Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Air contaminants vanishing into walls hamper lab experiments

Models of particle pollution have
been inconsistent, researchers say.
Models trying to predict airborne particle pollutants have been inconsistent over the past decade.

Some airborne particles can vanish into the walls of laboratory chambers, which could explain discrepancies in air pollution experiments. The findings of a new study suggest that models of particle pollution have been off for about a decade.

For their tests, researchers evaporated toluene, an ingredient of car exhaust that can form secondary organic aerosols, in a Teflon chamber.

Unlike previous researchers, they added “seed particles” such as ammonium sulfate. Adding these particles increases the aerosols that form when toluene vaporizes.

When there are no seed particles, the vapors end up sticking to or dissolving into the chamber walls, said Chris Cappa, an assistant professor at the University of California, Davis, and co-author of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science.

“The walls of these chambers act as a sponge for the vapors,” Cappa said.

The findings of a new study suggest that models of particle pollution have been off for about a decade.

Cappa said that previous lab studies have underestimated secondary organic aerosol formation by about two to four times.

These aerosols, which are a byproduct of volatile organic compounds from vehicles and the burning of fossil fuels, are a major part of fine particle pollution.

Known as PM2.5, these particles can penetrate people’s lungs and disrupt their heart.

The discovery could explain why models that have tried to predict particulate levels from emissions inventories have not jibed with levels actually measured in the air.

“Accounting for such losses has the clear potential to bring model predictions and observations of organic aerosol levels into much closer agreement,” the authors wrote.

Laboratory models are often used to estimate regional air quality. And in the past 20 years, scientists have incorporated aerosols into climate models, too, because they can scatter or absorb radiation from the sun.

Aerosols that scatter sunlight would have a cooling effect, while those that absorb it have a warming effect.

The study was limited in that only one compound was tested. However, Cappa said the results should hold true for other aerosol precursors and the researchers plan on testing more.

The experiment doesn’t mean that regional air pollution is underestimated because scientists also use observations from the atmosphere.

“It’s not quite fair to say we’ve been underestimating impact of air pollution, but from a modeling standpoint we’ve been limited in our ability to properly set up strategies for improving air quality,” Cappa said.

Source: EHN

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Cancer risk was unknown to people in EPA studies

The EPA is studying the effects
of particles and fumes
The EPA, which warns of dangers from diesel exhaust and tiny particles in its rules to cut pollution, recruited people for tests on those pollutants in 2010 and 2011.

Consent forms they got didn’t mention cancer because the agency considered the risks minimal from short-term exposure, the agency’s Office of Inspector General said in a report.

“When justifying a job-killing regulation, EPA argues exposure to particulate matter is deadly, but when they are conducting experiments, they say human exposure studies are not harmful,” Louisiana Republican Senator David Vitter said in a statement, reacting to the report.

The EPA’s test practices have been criticized by Republicans who say the agency contradicts itself in explaining its rules and testing safety, and called for the human testing to be shut down.

The watchdog said the EPA followed “applicable regulations,” and proposed procedural changes, not a shuttering of the research.

“The agency should inform study subjects of any potential cancer risks of a pollutant to which they are being exposed,” according to the report, conducted after complaints from the lawmakers.

EPA to improve consent forms

The agency pledged to improve its consent forms and set up better plans for reacting to “adverse events and unanticipated problems” in response to the watchdog’s recommendations.

In the past decade, the EPA did 13 studies of particulate matter and four studies on diesel exhaust at its North Carolina laboratory, the report said.

Each study would include 20 to 40 people in a chamber where pollution is set to levels similar to Los Angeles or New York. Blood, heart and lung functions are monitored for about two hours. Long-term effects are unlikely because the tests are so short, according to the agency.

The exposures “reflect a balance between being high enough to produce biological responses but not so high as to produce clinical responses,” the report said.

The EPA said its studies on people, which have been conducted for more than 40 years, provide detailed biological information on how pollutants affect individuals.

“We are in the process of embracing their recommendations,” Bob Kavlock, deputy assistant EPA administrator for science, said in a blog post today.

“Thanks to their generous spirit and contribution of time, our research volunteers play a vital role in helping EPA scientists advance the cause of protecting the health of all Americans.”

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

New brominated flame retardant under the microscope

Electronics manufacturers may be using the compound as a replacement for toxic PBDEs

Household dust is a main source of
exposure to flame retardants for humans.
A team of scientists using a rapid screening test have detected a new type of brominated flame retardant in homes — the first such compound found since 2008.

They discovered the compound in plastic electronic products made since 2012, suggesting manufacturers are using it to replace flame retardants that were phased out or banned due to toxicity issues.

Flame retardants are used in many consumer products, including electronics, clothing, and furniture, and as a result, scientists find the chemicals in outdoor air, household dust, and human blood and milk.

Between 2002 and 2008, the manufacture of brominated flame retardants known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) was banned or phased out in Europe and the U.S. after researchers linked the compounds to neurotoxic effects and disruption of hormonal signaling.

“As a result of these regulations, the use of alternative flame retardants is increasing rapidly,” says Ana María Ballesteros-Gómez, an analytical environmental chemist at VU University Amsterdam.

Manufacturers don’t report the flame retardants used in consumer products, so scientists must use their best sleuthing technology to monitor new compounds introduced to the market.

Ballesteros-Gómez and her colleagues developed a rapid screening process that involves scratching the surface of plastic products with a probe to release fine particles of the material into the inlet of a high-resolution time-of-flight mass spectrometer.

To look for new compounds, she and her team went shopping for household electronics encased in hard plastic likely to contain flame retardants. They bought 13 products made since 2012, including televisions, power strips, and a vacuum cleaner. They also visited a recycling center in Amsterdam and retrieved 13 products made before 2006, when PBDEs were still in use.

The mass spectra from the new plastics contained an unknown peak signifying a compound with nine bromine atoms. Using data analysis software, the chemists generated several potential molecular formulas for the mystery compound.

The scientists then ran the formulas through several online chemical structure databases and found only one match: a triazine brominated flame retardant named 2,4,6-tris(2,4,6-tribromophenoxy)-1,3,5-triazine (TTBP-TAZ).

To confirm the match and to measure the compound’s concentrations in the plastic, the team subjected plastic samples to liquid chromatography combined with mass spectrometry. They detected TTBP-TAZ in eight of the 13 new products at levels up to 1.9% by weight of the product.

Ballesteros-Gómez says the data suggest widespread use of the new compound. The researchers couldn’t find TTBP-TAZ in the old plastics. “Manufacturers may be using TTBP-TAZ to replace the banned octaBDE and decaBDE in hard plastics,” Ballesteros-Gómez says.

Because household dust is the major route of human exposure to flame retardants, the researchers visited nine Dutch homes and took dust samples directly from electronic equipment, from tables around the equipment, and from the floor. They detected TTBP-TAZ at levels between 160 and 22,150 ng per g of dust.

These concentrations are lower than those reported for PBDEs and about the same as those for V6, a chlorinated organophosphate flame retardant. TTBP-TAZ is the first new brominated flame retardant found in homes since tetrabromobisphenol-A-bis-(2, 3-dibromopropylether) was detected in 2008, the researchers say.

Source: Chemical & Engineering News by American Chemical Society

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Job numbers rising in construction

Construction employment is
seeing an upward trend.
The latest federal report on jobs shows that builders and contractors put 19,000 more people on payrolls in March than they were paying in February, and that was enough to lower the unemployment rate, even though more people are looking for work now.

Associated General Contractors touted the fact that construction employment – residential and non-residential – last month was 5,964,000, which was the largest number since June 2009.

Associated Builders and Contractors broke down the gain as coming from 6,700 more people working in non-residential, 9,100 more in residential and 3,200 more in civil and heavy construction.

The construction industry unemployment rate went down to 11.3% without a seasonal adjustment, even though the overall unemployment rate in the U.S. stayed at the 6.7% it was at in February.

While that is still above where it was in the second half of last year, winter seems to finally be going away, and AGC noted that construction employment has gone up 2.6% in the past year compared with the overall workforce gain of 1.7%.

Source: Construction Dive

Construction workers may be exposed to a wide range of respiratory hazards, including toxic fumes, fine particles and asbestos or silica dust. 

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Friday, April 18, 2014

New refrigerant in cars may be toxic

Refrigerant in cars: Refreshingly cool, potentially toxic

Combustion of the cooling agent releases
toxic fumes, researchers have shown.
The refrigerant R1234yf is being considered for use in air conditioning systems in cars. Chemists at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich now show that, in the event of a fire, it releases the highly poisonous carbonyl fluoride, and urge that its safety be reassessed.

According to EU guidelines, the new compound R1234yf should in future be used as the refrigerant in air-conditioning systems for automobiles.

But the compound is inflammable, and LMU chemists have now shown that combustion of the cooling agent leads to the formation of the highly toxic carbonyl fluoride.

"It has been known for some time now that combustion of R1234yf results in production of the toxic hydrogen fluoride. Our analysis has now shown that 20% of the gases produced by combustion of the compound consist of the even more poisonous chemical carbonyl fluoride," says Andreas Kornath, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at LMU Munich.

He and his co-workers have just published the results of their investigation in the journal Zeitschrift für Naturforschung.

Carbonyl fluoride is structurally related to phosgene (which contains chlorine in place of fluorine), which was used as a chemical weapon during the First World War.

The simplest fluoride, hydrogen fluoride (or hydrofluoric acid, HF) is also highly corrosive and so toxic that burns about as big as the palm of one's hand can be lethal. The agent binds avidly to calcium in body fluids, and this can result in heart failure unless an antidote is rapidly administered.

Carbonyl fluoride is even more dangerous, because it penetrates the skin more easily, and causes severe irritation of the eyes, the skin and the airways. If inhaled, it can damage the alveoli in the lungs, allowing it to reach the circulation and shut down vital functions.

According to guidelines issued by the European Union, automobile manufacturers are legally obligated to use an environmentally friendly refrigerant in the air-conditioning systems installed in their cars.

Use of the previously approved refrigerant R134a in new models has been forbidden in the EU since 2011, as the agent had been shown to contribute to the global warming in the atmosphere.

However, its recommended replacement R1234yf has already been the subject of much heated debate in Germany.

Studies carried out by various institutions and by German auto manufacturers had pointed to the compound's flammability, and shown that, in the event of accidents in which vehicles catch fire, combustion of R1234yf leads to the release of hydrogen fluoride.

"The risk analyses carried out by the manufacturers of the refrigerant so far have not taken carbonyl fluoride into account. In light of our results, we advise that the risks associated with R1234yf should be urgently reassessed," Kornath adds.

Source: EurekAlert! by AAAS 

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fracking health concerns continue

Air quality complaints and water contamination debated

Fracking sites can emit dangerous levels of
toxic substances over short periods of time.
There are more than 6,000 active gas wells in Pennsylvania. And every week, those drilling sites generate scores of complaints from the state’s residents, including many about terrible odors and contaminated water.

How the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection handles those complaints has worsened the already raw and angry divide between fearful residents and the state regulators charged with overseeing the burgeoning gas drilling industry.

For instance, the agency’s own manual for dealing with complaints is explicit about what to do if someone reports concerns about a noxious odor, but is not at that very moment experiencing the smell: “DO NOT REGISTER THE COMPLAINT.”

When a resident does report a real-time alarm about the air quality in or around their home, the agency typically has two weeks to conduct an investigation. If no odor is detected when investigators arrive on the scene, the case is closed.

“The time that it takes them to respond is something people are concerned about,” said Matt Walker, a community outreach director for the Clean Air Council in Pennsylvania, an environmental advocacy organization. Waiting a few days to two weeks to respond to odor complaints, he said, is “way too long.”

The concerns of residents are not likely to be eased by a study published in Reviews on Environmental Health, a peer reviewed journal.

The study, researchers say, confirms what they have long suspected about natural gas operations — that emission levels from these sites spike drastically over short periods of time, making it hard to assess the true threat to people’s health.

Researchers at the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project collected real-time readings of particulate matter — soot, dust and chemicals — in 14 homes in Washington County, a heavily drilled part of the state.

They found repeated episodes during which measures of contaminated dust rose sharply, to dangerous levels in the course of a day.

David Brown, the lead researcher on the study, said that a person in such circumstances could get what amounted to a full day’s exposure in half an hour.

The Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association declined to comment on the Environmental Health Project’s study but said that the oil and gas industry is “heavily regulated” and that the association’s member companies “strive to comply with numerous federal and state air quality related rules, regulations, and reporting requirements.”

Information provided by the DEP shows that between 2011 and 2014, the department received over 2,000 complaints about oil and natural gas operations. Water quality issues featured prominently in the list of complaints. The DEP also registered 110 of the complaints as odor issues.

John Quigley, a former director of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said the need for greater transparency in the oversight of the fracking industry was real and urgent.


Gas drilling operations include several processes that release toxic chemicals into the air. The type and level of chemicals released varies from hour to hour depending on the type of activity taking place on the well pad.

Despite this, researchers and regulators seeking to assess the health threat of fracking operations have typically used measurement devices that capture air emissions over longer periods of time, often 24 hours.

These levels are then, in many cases, compared to the EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards, which were created over 40 years ago at a time when large, 24-hour-a-day sources of pollution such as coal fire plants and steel mills were dominant.

“You can’t use 24-hour standards if the health effect occurs within a few minutes,” said Brown, the lead author of the study released Friday.

The question of whether episodic bursts of contaminated air from fracking could pose an unappreciated but real health menace was first explored in West Virginia in 2010.

West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection asked Michael McCawley, then a professor at West Virginia University’s Health Sciences Center, to study air emissions from fracking operations in the state. McCawley found the contaminants he detected at fracking sites fluctuated over a wide range.

Those findings mirror those in the Pennsylvania study published on Tuesday.

Research has shown that fracking operations can release an array of toxic chemicals — some carcinogenic, others capable, at significant enough levels, of causing serious neurological and respiratory damage. The worry, Brown says, is that these chemicals are attached to the microscopic dust particles that he detected and can reach the bloodstream after being inhaled.

McCawley and Brown say that the wide fluctuations that they’re picking up on are also attributable to operators not using the best available technology to limit possibly harmful emissions.

State and federal regulations, for instance, do not require operators to use equipment that would capture all emissions during drilling. Often, gases are vented or flared into the air. The regulations also don’t consider activities, like diesel truck traffic, that degrade air quality at the fracking site.

“The law requires best technology,” said McCawley, and the data, he says, is telling us that the gas drilling industry is “not working according to the strict definition of the law.”

Source: ProPublica. This article has been edited for length.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Smoking ban shows quick results

Research shows smoke-free public places
improve children's health, even before birth.
The number of premature births and children’s hospital visits for asthma dropped significantly in parts of the United States, Canada, and Europe barely a year after they enacted smoking bans, researchers reported in The Lancet recently.

The new analysis combined the results of 11 studies encompassing more than 2.5 million births and nearly 250,000 asthma attacks.

Experts called it the best evidence to date that legislation creating smoke-free public places and workplaces improves children’s health, even in the womb.

The results are “very impressive,” said Dr. Brian Mercer, chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, who noted that half a million American babies are born prematurely each year.

“If you could prevent 10 percent, you’d prevent nearly 50,000 premature babies in the U.S. alone each year,” said Dr. Mercer, who was not involved in the study.

After an exhaustive review of relevant studies spanning 38 years, the researchers analyzed five that looked at perinatal and child health after local smoking bans in North America and six studies conducted after national bans in Europe.

Hospital visits for childhood asthma and premature births both declined about 10 percent in the year after smoking bans took effect, the researchers found.

The investigators also pooled data from two studies and found a 5 percent reduction in the number of children born very small for their gestational age after the introduction of smoke-free laws.

An earlier analysis of the impact of smoking bans on adult health demonstrated a 15 percent reduction in cardiovascular events.

The new report offers “another very good reason to institute smoking bans in public places,” said Dr. Muktar Aliyu, an associate professor of health policy and medicine at Vanderbilt University who has studied birth outcomes linked to maternal smoking.

Only 16 percent of the world’s population is covered by comprehensive smoke-free laws, and 40 percent of children worldwide are routinely exposed to secondhand smoke.

About half of Americans are protected by complete smoke-free policies in workplaces, restaurants and bars, according to the Americans Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, a nonprofit group.

The new analysis did not prove that smoke-free laws caused the improvements in children’s health. And the researchers didn’t evaluate other factors, like taxation of tobacco products and advertisement bans, which could have contributed.

The authors note that further studies are needed to estimate the effect of smoke-free laws on respiratory tract infections in children, a major problem of secondhand smoke. The authors also cite a “pressing need” for studies of tobacco control laws in low- to middle-income countries.

Source: NY Times. This article has been edited for length.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

States take action on toxic chemicals regulations

Toxic chemicals can hide in many
commonly used products.
In Vermont, the Senate has just passed a bill potentially empowering the Green Mountain State to ban chemicals it deems harmful to consumers.

Some 3,000 miles away, in Washington State, environmental reformers weren’t as successful: A bill to ban six toxic flame retardants died in the Senate, beaten back by industry opposition and politicians’ cries of state overreaching.

In state capitols from Maine to Oregon, environmental advocates are filing bills to identify and ban noxious chemicals and industry groups are fighting back with pointed rebukes and high-pitched lobbying. Toxic reform legislation is either breathing with new life or being extinguished altogether.

The toxics tug-of-war in state houses is direct fallout from the muddled environmental politicking of Washington, D.C.

In 1976, Congress passed the Toxic Substances Control Act, a federal framework intended to safeguard the public from dangerous chemicals. Yet in the nearly four decades since, TSCA, as it is known, has done little more than gather dust.

Among tens of thousands of chemicals in commerce, the Environmental Protection Agency has “only been able to require testing on a little more than 200 existing chemicals,” and banned five, the EPA told The Center for Public Integrity.

Everyone wants to revamp TSCA — from the industry’s $100 million lobbying arm, the American Chemistry Council, to the Environmental Defense Fund, an advocacy group, to the EPA itself.

Yet three years to the month since the late New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg proposed sweeping change through the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011, the TSCA overhaul remains in the works, with proposals, counter-proposals and criticisms about the working draft’s fine print.

Fed up with logjams in D.C., state legislators are filing hundreds of measures in their own states to do what the federal government hasn’t — take action against destructive chemicals, by singling out the most dangerous toxins and seeking to remove them from shelves.

As the Center for Public Integrity reported last year, the American Chemistry Council and other industry groups fight nearly every state measure, contending that a patchwork of state laws would do more harm than good, and that true change should come through TSCA.

Source: Center for Public Integrity. This article has been edited for length.

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Monday, April 7, 2014

A cleaner way to separate coal and ash

New technology separates coal, ash without chemicals

The new technology is new but has
the potential to curb contamination.
The DriJet 100 is a new technology that can separate coal from ash without using water or chemicals.

The technology, developed by Pennsylvania-based Mineral Separation Technologies, uses x-rays to scan and separate coal from ash. That means it's cleaner, portable and more reliable than traditional coal prep plants.

It's also safer, faster and much more economical.

"It eliminates a lot of risk for us, a lot of potential exposure, that's what we like about it," West Virginia Coal Reclamation Managing Partner Gene Ricciardi said. "It provides on-site separation and cleaning, so we don't have to worry about transporting large volumes of coal in trucks — we're going to be transporting probably one-third of amount in trucks that we normally would.

"There's a lot less possibility of contamination into the water system and air."

The Kanawha County company was first in the industry to purchase the technology, but Ricciardi and his partner, Joe Cornfield, are satisfied it will live up to the hype. Though their system isn't operational yet, Ricciardi said they've run their coal through the machine "and it's worked."

Mineral Separations CEO Charles Roos said the patented technology uses x-rays to identify the atomic weight of the coal particles and then air jets separate coal from ash. The ash is removed from the coal right at the mine face.

"The technology was developed for separating recycled metals and recycled plastics; it's been used for years in that industry," he said. "There have been hundreds of installations around the world in recycling plants.

"About five years ago we noticed electronics had gotten fast enough and sensors fast enough that we could use the technology on (other) material streams."

Roos said the technology means fewer coal trucks on the road and less coal waste in impoundments, both positive changes for the industry. It also requires less horsepower and fewer moving parts, which cuts operating costs.

The DriJet can process 20,000 pieces of coal per second and deliver a higher quality product.

Source: The State Journal

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Toxic chemicals a concern for firefighters

Toxic substances released by fires can linger on uniforms
and equipment, leading to high exposure levels.
More than 200 empty pairs of firefighter boots recently lined the steps of the Rotunda in San Francisco's City Hall.

Each pair represented a local firefighter who lost his or her life "with their boots off" due to cancer in the last 14 years, said Tony Stefani, president of the San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation.

"In just the last three months, we've had two active and four retired firefighters die of cancer," said Stefani, a retired San Francisco Fire Dept. captain and cancer survivor, in an interview before the event.

The display is one of at least 15 "Give Toxics the Boot" events around the country this week. From Spokane, Wash., to Augusta, Maine, firefighters are calling for stricter regulations on flame retardants and other toxic chemicals they say are causing cancer and other diseases among their ranks.

"We take every precaution we can to minimize our exposure and risk, yet we're still being exposed to these chemicals on a daily basis," said Emmett McNamee, a 20-year veteran Spokane firefighter. "And these are bio-accumulative. They build up in our systems."

Public health advocates are standing alongside firefighters in the heated battle.

"Our first responders and firefighters are disproportionately exposed and affected by the chemicals that are in our homes," said Lindsay Dahl, deputy director for the non-profit Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, one of the organizations participating in the campaign.

"They serve, just like pregnant women and children, as canaries in the coal mine for the health effects we're seeing from chemicals we're exposed to every day."

To fight a fire means confronting a toxic soup of burning chemicals and their byproducts, including dioxins, furans and formaldehyde.

Many of the most toxic fumes released by today's fires actually come from chemicals added to everything from clothes to couches to computers in an effort to retard flames.

But, as an investigation by the Chicago Tribune uncovered, those additives may offer no meaningful fire protection.

A firefighter's exposure to chemicals can continue long after the blaze is out. Chemicals may linger on the skin, uniform, respirator, helmet and other gear. And if a firefighter wears any of that stuff home, their family may be exposed as well.

Scientists recently tested the blood of 12 California firefighters immediately after they responded to an alarm.

The results, published in June, showed significantly greater concentrations of flame retardants and other modern household chemicals in the firefighters compared with average Americans. Levels of polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, one common flame retardant, were three times higher in the firefighters' blood.

A separate study, published in October by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, evaluated the health of nearly 30,000 career firefighters in San Francisco, Chicago and Philadelphia.

Researchers found higher rates of prostate cancer, kidney cancer, multiple myeloma, and other cancers compared with the general population.

Stefani, the former San Francisco captain, said he has a message for the chemical lobbying industry: "We are sick and damn tired of being your canaries sent into the cave every time we fight a fire. We're sick and tired of seeing the men and women of our profession contracting and dying of this insidious disease.

"We're not only concerned about firefighters," added Stefani. "We're concerned about the population in general with ongoing, daily chemical exposures."

Source: Huffington Post. The article has been edited for length.

Toxic chemicals an occupational risk for firefighters

Fighting fires is risky enough - but back in the station or at home, firefighters should not have to be concerned with toxic chemical exposure. Unfortunately, toxins can linger on uniforms, equipment and hair as well as skin, so exposure risks remain high.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Schools receive grants to limit pesticide exposure

Integrated pest management practices are shown to reduce pesticide use

Children are vulnerable to chemical exposures, experts say.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in March announced three grants to facilitate integrated pest management practices in schools.

This funding will help reduce student’s exposure to pests and pesticides in the nation’s schools, while saving money, energy and pesticide treatment costs.

“Children are among the most vulnerable members of our society, and it’s EPA’s job to protect them from harmful chemicals,” said James Jones, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.

“We aim to help schools implement sustainable pest management practices to create a healthier environment for our children and teachers.”

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) reduces pesticide use, helps to eliminate pests and saves schools money.

For example, 18 schools in Monroe County, Indiana have reduced both pesticide use and pest control costs by 90 percent using IPM practices.

This approach has the potential to reach all 15,000 school districts and improve the health and well-being of the 49 million children attending public and tribal schools in the United States.

IPM measures help prevent pests from becoming a threat by taking action to address the underlying causes that enable pests to thrive in schools.

These actions, such as repairing water leaks, adding weather stripping to windows, and installing door sweeps, reduce pesticide use and treatment costs while reducing water and energy costs.

The IPM common-sense approach is a stark contrast to conventional pest management in which an exterminator uses pesticides school-wide on a regular schedule, potentially exposing school children, teachers and staff to pesticides, with little emphasis on removing the underlying conditions that make it inviting to pests.

The three grants will be awarded to:

  • TheTexas A&M Agrilife Extension to develop a central, internet-based hub for materials and phone apps that will give school districts the information and tools they need to adopt an IPM program. While the project aims to reach 1 percent of schools (552,350 students) within three years, it has the potential to reach all of the 15,000 school districts nation-wide and the 49 million children attending US public schools.
  • The University of Arizona to develop and carry out a pilot training and certification program for school staff (custodians, kitchen staff, and school administrators) in eight states and four tribes, working with five other universities and stakeholders. Once finalized, the materials will be made available to schools nation-wide through partners.
  • The Michigan State University to help 5 percent of Michigan and Indiana schools adopt IPM through hands-on education, training and coalition-building, including web-based trainings and a website. About 135,000 children may be protected.

Source: EPA

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