Day: September 25, 2019

EPA delays ethylene oxide sterilizer rule timeline amid industry pushback

Read the full story from Medtech Dive.

New draft regulations on ethylene oxide do not appear imminent after an Environmental Protection Agency announcement it will not issue a proposed rule on commercial sterilizers immediately, instead opting to issue an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and request for information in October.

Separately, it is unclear how long it will be until a second proposed rule that aims to address air pollution emissions from the ethylene production process is published. An FDA official told MedTech Dive at The MedTech Conference while EPA and FDA are in frequent communication, no formal interagency consultation on EtO regulations has occurred yet. EPA is under court order to issue the rule by March 13, 2020.

The proposed rule on ethylene production will now likely come out mid-October, but an eventual proposed rule on commercial sterilizers will come out in December or January at the earliest, Greg Crist, AdvaMed’s executive vice president of public affairs, told MedTech Dive.

EPA’s Campus RainWorks Challenge Invites Students to Design Innovative Infrastructure for Stormwater Management

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has launched its eighth annual Campus RainWorks Challenge, a design competition that is open to colleges and universities across the country. EPA seeks to engage with students to design innovative green infrastructure solutions for stormwater management, showcasing the environmental, economic, and social benefits of these practices.

“The Campus RainWorks Challenge gets students excited about innovative infrastructure that provides clean water for campus communities,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water David Ross. “The program engages the next generation of potential clean water professionals and fosters the interdisciplinary collaboration necessary to solve the problems of the future.”

The 2019 Campus RainWorks Challenge will foster a dialogue about the need for innovative stormwater management, asking interdisciplinary student teams to design creative green infrastructure solutions that address stormwater pollution and benefit the campus community. Teams may submit entries in two categories—demonstration projects or master planning.

Each first-place team will earn a student prize of $5,000 to be divided evenly among student team members and a faculty prize of $5,000 to support green infrastructure research or training. Second-place teams will win a $2,500 student prize and a $2,500 faculty prize.

Registration for the 2019 Challenge opened Sept. 1, 2019 and closes Oct. 15, 2019. Registrants must submit their entries by Dec. 17, 2019 and winners will be announced in the Spring 2020.


Since 2012, nearly 700 teams and over 4,000 students have participated in the Campus RainWorks Challenge. Water pollution associated with stormwater runoff requires infrastructure solutions that are innovative, resilient and affordable. Green infrastructure refers to a variety of stormwater management practices that restore or mimic natural hydrological processes. While traditional stormwater infrastructure is largely designed to convey stormwater away from the built environment, green infrastructure uses soils, vegetation, and other media to manage stormwater where it falls.

More information about the Campus RainWorks Challenge is available at:

In fight against food waste, EPA and corporate leaders focus on business case

Read the full story in Waste Dive.

Administrator Wheeler, ReFED, and others held a Sunday roundtable to discuss waste reduction progress. They agreed measurement is a crucial first step to move beyond just philanthropic actions.

Dutch city to create thousands of jobs through circular economy initiatives

Read the full story at Planet Ark.

Governments around the world are elements of the circular economy to address environmental issues, but one city is proving such moves are also good for the economy. 

Rotterdam, the second-largest city in the Netherlands, recently released its Circular Rotterdam report looking into the opportunities for job creation in the zero waste economy they are transitioning towards. The report found that the circular economy initiatives being implemented could create over 7,000 jobs within a decade, with IT services, product design and supply chain logistics being the key areas of growth.

CDC and ATSDR Award $7 Million to Begin Multi-Site PFAS Study

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) are announcing the start of a multi-site health study to investigate the relationship between drinking water contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and health outcomes. CDC and ATSDR are making awards, in the amount of $1 million each, to the following institutions to look at exposures in communities listed:

  • Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, to look at exposures in El Paso County, CO
  • Michigan State Department of Health and Human Services to look at exposures in Parchment/Cooper Township, MI, and North Kent County, MI
  • RTI International and the Pennsylvania Department of Health to look at exposures in Montgomery County, PA
  • Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences – School of Public Health to look at exposures in Gloucester County, NJ
  • Silent Spring Institute to look at exposures in Hyannis, MA, and Ayer, MA
  • University at Albany, SUNY and New York State Department of Health to look at exposures in Hoosick Falls, NY, and Newburgh, NY
  • University of California – Irvine to look at exposures in communities near the UC Irvine Medical Center

“There is much that is unknown about the health effects of exposures to these chemicals,” said Patrick Breysse, PHD, CIH, Director of ATSDR and CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health. “The multi-site study will advance the scientific evidence on the human health effects of PFAS and provide some answers to communities exposed to the contaminated drinking water.”

The multi-site health study was authorized by the National Defense Authorization Acts of 2018 and 2019 to provide information to communities about the health effects of PFAS exposure. This is the first study to look at exposure to multiple PFAS at sites across the nation.  The information learned from the multi-site study will help all communities in the U.S. with PFAS drinking water exposures by allowing communities and governmental agencies to make better decisions about how to protect public health.

The goal of the multi-site study is to understand the relationship between PFAS exposure and health outcomes in differing populations. The study will add to our scientific knowledge about PFAS exposure and help people understand their risks for health effects.

The scientific evidence linking PFAS exposures with adverse health effects is increasing. Some studies in people have shown that exposure to certain PFAS might affect people’s health in the following ways:

  • Adversely affect growth, learning, and behavior of infants and children
  • Lower a woman’s chance of getting pregnant
  • Interfere with the body’s natural hormones
  • Increase cholesterol levels
  • Affect the immune system
  • Increase the risks for some cancers

The multi-site study will recruit at least 2,000 children aged 4–17 years and 6,000 adults aged 18 years and older who were exposed to PFAS-contaminated drinking water. Participants and birth mothers of eligible children cannot have a history of work exposure to PFAS.


PFAS are man-made chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products since the 1950s. They have been used in non-stick cookware; water-repellent clothing; stain-resistant fabrics and carpets; some cosmetics; some firefighting foams; and products that resist grease, water, and oil. Scientists are still learning about the health effects of exposure to PFAS. Some studies have shown that PFAS exposure may affect growth, learning, and behavior of infants and older children; lower a woman’s chance of getting pregnant; interfere with the body’s natural hormones; increase cholesterol levels; affect the immune system; and increase the risk of cancer.

For more information about the PFAS multi-site health study, visit:

For more information about PFAS and available resources, visit: or call 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636).

How are Illinois birds faring?

Read the full story from the University of Illinois.

According to a new study reported in the journal Science, bird populations in North America have experienced a troubling decline in the past five decades. The scientists estimate the continent has lost close to 3 billion birds, roughly 29% of their total numbers in 1970. Senior wildlife ecologist Thomas J. Benson of the Illinois Natural History Survey discusses the status of birds in Illinois with News Bureau life sciences editor Diana Yates. Benson leads the Critical Trends Assessment Program, which monitors the biological condition of the state’s forests, wetlands and grasslands, and collects data on plants, birds and arthropods.

EPA Awards $6 Million to Research Potential Environmental Impacts of PFAS Substances in Waste Streams

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced approximately $6 million to fund research by eight organizations to expand the understanding of the environmental risks posed by per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in waste streams and identify practical approaches to manage the potential impacts as PFAS enters the environment.

“These grants will help improve EPA’s understanding of the characteristics and impacts of PFAS in waste streams and enhance our efforts to address PFAS,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Today’s announcement is just one of the many ways we are delivering on the PFAS Action Plan – the most comprehensive, multi-media research and risk communication plan ever issued by the agency to address an emerging chemical of concern.

Taking concrete actions to address PFAS is one of EPA’s highest priorities. EPA’s recently released PFAS Action Plan identifies both short-term solutions for addressing PFAS chemicals and long-term strategies that will help provide the tools and technologies states, tribes and local communities need to clean up sites and provide clean, safe drinking water to their residents.

The eight recipients receiving this funding through EPA’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Program include:

  • New York State Department of Health – Health Research Inc., Menands, N.Y. – to build a dataset by analyzing samples from approximately 150 landfills in the State of New York. This data will be used to understand the types and concentrations of PFAS that are found in and around landfills, as well as the key landfill attributes that contribute to release of PFAS.
  • North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C. – to collect landfill gas (LFG) samples from over 400 landfills across the U.S. to determine if PFAS from LFG is a significant source of PFAS released into the atmosphere.
  • University of Florida, Gainsville, Fla. – to study the role of waste type, management strategies, and treatment methods on the occurrence, source and fate of PFAS in landfills. The study will identify the sources of PFAS compounds in the current US domestic waste stream using laboratory-scale batch leaching, and landfill simulation studies.
  • Clemson University, Clemson, S.C. – to examine the chemical process for the destruction of PFAS in leachate and groundwater. This project will assess degradation kinetics, test hypothesized process modifications, and conduct trials of leachate treatment.
  • Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind. – to develop methods to decrease PFAS concentrations in both municipal wastewater treatment plant effluent and sludge. The study will determine the technical and economic feasibility of using a treatment approach consisting of nanofiltration followed by electrochemical oxidation.
  • Texas A&M AgriLife Research, College Station, Texas – to investigate the feasibility of electron beam technology for the destruction of PFAS compounds during the remediation of groundwater, wastewater, sewage sludges, and soils.
  • Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas – to identify and quantify the occurrence of PFAS in landfill leachate, investigate the fate of PFAS passing through typical landfill liner systems, and test the ability to break down PFAS in landfill leachate using soundwaves.
  • University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, N.D. – to develop practical strategies for removing legacy and emerging PFAS from leachate and groundwater by studying the adsorption, desorption, and biodegradation of PFAS and precursor compounds in landfills.

PFAS are a group of synthetic chemicals that have been in use since the 1940s. PFAS are found in a wide array of consumer and industrial products. Due to widespread use and persistence in the environment, most people in the United States have been exposed to PFAS. EPA continues to evaluate the potential risk of these compounds to human health and the environment, but there is evidence that chronic exposure above specific levels to certain PFAS may lead to adverse health effects.

PFAS have been found in solid waste, landfills and surrounding environmental media (soil, groundwater), leachates, landfill gas, wastewater effluents, and biosolids. However, current treatment options are limited, as many conventional treatment methods are ineffective. In funding these projects, EPA is specifically supporting research to identify or develop innovative methods to treat or manage PFAS before it enters the environment to minimize its risks to humans and ecosystems. The resulting data will help researchers understand the occurrence, fate and transport of PFAS and identify methods or technologies to better manage PFAS-containing waste.

Microplastics in the Great Lakes: Becoming benthic

Read the full story from the Geological Society of America.

From the Great Pacific garbage patch to inland rivers, plastics are among the most widespread contaminants on Earth. Microplastics — particles of plastic smaller than five millimeters — are especially pervasive. As they build up in Earth’s waters, microplastics are also becoming a permanent part of the planet’s sedimentary layers.

Shedd Science Educator Conference

October 19, 2019, Shedd Aquarium, Chicago
Cost: $75, More information and registration

Sample science teaching strategies that will connect your classroom to Shedd’s animals, exhibits and science resources. Plus, meet other Chicago-area educators and become a part of Shedd’s learning community, where you’ll find resources custom-made for your classroom.

The value of this day-long conference:

  • Get a full day of learning, multiple workshops and all meals (light breakfast, lunch and afternoon hors d’oeuvres).
  • Enter a raffle in each session and during the social for the chance to win additional classroom resources.
  • Receive free parking, a Shedd swag bag of resources/giveaways and cocktails during the social.
  • Tour the Aquarium before close, get to know one of our animals and receive tickets to the optional 5 p.m. aquatic presentation.

Illinois teachers registered for this program will receive 7 clock hours upon completion as well as a letter that can be shared with your school administration. A current Illinois Educator Identification Number (IEIN) Number is required for Clock Hours.

Pollution Prevention Week, Libraries, and Sustainability

Originally published on September 16, 2019 on the ILA Connecter blog.

Pollution Prevention (P2) Week is celebrated each year during the third week of September. I wouldn’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of it. Although the concept of pollution prevention is familiar, the phrase itself isn’t widely used these days. P2, also called source reduction, is any practice that reduces, eliminates, or prevents pollution at the source. Reducing the amount of pollution produced means less waste to control, treat, or dispose of. It also means fewer hazards posed to public health and the environment.

What does P2 Week have to do with libraries? A lot, as it turns out. Pollution prevention is the cornerstone of sustainability. Earlier this year the ALA Council adopted sustainability as a core value of librarianship. In the announcement, ALA President Loida Garcia-Febo said, “By adding sustainability to its core values, ALA is recognizing that libraries of all types can act as catalysts and inspire future generations to reach solutions that are not only sensible but essential to sustaining life on this planet.”

The good news is that the library’s core services prevent pollution because they encourage people to borrow rather than buy. The Library of Things movement has expanded collections beyond books and movies to include seeds, American Girl dolls, prom dresses, interview clothes, tools, kitchenware, and art, among other things. Library computer labs are important community resources for those who don’t have internet access or a computer at home. Most people don’t think about these services as pollution prevention. It’s just what libraries do.

Libraries are trusted information sources within their communities. This gives them a lot of influence when it comes to fostering community sustainability. Some ways to leverage that influence to drive change are to:

  • Look at library operations through a prevention lens. Where can you improve energy efficiency, conserve water, or reduce the use of toxic chemicals? Can you use reusable tableware and decorations at events? Can you reduce your paper use? What happens to your computers when you upgrade your labs? What do you do with your weeded materials?
  • Use your building and operations practices as an educational tool. Tell your community what you’re doing, how much money you’re saving from making changes, and what you’re spending that money on instead.
  • Partner with community organizations to encourage pollution prevention in your community.
  • Develop programs with sustainability themes. Bring in speakers to help businesses in your community improve their environmental performance.

Over the next several months, I’ll be writing about ways that you can incorporate sustainability into your library’s operations and program content. If your library is already a community leader in sustainability, let me know what you’re doing. I’d love to share your story with the Illinois library community.

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