Month: July 2012

Can Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs Damage Skin?

Read the full story from Scientific American.

A new study suggests that certain types of the energy-saving lightbulbs can become damaged and then may hurt skin cells.

Full research article: Mironava T, Hadjiargyrou M, Simon M, Rafailovich MH.(2012). “The Effects of UV Emission from Compact Fluorescent Light Exposure on Human Dermal Fibroblasts and Keratinocytes In Vitro.” Photochemistry and Photobiology, 2012 Jun 23 [EPub aead of print]. DOI: 10.1111/j.1751-1097.2012.01192.x

Abstract: Compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs can provide the same amount of lumens as incandescent light bulbs, using one quarter of the energy. Recently, CFL exposure was found to exacerbate existing skin conditions; however, the effects of CFL exposure on healthy skin tissue have not been thoroughly investigated. In this study, we studied the effects of exposure to CFL illumination on healthy human skin tissue cells (fibroblasts and keratinocytes). Cells exposed to CFLs exhibited a decrease in the proliferation rate, a significant increase in the production of reactive oxygen species, and a decrease in their ability to contract collagen. Measurements of UV emissions from these bulbs found significant levels of UVC and UVA (mercury [Hg] emission lines), which appeared to originate from cracks in the phosphor coatings, present in all bulbs studied. The response of the cells to the CFLs was consistent with damage from UV radiation, which was further enhanced when low dosages of TiO(2) nanoparticles (NPs), normally used for UV absorption, were added prior to exposure. No effect on cells, with or without TiO(2) NPs, was observed when they were exposed to incandescent light of the same intensity.

Webinar: Choosing Safer Sanitizers and Disinfectants

Mon, Sep 24, 2012 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM CDT
Register at

As part of the West Coast Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Collaborative Webinar Update Series, Chris Geiger and Sushma Bhatia from the San Francisco Department of the Environment will discuss alternative disinfectant chemicals.

Sanitizers and disinfectant products have become ubiquitous, but some of their active ingredients – like triclosan – are raising red flags with researchers and regulators. This session discusses the health and environmental impacts of triclosan and will discuss how San Francisco evaluated alternative disinfectant chemicals. It features advice on safer disinfection products and practices, and outline ways that local governments can take action.

The Webinar is Sponsored by The West Coast States EPP Collaborative, the Western Sustainability and Pollution Prevention Network (WSPPN) and the Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center (PPRC).

Let’s go shwopping! (Not a typo).

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Shwopping is the latest idea from British retail pioneer Marks & Spencer. They’re well known in the sustainability world for their Plan A (so named because there isn’t a Plan B to deal with climate change). Now they’ve introduced a new way to think about and interact with retail – customers swap an old item of clothing before they buy a new one.

Mobilizing Energy Efficiency in the Manufactured Housing Sector

Download the document.

Manufactured homes are an important source of affordable housing for nearly seven million Americans, particularly low-income residents. Unfortunately, energy efficiency in manufactured homes lags behind that of site-built homes. This study examines the potential for and benefits of energy efficiency in manufactured homes. It assesses the current housing market, characterizes energy use, and analyzes the cost-effective potential for energy efficiency improvements throughout the manufactured housing sector. Results highlight substantial potential for programs and policies to mobilize energy efficiency in manufactured homes.

Why green chemistry is a major driver of product innovation

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

What would chemicals look like if they were designed in the same way as products or buildings? Could better-designed, greener chemistry help address the health and environmental concerns facing both product developers and companies?

EPA, HUD, and DOT Partner with States to Meet Growth, Development Goals

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced today they will partner with the Governors’ Institute on Community Design to provide enhanced technical guidance to governors seeking to tackle housing, transportation, environmental, and health challenges facing their states.

The partnership, a part of the Federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities, is designed for states seeking to spur economic growth and development while addressing these issues.

“The Governors’ Institute on Community Design helps states address local challenges in ways that are cheaper and more effective, making it an important part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to communities,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “The EPA has been proud to be a part of the program since it was created in 2005. We look forward to working with our colleagues at HUD and DOT as well as Smart Growth America to continue supporting the Institute’s workshops, and help states achieve their economic, environmental, and public health goals.”

“With this effort, our three agencies are providing the cutting-edge technical assistance states need to create healthier, more livable communities,” says HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “Just as importantly, we are demonstrating once again that the key to more affordable housing, transportation and access to jobs is providing partnership at the federal level that supports innovation at the local level.”

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood adds, “By working with HUD and EPA over the last three years, we’ve made significant progress to help communities across the country become safer, healthier, and better connected.” “We’re excited to expand our collaboration by working directly with the Governors’ Institute to increase state transportation options.”

Established in 2005, the Governors’ Institute brings together leading practitioners and academics in government, design, development, and regional economics to help governors and their state executive teams make informed choices about growth and development in their states. At the request of a governor, the Governors’ Institute conducts a workshop that pairs the governor and his or her cabinet with planning experts to identify strategies that spur development and help communities achieve their economic, public health, and environmental goals. Governors also receive follow-up assistance on technical issues.

The Governors’ Institute is coordinated by Smart Growth America and is led by former Governor Parris N. Glendening of Maryland and former Governor Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey. Tom Ridge, former governor of Pennsylvania; Chet Culver, former governor of Iowa; and James Lee Witt, former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, serve as advisors. In June, EPA awarded Smart Growth America a five-year cooperative agreement to administer the institute. This funding builds upon support provided previously by the National Endowment for the Arts, which brought to the fore issues of community design and art in public places.

The partnership, which celebrated its third anniversary in June, works to provide communities with faster, more streamlined access to federal programs and resources, and works closely with other federal agencies, states, and local governments to ensure that partnership programs use federal resources as efficiently as possible.

A new foundation to honor Ray Anderson’s legacy

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Last Saturday, on what would have been his 78th birthday, a small group of friends and family of the late Ray Anderson, the founder of Interface and a giant in the world of sustainable business, gathered in LaGrange, Georgia, to inaugurate a foundation in his name to “champion a revolution in sustainable production and consumption.”

Anderson died of cancer on August 8, 2011, at age 77, leaving behind an extraordinary legacy as a Southern industrialist who dared to envision his carpet company as a model for the closed-loop, restorative enterprise of tomorrow.

The Ray C. Anderson Foundation, which will roll out online next week, aims “to promote a sustainable society by supporting and pioneering initiatives that harmonize society, business and the environment for the present generation and tomorrow’s child,” according to its mission statement. “We will achieve this mission through inspiring and funding innovative, educational and project-based initiatives that advance the revolution in sustainable production and consumption.”

Green Clean School webinar series (second is today at 1 pm Central)

Learn from the Leaders
Tuesday, July 17 (1-2 p.m. Central)
View the archive

Winners of the most recent Green Cleaning Award for Schools and Universities will discuss the highlights of their programs and share tips and strategies for starting and sustaining a green cleaning program. A question and answer session will follow the webinar and will give participants the chance to interact with and learn from the Green Clean Award winners.

Green Cleaning and Infection Control (TODAY!)
Tuesday, July 31 (1-2 p.m. Central)
Register at

Building engineers and content experts will discuss strategies for controlling the spread of infections while maintaining healthy school environments. Speakers will discuss the challenges and solutions involved in making infection control a regular part of your green cleaning program.

Green Cleaning Award for Schools & Universities
Tuesday, August 7 (1-2 p.m. Central)
Register at

This webinar will focus on the what, why and how-to of the Green Cleaning Award for Schools and Universities. Presenters will highlight best practices and practical tips for easily completing the application and will provide background and history on the award. The goal of the webinar is to make it easy for schools and their partners to apply for the award.

New Technology and Green Cleaning
Wednesday, August 15 (1-2 p.m. Central)

Register at

Building engineers and content experts will discuss the latest technology in green cleaning and review new products they are using in the schools they serve. In addition, speakers will discuss strategies for creating buy-in among cleaning staff for new green cleaning technology and building support for green cleaning programs throughout the school community.

Making the Financial Case for Green Cleaning
Wednesday, August 29 (1-2 p.m. Central)
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Speakers will discuss the financial benefits of green cleaning and share strategies they have identified for saving in product and labor costs. Speakers will share their own stories of implementing cost-effective green cleaning programs.

All webinars are archived on the Healthy Schools Campaign web site at


EPA Identifies Substitutes for Toxic Flame Retardant Chemical

In its quest to identify possible substitutes for a toxic flame retardant chemical known as decabromodiphenyl ether (decaBDE), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a draft report on alternatives. This comprehensive assessment, developed with public participation under EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) program, profiles the environmental and human health hazards on 30 alternatives to decaBDE, which will be phased out of production by December 2013.

DecaBDE is a common flame retardant used in electronics, vehicles, and building materials. It can cause adverse developmental effects, can persist in the environment and can bioaccumulate in people and animals. This technical assessment can help manufacturers identify alternatives to decaBDE. In addition, EPA will continue to work with manufacturers to investigate both chemical and non-chemical alternatives for flame retardants.

“EPA is using all of its tools to reduce the use of hazardous flame retardant chemicals like decaBDE and identify safer, functional substitutes to protect people’s health and the environment,” said Jim Jones, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP). “Virtually everyone agrees that EPA needs updated authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to more effectively assess and regulate potentially harmful chemicals like flame retardants. As EPA continues to stress the need for comprehensive legislative reform to TSCA, we are also targeting actions on a broader group of flame retardants to reduce human and environmental risks.”

Today’s draft report is the latest in a series of actions the agency is taking to address flame retardants made with bromine. Other actions include:

  • On June 1, 2012, EPA released a TSCA work plan of 18 chemicals which the agency intends to review and use to develop risk assessments in 2013 and 2014, including three flame retardant chemicals. EPA is currently developing a strategy, scheduled for completion by the end of this year that will address these three and a broader set of flame retardant chemicals. This effort will aid the agency in focusing risk assessments on those flame retardant chemicals that pose the greatest potential concerns. EPA anticipates initiating the risk assessments on this category of chemicals in 2013.
  • On April 2, 2012, EPA proposed actions under TSCA that will require manufacturers, importers, and processors of polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants to submit information to the agency for review before initiating any new uses of PBDEs after Dec 31, 2013. Those who continue to manufacture, import, or process after December 31, 2013, would be subject to a testing requirement under TSCA. EPA is accepting comments on this proposal until July 31, 2012.
  • In 2009, EPA developed action plans on PBDEs (including pentaBDE, octaBDE, and decaBDE) and hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) that summarized available hazard, exposure and use information; outlined potential risks; and identified the specific steps the agency is pursuing under the TSCA. The alternatives analysis for decaBDE was included in the action plan.

The alternatives to decaBDE characterized in the report are already on the market and will be used increasingly as decaBDE is phased out. The alternatives have differing hazard characteristics and are associated with trade-offs. For example, some alternatives that appear to have a relatively positive human health profile may be more persistent in the environment. Some alternatives appear to be less toxic than decaBDE. Preliminary data suggests that these flame retardants may have a lower potential for bioaccumulation in people and the environment. It is important to understand that these health and environmental profiles are largely based on computer-model generated estimates, and that the models are limited in their ability to predict concern.  Laboratory testing and ongoing environmental monitoring is necessary to fully understand the potential for concern associated with these chemicals.

EPA’s Design for the Environment Alternatives Assessment Program helps industries choose safer chemicals and offers a basis for informed decision-making by providing a detailed comparison of the potential public health and environmental impacts of chemical alternatives. Throughout the partnership, stakeholders, including chemical suppliers, product manufacturers, and non-government organizations have provided valuable information to support the development of these draft reports. EPA is seeking stakeholder and public input on this draft report for 60 days.

Is green marketing a luxury for good economic times?

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

It seems that ads promoting a healthy planet only thrive during a healthy economy. According to three Penn State University researchers, green marketing rises and falls in lockstep with key indicators of economic growth.

The researchers examined 30 years of environmental advertising in National Geographic Magazine and compared it to what was happening with the gross domestic product at various points in time.

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