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Enforcing the Law to Protect Children from Lead Poisoning

2014 April 17
Cynthia Giles


April 17, 2014
1:59 pm EDT

Years ago, when I needed to have my house painted, I called local contractors to submit bids for the work. My daughter was four years old at the time, and so I was acutely aware about dangers of lead paint exposure. It can cause a range of health issues, including behavioral disorders, learning disabilities and other serious problems, putting young children at the greatest risk as their nervous systems are still developing. So I paid close attention to the bids to make sure the one I chose would be lead-safe.  In those days, finding a lead-safe contractor wasn’t easy.

But today, it’s easier. Other families shared the same concern I had, prompting the adoption of new regulations for lead safe practices in 2010. EPA is working to protect children from lead poisoning by enforcing these regulations. A case in point: Today we’ve announced a major settlement that requires Lowe’s Home Centers to enact a corporate-wide compliance program to ensure that the contractors it hires to perform work in customers’ homes follow the law and protect children from lead paint exposure. Lowe’s is taking responsibility to police the contractors it hires, which we think sends an important message to renovation companies across the country: Follow the rules on lead-safe practices and make sure the contractors you hire do the same.

The settlement requires Lowe’s to only hire contractors that have been properly certified by EPA to do work in homes built before 1978, as well as any child-occupied facilities like day-care centers and preschools. Lowe’s will make sure its contractors keep up their certification and use lead-safe work practices. This means setting up the job site safely, taking precautions to minimize dust and cleaning up thoroughly afterwards. Lowe’s will also suspend any contractors not following the federal requirements.

We wouldn’t have achieved this settlement if not for tips from the public. When concerned citizens noticed that Lowe’s contractors were not following lead-safe work practices, they reported it, leading to EPA’s investigation and eventual enforcement action. If you see contractors not following lead-safe practices, please let us know by submitting a tip through http://epa.gov/tips/.

I was careful to make sure my daughter was protected from lead contamination when I had home renovation work done. EPA is doing the same for your family by enforcing the law and insisting on lead-safe practices by all contractors. You can help by following the simple rule to avoid the dangers of lead poisoning: When you’re hiring workers for home renovations, look for the “Lead-Safe” logo on websites, uniforms and signs.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Protecting Our Children and Our Environment

2014 April 16
Ron Curry


April 16, 2014
1:28 pm EDT

It is great to be a granddad. My granddaughter Marin was born on December 8 and my newest granddaughter Effie was born on March 3. They are the most beautiful babies ever. Yes. I am biased. People often ask me why I became a regional administrator for EPA – and I only have to hold one of my granddaughters to know the reason.

Photo of Ron and Marin, his granddaughter.

Ron and Marin, his granddaughter

 

At EPA, we make visible difference in communities by addressing possible threats to children’s health from environmental exposures and impacts of climate change. Did you know…

  • In Region 6 alone, there are 10 million children under the age of 18. The percentage of children living in poverty in this Region is about 27 percent, just about the highest percentage in the nation. Some people are particularly at risk, especially those who are poor.
  • Asthma prevalence continues to grow. Nationally over 7 million children, or about 9.5 percent have asthma. The Regional average is higher, at more than 12 percent.
  • Climate change is likely to increase the amount of bad ozone in the air because more ozone is created when the temperature is warm.

Children are more vulnerable than adults to environmental toxins and contamination as well as health risks linked to climate change. Right now, we are working with the Health and Wellness Alliance for Children along with Children’s Medical Center and 25 other organizations to reduce asthma rates in Dallas County – where today, nearly 60,000 children suffer from asthma. The annual cost to Dallas including cost to families and to medical care facilities across the community is estimated to be a staggering $60M.

We are also using innovative ways to share information in communities. We are also working with the Perot Museum of Science and Nature in Dallas to deliver education about children’s environmental health to families, teachers, and students through museum programming.

I recently met with a group of doctors from the Southwest Center for Pediatric Environmental Health in Tyler, Texas. Each of EPA’s ten regions has a Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU) and each unit is doing incredible job educating nurses, assistants, medical students, and physicians about possible environmental causes of illness in children. It was good listening to them about their work as well as the challenges in doing more. I learned about their programs to train nurses and community health workers in ways to reduce exposure to asthma trigger and provide workshops to agricultural workers on reducing childhood take-home exposure to pesticides. They are finding ways we can better address children’s health including plans for workshops for city employees on the risk of childhood lead poisoning found within homes and school administrators on creating healthy school environments. You can learn more about these pediatric units on their website at http://www.pehsu.net.

 

Photo of Dad and Effie.

Dad and Effie

 

I also learned more needs to be done. At EPA, we will continue to do our part in making biggest difference where kids live, learn, and play.

You probably know someone with asthma, or maybe have asthma yourself. Children are especially vulnerable to environmental risks linked to climate change. As Earth Day approaches on April 22, we invite you to do your part to act on climate.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Environmental Education Week – The Importance of environmental education

2014 April 15
Gina McCarthy


April 15, 2014
4:30 pm EDT

One of my favorite parts of my job is having the opportunity to meet young people from across the country.

Administrator Gina McCarthy with the Girl Scouts of America

Administrator Gina McCarthy with the Girl Scouts of America

 

Recently, I met with 15 Girl Scouts from DC, Virginia, and Maryland at EPA headquarters to talk about environmental careers. The thing I noticed when I spoke with the Girl Scouts was how knowledgeable they were about what is going on with the environment in their communities. They were passionate about protecting the environment, as evidenced by the numerous environmental patches they wore proudly on their uniforms; they are the next generation of environmental leaders. The Girl Scouts asked great questions, from what action they can take on climate change to what types of careers EPA offers to geoengineers.

It’s clear that we have amazing and dedicated troop leaders, environmental educators, teachers, and parents to thank. These role models share their love and care about the environment with these young people. Environmental education is essential to building long-term stewardship of our environment.

We all need clean air and water to live, and we all have a moral responsibility to future generations who will depend on our natural resources. That’s why environmental education is vital to the mission we have at the EPA. As we strive to protect human health and the environment, it is important for us to educate and connect people to the natural world around them, protecting this place we all call home.

Environmental education is a process that allows individuals to explore environmental issues, create unique learning experiences and developcritical thinking skills necessary to build stronger communities where people work together to address challenges. Our agency provides dependable scientific information and resources that educators can rely on to provide quality education.

This week, April 13th through the 19th is National Environmental Education Week.

Since 2005, the National Environmental Education Foundation has worked with EPA to reach hundreds of thousands of students and educators by creating educational materials and activities grounded in science that are tied to state and national learning standards.

I was inspired by the Girl Scouts and their passion for our environment. Let’s encourage young people across the nation to learn something new about local ecosystems and find out how they can take action in their communities to protect our natural resources. National Environmental Education Week is the perfect time to take that opportunity.

For more information about environmental education, visit www.epa.gov/education. For more information on National Environmental Education Week, how to connect with environmental educators in your area, or to sign up to get involved with local activities, visit: www.eeweek.org.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Working Towards Healthier Latino Communities

2014 April 11
Gina McCarthy and Dr. Elena Rios


April 11, 2014
2:30 pm EDT

Administrator Gina McCarthy and Dr. Elena Ríos with members of the National Hispanic Medical Association.
Administrator McCarthy Speaks to the NHMA Board of Directors at the National Hispanic Medical Association 18th Annual Conference.

Administrator McCarthy Speaks to the NHMA Board of Directors at the National Hispanic Medical Association 18th Annual Conference.

 

The relationship between environmental protection and public health is at the heart of EPA’s mission and the agenda of the National Hispanic Medical Association. For years, Hispanic communities have been living in areas where the quality of the air they breathe and the water they drink does not meet national standards. In 2009, 70% of Hispanic children lived in areas with poor air quality.   All too often, Latinos work in occupations where they are exposed to greater environmental hazards and toxic chemicals. Furthermore, when it comes to health disparities, Latinos, particularly Puerto Ricans, are disproportionately affected by asthma attacks and asthma related deaths. Make no mistake. Climate change is very much a public health threat; it widens the health disparities we work to address.

EPA will keep fighting for environmental justice—but we can’t do it alone. We can never underestimate the importance of Hispanic medical providers as a culturally competent link, ensuring the health of the Hispanic community in America. Therefore, EPA and the NHMA are starting to work more closely together to meet our common goals of improving the environmental health of Hispanic communities throughout the nation. We have been sharing valuable information and expertise to address the challenges Latino and underserved communities face, from air quality issues and many more.

Administrator Gina McCarthy and Dr. Elena Ríos with members of the National Hispanic Medical Association.

Administrator Gina McCarthy and Dr. Elena Ríos with members of the National Hispanic Medical Association.

 

EPA recently took a step forward to protect the predominantly Hispanic farm worker community from the dangers of pesticide exposure. Each year, between 1,200 and 1,400 pesticide exposure incidents are reported on farms and in fields or forests. Last month, EPA proposed commonsense revisions to the Worker Protection Standard to protect farmworkers and their families. This is just one example of a step toward healthier communities. We’re not going to solve our environmental and health challenges overnight.  Yet, we know that together we can make a difference to ensure that we have a cleaner, healthier environment and true environmental justice for all.

EPA and NHMA’s goals of protecting our environment and public health are aligned. In fact, they are joined at the hip. Our future and the future of our children depend on clean air, clean water and a stable climate. Hispanic communities, EPA, and the NHMA are working towards that goal.

Together, we hope to make a difference, one community at a time.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Charting EPA’s Direction

2014 April 10
Maryann Froehlich


April 10, 2014
3:37 pm EDT

Last December, I reached out to you, our readers, to ask you to tell us what you thought of our draft strategic plan for the years 2014 through 2018. EPA received nearly 25,000 comments from individuals, communities, states, and tribes interested in our work to protect people’s health and the environment!

This week, we released our final FY 2014-2018 Strategic Plan. The plan outlines our goals to address climate change, prevent pollution, and protect public health and the environment by enforcing environmental laws. The plan also seeks to improve air quality, protect America’s water, ensure the safety of chemicals, and clean up communities while advancing sustainable development. read more…

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Tackling the Cases That Matter Most

2014 April 10
Cynthia Giles


April 10, 2014
11:15 am EDT

By Cynthia Giles

This week, EPA released its final strategic plan outlining the agency’s priorities for the next four years, including enforcement and compliance assurance. When the draft plan was released back in November, we received thousands of public comments that stressed the importance of a robust enforcement program that holds polluters accountable and deters violations of environmental laws. I couldn’t agree more.

Now that we have a clearer understanding of EPA’s budget, we have made some adjustments to the numbers outlined in the plan. While they are projections – and actual results are often higher than projected – greater budget certainty has allowed us to increase some of the targets. The final strategic plan reflects EPA’s commitment to vigorous enforcement for the cases that have the highest impact on protecting public health and the environment. read more…

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Lights, Cameras, Action on Climate

2014 April 9
Judith Enck


April 9, 2014
10:00 am EDT

With the release of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the evidence continues to mount that the planet is getting warmer and the time to act is now. Everywhere people are asking what they can do to fight climate change. April 22 is Earth Day and it’s the perfect time for all of us to act on climate.

There are a lot of things that people can do in their daily lives to fight climate change. We can promote clean energy, take public transportation, drive fuel efficient cars and reduce our use of energy. But one of the most simple and effective things we can do is to recycle. read more…

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Make Healthy Schools Day April 8 A Day of Action!

2014 April 8
Matt Bogoshian


April 8, 2014
11:09 am EDT

Providing every child with a quality education is a high priority. Of course we want our kids to learn, grow, and be successful. But the reality is that many schools are older buildings with indoor air quality problems that can be fixed, sometimes with easy to use EPA tools that can help student performance at the same time. One in 10 school-age kids have asthma and some schools can have issues with mold, radon and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).) The evidence shows that health and test scores can improve if more schools put in place EPA’s Tools for Schools, which includes a Framework for Effective School Indoor Air Quality Management.

In fact, last week I attended the National Green Schools Conference where I talked with Dave Hill from Blue Valley School District in Kansas. He told me how their students have shown dramatic increases in math and reading test scores over the 12 years using these tools. I also heard from other local and state leaders about how more schools should use these and other EPA tools to improve children’s health, prevent pollution, cut carbon pollution, save energy, reduce pesticide use, and improve test scores! read more…

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Protecting Our Research Volunteers

2014 April 2
Bob Kavlock


April 2, 2014
12:35 pm EDT

Protecting human health is both a core mission, and a natural extension of everything we do here at EPA. Our commitments to protecting the nation’s air, water, and natural ecosystems, taking action on climate change, and working with local communities to help them become more resilient and sustainable all lead back to protecting human health.

Recently, we have revisited that commitment in one particular area of great importance as we continue using the latest, and best-available science to support our work.

read more…

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Battling Pollution Balances Health Disparities and Brings Economic Opportunity

2014 March 31
Gina McCarthy and Kuae Kelch Mattox


March 31, 2014
11:52 am EDT

Pollution isn’t just a barrier to good health; it’s a barrier to good jobs. Too often, low-income families, the inner-city, and communities of color are overburdened by air and water pollution. President Obama has called closing gaps of opportunity a defining challenge of our time. Meeting that challenge means ensuring clean air, clean water, and safe, healthy work environments. It is our duty, on behalf of the people we serve, to provide equal protection for all. That’s what environmental justice is all about.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, Mocha Moms President Kuae Mattox and Board Members of Mocha Moms, Inc.

Photo of EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, Mocha Moms President Kuae Mattox and Board Members of Mocha Moms, Inc.

 

Mocha Moms, Inc. understands that principle, and launched a National Community Service Initiative in 2009 entitled “Closing the Gap in Minority Health, Prosperity and Achievement.” This wide-reaching initiative promotes education and community service throughout 100 chapters in local communities around the country. Mocha Moms, Inc. and the EPA share a commitment to address environmental health risks and expand the conversation within underserved communities. We are thrilled to announce the continuation of the partnership between the EPA and Mocha Moms, Inc. read more…

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.