Location is important, especially when it comes to household products

By Jim Jones

Where do you keep your cleaning supplies? If you’re like most of us, you probably said under the sink. What about other household products like insect repellents and flea or tick products? Where you store your household products might seem like a small detail. However, storing cleaning and other products incorrectly could be putting your kids at risk for an accidental poisoning.

Here are some interesting statistics from the American Association of Poison Control Centers:

  • Poisoning is our country’s leading cause of injury-related death.
  • 91% of poisonings occur at home.
  • Exposure to household cleaning products is the second leading cause of pediatric poisonings.

The good news is that most poisonings are preventable. Storing cleaning and other household products out of children’s reach, is one of the easiest things you can do to protect your kids from accidental poisonings.

One of the most common cleaning products kids are exposed to is bleach. In 2014, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported over 15,000 poisoning incidents involving only bleach for kids 12 and under. Making cleaning products inaccessible to kids by simply moving them to a higher shelf or installing safety latches on cabinets where cleaning products are stored could have prevented some of these incidents from occurring.

Here are a few more things you can do every day to prevent poisonings:

  • Read the label first. Follow the directions as they are written on the label before using a product.
  • Use child-resistant packaging correctly by tightly sealing the container after every use.
  • Never put cleaning or other household products in containers that could be mistaken for food or drinks.

When you think of environmental protection you probably don’t automatically associate it with poison prevention. However, an important part of our mission involves ensuring the safety of public health around the country. But we can’t do it alone – we need your help!

Check out more poison prevention tips at http://www.epa.gov/safepestcontrol/reduce-your-childs-chances-pesticide-poisoning.

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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E-Manifest: Tapping into America’s Expertise to Build a National System

By Mathy Stanislaus

Last year, I wrote about the progress we’re making on creating an electronic system for tracking hazardous waste shipments. It’s the system that will modernize the nation’s cradle to grave hazardous waste tracking process while saving valuable time, resources, and dollars for industry and states. The e-Manifest program is the vanguard of the Agency-wide e-Enterprise initiative to develop new tools to reduce the reporting burden on regulated entities and provide the Agency, states and the public with easier access to environmental data.

Today I’m pleased to announce another important step toward this goal, the selection of members for our E-Manifest Advisory Board. We chose experts with diverse backgrounds to help ensure that perspectives from manifest users across the country will be incorporated into the recommendations for improving effectiveness of the e-Manifest system.

We followed a robust process to select the Advisory Board members. First, we solicited nominations through a variety of outlets, including the Federal Register, various professional associations, our e-Manifest ListServ, and the Office of Small Business Programs. We received an enthusiastic response from candidates with expertise in information technology and from stakeholders in the sectors affected by the future e-Manifest system, including state governments, transportation, and hazardous waste management. From this excellent slate of nominations, we selected eight members who we believe reflect a wide array of valuable expertise, including:

  • Decades of experience managing hazardous waste at generator, transporter, and hazardous waste management facilities;
  • Vast systems development knowledge, including one contributer to the OnStar Automotive assistive technology; and
  • Hands-on, in-depth experience managing state hazardous waste programs in the states of Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Washington.

As required by the e-Manifest Act, the Advisory Board will be composed of nine members consisting of the EPA Administrator (or her designee), two members from the information technology sector, three members from state agencies and three members from the regulated community. We are excited to start working with the Advisory Board to gather their thoughts on several complex issues surrounding the development of the e-manifest system, including effectiveness and performance, user fees and processes, regulations and guidance, and outreach to our stakeholders. We will convene the Advisory Board periodically beginning in 2016, and we intend to deploy the e-Manifest system in the spring of 2018.

For those stakeholders who are not part of the Advisory Board, there are several ways you can provide your input and expertise to the e-Manifest system project. Our system development work is focused on ensuring that user requirements are met from day one of national system deployment. To accomplish this, we are conducting user-centered design and development and are utilizing agile software development methodologies. This approach embodies continuous improvement through pilots and testing, using iterative processes, and continued regular engagement with users and stakeholders throughout the process to provide on-going opportunities for input.

I encourage you to follow progress on the development of the e-Manifest system on our website. There, you may also subscribe to the e-Manifest ListServ to receive project updates in real time and information about opportunities to provide feedback. You may also submit your ideas and questions to eManifest@epa.gov. And finally, once we publish our proposed fee methodology this spring, I encourage you to submit comments on the proposed rule through regulations.gov.

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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Promoting Resource Efficiency By Focusing On Supply Chains

By Mathy Stanislaus

I recently attended a G7 Alliance for Resource Efficiency workshop in Yokohama, Japan on Promoting International Cooperation for Improving Global Resource Efficiency and on the Kobe 3Rs (reduce, reuse & recycle). In Yokohama, I described our current activities promoting Sustainable Materials Management (SMM), which analyzes the entire life cycle of products and services to identify the best ways to use materials while minimizing environmental impacts (e.g., use of energy, water and land). That means looking at use of resources from the point of materials extraction, through production, all the way to the end of a product’s life and beyond to reuse and recycling.

From left to right: Kazuhisa Matsuda, Japan; Benedetta Dell'Anno, Italy; Mathy Stanislaus; Gwenole Cozigou, European Commission.

From left to right: Kazuhisa Matsuda, Japan; Benedetta Dell’Anno, Italy; Mathy Stanislaus; Gwenole Cozigou, European Commission.

By advancing systems-based approaches such as SMM, we can reduce often-overlooked sources of significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, such as those from the supply chain of the manufacturing sector. The Paris Climate Agreement, for example, set a global goal to limit global warming to less than 2o Celsius by reducing GHG emissions. More than 40 percent of these emissions are attributable to materials management, and the G7 Alliance offers an important new mechanism to help meet the goal.

We are working collaboratively with the G7 Alliance for Resource Efficiency (G7 members from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, with representation from the European Union) and the private and public sector to foster a circular economy, one in which materials are used for as long as possible and materials and products are recovered at the end of their life. Our work is important because, as the G7 Alliance found last year, “for every one percent increase in gross domestic product (GDP), raw material use has risen by 0.4 percent . . . much of raw material input in industrial economies is returned to the environment as waste with[in] one year. . . Unsustainable consumption of natural resources and concomitant environmental degradation translates to increased business risks through higher material costs, as well as supply uncertainties and disruptions.”

The U.S is hosting a G7 Alliance for Resource Efficiency workshop in Washington, D.C. on March 22-23, 2016. At this forum participants from across the globe will explore how to use life-cycle concepts to advance resource efficiency and focus on significant upstream impacts in supply chains, specifically the auto sector. Why focus on the auto sector? That sector is an important part of our industrial and service economies and is significant to the gross domestic product of several G7 countries. It is also a global economic driver with supply chains reaching across the world. Additionally, automobile manufacturers and their suppliers are innovatively using life-cycle concepts to identify and address significant impacts and resource use.

Sessions will address a wide range of topics designed to benefit all participants – overcoming SMM barriers, the use of innovative materials and eco-design, information tools to foster life-cycle thinking, industry “hotspot” identification, supply chain transparency, incentives for change, and more. Participants will identify best practices that are transferrable to other sectors. Follow the conversation with the #G7CircularEconomy hashtag.

Building on the results of the workshop, we plan to host subsequent workshops to support the global transition to sustainable materials management. We know that there will be challenges ahead, but I am proud we are working with our fellow G7 countries in taking actions that will be beneficial to others for years to come.

Continue the discussion by following @EPAland’s conversation on #G7CircularEconomy.

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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EPA Taking Steps to Cut Methane Emissions from Existing Oil and Gas Sources

By Gina McCarthy, EPA Administrator

Today, as part of the Obama Administration’s ongoing commitment to act on climate, President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed to new actions to reduce methane pollution from the oil and natural gas sector, the world’s largest industrial source of methane. These actions build on the historic agreement that nearly 200 nations made in Paris last December to combat climate change and ensure a more stable environment for future generations.

Methane is upwards of 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide in warming the planet and is a key constituent of natural gas. By tackling methane emissions, we can unlock an amazing opportunity to spur U.S. action to protect our environment, but also unleash opportunities to think creatively and lead the world in developing a clean energy economy.

That’s why the Administration has been moving quickly and working hard to reduce emissions of this potent greenhouse gas. In 2012, we set emissions standards that cut pollution, including methane, emitted by fractured and re-fractured natural gas wells. This past summer, we proposed standards to directly address methane from new and modified sources in the oil and gas sector. Each of these steps moves the United States toward our goal of cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025.

But as science advances and new data emerge, we need to make sure we’re continuing to address the biggest climate challenges in the best ways possible. Over the past year, EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, along with studies from groups like the Environmental Defense Fund and industry and researchers at Colorado State University, Carnegie Mellon, the University of Texas, Washington State University, and others have provided significant new data on methane emitted by existing operations in the oil and gas sector.

The new data show that methane emissions are substantially higher than we previously understood. So, it’s time to take a closer look at regulating existing sources of methane emissions.

And, today, President Obama committed to doing just that. EPA will begin developing regulations for methane emissions from existing oil and gas sources. We will start this work immediately to address methane from existing sources. We intend to work swiftly, and will involve stakeholders in meaningful ways, as we have been doing all along.

We will begin with a formal process to require companies operating existing oil and gas sources to provide information to assist in the development of comprehensive regulations to reduce methane emissions. An Information Collection Request (ICR) will allow us to gather information on existing sources of methane emissions, technologies to reduce those emissions and the costs of those technologies in the production, gathering, processing, and transmission and storage segments of the oil and gas sector.

This is a routine step to assist in the development process for regulations to reduce air pollution. It helps EPA identify the most significant sources of emissions, the kinds of technologies that work best to reduce them, and how those technologies can be applied effectively.

There are hundreds of thousands of existing oil and gas sources across our country; some emit small amounts of methane, while others emit a lot. The Information Collection Request will help EPA identify, among other things, which existing sources are big emitters and how they can be effectively controlled. EPA will begin preliminary outreach to states, industry, environmental groups, communities and other organizations in the coming weeks and will launch the formal information collection process in April. This engagement will give us the opportunity to hear feedback from the public on our plans.

Throughout the process we will continue to expand opportunities for industry to voluntarily step up now to cut emissions from existing sources through EPA’s Methane Challenge program. Voluntary action to reduce methane emissions will put leading companies ahead of the game in meeting future standards.

I am pleased and proud to fulfill President Obama’s commitment to reduce methane emissions and join our Canadian colleagues in the continued fight against climate change.

Additional information:

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

By Mathy Stanislaus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow us on Twitter at @EPAland.

 

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

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Cleaner Air Means Healthier Hearts

By EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

February is Healthy Heart Month. There’s no better time than now to learn how to protect your heart.

Air pollution can affect heart health, and even trigger heart attacks and strokes. That’s important information for the one in three Americans who have heart disease, and for the people who love them.

And it’s why EPA is working with other government agencies, and with private and nonprofit health organizations, on the Million Hearts® national initiative to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. This month, and every month, we want to make sure people understand how heart disease is linked to air pollution – and what people can do to protect themselves.

Scientific studies, including research by EPA scientists, shows that there’s not just an association between air pollution and heart disease, but that this association can have life-threatening consequences.

In a recent study in Environmental Research, EPA scientists looked at data from NASA satellites and EPA ground-based air monitors, and confirmed that heart disease and heart attacks are more likely for individuals who live in places with higher air pollution.  The study found that exposure to even small additional amounts of fine particle pollution averaged over a year could increase a person’s odds of a heart attack by up to 14 percent.

So, what can you do to help keep your heart healthy?

  • You can start by making sure to eat nutritious meals and exercise (just make sure to check with your health care provider first).
  • Check the Air Quality Index every day to learn about your local air quality and how can reduce your exposure to air pollution.
  • And we can all do our part to make choices that are better for the environment and our health – like taking public transit more often and driving cleaner vehicles.

This February, and every month, remember that cleaner air means healthier hearts.

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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EPA Supports the Science that Makes a Difference for Heart Health

By Dr. Wayne Cascio

By Presidential proclamation, February 2016 is American Heart Month and once again we turn our attention to keeping our hearts healthy.  In his proclamation, President Obama asks us to, “remember those we have lost to this devastating disease, promote healthy lifestyles that mitigate its impacts, and pledge to continue our fight against it.”

Here at EPA we are doing just that. In the Office of Research and Development, scientists are working to understand how our experiences with our environment interact with genetic, social and health factors to contribute to the progression of blood vessel and heart diseases like high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and heart failure.  And we stand with our President and our partners at the CDC’s Million Hearts Initiative to promote a healthy environment and lifestyle to keep hearts healthy and prevent heart disease and stroke and eliminate health disparities.

In the U.S. the prevalence of high blood pressure is highest among African American men often leading to stroke, heart disease, and kidney failure.  So, today at 3 p.m. ET, we are joining Million Hearts and Men’s Health Network for a conversation on “What African American men need for a healthy heart” on Twitter using #HeartMonthChat.

The message is a simple one: Control risk factors for heart disease like high blood pressure, eat healthy, and stay active. Yet for some this is not an easy task.  Who we are and where we live may limit our ability to follow this simple guidance.  EPA is working to make a difference by helping communities benefit from healthier environments and enjoy healthier lives.

EPA researchers and research funded by EPA has greatly contributed to our knowledge of the connection between our environment and heart and blood vessel disease. Science shows that outdoor air particle pollution exposure increases blood pressure and increases the risk of stroke and heart attacks. And that improved air quality has translated into longer lives. Yet, it’s still the personal decisions we make about our lifestyles that have the biggest effect on our health. So taking action on lowering our risk factors for heart and blood vessel disease, making heart healthy food choices and increasing the availability of healthy environments to live and be active in can be a goal for all of us.

If you have heart or blood vessel disease the factsheet “Heart Disease, Stroke and Outdoor Air Pollution”  tells how to use the Air Quality Index and its daily forecast to reduce exposure to air pollution and protect your health.  It also includes information about risk factors and the warning symptoms of heart attacks and stroke.

You can access more information from EPA’s Healthy Heart Toolkit and learn about the science we are doing to protect heart health.Million Hearts twitter chat information

Reference:

  1. Mozaffarian D, et al; American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics-2016 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2016 Jan 26;133(4):e38-e360.

 

About the Author: Dr. Wayne Cascio spent more than 25 years as a cardiologist before joining EPA’s Office of Research and Development where he now leads research on the links between exposures to air pollution and public health, and how people can use that information to maintain healthy hearts.

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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New England Communities Addressing Climate Change

By Curt Spalding, Regional Administrator

Over the past several years I have witnessed New England communities grapple with challenges that are likely indicators of our changing climate. The sea is creeping into parking lots at high tide in low-lying Rhode Island. The Cape Cod National Seashore rebuilds access to beaches as the sea eats away dunes that have loomed for centuries. After Tropical Storm Irene, we saw Vermont communities helping each other and their state recover from the damage.

As more and more communities deal with rising sea levels, increased coastal erosion, seasonal changes, more intense and frequent storms, flooding, heat waves, public health threats, and threats to native species, I am often asked “What advice does EPA have? Who has already begun addressing these problems?”

I’m proud that our office has just launched an online resource to further help New England communities navigate how to respond to climate change. This resource, called RAINE (it stands for “Resilience and Adaptation in New England,”) is full of links, documents and information on how more than 100 New England communities are taking action to adapt to climate change.

When a town in Southern New England faces flooding, it can check the database and find guidance from Vermont’s experience after Tropical Storm Irene. When a beach community wants to find out how it can provide economic incentives to homeowners to provide extra protection for flooding they can look to Hull, Massachusetts. Hull provides a rebate on building department fees for homeowners who increase their building height above the base flood elevation. Users can see how communities are working with local businesses to adapt, such as in Misquamicut Beach Rhode Island, where businesses that were swept away by Superstorm Sandy are now rebuilding so they can get out of the way if another storm surge threatens them.

Becoming more “resilient” takes effort and forethought. Our communities need leaders who guide us to make investments today that will help us be more resilient tomorrow. The bottom line is, resilience is about people taking action to prepare wisely for the future. The RAINE database helps communities share what they have learned about adjusting to our changing climate, so that other communities can gain from their experience.

On the heels of the Paris climate agreement, with more than 190 countries coming together to reduce emissions in order to lessen the impacts of climate change, our RAINE database is further evidence that what is global is also local. New England communities are leading the way, learning from each other, connecting, and working together to address the impacts we are facing. I may be biased, but it seems to me that New England communities are often leaders when it comes to protecting and living sustainably in our environment.

With RAINE, each community isn’t on their own to reinvent the wheel. We welcome New England’s community leaders to use the RAINE database to learn what others are doing, and we invite you to share your experiences with other local decision makers. We can learn from each other as we tackle the challenges of a changing climate.

Raine

RAINE website http://www.epa.gov/raine

About the author: Curt Spalding is the Regional Administrator of EPA’s New England office, located in Boston.

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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Cars and Trucks and Things That Go…Put the Brakes on Traffic-Related Pollution Exposure at Schools

By Ruth Etzel, MD

School bus with black smoke.

Many scientific studies have found that people who live, work, or attend school near major roads appear to be more at risk for a variety of short- and long-term health effects, including asthma, reduced lung function, impaired lung development in children, and cardiovascular effects in adults. For example, a study by researchers at the University of Southern California found that children who live within 500 meters (that’s about one-third of a mile) from a freeway incur substantial and long-lasting deficits in lung development and function compared to children living at least 1500 meters (a little under 1 mile) from a freeway.

Yet nearly 17,000 of our country’s schools are located within steps of a heavily-traveled road, potentially exposing more than 6 million children to traffic-related pollution at a time when their developing lungs are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of air pollution.  Because one in ten children in the U.S. suffer from asthma, that number includes many kids who may already be struggling to breathe. What’s more, low-income and minority children are disproportionately impacted by asthma and are more likely to live and attend school near major roadways. Many communities are also facing difficult decisions about where to put new schools to serve a growing student population and how to design those schools to maintain a healthy learning and teaching environment.

To help schools, parents, and communities reduce students’ exposure to traffic-related air pollution, EPA has just released a new resource: Best Practices for Reducing Near-Road Pollution Exposure at Schools. In this document, best practice solutions that schools across the country are employing to reduce kids’ exposure to traffic-related air pollution are described. This “Best Practices” document summarizes several strategies that can be used to reduce exposures including ventilation, filtration, voluntary building occupant actions, school transportation policies, school siting and site layout decisions, and the use of sound walls and vegetative barriers. The document also contains a school ventilation checklist and links to additional resources for achieving clean, green and healthy school environments, such as EPA’s Voluntary School Siting Guidelines.

EPA and our partners have had tremendous success cleaning the air over the past 45 years, cutting air pollution by 70% while our nation’s economy tripled. That’s good news for our children; research published this year found that the improving air quality in Southern California over the past 20 years has led to healthier lungs for children in the region. But we still have work to do. While vehicle emissions have decreased over the past several decades due to EPA’s emission standards, schools may still be located in areas where air pollution levels are elevated.  We hope that this new resource will help schools and parents across the country find ways to reduce exposure to traffic-related air pollution at schools.

Learn what you can do: www.epa.gov/schools

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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For peace of mind, add “test for radon” to your 2016 to-do list.

By Janet McCabe

If I told you that there was an invisible, odorless air pollutant that was responsible for an estimated 21,000 lung cancer deaths in America every year, I bet you’d want to know that something was being done about it.

The fact is, you can do something about it – by testing your home for radon.

We take radon very seriously at EPA. Only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths per year than radon, making it the second leading cause in the United States. As one staff member in the EPA air office said to me recently, “The statistics on radon are no joke.”  I couldn’t agree more.

Where does it come from? Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes from uranium deposits in the soil. As uranium breaks down, it gives off radon gas, which then rises and can enter homes through their foundations. If that happens, then radon levels can reach dangerously high levels. There’s no way to predict if your home has high or low levels, though some areas of the country are more prone to high radon levels than others.

Testing is the only way to know for sure if your home is safe. Nationally, one in 15 homes has radon above the level at which the U.S. Surgeon General and EPA recommend taking action, which is four picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of air.

January is National Radon Action Month, when EPA joins with states and a number of national organizations to spread the word about the importance of testing for radon. January is a great time to test because that’s when doors and windows are shut to keep out the cold, leading to test results that are likely to show a home’s maximum radon level.

Testing is nothing to be intimidated by. Reliable, low cost, do-it-yourself kits have easy to follow instructions and are available online and at many hardware stores. There’s also the option of hiring a qualified tester. Whichever way you choose, a great place to start is your state’s radon office.

There’s no reason to delay. I should know; I’ve tested two homes. One had high levels that we were easily able to fix, and the other was safe, which was a huge relief.

If tests show elevated radon levels, the fixes are straightforward and affordable – comparable in cost to replacing a few windows or a garage door.  Like what happened with my homes, the peace of mind that you get in return is priceless.

Questions about radon? Join me and the American Lung Association for a twitter chat on Thursday, January 21 at 3:00pm ET to learn more about radon and what you can do to protect your family. Use the #TestForRadon hashtag to participate.

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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