EPA Launches New Mapping Tool of Enforcement Information


EPA Launches New Mapping Tool to Improve Public Access to Enforcement Information

Mapping feature supports the White House Regulatory Compliance Transparency Initiative and improves public access to information

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced the release of a new mapping feature in EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) database. As part of EPA’s ongoing effort to improve transparency, the EPA and State Enforcement Actions Map will allow the public to access federal and state enforcement information in an interactive format and to compare enforcement action information by state. The map will be refreshed monthly to include up to date information about the enforcement actions taken to address violations of air, water, and waste laws.

“EPA is committed to providing the public with easy to use tools that display facility compliance information and the actions EPA and the states are taking to address pollution problems in communities across the nation,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “EPA is proud to announce our latest effort under the President’s White House Regulatory Compliance Transparency Initiative and we will continue to take steps to make meaningful enforcement and compliance data available as part of an open, transparent government.”

Map users can choose the year, the media (air, water, waste, multiple), and whether they would like to display enforcement information for actions taken at the federal level, state level, or both. Users can then click on a state to view facility locations and click on a facility to list its name, the environmental statute the facility has an enforcement action under, and a link to a detailed facility compliance report.

ECHO provides integrated searches of EPA and state data about inspections, violations and enforcement actions for more than 800,000 regulated facilities. Now in its ninth year, ECHO recently received its 10 millionth data query and has completed a record year of more than 2 million queries. President Obama recognized ECHO in his January 2011  Presidential Memorandum on regulatory compliance, as a model for transparency for other federal agencies to follow.

Enforcement and Compliance History Online: http://www.epa-echo.gov

Presidential Memorandum – Regulatory Compliance: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/01/18/presidential-memoranda-regulatory-compliance

Source: US EPA

Water Holds Pleasures, and Menaces That Lurk


Published: July 11, 2011

For me, swimming is also a meditation exercise; with nothing but the water to distract me, I get some of my best ideas while swimming laps. Dr. Oliver Sacks, the neurologist and best-selling author, wrote in an autobiographical essay called “Water Babies” that the mind-altering properties of swimming can inspire as nothing else can.

But whether you swim in a river, lake, ocean or pool, the last thing you want afterward is what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls a “recreational water illness,” an infection or irritation caused by germs or chemicals contaminating the water.

These unseen pollutants can cause ailments of the ears, eyes, skin, nervous system, gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts, and any cut or scratch you may have. Five years ago, the centers examined 78 waterborne disease outbreaks in 31 states associated with recreational sports, a “substantial increase” in the number of reports from previous years. The outbreaks involved 4,412 cases of illness, 116 hospitalizations and five deaths.

And while you might expect otherwise, fully 94 percent of the cases resulted from swimming in treated water — pools and the like that were supposed to be sanitized. The usual culprit was a bacterium called Cryptosporidium, which is resistant to chlorine.

Fortunately, there are measures every swimmer can take to keep water play safe.

The most common problem is diarrhea from swallowing water contaminated with germ-laden feces. Should one swimmer have diarrhea, the millions of germs in that person’s stool “can easily contaminate the water in a large pool or water park,” the C.D.C. reports.

Natural waters can become contaminated with fecal and other germs by sewage overflow, storm water runoff, boating wastes and septic systems that malfunction. It is a myth that seawater quickly kills pathogens; coastal waters in particular are rich in nutrients that enable bacteria to survive despite the salt.

Viruses can be even more of a problem, because they live longer than bacteria in saltwater. In one study of beaches in Texas, intestinal viruses were found in more than 40 percent of waters listed as safe for recreational swimming based on bacterial standards.

Protection starts by following usual health department rules to shower before entering a pool — not just a superficial rinse but a full-body soak with special attention to germ-laden body parts. Respect fellow swimmers by staying out of the water if you have a diarrheal illness. Keep ill babies away, too — swim diapers are no guarantee that they won’t sicken others.

Be sure pool water is tested regularly for proper chemical balance: twice a day in public facilities and two or more times a week in private ones. Concerned swimmers can invest in chlorine test strips (available at pool supply and home improvement stores) to check the level of disinfectant.

Inflatable and hard plastic kiddie pools are often breeding grounds for infectious organisms. Most are filled with tap water without added disinfectants. The C.D.C. recommends that children be given “a cleansing soap shower or bath” before they use a kiddie pool, which should be emptied and scrubbed clean after each use.

Finally, stay out of water that has been closed by pool or health officials, whose job it is to make sure that water is safe for swimming.

But even a well-maintained swim site can result in inflammation of the ears and eyes. So-called swimmer’s ear (acute otitis externa) results in pain, tenderness, redness and swelling of the external ear canal, usually caused by a bacterial infection in the outer ear canal.

Residual moisture is the primary culprit, and the best preventive is to keep the ear canals dry with earplugs or a tight-fitting cap. After swimming, tilt your ear first to one side then the other and shake out any water that got in. Then dry your ears thoroughly with a towel (or hair dryer set on low) and alcohol-based ear drops.

Eyes are even easier to protect. I use goggles wherever I swim, both to protect my eyes and help me see. Wear goggles that fit snugly and are your own. Borrowed goggles could be contaminated with germs that cause conjunctivitis (better known as pinkeye).

Without goggles, the chemicals used to disinfect pools can irritate your eyes, especially when combined with human urea or sunlight. If your eyes are immersed in pool water, one competitive swimmer suggests neutralizing the chlorine with a few drops of milk. The salt in ocean water can also be irritating.

In addition to polluting microbes, ocean waters sometimes have free-swimming organisms that cause swimmer’s itch, as well as the stinging cells of jellyfish.

Swimmer’s itch, or cercarial dermatitis, is a rash caused by an allergic reaction to microscopic parasites of birds and mammals that are released into both fresh water and saltwater by snails, their intermediate hosts.

Avoid swimming in areas where snails are common or where signs have been posted warning of this problem or the presence of jellyfish. To counter the effects of swimmer’s itch, use a corticosteroid or anti-itch cream, and bathe in Epsom salts or baking soda.

If stung by jellyfish, try dabbing the skin with vinegar to neutralize the toxin and relieve the pain. People with a bee sting allergy should be especially careful to stay out of waters containing jellyfish. If you are allergic to one, you may well be allergic to the other.

Autism Experts Urge Reform of U.S. Chemicals Law


WASHINGTON, DC, June 8, 2011 (ENS) – Environmental health and autism experts Tuesday called for reform of the outdated U.S. law regulating chemicals, the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976.
They warned that the recent sharp rise in autism is likely due, in part, to the cocktail of toxic chemicals that pregnant women, fetuses, babies and young children encounter.

“Lead, mercury, and other neurotoxic chemicals have a profound effect on the developing brain at levels that were once thought to be safe. With some complex combination of insults, little brains reach a tipping point,” warned Donna Ferullo, director of program research at The Autism Society, told reporters on a conference call convened by the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Coalition.

The nationwide coalition represents more than 11 million people, including parents, health professionals, advocates for people with learning and developmental disabilities, reproductive health advocates, environmentalists and businesses.

Today in the United States, about one in every 110 children has autism, a disorder of neural development characterized by abnormalities of social interactions and communication, severely restricted interests and highly repetitive behavior. Boys are affected more than girls – one in every 70 boys will have autism.

Ferullo called autism the “fastest growing developmental disability in the United States.”

“It has increased 600 percent in the last two decades – 1.5 million Americans are living with autism,” she said. “This epidemic within one generation cannot be solely accounted for by genetic causes, or wider diagnostic criteria or even increased awareness.”
Read more

Sensors to Assess Water Quality


Sensors to Assess Water Quality

In order to determine the condition of drinking water due to horizontal gas drilling, a pre-drilling water examination will be carried out for identifying the variation in water quality before and after the drilling process, with respect to the statements of the residents of Pennsylvania.

Various sensors will be employed for executing these tests. Ten of the sensors will be integrated along the branches of the Southern Tier Susquehanna River, for monitoring the quality of the water.

According to Kimberly Dille, of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, the sensors will be monitoring the conductivity, dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH and the turbidity conditions of the water. He remarked that, the quality will be assessed every five minutes and upon the progression of horizontal gas drilling in New York, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission will be measuring the status of water irrespective of time, to avoid the contamination of water.

Andrew Gavin, of SRBC, commented that, when sensing any change in the normal water quality, a warning will be given to their office, providing rapid alertness to the officials about the condition. The SRBC has been collaborating with the Tioga County Planning Department for detecting areas to install these sensing devices on the Apalachin and Catatonk Creeks. According to Elaine Jardine, Director of Tioga, Planning and detecting the quality of water prior to the drilling process, while drilling and after the drilling process is highly significant for knowing the safety of the drinking water.

The SRBC will be integrating ten sensors in New York and has already installed thirty in Pennsylvania. After the establishment of a monitoring station, anyone can assess the status of water through SRBC.net.

A New Project is Underway to Draw the Connections between Toxins and Children’s Health


Protecting Children’s Health

A New Project is Underway to Draw the Connections between Toxins and Children’s Health

By Brita Belli

The relationship between children’s health and environmental toxins is finally getting the long-term look it deserves. A recent fundraiser at the Greenwich Country Club in Connecticut featured Dr. Philip Landrigan of the Mt. Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center, who despite the celebrities in attendance (including Laurie David and Mary Richardson Kennedy) took to the podium with all the fanfare of a rock star. In health circles, he is. By connecting lead exposure with lowered IQ in children, Landrigan’s work helped end lead components in gasoline and paint—and resulted in an 88% drop in lead levels in American kids by 2005. Now Landrigan is behind The Autism and Learning Disabilities Discovery and Prevention Project just launched at Mt. Sinai which will take a comprehensive look at how environmental toxins affect children’s health up to adulthood. “If there are a few chemicals we can prove cause autism,” said Landrigan, “it opens the possibility that there are others.”

He listed some of the known chemical causes of autism—including Thalidomide (used during the ‘50s and ‘60s to combat morning sickness), Misoprostol (used to induce labor) and Valproic acid (an anticonvulsant, mood-stabilizing drug). As part of their new project, the Mt. Sinai team will be building a “biobank,” so that babies’ cord blood—collected with permission at the hospital—will be analyzed for some 200 chemicals of concern, and will undergo genetic and epigenetic analyses.

The project is a perfect complement to the National Children’s Study already underway across the U.S. That study—with a consortium of partners that includes the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—was launched in January 2010 and has set out to enroll 100,000 pregnant women in 105 counties and track the babies’ development until age 21. They’re collecting hair, blood and urine samples from pregnant women, testing household dust, water and carpeting and analyzing the samples for chemicals, for genetic makeup and for infections.

It’s a mammoth undertaking, but one that researchers hope can begin to answer questions about multiple chemical impacts happening across a lifetime of exposure, rather than examining—and banning—such chemicals one by one.

“Banning chemicals can work,” Dr. Landrigan told the well-heeled attendees at the fundraiser (which netted $300,000 for his center), “but after they’re already in widespread use…it’s hugely disruptive.” What would work better, he said, was a complete overhaul—mandated testing of all old and new chemicals as has been proposed in New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg’s bill, The Kid-Safe Chemical Act. It’s a bill, that, according to Sen. Lautenberg’s website: “would ensure for the first time that all the chemicals used in baby bottles, children’s toys and other products are proven to be safe before they are put on the market.” Added Dr. Landrigan: “New science is needed, too.”

RESOURCES: Mt. Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center

Research links pesticides with ADHD in children

May 17, 12:02 AM EDT
Research links pesticides with ADHD in children

AP Medical Writer

CHICAGO (AP) — A new analysis of U.S. health data links children’s attention-deficit disorder with exposure to common pesticides used on fruits and vegetables.

While the study couldn’t prove that pesticides used in agriculture contribute to childhood learning problems, experts said the research is persuasive.

“I would take it quite seriously,” said Virginia Rauh of Columbia University, who has studied prenatal exposure to pesticides and wasn’t involved in the new study.

More research will be needed to confirm the tie, she said.

Children may be especially prone to the health risks of pesticides because they’re still growing and they may consume more pesticide residue than adults relative to their body weight.

In the body, pesticides break down into compounds that can be measured in urine. Almost universally, the study found detectable levels: The compounds turned up in the urine of 94 percent of the children.

The kids with higher levels had increased chances of having ADHD, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, a common problem that causes students to have trouble in school. The findings were published Monday in Pediatrics.

The children may have eaten food treated with pesticides, breathed it in the air or swallowed it in their drinking water. The study didn’t determine how they were exposed. Experts said it’s likely children who don’t live near farms are exposed through what they eat.

“Exposure is practically ubiquitous. We’re all exposed,” said lead author Maryse Bouchard of the University of Montreal.

She said people can limit their exposure by eating organic produce. Frozen blueberries, strawberries and celery had more pesticide residue than other foods in one government report.

A 2008 Emory University study found that in children who switched to organically grown fruits and vegetables, urine levels of pesticide compounds dropped to undetectable or close to undetectable levels.

Because of known dangers of pesticides in humans, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency limits how much residue can stay on food. But the new study shows it’s possible even tiny, allowable amounts of pesticide may affect brain chemistry, Rauh said.

The exact causes behind the children’s reported ADHD though are unclear. Any number of factors could have caused the symptoms and the link with pesticides could be by chance.

The new findings are based on one-time urine samples in 1,139 children and interviews with their parents to determine which children had ADHD. The children, ages 8 to 15, took part in a government health survey in 2000-2004.

As reported by their parents, about 150 children in the study either showed the severe inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity characteristic of ADHD, or were taking drugs to treat it.

The study dealt with one common type of pesticide called organophosphates. Levels of six pesticide compounds were measured. For the most frequent compound detected, 20 percent of the children with above-average levels had ADHD. In children with no detectable amount in their urine, 10 percent had ADHD.

“This is a well conducted study,” said Dr. Lynn Goldman of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a former EPA administrator.

Relying on one urine sample for each child, instead of multiple samples over time, wasn’t ideal, Goldman said.

The study provides more evidence that the government should encourage farmers to switch to organic methods, said Margaret Reeves, senior scientist with the Pesticide Action Network, an advocacy group that’s been working to end the use of many pesticides.

“It’s unpardonable to allow this exposure to continue,” Reeves said.

On the Net:
Pediatrics: http://www.aap.org/
EPA: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/food

Tracking the Oil Spill


Published: May 1, 2010
Tracking the Oil Spill

The map sequence shows how the oil spill has been spreading in the Gulf of Mexico.

Sources: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; U.S. Coast Guard


Air Quality Awareness Week
May 3rd thru May 7th, 2010

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Weather Service urge Americans to “Be Air Aware” during Air Quality Awareness Week, May 3-7, 2010

Join the EPA and NOAA next week as they examine the following topics:

* Monday: Ozone and particle pollution
* Tuesday: What causes poor air quality?
* Wednesday: Keeping your lungs and heart safe
* Thursday: What are air quality forecasts.
* Friday: What can you do to help make the air cleaner?

To find out more visit: Air Quality Awareness Week

Drinking water clinic highlights drilled wells, cisterns and springs


Friday, April 23, 2010

University Park, Pa. — Ben Franklin wrote, “when the well is dry, we know the worth of water.” But even when the well is pumping steadily, it’s still worthwhile to regularly test private water supplies.

Public water systems are required by law to protect customers and regularly test for impurities. But in Pennsylvania, 3.5 million residents are served by private water systems, such as wells, springs and cisterns, and they have no such legal oversight.

“If you own your own private supply, it’s all your own responsibility to provide clean water to yourself, the people in your family and the people who come to visit,” said Peter Wulfhorst, educator with Penn State Cooperative Extension in Pike County.

Wulfhorst will be the featured speaker in the next Penn State Extension Water Webinar, titled “Safe Drinking Water Clinic,” which will air at noon and again at 7 p.m. on April 28.

He said two types of water standards concern homeowners: primary standards pertaining to health, and secondary standards that pertain to the water’s aesthetics — its taste or smell, its appearance, or whether it stains plumbing fixtures or laundry. He said the webinar will cover both of these subjects, as well as how to protect a water supply from contaminants, which contaminants to test for and what treatments to use if contaminants are present. Read more

Ground Water Awareness Week Slated for March 7-13


Ground Water Awareness Week Slated for March 7-13

WASHINGTON, D.C, February 17, 2010 – The American Farm Bureau Federation is urging Farm Bureau members to schedule an annual water well checkup during National Ground Water Awareness Week, March 7-13.

Ground Water Awareness Week is sponsored annually by the National Ground Water Association. NGWA is urging every household well owner to check his or her well cap to make sure it is in good condition to protect the water supply from contamination.

“A damaged or unsecured well cap can allow the entry of bacteria or other contaminants into the well. It is one of the easiest things to check, and a well owner can do it,” said John Pitz, CPI, a member of NGWA’s national board of directors.

“While well owners can spot a damaged or unsecured well cap, they should always use a qualified water well systems contractor who knows applicable well construction codes,” Pitz said. “If the well cap is damaged or unsecured, the water well contractor may also need to test the water and disinfect the well.”

Having your well tested is the surest way to determine that the water is safe. Even if your well cap fits tightly on your well and your water tastes fine, the water well system should be given a checkup by a contractor every year, according to NGWA.

Farm Bureau supports National Ground Water Awareness Week because of the vital importance of ground water to farms and ranches for irrigation and because 96 percent of rural Americans depend on ground water for their water supply, according to AFBF President Bob Stallman.

“Irrigation accounts for the largest use of ground water in the United States. Some 58 billion gallons of ground water are used daily for agricultural irrigation from more than 374,082 wells,” Stallman said. “America’s farmers and ranchers take their roles as environmental stewards very seriously. We are committed to ensuring that America’s ground water supply is safe, clean and pure.”

To learn more about proper well location and construction, well maintenance, water testing and treatment, and groundwater protection, visit NGWA’s Web site, www.wellowner.org.


Tracy Taylor Grondine
(202) 406-3642

John Hart
(202) 406-3659