Better protection for America’s Farm Workers from Pesticide Exposure

Agriculture

The EPA has drafted a revision to the 1992 Agricultural Worker Protection Standard designed to protect some 2 million US agricultural farmers and workers from the pesticides they are exposed to on a daily basis. Exposure to these pesticides account for a disproportionate number of exposure incidents each year.

The major changes are:

  • Mandatory annual safety training for anyone who comes into contact with pesticides. This training will also teach farmers and workers about how to reduce “take-home exposure” on clothing worn during the day at work.
  • For the first time ever, workers who are exposed to these pesticides must be 18 years of age or older.
  • “No Entry” signs must be posted in fields that have just been treated with pesticides as well as creating no entry zones for the equipment that was used to apply the pesticides.
  • Increased access to SDS sheets on the pesticides in question.
  • Mandatory record keeping to better follow up and track incidents
  • Mandatory medical evaluations and fit-testing
  • Specifics on the amount of water available for decontamination and eye flushing.
  • Anti-retaliation provisions to protect workers.

Now we need the EPA to come out with standards to protect consumers. 🙂


Supreme Court Blocks the Obama Administration

Smoke_Stacks

On June 2, 2014, the EPA, in an attempt to help the Obama Climate Action Plan, came out with the Clean Power Plan Proposal which sought to cut emissions from the coal mining power plants. Two months later, in August 2014, 12 states filed a case against the EPA claiming that the costs of reducing emissions as much as the EPA was requesting would cost jobs and possibly force closures.

This past Monday the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA hadn’t adequately studied the cost of the proposed plan and ruled against the EPA essentially telling them to rewrite the plan with proper assessments and analysis with regards to costs.

The Supreme Court chided the EPA, telling them that they cannot simply write out plans and proposals without first considering the costs in time, money and jobs, calling the EPA “out-of-control”.

Needless to say, the EPA was no happy about the decision, claiming that most of the power plants were already well on their way to being compliant.


New EPA Regulations Will Prove Costly to Dental Offices

A new proposed EPA rule is seeking to regulate the disposal and discharge of dental amalgam. The concern is that dental amalgam (fillings) are made up of of liquid mercury and a powdered alloy composed of silver, tin, and copper. The EPA is trying to make sure that these won’t end up in the publicly owned treatment works (POTWs). The new rule is seeking to make sure that the mercury and the metals are captured and disposed of properly BEFORE it’s washed down the sink and into the POTWs.

Dentists all across the country would have to install a special unit called an amalgam separator to capture and separate these elements.

Dentist

The American Dental Association (ADA) is, rightly concerned with the cost of these units and the cost of installation for dentists who will need to make the move.

You can read and/or download the new proposed rule, which is still under consideration, at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-10-22/pdf/2014-24347.pdf

What isn’t addressed in this proposal is the safety of the doctors and staff at the dental clinics as the breathe in the airborne particles when these filings are removed.


Half of EPA purchase card charges not allowed

When the Office of Inspector General conducted an audit on the EPA earlier this year, it was just a standard procedure. The Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 was set up specifically for this purpose, namely to check out agencies like the EPA to make sure that the government purchasing cards were being used for legitimate work expenses directly linked to the work done by the EPA employees.

Turns out that this wasn’t, in fact, what they were always being used for. Having selected 80 transactions from the charge card listings because they were outside of what would normally show up on a credit card of this nature, the OIG found that 75 of these 80 charges were “prohibited, improper, or erroneous”. Those 72 charges totaled $79,259.

That’s $79,259 of my tax money and yours. Turns out that some EPA employees feel that you and I should pay for for their gym membership. Actually it’s worse than that, you and I aren’t just paying for them to go to the gym, in some cases we’re paying for their family members to go to the gym as well.

While it’s nice that our government employees want to make sure they and their families stay healthy the rest of us have to pay for our own membership or not go at all.

To be fair, it isn’t as bad as it actually looks. First of all, the 80 charges that the OIG looked at weren’t randomly sampled. They were looked at because they fell outside of the norm of what should show up on a government purchasing card. Additionally, of the 72 charges that were found to be prohibited, improper, or erroneous, 28 were because the users couldn’t actually verify that they had received the items and/or services that they had charged on the card (This doesn’t necessarily mean that they didn’t receive them, just that they couldn’t prove that they had). Another 24 of the 80 were not supposed to be allowed because they hadn’t been given approval prior to making the purchase (Again, this doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t have gotten approval, just that they didn’t follow protocol).

Regardless, the EPA is promising to make some changes to provide better oversight in the future. It only stands to reason that if you give people credit cards without closely monitoring the expenses charged on them, some people are gong to misuse them and find ways to justify charging personal expenses on them (You can just hear some of those employees saying “I have to stay fit to do my job properly… That’s a valid expense!”).

The results of the “investigation” were published in a 31-page document that you can download or view online here.


EPA Proposes Changes to Protect Farm Workers from Pesticides

In a memo released last month, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) set forth a list of proposed changes designed to increase safety for farmers and agricultural workers dealing with pesticides.

Among the proposed changes…

  • Annual mandatory trainings (rather than once every 5 years) to inform farm workers about the protections they are afforded under the law , including restrictions on entering pesticide – treated fields and surrounding areas, decontamination supplies, access to information and use of personal protective equipment.
  • Expanded trainings will include instructions to reduce take – home exposure from pesticides on work clothing and other safety topics.
  • Expanded mandatory posting of no – entry signs for the most hazardous pesticides . The signs prohibit entry into pesticide – treated fields until residues decline to a safe level.
  • First – time ever minimum age requirement: Children under 16 will be prohibited from handling pesticides , with an exemption for family farms.
  • New no – entry 25 – 100 foot buffer areas surrounding pesticide – treated fields will protect workers and others from exposure from pesticide overspray and fumes.
  • Mandatory record – keeping to improve states’ ability to follow – up on pesticide violations and enforce compliance. Records of application – specific pesticide information as well as farmworker training and early – entry notification must be kept for two years.

Additional Proposed Changes

  • Personal Protection Equipment (respirator use) must be consistent with the Occupational Safety & Health administration standards for ensuring respirators are effective , including fit test, medical evaluation and training.
  • Requirement to make available to farm workers or their advocates (including medical personnel) information specific to the pesticide application, including the pesticide label and Safety Data Sheets.
  • Additional changes make the rule more practical and easier to comply with for farmers.
  • Continues the exemptions for family farms.

Download or view the entire document at http://www.epa.gov/oppfead1/safety/workers/proposed/proposed-wps-factsheet.pdf


EPA Proposed New Standards for Residential Wood Heaters

In an attempt to further clean the air, especially in areas that rely heavily on wood as a fuel for heating homes, the EPA is proposing a new standard for wood stoves, pellet stoves, hydronic heaters, forced air furnaces and masonry heaters.

The proposal was posted on January 3, 2014 on the EPA website. Strangely enough the proposal completely ignores fireplaces.

The plan they are proposing is one that they are seeking to implement over the course of the next 5 years.

To site contains details for each of the following types of heaters:


Safe Storage, Handling, and Management of Ammonium Nitrate by EPA

At the end of last week, August 30th 2013, the EPA put out its final advisory entitled “Chemical Advisory:Safe Storage, Handling, and Management of Ammonium Nitrate“.

Ammonium Nitrate, you’ll remember was the cause of the explosion in Texas that killed 15 people this past April. The advisory refers to this accident as well as to several others in the past to talk about why the advisory is needed and why changes need to be made. According to the 19 page document, here are some of the lessons learned from past accidents and explosions:

AN will self-compress/self-confine under some conditions, becoming much more likely to explode.
AN is at risk for explosion when stored near other material that can add fuel to the AN – such as grain, sugar, seeds, sawdust, and most especially petroleum fuels such as diesel.
AN is a powerful oxidizer and a rich source of nitrate, which provides energy to an explosion. Thus, the presence of fuel and/or heat (and especially both) near AN is a very high hazard situation.

Download and read about the proper storage, handing and management of Ammonium Nitrate at http://www.epa.gov/osweroe1/docs/chem/AN_advisory.pdf

 

 

 



EPA increasing access to chemical information

Have you heard of CBI? CBI stands for Confidential Business Information and generally allows manufacturers to keep certain things secret. The idea is that if I tell everyone what’s in the products that I make, they are either going to make it themselves or someone else is going to make it and sell it cheaper than I am; Kind of like Colonel Sanders keeping his blend of herbs and spices secret.

CBI makes a certain amount of sense when it comes to recipes or manufacturing processes but when industries start to claim CBI in an effort to classify chemicals that are being used in household products the area becomes a little sketchy. If you’re like me you kind of want to know what it is that you are being exposed to when you spray an air freshener.

Apparently the EPA agrees. Last week, they declassified more than “150 chemicals
contained in 104 health and safety studies that had been claimed confidential by industry
“. Furthermore the EPA is trying to stop companies from hiding behind CBI in an effort to keep consumers from knowing what chemicals they might be exposed to thereby increasing the consumers’ ability to protect himself from chemicals that they feel aren’t healthy.

Read the EPAs’ press release here.

Read more about “Increasing Transparency in TSCA

Access the Chemical Database to look up a chemical.