Delmarva Grain Farmer – Getting it Right!

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by Kelly Shenk

Farmer showing data to author

Have you ever heard of the “4R’s?”  It’s a new buzz in agriculture that’s all about farm efficiency and productivity.  4R’s stands for putting the RIGHT nutrient source on a crop, at the RIGHT application rate, at the RIGHT time, and in the RIGHT place.  Farmers often refer to the 4R principles as “precision agriculture.”  Whether you call it 4R’s or precision agriculture — I call it “Getting it Right!”

I had a great opportunity to see first-hand what all this means on a Delmarva farm.  I met Jonathan Quinn, a fourth-generation grain farmer in Kent County, Maryland.  Within minutes he took out his iPad and started showing me data – lots of data – weather patterns, crop yields, fertilizer application rates.  It was clear to me that every decision he makes on his farm is driven by this data.

He told me about a technology he tested on his farm recently.  He used a drone to collect data on crop vigor which allowed him to determine what areas of the field needed additional nitrogen fertilizer.  He was able to spot an area in his field that had leftover nitrogen in the soil from a previous spinach crop.  Knowing this allowed him to adjust his nitrogen application rates.  When you talk to any farmer, they will tell you that they don’t want to waste fertilizer.  And any time they can save on fertilizers and increase their crop yields – it’s money in their pocket.

Jonathan sees his work with precision agriculture going hand-in-hand with protecting the environment.  He told me, “I don’t want to waste any inputs as far as fertilizer and chemicals.  And I’m doing it to protect the Bay, protect the environment.  I like to fish and crab and I want it to be there for my kids and my grandchildren to be able to do the same thing I did.”  This is a sentiment I hear from so many Delmarva farmers who have grown up the Chesapeake Bay.

When you boil it down, this Delmarva grain farmer is using technology and data to maximize farm efficiency, increase productivity and save money.  And guess what?  When farmers put fertilizers on the crop at the right rate, time, and place, it means less fertilizers are left over to run into our streams or leach into our groundwater.  So whether you call it the “4Rs” or “precision agriculture” or something else … I call it “Getting it Right!”

 

About the author: Kelly Shenk is EPA Region III’s Agriculture Advisor.  She works with farmers to achieve healthy, well-managed farms and clean water.  EPA helps fund the Delaware-Maryland 4R Alliance’s precision agriculture work through National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grants.

 

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.

Planting Trees to Promote Healthy Farms, Clean Water

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by Kelly Shenk 

Riparian Restoration – author’s son

On a foggy Saturday morning, my 12-year old son and I were on a cattle and cropland farm in Carroll County, Maryland.  We joined the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and its 60 volunteers to plant 1,200 trees and shrubs along a creek.  The creek flows to the Monocacy River and eventually to the Chesapeake Bay. 

 We worked beside some seasoned tree planters who told us they had been planting trees along streams for over a decade.  Within that decade, they said the trees have grown up, shaded the streams, and helped bring the fish and wildlife back.  Seeing results like that has motivated them to keep volunteering.   

This project is part of the farmer’s long-term plan to plant 10 acres of “riparian forest buffer” to improve the water quality and wildlife habitat of his creek.  This buffer of trees and shrubs will help absorb nitrogen and phosphorus coming off his barnyard and his corn and soybean fields when it rains. 

Riparian Restoration

As we planted and talked, the creek water suddenly turned muddy.  We looked up the stream and saw that a cow had tromped down the streambank and was wading in the creek.  It was a perfect illustration of how cows with access to the creek can erode the streambank and cause sediment – another pollutant – in the creek.  

The landowner is in the process of fencing his cattle out of the creek.  The Chesapeake Bay Foundation explained to the volunteers that excluding cows from the stream improves the cows’ health because they will be drinking cleaner water from a trough.  Healthier cows mean lower veterinary bills.  And cows drinking clean water gain weight faster which means more money in a cattleman’s pocket. 

I asked my son what he thought about the day.  I expected him to focus on all the cow patties we stepped in – after all he is 12 years old!  But he surprised me.  “It was pretty cool that we were all working together to help the farmer and the environment.”  His focus was on “together.”  We truly can have healthy farms and clean water by working together. 

 I’m looking forward to a day, 10 years from now, when I bring my son back to this farm and see how our work together has improved this farmer’s business and our local streams.  

 

About the author: Kelly Shenk is EPA Region III’s Agriculture Advisor.  She works with farmers to achieve healthy, well-managed farms and clean water.  EPA is proud to be one of many partners who helped fund this work through a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. 

 

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.

Tips for Greener, Healthier Lawns and Gardens

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Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, Assistant Administrator of EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention
By Alexandra Dapolito Dunn
Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention

Many Americans spend countless hours each year tending to their lawns and gardens.

Nothing frustrates a gardener more than the destructive capabilities of unwanted pests. They come in many forms, like weeds, insects, animals, molds and fungi ̶ just to name a few.

As you think about the best way to deal with pests in your garden or lawn, you may want to consider integrated pest management (IPM). IPM is a holistic, environmentally friendly, commonsense approach that focuses on pest prevention and only uses pesticides when necessary. IPM strategies allow you to manage pest damage using methods with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment.

Try these helpful tips when managing your green spaces:

Green Scaping - The Easy Way to a Greener, Healthier Yard

  • Outcompete weeds. A healthy lawn can compete with most weeds.
    1. Develop healthy soil
    2. Choose a grass that thrives in your climate
    3. Mow high, often and with sharp blades
    4. Water deeply, but not often
  • Choose pest-resistant plants. Many garden centers offer informa¬tion about pest-resistant plant variet¬ies. After the plants are established, they’ll save you time and money on pest control. And, some plants have their own pest resistant properties. For example, lavender is thought to help repel some mosquitoes, moths and other insects.
  • Choose plants that grow well in your region based on the amount of sun, type of soil, and water available in your yard.
  • Know your pests. Only about 5-15 % of the bugs in your yard are pests. “Good bugs,” like ladybugs and praying mantises, help control pests.

If you do choose to use a pesticide, ensure that you use it with care to get the most benefit. Reduce any risks by first always reading and following label instructions. Use only the amount instructed on the label and avoid overuse. When you have a small problem area, treat just that area, not the entire yard.

Share your photos of healthy lawns and gardens with us on Twitter @EPAChemSafety!

About the author: Alexandra Dapolito Dunn is the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. Prior to that she served as the Regional Administrator for EPA Region 1, and her responsibilities included overseeing the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and ten tribal nations. Read more.

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.

EPA Celebrates National Pollinators Week

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Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, Assistant Administrator of EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention
By Alexandra Dapolito Dunn
Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention

Each year, we celebrate National Pollinator Week in an effort to spread awareness and educate each other about the importance of pollinators like bees, butterflies, birds, and bats. About one-third of the food we eat, like almonds, berries, and many other fruits and vegetables, depend on pollinators. And I’m pleased to say that at EPA we’re working to protect them from harmful pesticide exposure.

EPA’s regulations for pesticides ensure that public health and the environment are protected. And the public can do its part by reading and closely following the label directions to ensure that they are being used safely and appropriately. At EPA, our goal is for growers to have products that protect their flowers and crops from pests while ensuring pollinators and their habitat, which are essential for gardens and farms to thrive, aren’t exposed to harmful levels of pesticides.

EPA has been working with experts around the globe since 2006 to develop a cutting-edge pollinator risk assessment process. Through our regular reviews of pesticides, we’ve also updated data requirements to better assess potential risks to pollinators.

In 2013, EPA changed many pesticide labels, prohibiting application when plants are in bloom. Since pollinators spend most of their days foraging for food, they’re usually not around when plants aren’t in bloom, which makes it a better time to apply pesticides.

Building on these efforts, EPA brought together beekeepers, growers and state pesticide regulators to help inform our 2017 Policy to Mitigate the Acute Risk to Bees from Pesticide Products, and develop pollinator protection plans. The policy encourages states to develop their own pollinator protection plans and is a terrific example of our close working relationship. It also demonstrates how communication at the local level between beekeepers and farmers who apply pesticides can be a key to protecting bees. When beekeepers learn that farmers are planning to apply pesticides, they can take steps to protect their hives.

In addition, EPA recently updated our “Residual Time to 25% Bee Mortality” (RT25) Data table.
RT25 data help farmers and beekeepers know about how long a specific pesticide may remain toxic to bees and other insect pollinators following foliar application to crops.

The Washington Post has also recently reported on some of our efforts, saying that “the Trump administration’s action [to protect pollinators] was welcome news to some environmentalists,” which demonstrates how united Americans are on this important issue.

These are just a few steps that EPA has taken to protect pollinators, and we remain committed to protecting pollinators this week and every week!

Wondering what you can do to protect pollinators? Growing different kinds of flowering plants to provide bees with pollen and nectar is one way that you can help. Another step you can take is reducing pesticide use. If you do need to use a pesticide, always read the label directions; they explain how to safely use it and ultimately protect our pollinators and our environment.

Learn more about pollinator protection at https://www.epa.gov/pollinator-protection.

About the author: Alexandra Dapolito Dunn is the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. Prior to that she served as the Regional Administrator for EPA Region 1, and her responsibilities included overseeing the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and ten tribal nations. Read more.

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.

Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act: Three Years of Safer Chemicals

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Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, Assistant Administrator of EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention
By Alexandra Dapolito Dunn
Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention

Today we are proud to mark the third anniversary of the Lautenberg amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the first major update to an environmental statute in 20 years. EPA is implementing the law in a way that ensures the safety of chemicals in the marketplace and protects human health and the environment. The Important TSCA milestones outlined below were achieved through the hard work and dedication of EPA staff.

We’ve taken important steps to evaluate chemicals that are already in commerce:

  • In November 2018, we issued the first draft risk evaluation for Pigment Violet 29 (PV29) under the new law. We will release draft risk evaluations for the remaining chemicals currently under review in the coming months.
  • Earlier this year we banned sales to consumers of methylene chloride in paint removers and strengthened the regulation of asbestos to close a dangerous loophole and protect consumers.
  • We just finished collecting public comments on the next substances we’re considering for risk evaluation – both high-priority chemicals to review promptly and low-priority chemicals.

We’re pushing for increased transparency:

  • For the first time in 40 years, we identified a comprehensive list of chemicals that are actively being manufactured, processed and imported. The result of tremendous effort by stakeholders and manufacturers, this information will help us focus EPA’s risk evaluation efforts on chemicals that are still on the market.
  • After we released the draft PV29 risk evaluation, we worked with manufacturers to increase public accessibility to underlying studies and to refine our application of our systematic review framework. This framework is the way we select and review studies.
  • We are holding the first public meeting of EPA’s Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) this week. The committee will review the PV29 draft risk evaluation and EPA will use its scientific advice as well as public comments to inform the final risk evaluation.
  • EPA is moving toward more real-time publication of information received regarding new chemical notices.

Finally, we’re striving to be good public stewards:

  • The TSCA fees rule allows EPA to collect fees from certain chemical manufacturers and importers for specific activities. We estimate that we will reduce taxpayer burden by an annual average of $20 million.

We’re looking forward to the years ahead of better chemical management and protection of our health and environment. We have accomplished much in the three years since Lautenberg, and we’re just getting started.

About the author: Alexandra Dapolito Dunn is the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. Prior to that she served as the Regional Administrator for EPA Region 1, and her responsibilities included overseeing the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and ten tribal nations. Read more.

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.

Honoring Contributions of Our Small Businesses

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Denise Benjamin Sirmons, Director of the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization
By Denise Benjamin Sirmons
Director of the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization

There are 30 million small businesses in America employing nearly 59 million workers. These numbers keep growing as America’s economy is booming. From reduced taxes to providing regulatory certainty, American small businesses are thriving in the most business-friendly environment in decades. America’s economy is expanding along with small business opportunities in part because EPA is leveling the playing field for entrepreneurs by ensuring regulations are clear and consistent for businesses large and small. During the Trump Administration, EPA has committed to become an even stronger ally of small business.

As part of National Small Business Week, EPA is honoring the contributions of small businesses in creating jobs, driving innovation and strengthening the national economy while also protecting the environment. We will do this by continuing our commitment to advancing the President’s policies that ensure we have a thriving economy and healthy environment.

EPA will also present the Administrator’s Small Business Program awards to several EPA small business contractors on May 9, 2019. One small business that will receive an award for Outstanding Accomplishments by a Small Business Contractor is Green Technologies, LLC.. Green Technologies is a Florida-based company that is active in community environmental initiatives through its support of the St. Johns River Keepers and the Sierra Club. It sponsors educational outreach programs for public school science fairs and donates products for school beautification projects. Green Technologies contributes to local Earth Day Celebrations and sponsors charitable events for a range of not-for-profit organizations. EPA will also present an award to Environmental Compliance Office, Incorporated (ECO) for Outstanding Accomplishments by a Woman-Owned Small Business Contractor.

In addition to these small business awards, EPA will recognize the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company, Eastern Research Group, Inc. (ERG), for its outstanding contributions as a large EPA prime contractor. Thirty years ago, EPA named ERG as its Small Business Contractor of the Year. This week’s award to ERG as a large prime contractor, acknowledges ERG’s outstanding support to EPA’s small business subcontracting program. Over the past 35 years, ERG has served all of EPA’s major offices through more than 200 prime contracts. Based on its experience as a small business itself, ERG works efficiently and effectively with its small business partners—promptly paying subcontractors, establishing clear communication channels, and helping them understand EPA’s contracting requirements. ERG has built long-lasting relationships with small business suppliers across many different types of projects. In 2018, more than 80 of ERG’s subcontract awards under seven contracts went to small businesses. Under another EPA contract, nearly 90 percent of subcontracting dollars went to small businesses; more than 20 percent to small disadvantaged businesses, and more than 17 percent went to service-disabled veteran owned small businesses.

About the author: Denise Benjamin Sirmons serves as the Director of the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, responsible for leading the EPA’s efforts to advance the business, regulatory and environmental compliance concerns of small and disadvantaged businesses. Read more.

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.

Big Data Offers Big Insights into Links Between Environment, Heart Health

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Cavin Ward-Caviness, EPA Computational Biologist
By Dr. Cavin Ward-Caviness
Principal Investigator (Computational Biologist); U.S. EPA, ORD, NHEERL, EPHD, CRB

Air Quality Awareness Week, April 29-May 3, is a perfect time to think about how far we have come in understanding how air pollution affects the cardiovascular system. As a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientist studying heart disease, I am very excited about current and future research in this area. Though the burden of heart disease on our society remains high (see the American Heart Association 2018 Statistics on Heart Disease and Stroke), we have only to look at the promising lines of current, cutting-edge research to find reasons to be optimistic about the progress we are making in our understanding and treatment of heart disease.

Perhaps the biggest reason for my optimism is that we are increasingly aware of heart disease risk factors and are working to lower those risks. Importantly, we are beginning to fully appreciate the role that a healthy environment plays in maintaining a healthy heart.

The primary way air pollution impacts heart health is through cardiovascular complications. The EPA is a world leader in research designed to improve our understanding of the potential risk that air pollution poses to people with heart disease. I am optimistic that such research will lead to improved communication about environmental health and potentially even preventative treatment solutions.

One of the many cutting-edge research areas at the EPA is the use of electronic health records for environmental studies. This research relies entirely on the anonymous participation of patients who decide to advance science by allowing their medical records to be used for research. While many may think that their participation could lead to a new drug being developed, it also informs the role that the environment plays in heart health, which is just as important for saving and improving lives.

transparent graphic of human heart over heartbeat monitorMy lab has recently established the EPA Clinical and Archived records Research for Environmental Studies (CARES) resource to improve the EPA’s efforts to work with healthcare providers to enable air pollution research using electronic health records. With ongoing projects into environmental risks for heart attack survivors and those with heart failure, we are beginning to answer important questions about environmental health and the causes of complications, hospitalizations, and even death for patient communities that many of us, or our loved ones, belong to.

As we all use Air Quality Awareness Week to reflect on how we can improve heart health, let us focus our attention on how each of us can lead better, more heart healthy lives and our opportunities to contribute to life saving research. I am proud to be a part of the fight against heart and blood vessel disease. I am also truly optimistic about the heart health of our Nation as we better understand what makes a “heart healthy environment” and as we translate our understanding into actions and solutions for all Americans.

About the author: EPA computational biologist Cavin Ward-Caviness helps determine which populations are most susceptible to air pollution. His research focuses on understanding the impact of environmental or neighborhood factors, such as living in a neighborhood with lower socioeconomic factors, on health, and the biological pathways that link exposures and health.

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.

EPA Scientists Support Air Quality Awareness

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EPA Lab Director Dr. Wayne Cascio
By Wayne E. Cascio
MD, FACC, Director, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

April 29 – May 3 is Air Quality Awareness Week, and the research staff at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Research and Development are raising awareness about the relationship between air pollution and heart and blood vessel disease. As a public health organization, we at the EPA continue to study the effects of environmental quality on heart and blood vessel health.

The most recent statistics on heart disease and stroke in the U.S. were published by the American Heart Association (AHA) on January 31, 2019. The statistics remind us once again that while tremendous progress has been made in reducing the impact of heart disease and stroke over the past five decades, it is still the leading cause of death in the United States. The AHA estimates that in 2018 over 90 million American adults (about 22% of the adult US population) had suffered a stroke or were living with a condition affecting the heart. And it’s concerning that obesity among American adults is increasing and diabetes, another risk factor for heart disease, affected almost 1 in 10 American adults as of 2018.

So, while the prevention of heart disease is straightforward – don’t smoke, be active and get plenty of exercise, control blood pressure and cholesterol, make a heart healthy diet a habit, avoid obesity and treat diabetes – only 2% of American adults meet all of these ideal behaviors.

3D rendered illustration of the human heartOver the last year, research conducted by EPA scientists contributed important new knowledge about the relationship between air pollution and heart and blood vessel disease. We learned in a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in April 2018, that wildfire smoke can trigger heart attacks, strokes, heart failure and abnormal heart rhythms in people predisposed to heart conditions. Ozone and air particle pollution may affect the electrical properties of the heart and this might explain the association between air pollution and abnormal heart rhythms, as found in another study published in October 2018 in Particle and Fibre Toxicology. In other research, EPA discovered that air pollution can increase some types of cholesterol in a way that suggests a higher risk of developing heart disease and stroke. Importantly, we found that improved air quality and meeting the EPA’s outdoor air quality standards has decreased the risk of air pollution- related premature death in the U.S.

Air Quality Awareness Week is an opportunity to bring attention to the research showing potential links between air pollution and health and recall the many members of our family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers who have been or are affected by heart disease and stroke. As scientists in the Office of Research and Development at EPA, we are proud of our contribution to the prevention of heart disease and stroke as we provide the scientific foundation for decisions made by states and communities to protect the environment, public health and heart health.

Learn more about EPA’s Healthy Heart research

About the author: EPA Lab Director Dr. Wayne Cascio spent more than 25 years as a cardiologist helping people take care of their hearts. Now he is bringing a broader view of public health to EPA by leading research on the links between exposures to air pollution and maintaining a healthy heart.

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.

Partnering in Kentucky – Environmental Success through Cooperative Federalism

Mary S. Walker, Acting Region 4 EPA Administrator

By Mary S. Walker
Acting Region 4 EPA Administrator

As Administrator Wheeler visits Kentucky this week, I am proud to note the progress the Bluegrass State is making when it comes to environmental protection. The collaboration between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the Commonwealth of Kentucky is an excellent example of positive environmental outcomes achievable through a cooperative federalism approach.

Here are some examples of Kentucky’s progress on air quality, taken from the Kentucky Division for Air Quality’s recently released 2018 annual report:

  • Over the last 20 years, statewide averages of sulfur dioxide levels have fallen by more than 90%.
  • Between 2000 and 2017, annual fine particulate matter concentrations dropped by more than 50%.
  • As of 2018, ambient air monitoring data demonstrate that all of Kentucky is meeting the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter.

Given the advances Kentucky has made in protecting the environment, EPA has undertaken a series of actions to give Kentucky greater control in environmental regulation. Here are just a few examples:

  • On March 29, EPA approved Kentucky’s revisions to the Kentucky Regional Haze State Implementation Plan (SIP), replacing the “one-size-fits-all” federal implementation plan (FIP) imposed by EPA in 2012. EPA took this action quickly – 14 months ahead of our statutory requirement – because of the importance to the commonwealth.
  • In 2018, EPA approved Kentucky’s SIP related to ozone interstate transport, avoiding the need for a federal plan.
  • Last summer, EPA approved Kentucky’s request to opt out of the federal reformulated gasoline program for the northern part of the state, easing fuel-cost concerns while maintaining air quality standards in the area.

All of these actions stem from our recognition that when states are allowed to take the lead on environmental protection, they can create state-specific solutions that maximize efficiency, reduce costs for their citizens, and ensure continued progress in environmental protection.

The Obama Administration imposed more than 50 FIPs on states. EPA has worked to convert many of these into SIPs, averaging almost one FIP-to-SIP per month since March 2017. This includes action on regional haze FIPs for more than a dozen states, including Kentucky.

EPA heard and responded to the concerns of Governor Bevin and the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet in developing the proposed Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, which addresses the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from existing coal-fired power plants. The ACE rule would replace the 2015 Clean Power Plan (CPP), which was stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court and has never gone into effect. The ACE proposal is more consistent with the Clean Air Act as well as the administration’s commitment to affordable, reliable energy.

We are successfully rebalancing the power between Washington and the states as we promote state leadership in environmental protection, resulting in tangible environmental results for the American people. The citizens of Kentucky can breathe easier, as air quality improves and regulatory burdens decline.

About the author: Mary Walker is the the Acting Administrator for EPA’s Southeast Region (Region 4). In this capacity, she leads EPA’s efforts to protect human health and the environment in the eight southeastern states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee, as well as six federally-recognized tribes. Read more.

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.

Monitoring Progress in the Bay

by Jim Edward

EPA Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio observes underwater grasses growing at the Susquehanna Flats. (Photo by Jim Edward/Chesapeake Bay Program)

August and September were very wet and rainy months in most parts of the Chesapeake Bay region. But on September 19, there was a break in the clouds, which was fortunate for those of us going on a water quality monitoring “cruise” in the northern portion of the Bay.

Maryland Secretary of Natural Resources Mark Bolton invited EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio, Water Division Director Cathy Libertz, and me to join him and his staff on their research vessel to observe their tidal Bay monitoring team in action.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) monitoring teams do water quality monitoring cruises of the tidal Chesapeake Bay on a regular basis during the year. They take samples at numerous stations during three-day cruises beginning in the south at the mouth of the Bay and finishing up north where the Susquehanna River meets the tidal Bay.

We began by visiting one of DNR’s fixed monitoring stations where the team took various measurements including water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, Ph, turbidity and chlorophyll a. They also took water samples to test for levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment, which are the three pollutants Bay jurisdictions are working to reduce under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load.

Monitoring the Bay and its tributaries allows the Bay Program to detect changes that take place, improves our collective understanding of the Bay ecosystem, and reveals trends that provide valuable information to policy makers.

The second leg of our cruise on a smaller boat enabled us to venture out into an area in the upper Bay known as the Susquehanna Flats. This is the longest contiguous bed of underwater grasses in the Chesapeake Bay, spanning approximately 10 square miles near the mouth of the Susquehanna River.

Underwater grasses are important because they offer food to invertebrates and migratory waterfowl, shelter young fish and crabs, and keep the water healthy by absorbing excess nutrients, trapping suspended sediment and slowing shoreline erosion.

Our hosts were concerned that we wouldn’t be able to see much of the grass beds due to the unusually high amounts of rain we had this summer. Since June 1, more than twice the normal amount of rainfall has fallen over a broad swath from Washington, D.C., up through Maryland and central Pennsylvania, resulting in higher river flows into the Bay. Measurements show freshwater flows into the Bay this August were the highest ever recorded.

Despite these conditions, we saw many of the dozen or more species of underwater grasses that live in the Bay. While cloudier than usual, we still could pick out large stands of widgeon grass, wild celery and some hydrilla. I found it awe-inspiring to be out in the middle of almost 10,000 acres of underwater grasses.

It will be interesting to see next time what impact the record rainfalls and associated nutrient and sediment load increases will have on Bay water quality and the abundance of the underwater grasses.

We will see if the resiliency we are trying to build by putting best management practices on the land will help to minimize any potentially adverse impacts to water quality, underwater grass fisheries and habitats.

The Bay Program’s scientists will undoubtedly be making comparisons to Hurricane Irene, and Tropical Storm Lee, and other high-flow events to see if the resilience of the Bay ecosystem is improving as much as we have been working toward.

About the author: Jim Edward is the Acting Director of the Chesapeake Bay Program. He plays a lead role in coordinating the U.S. EPA’s activities with other federal agencies and works with state and local authorities to improve the water quality and living resources of the Bay.

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.