans for their hard work and cooperation since the dawn of history. Lessons abound in literature, such as: The Ant and the Grasshopper, one of Aesop’s Fables and they are in Hopi mythology. More recent literature includes: A Tramp Abroad, by Mark Twain, Departmental by Robert Frost, The Once and Future King by T.H. White and H.G. Wells’ The Empire of the Ants.

Kids easily relate to ants, just think about all of the 3-D animated films that have been produced: Antz, A Bug’s Life, The Ant and the Aardvark and Atom ant. Can you recall playing the award winning video game Sim Ant in the early 1990s? Many other games and science fiction insectoids have followed since. However, other than in literature, history, mathematics and art, ants are best kept outdoors.

In an earlier blog, I presented information on keeping ants out of the classroom schools and the importance of a smart, sensible, and sustainable approach for their management known as Integrated Pest Management or IPM. Here are some additional tactics to round out a good ant IPM plan:

Sanitation. Sanitation eliminates the food that ants need to survive. Get rid of their food and you get rid of the ant problem. If children regularly receive meals in classrooms, those floors should be vacuumed and/or mopped daily. Make sure that all sinks are drained and clean by the end of the day. Periodically give all food preparation areas an all-inclusive cleaning, focusing on areas where grease and food debris accumulate. These include drains, vents, stoves, and hard-to-reach areas behind or between appliances. At the end of each day, remove all garbage containing food from the building.

Ants follow pheromone trails and reinforce them as they walk.

Ants follow pheromone trails and reinforce them as they walk.

Proper Food Storage. An ant infestation may indicate a need to change current methods of storing food or food waste. All food should be kept in the refrigerator or stored in pest-proof containers with lids that close tightly. As soon as food arrives in the building transfer it into clear plastic or glass containers. Do not leave food in cardboard boxes and paper as they are not ant or roach-proof. Outdoor refuse containers should be emptied and washed regularly and recyclables should be cleaned before storage.

How are ants able to follow one another around? They leave pheromone trails as they walk and each ant reinforces the trail as they head back to the colony with food. Detergent and water is an easy and safe way to eliminate this trail and the ant followers. When ants invade a classroom or food preparation area, an emergency treatment is detergent and water in a spray bottle. This mixture will quickly erase the trail and immobilize the ants. They can be wiped up with a sponge and washed down the drain.

For tougher problems, where non-chemical methods haven’t solved the problem, integrating ant baits, traps or other low-impact pesticides into your management program may be warranted. For information on ant control in schools go to: http://www.sites.ext.vt.edu/schoolipm/ipmtechniques/documents/ants.pdf .

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

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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School Parties, Holiday Crafts… and ants? (A is for Ants-Part 1)

By Marcia Anderson

 A is for Ant

A is for Ant

Remember the ant marching song: “…The ants go marching two by two hurrah, hurrah…” The ants are lining up to enter classrooms around the country, eagerly following our children. Why? Why are ants the most common insects found in schools? Ants do not attend class for the math lesson. They could care less about multiplication, dividends or square roots. The dividends they are looking for are the crumbs students have dropped or left in their desks. With the holidays around the corner, many schools celebrate with food and special treats. If ants cannot find food, they will march on to, perhaps the kitchen or other classrooms.

It is important to recognize that most ants can be both beneficial and pests. Most ants are not a serious threat to human health or property, with the exception of carpenter ants (or fire ants in southern states). Ants provide an important ecological cleansing and fertilization service by aerating the soil outdoors and recycling dead animal and vegetable material. Ants also kill numerous pest insects, including fly larvae, termites, fleas, and caterpillars. Ants become pests when they invade school buildings searching for food and water to take back to their nests.

Before taking any action against an invading ant, be sure there is more than one ant present. Just one may have hitchhiked in on food packaging, clothing, or a backpack that had been placed on the ground for a while outside. Multiple worker ants (those without wings) suggest a nearby nest and an entrance hole. Take a few minutes to watch the ants. Where are they going? Where did they come from?

Did you know that there are approximately over a quadrillion ants alive in the world at any one time, or about one million ants for every human on earth? So it is neither desirable nor practical to try to eliminate most ants from their outside habitat.

 Ants feeding.

Ants feeding.

Ant control. Management efforts should aim at keeping them out of structures as part of a smart, sensible, and sustainable approach to pest control called Integrated Pest Management or IPM. Ant control should focus on excluding ants from the building, good sanitation, and building maintenance rather than routine spraying with pesticides, which may not always be effective. Ant management requires continuous effort.

Inspection and Detection. Often it takes detective work and ingenuity to discover where ants are coming from. When you spot large numbers of ants in a trail, try to follow the ants to where they are entering the building. Carry a good flashlight. Take good notes during your inspection and record problem areas, entry locations and areas needing repair. If a nest is found inside, it must be removed. Call your IPM coordinator or a pest management professional for help. To do it yourself, use an industrial vacuum, and vacuum up some cornstarch to prevent ants from escaping, then seal and destroy the vacuumed material.

Habitat modification: Exclusion. By carefully sealing places where ants enter, you will make a long-term impact on the number of ant invasions. Begin with sealing actual and potential entryways – especially where wires and pipes enter the building, then weather-strip around doors and windows. Always carry a tube of sealant when making inspections and seal as many cracks as time allows, especially those around baseboards, pipes, sinks, toilets, and electrical outlets. Silicone sealant is flexible, easy to apply, and long-lasting. Keep plants and mulch away from the foundation of buildings as they provide ant nesting sites.

For more information on ant control in schools go to: http://www.sites.ext.vt.edu/schoolipm/ipmtechniques/documents/ants.pdf and look for more information in a future blog.

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

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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It’s Farm Safety and Health Week 2013

Like many Americans, I didn’t always know a lot about growing or harvesting my food. I knew that it started on a farm and ended up in my grocery store. Over time, I learned that agricultural work is one of the toughest, riskiest and lowest paid jobs in the U.S. Now, I put my passion for farm safety to work here at EPA.

Across the nation this week, farm communities are working together to stay safe as part of Farm Safety and Health Week. Agriculture is one of the most dangerous occupations, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, with numerous risks to workers. Agricultural workers can also face potential chemical hazards. At EPA we’re working with our partners to help people understand how to be safe around farms, nurseries, and greenhouses.

For example, we work with federal, state, and non-profit agencies and associations to implement the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard. Our goal: reduce risks of pesticide poisonings and injuries among agricultural workers, pesticide handlers, and their families. We’re also improving this standard to better protect you in the future.

Organizations we work with provide training and support for agricultural communities. The Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs trains people on the proper handling of pesticides. The Migrant Clinicians Network trains doctors and nurses on how to address the health concerns of farm workers and their families. And the National Pesticide Information Center offers a toll-free number for anyone to call with questions regarding pesticides and related issues. Training is available in English, Spanish, and other languages to help agricultural communities.

Do you live or work in a farm community? Here are tips to protect yourself and your family from pesticide exposure.

  • Close windows near fields during and after spraying.
  • Don’t eat fruit or vegetables directly from the field; always wash them in clean water first.
  • Keep children away from pesticides and store household pesticides in a locked cabinet out of their reach.
  • After you apply pesticides, wash your clothes separately from the family laundry and wash your body and your hair. Put on clean clothes, not the ones you wore.
  • Leave your work shoes or boots outside the house so you don’t bring pesticide residues inside.
  • Don’t use agricultural pesticides in your home.
  • If pesticides get on your skin, wash right away. Call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 to see if you need medical attention.
  • If you feel dizzy or sick while working in a greenhouse or another enclosed area, get out to an open area to breathe fresh air.

More information on agricultural worker safety and training is available.

To farm families and workers, thank you for the work you do.

 Emily Selia is an Environmental Health Scientist at the EPA Office of Pesticide Programs. She works primarily on health communication and outreach initiatives, including farmworker health programs.

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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Partnering to Improve Farmworker Pesticide Safety

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Haga clic en la imagen para unirse a la conversación en nuestro blog en español… ¡No olvide de suscribirse!

By Ashley Nelsen

Image of a family at home.Pesticides play an important role in providing us the variety of fruits and vegetables that we have come to expect. It’s my office’s job to ensure that pesticides do their job in the field and don’t pose unnecessary health risks to people. When studies showed that children of farmworkers are exposed to pesticide residues found in their homes, a longstanding partnership between the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP) and the EPA went into action.

The product of this partnership is Project LEAF (Limiting Exposure Around Families) and its training materials. Project LEAF was designed to educate farmworkers and their families on the hazards, prevention and mitigation of take-home pesticide exposure. Carefully crafted messages throughout the training and the training materials are designed to create permanent behavior change, such as laundering family clothing separate from work clothing, thus reducing pesticide residue within the home.

Educating farmworkers, their families and other environmental justice communities on pesticide safety poses unique challenges. America’s farmworkers often migrate with the ebb and flow of the seasons, making it difficult to locate them for safety training. Farmworkers today are predominantly Hispanic and often struggle with low literacy. Therefore, training and supporting materials such as brochures, pocket foldout cards, posters, magnets and public service announcements were designed to be bilingual, culturally sensitive, and low literacy.

In addition to developing the training and its supporting materials, AFOP delivers free Project LEAF training throughout the country. They are one of very few organizations capable of reaching the migrant farmworker population, cultivating the important relationship between farmers and growers, and assisting in locating important resources such as clinics, agricultural extension and churches for farmworkers.

The partnership between the EPA and AFOP has allowed the EPA to cost effectively access AFOP’s national farmworker network. We’re excited about the impact this training makes on the farmworker population by enabling them to protect themselves and their children. Read more information about free Project LEAF training.

About the author: Ashley Nelsen began working at the EPA’s HQ Office in Washington, DC, in May 2008 as an intern, returning as a permanent employee in September 2009. She received her M.A. in International Environmental Policy and Spanish at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Ashley currently works on issues related to farmworker outreach, pesticide safety, the EPA regulation for worker protection and international pesticide policy.

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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