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Region 1: EPA New England

A Cleaner Outdoors

Pesticides
Children are exposed to harmful pesticides from residues on food, contaminants in water and pesticides applied in schools, on playgrounds and on athletic fields. Successful alternatives can minimize the use of chemicals, and EPA is educating citizens about these alternatives through consumer education and clearer label instructions. The EPA New England Pesticides Program is also working with community groups to develop programs to educate residents on the safe use of pesticides.

Air Quality Alerts
Air pollution causes lung and other respiratory diseases and threatens the health of our children. Every summer, New England suffers from dozens of days with unhealthy air. EPA New England gives Smog Alerts, hot weather reports on air quality to the public through the media and through electronic messages to 1,000 camps, daycare centers and individuals. Tighter air pollution laws have resulted in significant improvements. A decade ago, New England suffered nearly three times as many days as today with poor air quality. Changes in regulations continue to make improvements. Recently, EPA proposed tougher emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles that would significantly reduce smog-causing emissions from trucks and buses.

Air monitors in Boston and Portland, Maine, evaluate air toxics, ozone and fine particles in urban environments and give real time air quality statistics back to the public through a web page. In Portland, technology funded by EPA measures air toxics in a congested area. In Boston Click icon for EPA disclaimer., monitors that work 24 hours a day have been established in two dense urban neighborhoods where children suffer from high asthma and lead poisoning rates. Students from a nearby high school raise colored flags to alert people to the air quality.

Mercury
About one in four children nationally is exposed to mercury at unsafe levels. Mercury exposure may lead to irreversible neurological effects. Most of these children are exposed because their mothers were not aware during pregnancy of the dangers of eating fish contaminated with mercury. Across New England, more than 80 percent of the inland waters have fish too polluted with mercury to eat. EPA is working to reduce the presence of mercury in the environment, through such programs as Partners for Change Mercury Challenge, which has encouraged hospitals to reduce mercury waste entirely by the year 2003. The program has already eliminated hundreds of pounds of mercury from New England's environment. One mercury thermometer can contaminate up to 25,000 gallons of water to beyond the drinking water standard. EPA New England is also teaching parents about the dangers of mercury.

Vacant Lots
Empty lots are a significant risk to children in urban areas because of illegal dumping of waste that may include lead and arsenic. In Providence, home to 4,000 vacant and abandoned lots, EPA works with local officials and community groups to sample and transfer these lots to local residents for the cost of one dollar. Through this model program, Livable Providence Click icon for EPA disclaimer., urban eyesores are turned into flower gardens, parks and open spaces for the community's enjoyment. EPA New England's Urban Environmental Program provides links to recommended web sites related to vacant lots.

Smart Growth
EPA New England helps communities grow in ways that use less land and natural resources and that encourage walkable, safe neighborhoods. EPA educates local officials on how to plan for development in ways that benefit the community, such as slowing traffic on neighborhood streets so that they are safer for kids to walk and bike. EPA has helped fund a program in the state of the Maine that shows developers and municipalities the market for what they call the Great American Neighborhood, characterized by such features as walkability, distinct neighborhood boundaries, protection from excessive traffic and noise and a mixture of homes and services that residents can use. Kids growing up in such a neighborhood can walk or bike safely and get exercise while learning to be independent, instead of relying on adults to drive them everywhere they need to go. And across New England, EPA is helping communities make smart decisions about where to locate schools, playgrounds and parks, ensuring that children are not exposed to environmental risks in the neighborhood.

Hazardous Waste Sites
About one in four children in the United States lives within 4 miles of a hazardous waste site, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). ATSDR, along with EPA, handles public health issues related to Superfund sites and warns that children who live near hazardous waste sites often have greater exposures, greater potential for health problems, and less ability to avoid hazards. These differences demand special emphasis in communities near hazardous waste sites.

Sunwise
Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation can cause serious health effects, including skin cancer and other skin disorders, eye damage and cataracts, and immune system suppression. One in five Americans develops skin cancer. Every hour one person dies from this disease. The incidence of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, is increasing faster than almost every other form of cancer. Most of the average person's lifetime sun exposure occurs before the age of 18. Boston was one of three pilot cities for a national EPA program teaching children the dangers of UV ray exposure from the sun. EPA New England distributes information to parents, teachers, recreation directors and camp counselors so caretakers are aware of and can help children avoid these harmful rays.

Fish Smart Campaign at New Bedford Harbor
Eating large amounts of fish or shell fish contaminated with PCBs may cause adverse health effects. Click here for PCB facts, a fisherman's guide, and tips on healthy fish consumption.

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