This Week in EPA Science

By Kacey Fitzpatrickto-go coffee cup with research recap graphic

You know what would go great with that pumpkin spice latte? Reading about the latest in EPA science!

Indoor Chemical Exposure Research
Many cleaning products, personal care products, pesticides, furnishings, and electronics contain chemicals known as semivolatile organic compounds (SVOCs). The compounds are released slowly into the air and can attach to surfaces or airborne particles, allowing them to enter the body by inhalation, ingestion, or absorption through the skin.  Because SVOCs have been associated with negative health effects, EPA is funding research to learn more about their exposure and how we can reduce it. Learn more about this research in the blog Indoor Chemical Exposure: Novel Research for the 21st Century.

Empowering a Community with Scientific Knowledge
EPA researchers are working with a small community in Puerto Rico to install and maintain low-cost air monitoring devices. These devices will help community members analyze local pollutant levels and better understand the local environmental conditions. Learn more about the project in the blog Air Sensors in Puerto Rico: Empowering a Community with Scientific Knowledge.

Navigating Towards a More Sustainable Future
With the help of a smartphone, navigating from point A to point B is easier than ever. EPA is bringing that kind of convenience to environmental decision making with the release of Community-Focused Exposure Risk and Screening Tool (C-FERST), an online mapping tool. The tool provides access to resources that can help communities and decision makers learn more about their local environmental issues, compare conditions in their community with their county and state averages, and explore exposure and risk reduction options. Learn more about the tool in the blog C-FERST: A New Tool to Help Communities Navigate toward a Healthier, More Sustainable Future.

EPA Researchers at Work
EPA scientist Joachim Pleil is the EPA “breath guy” and was involved with the founding of the International Association of Breath Research and the Journal of Breath Research. He started off developing methods for measuring volatile organic carcinogens in air, and then progressed to linking chemical biomarkers to absorption, metabolism and elimination by analyzing human blood, breath, and urine. Meet EPA Scientist Joachim Pleil!

About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a writer working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. She is a regular contributor to It All Starts with Science and the founding writer of “The Research Recap.”

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Indoor Chemical Exposure: Novel Research for the 21st Century

By Meridith M. Fry, Ph.D.

While it is widely known that nearly every consumer product contains chemicals, have you ever wondered what chemicals lurk inside your home or office building?  Semivolatile organic compounds (SVOCs) are chemicals found indoors in the air and on surfaces that come from cleaning products, personal care products, pesticides, furnishings, and electronics. They are released slowly into the air and can attach to surfaces or airborne particles, allowing them to enter the body by inhalation, ingestion, or absorption through the skin.  Because SVOCs can persist indoors for weeks to years, they also may contribute to prolonged human exposure. In fact, individuals in the US have measureable levels of more than 100 SVOCs in their body at any given time.

cleaning equipment isolated on white backgroundThe health effects from exposure to SVOCs vary depending on the particular SVOC, the length of exposure, and personal susceptibility. SVOCs have been associated with allergies, asthma, endocrine and thyroid disruption, reproductive toxicity, and fetal and child development delays. Given the significance of these health effects, we’re funding research to learn more about SVOC exposure and how we can reduce it.

Through our Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Grants for New Methods in 21st Century Exposure Science, researchers from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and the University of Michigan are making great strides in developing new methods for measuring indoor exposure to SVOCs:

  • A new, simple method has been developed by researchers from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University to determine vapor pressure, an important yet uncertain chemical property of SVOCs. Vapor pressure is a measure of the tendency of these chemicals to escape (from a liquid or solid) into the air.  With better vapor pressure estimates, our understanding of how SVOCs move indoors will greatly improve.
  • Researchers from the University of Michigan are also developing a novel, portable device to rapidly measure hundreds of SVOCs indoors. This research has already spurred applications for three new patents and resulted in four peer-reviewed publications.  Milestones include the development of a micro-photoionization detector (PID) to identify which chemicals are present in the air, a miniaturized helium discharge PID that also offers rapid measurement, low power consumption, and a fast warm-up time, and an automated, portable gas chromatography system to measure chemicals in water.  These new instruments can be easily carried in the field and used on-site, revolutionizing current measurement technology which tends to be bulky and non-portable.

The research and findings from these STAR grants will continue to shape exposure science in the 21st Century, and increase our knowledge about SVOCs and how they affect our everyday lives.  STAR grantees from the University of California Davis, Duke University, and University of California San Francisco also are making substantial contributions to our understanding of SVOC exposure such as developing new methods to measure SVOCs in indoor dust, exposures in children, and exposures in pregnant women.  We are eager to continue sharing these groundbreaking achievements as they become available.

References:

Weschler, C.J. and W.W. Nazaroff, Semivolatile organic compounds in indoor environments. Atmospheric Environment, 2008. 42(40): p. 9018-9040.

Xu, Y. and J. Zhang, Understanding SVOCs. ASHRAE Journal, 2011. 53(12): p. 121-125.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Indoor Environment Group, SVOCs and Health, 2016. Available: https://iaqscience.lbl.gov/voc-svocs

About the Author:  Meridith Fry is an Environmental Engineer and Project Officer in EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research, Chemical Safety for Sustainability Research Program.

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

What’s Green and Growing in the River?

by Jon Markovich

Wissahickon Creek, PA

Wissahickon Creek, Pennsylvania

The Mid-Atlantic Region has many great walking, biking, and hiking trails that meander through the woods and provide us with the chance to escape into the natural environment.  One of my favorite activities on a hike is to stop along the trail to check out a nearby river or stream.  It’s nice to relax and admire the view, listen as the water flows, and to see the different types of plants growing in and around the water.

Before becoming an environmental scientist, I wouldn’t have known that the extent and type of aquatic plants can indicate the health of a waterbody.  In our region there are many beneficial species of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV).  SAV are rooted underwater plants that provide wildlife with food and habitat, and add oxygen to the water.  In fact, a positive sign in the Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts has been an increase in SAV. The more SAV, the better for the Bay.

Not so with another common type of aquatic growth – algae.  These are a large and diverse group of organisms that lack many typical characteristics of true plants.  Algae can grow on the bottom of a stream or float freely in the water.  While algae can be important to an aquatic ecosystem, too much can cause problems.

Excessive algal growth can negatively alter habitat and create low oxygen problems for aquatic life.  In addition, it can decrease water clarity for SAV, making it hard for them to get the sunlight they need to grow.  Some types of large algal blooms even pose a human health risk by producing toxics compounds.  Also in recent years, excess filamentous algae – long hair-like strands of algae growing on streambeds – has been a concern for potentially affecting recreation, such as fishing, boating, and swimming.  Specific effects could include tangled fishing lures, slippery rocks, and an overall unsightly appearance.

With several thousand different species of algae and SAV, it can be confusing to figure out what you see growing in a river or stream.  The Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin Commission (ICPRB) recently presented several tips to identify algae and SAV.  I spent some time hunched over a microscope to test these out, but with this handout they’ve created, you won’t need any scientific tools!

ICPRB is asking citizens in the Potomac basin to help by reporting areas where the water always seems green with algae.  You can share your observations using ICPRB’s new Water Reporter smartphone app which helps target local research efforts to study how excess algal growth affects aquatic life and the activities we like to do in the water.

Next time you’re out hiking, check out a local stream and see what types of aquatic plants are growing.  Can you answer the question “What’s green and growing in the river?”

 

About the Author: Jon Markovich joined EPA’s Water Protection Division in 2014 and works in the impaired waters and Total Maximum Daily Load programs. In his spare time, Jon enjoys hiking, kayaking and camping in the Mid-Atlantic Region’s many great state parks.

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Citizen Science in the Arctic

Stan Meiburg Stan Meiburg

By Stan Meiburg

Yesterday, science ministers and other government leaders from around the world, along with representatives from indigenous groups, gathered in Washington, D.C., for the first-ever White House Arctic Science Ministerial (WHASM). This important event was held in response to the urgent need for increased scientific collaborations to address the dramatic environmental changes that have occurred in the Arctic in recent decades.

I have the privilege of representing EPA on the Arctic Executive Steering Committee, which was instrumental in the planning of the WHASM. The event focused on four key themes: understanding Arctic science challenges, strengthening and integrating Arctic observations and data sharing, building regional resilience, and promoting STEM education and citizen empowerment. We are playing an important role in supporting these themes through several ongoing or proposed projects.

Among our projects identified for closer cooperation and expansion are those supporting the Local Environmental Observer (LEO) Network. This network of local environmental observers and topic experts, located in both Arctic and sub-Arctic areas, applies traditional and local knowledge, science and technology to document and understand significant, unusual events in Alaska. Through a cooperative partnership with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC), we helped deliver the LEO Mobile App, which puts the observation tools of the LEO Network into the hands of citizens in the field. This allows users to upload photos, audio, and text to make observations, thereby helping communities understand and document a range of environmental concerns. We also assisted with the launch of new LEO regional hubs in Northern California, Northwest Indian College, and in Canada (Northwest Territories and British Columbia). The WHASM aims to further facilitate LEO’s circumpolar expansion, helping remote communities across the Arctic to understand their environmental challenges and be part of the solution.

On the day prior to the WHASM, I had the honor of participating in a pre-Ministerial briefing with Arctic Indigenous Peoples. We had the opportunity to highlight our commitment to supporting indigenous communities in the Arctic, our support for the integration of traditional and local knowledge into decision making, and our WHASM projects that involve the LEO Network.

Although the environmental challenges facing the Arctic are serious and sobering, I was heartened by the extraordinary commitment of the global community to finding solutions through enhanced scientific collaboration and the empowerment of local citizens.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Celebrating an Amazing Year of Safer Choice

Jim Jones Jim Jones

By Jim Jones

Tipping points are hard to predict. You might make an observation and see some trend data, but saying when they’ll happen is tough, and may come down to something you feel in your gut. Well, my gut, informed by some promising signs, tells me that Safer Choice—EPA’s label for safer chemical-based products—may be reaching a consumer-awareness tipping point.

Products with the Safer Choice label began appearing on store shelves this spring. We hit the ground running to educate consumers and commercial buyers on the label with outreach campaigns focusing on spring cleaning and back-to-school. I’m proud to say that we’re beginning to see our efforts pay off. A survey found that one-third of consumers said they had seen the Safer Choice label on store shelves. Even more noteworthy, 76% of consumers in general—83% of parents and 86% of millennials—said they would like to use a mark such as the Safer Choice label to inform their purchasing decisions.

And not surprisingly, with consumer awareness and demand up, more manufacturers want to have their products certified to carry the label.  Applications for partnership are up sharply over last year. To help manufacturers meet the demand for safer products, we continuously evaluate and identify new chemicals that meet our strict criteria and add them to our Safer Chemical Ingredients List. We added 100 chemicals this year alone, bringing the total to more than 820. The result is a vibrant Safer Choice community with scores of newly qualified or requalified chemicals and products.

This progress is very promising, and I feel like we’re close to the tipping point. To get there, we need everyone’s help to spread the word and build on our momentum. As awareness of and demand for the Safer Choice label grows, so does the program’s ability to drive innovation in chemical safety and availability of safer products.

To all of the manufacturers, retailers, and NGOs out there – you can be part of ongoing efforts to shape and enhance the program by participating in the second Safer Choice Summit this November in DC. If you’re a formulator who’s worked hard to make a product with safer ingredients, shout it out with the Safer Choice label. And if you’re a concerned consumer, help us tip the scales for Safer Choice by letting the label be your guide to safer products.

A marketplace with safer chemicals and safer products carrying the Safer Choice label—now that’s something we can all celebrate.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Building the Next Generation of Climate Justice Leaders

About the Author: Joanna Stancil is the Senior Advisor for State and Private Forestry at the U.S. Forest Service. She is a member of the Climate Change Sub-Committee of the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice. This subcommittee is responsible for leading the charge of the EMI Climate Justice Initiative.

If the future belongs to our youth, then we must include our youth in addressing our future’s key issues, such as climate change and climate justice.

In 2015, the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJ IWG), in collaboration with the White House, announced the Educate, Motivate, and Innovate (EMI) Climate Justice Initiative. The goals of this initiative are to educate by providing a two-way learning experience, motivate by igniting interest in climate justice, and innovate by embracing opportunities for creative thought and action.

IMG_0087

Student Panel during EMI Workshop at the 2016 National Environmental Justice Conference

This initiative would be incomplete, however, if it did not target those most disproportionately impacted by climate change. It has been well documented that the impacts of a warming and increasingly unstable climate are already weighing more heavily on underserved, low-income, minority, and tribal communities. That’s why the EMI initiative builds collaborative relationships between federal government agencies and Minority-Serving Institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions.

Earlier this year, three students were selected and asked to share the projects they had been developing in their local communities during the EMI’s inaugural training workshop held as part of the 2016 National Environmental Justice Conference and Training Program.

Picture11

Soh-Yoke Bravo,  from Florida International University, examined the relationship between reforestation and carbon sequestration.

Lauren Wiggins and Kelley McClelland, from Tennessee State University, investigated air quality using funding from the Toxic Release Inventory Challenge. Soh-Yoke Bravo, from Florida International University, examined the relationship between reforestation and carbon sequestration.

The workshop focused on the effects of climate change on communities and featured training on EPA’s EJSCREEN, an environmental justice screening tool that provides users powerful data and mapping capabilities to access environmental and demographic information. Hands-on training with EJSCREEN allowed participants to explore how the tool can help them identify and better understand potential community vulnerabilities. Users identified communities they were concerned about and used the tool to better understand demographic and environmental trends for the area.

Lauren Wiggins and Kelley McClelland, from Tennessee State University, investigated air quality using funding from the Toxic Release Inventory Challenge.

Lauren Wiggins and Kelley McClelland, from Tennessee State University, investigated air quality using funding from the TRI Challenge.

Due to the success of the inaugural EMI workshop, we are excited to announce that the 2nd annual EMI workshop will be held during the March 8-10, 2017 National Environmental Justice Conference and Training Program in Washington, DC.

The EMI initiative has released the Call for Student Abstracts to all students attending Minority Serving Institutions and Tribal Colleges and Universities, who are interested in participating in the EMI workshop. The workshop at the 2017 National Environmental Justice Conference will provide a forum for the selected students to share their work addressing the impacts of climate change on communities with environmental justice concerns.

We are looking for abstracts that address resiliency, adaptation and mitigation with a focus on relationships between climate change and climate justice and human health, environmental health, culture, traditional practices, and/or economic development.

Of particular interest are:

  • Technical environmentalism – green apps
  • Geo-mapping
  • Forest or landscape impacts and community solutions
  • Traditional ecological knowledge
  • Capacity building
  • Green and renewable energy: just transition, just sustainability
  • Climate change impacts: water/sewer infrastructure enhancement
  • Wetlands protection
  • Human health and safety reduction in greenhouse gas emissions
  • Impact of residential and commercial development

Interested individuals should visit this webpage, or contact Joanna Stancil for additional information on how to submit their abstract.

These young minds are indeed the next generation of climate justice leaders and we are honored to offer opportunities for them to expand their knowledge about the environment and climate and to hone their leadership skills.  We truly believe that with help from these young people, we will be able to address our climate concerns with solutions that are equitable and sustainable.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Air Sensors in Puerto Rico: Empowering a Community with Scientific Knowledge

By Christina Burchette

Drop a stone in a placid lake and you’ll notice that the impact of stone hitting water creates a ripple effect that spreads outward in gentle, incremental waves. It is a quiet but powerful image of something we all know to be true: a small act can generate great significance over time.

EPA researchers Ron Williams and Maribel Colón hope to start a ripple effect in Tallaboa-Encarnación, a small community that sits along the Southern Coast of Puerto Rico. Williams, Colón, and EPA’s Caribbean Environmental Protection Division will work with local community action group DISUR (Desarrollo Integral del Sur) to install and maintain low-cost air monitoring devices in Tallaboa-Encarnación. These devices  will help community members analyze local pollutant levels and better understand the local environmental conditions.

aerial view of the community

The Tallaboa/Encarnación community in Peñuelas, Puerto Rico was selected for this project and has an interest in collecting environmental data to support environmental awareness.

Researchers are currently building the community’s air monitors in EPA’s Research Triangle Park laboratory. The rectangular devices are about ten inches wide and will collect data on two common air pollutants: total volatile organic compounds (tVOC), which come from sources like vehicle exhaust, and fine particle pollution (PM2.5), which is emitted from motor vehicles, smokestacks, forest fires, and other sources that involve burning.

Once the devices are installed in the area, which is near a highway and several industrial facilities, community members and members of DISUR will participate in a day-long training using EPA’s Air Sensor Toolbox for Citizen Scientists to learn how to use the devices to collect, validate, and summarize environmental data.

Now more than ever, lower-cost air sensors are making air pollution monitoring citizen-accessible. People all over the world are collecting and analyzing local data to better understand air pollution in their communities and to make choices to protect their health. Our researchers’ involvement in the Tallaboa-Encarnación community project is especially important because the community would not have otherwise had access to these types of air monitoring tools and resources.

The small act of installing air monitoring sensors in such a remote community is about more than new air quality data. A community being able to take the fate of their health and environment into their own hands through scientific discovery is an amazing achievement—one that could create significant ripples in the pond of citizen science.

Learn more about this project by viewing our citizen science air monitoring in Puerto Rico fact sheet.

About the Author: Christina Burchette is an Oak Ridge Associated Universities contractor and writer for the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Avoid Painful, Often Dangerous, Encounters with Yellow Jackets

By Marcia Anderson

Last week, a friend’s daughter was repeatedly stung by a yellow jacket during recess on her school playground. It was first thought that the children must have disturbed a nest while playing and that the wasp focused on one girl in particular. The playground monitor tried swatting it, but it kept coming back. She was stung three times. We later found that she was wearing a sweet smelling body lotion that may have drawn the attention of the wasp.

Avoidance: The best way to prevent unpleasant encounters with social wasps, such as yellow jackets, is to avoid them. If there is a chronic problem with yellow jackets around playgrounds, picnic areas, or athletic fields, inspect the area to locate the nests. Once you know where they are, have children avoid their nesting places. Avoid swatting and squashing yellow jackets because it is counterproductive. When a yellow jacket is squashed, a chemical (pheromone) is released that attracts and incites nearby yellow jackets. Avoid wearing bright colors, especially yellow, or floral patterns that may attract some foraging yellow jackets. Lastly, minimize the use of products with perfumes such as sweet smelling shampoos, lotions or soaps, as yellow jackets are attracted to sweet smells.

Yellow jackets become more aggressive in the fall.

Yellow jackets become more aggressive in the fall.

Stings and Symptoms: Yellow jacket stings pose a more serious threat to people than stings of bees. Because a yellow jacket’s stinger is not barbed like a honey bee stinger, it can repeatedly sting its victim, whereas a bee can only sting once. It can be very frightening to be the victim of multiple yellow jacket stings. The first impulse may be to run away, however the best strategy is to back slowly away from the colony until they stop attacking. Some people are more sensitive than others to stings due to allergic reactions. People who experience large numbers of stings at once, may suffer severe reactions to the inflammatory substances in the insect’s venom.

Yellow jackets that are foraging for food will usually not sting unless physically threatened, such as being struck or swatted. Multiple stings from yellow jackets are common because they are sensitive to disturbance and aggressive in defense of their nests. Sometimes merely coming near a nest, especially if it has been disturbed previously, can provoke an attack. Since problems with yellow jackets are most common in the fall, parents, teachers and school staff should be provided with this information soon after school opens.

Reduce Their Food Sources: In early fall, a yellow jacket’s food preference turns to sweets such as sugary drinks, ice cream, and fruit. Their behavior also turns more aggressive and they are more willing to sting. Since garbage is a prime foraging and hunting site for yellow jackets, garbage containers should have tight fitting lids and be regularly cleaned of food waste. Otherwise, the garbage (and the flies around it) becomes a food source for yellow jackets.

Repair windows screens and caulk holes in siding to prevent yellow jackets and other flying insects from entering the building. Playground and building inspections for pests should be conducted monthly to ensure that developing nests are found and removed before they become problematic.

Read more from the University of Florida on yellow jacket and wasp control.  Also check out EPA’s resources on smart, sensible and sustainable pest management in schools.

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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

The ‘So What?’ of EJSCREEN

map layersBy Hallah Elbeleidy

We exist in a time when geography is increasingly being recognized as a primary indicator for who, in our societies, benefits from access to resources and who does not. Mapping tools have the unique ability to show relationships between variables that may not have seemed relevant before. Although I, as a geographer, have a vested interest in promoting the relevancy of my discipline, you don’t have to look further than EJSCREEN, EPA’s environmental justice screening and mapping tool, to draw these same conclusions.

However, I still think it’s imperative to ask, “so what?”

Perhaps the most daunting time in my graduate career was having to answer the “so what?” of my chosen research topic, the cause of all causes that impassions me until this day. The “so what?” of research motivates me to ask even more difficult questions like who will benefit from a project, what are its impacts and, ultimately, do I have the passion to get it done.

Click on the photo to Launch the EJSCREEN tool!

Click on the photo to Launch EJSCREEN!

My experiences in academia, and the non-profit and public sectors have taught me that well-designed instruction at all stages in a project are imperative to success, and these same experiences have shown me that this consideration is overlooked at times. Practicing education can take place internally among project organizers and externally where outreach to the public can have a profound effect on the success of a project or, I daresay, a mapping tool.

As a research fellow with EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ), my goal is to get to the crux of this “so what?” dilemma with EJSCREEN, and the path I am taking to answer this question is education. I believe the next step forward must be creating outreach materials to educate the public on the uses of EJSCREEN, the people affected, and why it matters.

I am developing case studies that exemplify how federal, state, and community stakeholders employ EJSCREEN because I believe it is a practical and fruitful exercise and so do you, according to the feedback you provided us. In addition, OEJ is launching the EJSCREEN user impact survey, a short survey designed to capture how you are using the mapping tool to further your analyses in your personal and professional lives. Share with us a time when you used EJSCREEN, the results, your analysis of those results, and your recommendations for improving the tool. The survey will be open until November 8, 2016. We will select a variety of responses that reflect the diversity of our users and will showcase these stories on EPA’s EJSCREEN website based on unique uses and innovativeness.

Make sure to check out the EJSCREEN user impact survey website to learn how to submit your questions, comments, and suggestions about the survey! You can access this website at https://www.epa.gov/ejscreen/ejscreen-user-impact-survey.

Click on the photo to learn how to use the EJSCREEN tool.

Click on the photo to learn how to use the EJSCREEN tool.

The goals of answering the “so what?” of EJSCREEN are to provide a rich set of examples the public can use to inspire them to make new connections between health and environment that are not always apparent; build on their EJSCREEN knowledge by practicing how to recreate a particular result featured in the case study; collaborate with others who are working on environmental justice in their community or region; and share these stories with others who want to learn more about environmental justice.

Help us succeed by participating in the EJSCREEN user impact survey. The ability for us at the EPA to implement change, after all, is inextricably bound to you—the public—and your trust in, use of, and feedback to what we create.

This research is supported by an appointment to the Research Participation Program for the United States Environmental Protection Agency Office of Environmental Justice administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education through an interagency agreement between the US Department of Energy and the EPA.

About the Author: Hallah Elbeleidy received an MS in Geography from Penn State University in 2015. Her thesis examined tensions between privatization and ecological preservation in the city using Gezi Park in Istanbul, Turkey as a case study. She was awarded an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) fellowship with EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) where she is designing and building educational materials on EJSCREEN case studies.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Air Pollution at Our Nation’s Ports Can be Reduced Now

Chris Grundler Chris Grundler

By Chris Grundler

Ports are the main gateway for global trade and are critical to the U.S. economy. Thousands of diesel-powered vessels, trucks, cranes, and other equipment help transport goods to market. But as they do, they also emit greenhouse gases, smog- and soot-causing nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter, and other harmful pollutants. These emissions contribute to climate change and can cause asthma attacks, emergency room visits, heart attacks, and premature death.  People living near ports bear the brunt of this pollution, and they often live in minority or low income communities.

In 2014, I was privileged to stand beside Bob Perciasepe, then Deputy Administrator of EPA and other key port stakeholders to launch our Ports Initiative, which aims to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases from ports to improve the quality of life for all Americans working in and living near them.

Yesterday, in support of the Ports Initiative, we released a report titled the National Port Strategy Assessment: Reducing Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gases at U.S. Ports.  This report assessed a wide variety of strategies and technologies available to ports and port operators to reduce emissions.  The assessment shows that there are many effective, proven opportunities available right now to reduce harmful pollution at ports.  This is great news for the roughly 39 million Americans who live and breathe near these centers of commerce.  Port stakeholders including state and local governments, ports and port operators, tribes, and neighboring communities can use this information to help inform priorities and decisions about investments being planned now for their port area.

This information comes at a critical time. With the Panama Canal expansion, U.S. seaports, private-sector partners, and the federal government are primed to spend billions of dollars on port freight and passenger infrastructure over the next five years. Decisions about port investments will have a lasting impact on the health of our citizens and our planet.  It is more important than ever to make sure that port planning includes projects to reduce emissions and protect the environment.

Every type and size of port, whether they are seaports or Great Lakes and river ports, can use the information in the assessment to better understand how to reduce emissions now and into the future.  The assessment found that replacing and repowering older, dirtier vehicles and engines with ones that meet our cleaner diesel standards achieves large emission reductions in NOx, particulate matter, and other pollutants that affect air quality.  For example, replacing older drayage trucks could reduce NOx emissions by almost half, and particulate matter emissions by up to 62 percent in 2020 as compared to continuing with no changes.  With regard to greenhouse gases, the report highlights that electrification of port vehicles and equipment can effectively reduce the magnitude of greenhouse gas emissions growth below what would happen in the absence of this replacement.

Certainly, there are things that are already having a positive impact on pollution from ports.  For one, our emissions standards for new trucks, locomotives, cargo handling equipment, and ships are reducing diesel emissions from the vehicles and engines that are so critical to many port operations.   In addition, our Diesel Emissions Reduction Act grant program has accelerated turnover of older diesel equipment at ports and goods movement hubs resulting in additional reductions.  And finally, some port areas are taking proactive steps to reduce emissions.

Despite these gains, more work is needed to fully address the ongoing public health and climate impacts of the projected growth at U.S. ports.   I look forward to continuing our efforts to provide data and information to inform decisions that effectively reduce pollution and result in more sustainable ports for the 21st century.  This report is another important step in that direction.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.