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Environmental Education and Outreach

Previous Monthly Environmental Messages

| Compost | Radon | Don't Trash the Holidays! | Limit Your Carbon Monoxide Exposure |

| Why Recycle? | National Pollution Prevention Week | Help Keep Our Coast Clean |

| Your Local Air Quality Affects How You Breathe | Got Water Quality |

 

Turn Over a New Leaf - Compost

Here's the dirt on backyard composting. It helps protects the environment, conserve natural resources and save you money.

Compost added to soil results in healthier plant growth because it:

  • Enhances soil structure, adds nutrients, and helps suppress plant diseases and pests.
  • Improves the water-holding capacity of soil - reducing your need to water.
  • Reduces or eliminates chemical fertilizer and pesticide use - reducing runoff pollution to nearby streams, rivers and lakes.
  • Helps reduce the amount of waste we throw away at home.
  • Saves you money. You don't need to buy chemicals and fertilizers. You dont have to buy as many bags for your garbage or yard trimmings. And you dont have to buy compost. You make your own valuable product at home.

Get Started Now. It's simple to do. All you need to get started is a little time, a little space, a bin and a basic understanding of the composting process. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Controls (DHEC) Office of Solid Waste Reduction and Recycling can help you start composting right in your backyard. Visit www.scdhec.gov/environment/lwm/recycle/compost.htm to learn more.

 

National Radon Action Month

During National Radon Action Month in January, the U.S. Surgeon General, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) urge all Americans to protect their health by testing their homes for radon. Radon is a natural radioactive gas that you can't see, smell, or taste but it could be present at a dangerous level in your home. As the second leading cause of lung cancer deaths in the U.S. and the first leading cause among non-smokers, radon claims more than 20,000 lives annually.

All South Carolina citizens are encouraged to test their home for radon, regardless of geographic location and type of home. Two homes right next to each other can have vastly different radon levels. Just because your neighbors house does not have an elevated level of radon does not mean that your house will have a low radon level. The only way to know if your home is under the EPA action level of 4 pCi/L is to test.

High levels of radon in homes usually come from the surrounding soil. Radon gas enters through cracks and openings-such as plumbing features-on the lower levels of your home. Hot spots include basements, first-floor rooms, and garages, but radon can be found anywhere in your house.

Radon is measured in picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L), a measurement of radioactivity. EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that homes with radon levels at 4 pCi/L or higher should be fixed. EPA also recommends that Americans consider fixing their homes for radon levels between 2 pCi/L and 4 pCi/L.

If you are building a new home, radon-resistant construction methods can be effective in reducing radon entry. When used properly, these simple and cost-effective techniques can help reduce the accumulation of radon gas in your home.

Every new home should be tested after occupancy, even if it was built using radon-resistant construction methods. If radon levels above EPAs action level at or above 4 pCi/L are detected, it is easier and less expensive to reduce radon levels in homes that have been built with radon-resistant construction techniques.

For more information about what you can do to protect your health and take action against radon during National Radon Action Month, please visit www.epa.gov/radon/nram/public.html, or www.scdhec.gov/radon. To receive a free radon test kit from S.C. DHEC, email radon@dhec.sc.gov.

 

Don't Trash the Holidays!

It is estimated that between Thanksgiving and New Years Day, Americans throw away about 25 percent more waste than any other time of the year. This year, consider giving “green” gifts that do not require wrapping, such as gift certificates for day spas, restaurants, theaters or tickets to sporting events, concerts or movies. Give a magazine subscription or even a membership to an environmental organization.

These gifts are remembered long after other presents wear out. Antiques make excellent gifts and are environmentally friendly because they are recycled. Plants make excellent presents and are noted to help reduce indoor air pollution. Consider using containers such as cake pans, baskets or wooden boxes as part of your gift. Reuse wrapping and ribbon, use old posters, comics and maps. You might be able to do all your shopping in one trip, on-line or with 800 numbers. You can save gasoline and keep your stress to a minimum.

Tip: The holidays are the perfect time of the year to reduce, reuse and recycle. And while you are at it, don’t forget to make a New Year’s resolution to reduce, reuse and recycle all year. For more information about being green during the holidays, call or visit the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s (DHEC) Office of Solid Waste Reduction 1-800-768-7348 or visit www.scdhec.gov/recycle.

Limit Your Carbon Monoxide Exposure

Exposure to carbon monoxide increases during the winter and hurricane seasons when people are more likely to use gas furnaces, heaters, and generators in their homes. The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure are nausea, headache and dizziness which are easily mistaken for other conditions such as a viral illness. More severe symptoms are loss of consciousness, shortness of breath and loss of muscle control.

Strategies to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Exposure:

  • Install a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector in your home and replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall.
  • Have your heating system, water heater, and any other gas-, oil-, or coal-burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
  • Do not use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline- or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement, or garage or outside near a window.
  • Do not run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open.
  • Do not heat your house with a gas oven.

If the Carbon Monoxide detector alarm goes off:Check to see if any member of the household is experiencing symptoms of poisoning. If they are, get them out of the house immediately and seek medical attention. Tell the doctor you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning. If no one is feeling symptoms, ventilate the home with fresh air and turn off all potential sources of carbon monoxide.

 

Why Recycle?

There are more reasons than you may think. Recycling has many environmental as well as economic benefits.

Recycling:

  • Saves energy and natural resources.
  • Reduces pollution caused by the extraction and processing of raw materials as well as the manufacturing of products using raw materials.
  • Decreases greenhouse gas emissions as well as our reliance on foreign oil.
  • Turns material that otherwise would become waste into valuable resources.
  • Recyclables have value. The recyclables that you place in your bin or take to the drop-off center end up on the market as commodities that are bought and sold.
  • By turning waste into raw materials, recycling creates jobs, builds more competitive manufacturing industries and adds significantly to the U.S. economy.
  • In South Carolina, more than 15,000 people work in the recycling industry. Overall, the industry has a $6.5 billion impact on the state's economy.


    Recycling is the right thing to do. If you do not know what or where to recycle in your community, the
    S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control's (DHEC) Office of Solid Waste Reduction and Recycling can help. Visit www.scdhec.gov/recycle or call 1-800-768-7348 to learn more.


National Pollution Prevention Week

National Pollution Prevention Week is September 15-21, 2008. This is the time when businesses, environmental groups and citizens can join forces for a common cause. By sharing information about pollution prevention (P2), businesses can become more competitive, businesses and government can realize cost savings, and environmental quality can be enhanced.

The Center for Waste Minimization, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental
Controls (DHEC) non-regulatory pollution prevention and waste minimization program, is
promoting P2 Week through various events and activities.

Here are just a few initiatives you can do to prevent pollution, either at home, at work or at
school:

  • Do not mow your lawn or fill your gas tank on Ozone Action Days.
  • Minimize water use by purchasing efficient toilets, faucets, and showerheads.
  • Buy less toxic chemicals or cleaners.
  • Recycle plastics, glass, aluminum, newspaper, and used motor oil.
  • Reuse grocery bags by taking them with you to the store.
  • Carpool, bicycle, walk, or take mass transportation to work.
  • Use reusable lunch containers instead of paper and plastic bags.
  • Use reusable cups for coffee and other beverages.
  • Recycle your Fluorescent light bulbs.
  • Implement a Pollution Prevention Team.
  • Reduce materials and recycle what is used.
  • Perform a waste audit.
  • Print copies on both sides of each sheet of paper.
  • Use non-mercury-containing thermometers.

Remember…to reduce, reuse or recycle an item before throwing it away! For more information on P2, please visit out website at www.scdhec.gov/cwm.

 

Help Keep Our Coast Clean

The next time you visit the coast, take a moment to consider that plastics, fishing gear and other litter are collected from our beaches and coastal waterways every year. Most of this litter comes directly from beach and
boating related activities. However, litter that washes into storm drains, creeks and rivers can also be carried to the coast. Litter not only looks terrible, it also poses a serious and sometimes deadly threat to turtles,
birds and other marine animals when mistakenly ingested as food or when animals become trapped or entangled.

Be responsible for your trash. When visiting the coast, be sure to:

  1. Minimize the amount of plastic wrapping and food containers you bring with you. Consider using re-usable food containers rather than plastic bags.
  2. Don't bring glass bottles and consider using re-usable beverage containers.
  3. Bring a re-usable trash bag with you and remove all of your trash when you leave.
  4. If trash cans are not available at the access point or boat landing, take the trash home with you.
  5. Be sure to recycle!

If your community or civic organization would like to take a more active role in keeping our beaches clean, consider joining the DHEC Adopt-A-Beach program. http://www.scdhec.gov/environment/ocrm/outreach/marine_debris.htm

 

Your Local Air Quality Affects How You Breathe

Your local air quality affects how you breathe and your overall quality of life. Like the weather, it can change from day to day, or even hour to hour. Up-to-date information about ground-level ozone allows you to make informed decisions about when to reduce outdoor exposure or adjust your schedule in response to air quality forecasts.

EnviroFlash comes to you, notifying you about important air quality information so you don't have to search for it. An on-line subscription page allows users to sign up, edit the reported information, or cancel the service. Once you choose the type and frequency of service that you would like, EnviroFlash will be sent to your email or pager as specified.

You can select from forecasts in the Central Midlands, Upstate, Central Savannah River, or Pee Dee areas. Simply go to: https://enviroflash.epa.gov/.

Do your part to help reduce ground-level ozone: carpool, stay in for lunch, fill up your gas tank after 6:00pm, and trip chain. For more information about ground-level ozone, go to: www.epa.gov/ozone/.

This message has been brought to you by the EQC Education and Outreach Committee - http://www.scdhec.gov/environment/Outreach/


Got Water Quality?

May 4-10 is drinking water week, and it's a great time to think about how our daily activities affect SC's overall water quality. Nonpoint source, or runoff pollution, comes from different activities going on in your community everyday. It happens when rain water runs over and through the ground. As the rain runoff moves, it picks up and brings pollutants into our water areas. These pollutants can be fertilizers from lawns, oil and grease from our cars, soil from construction sites, bacteria from livestock or dog and cat waste, and human waste from failing septic systems. States report that runoff pollution is the leading cause of water quality problems. Runoff pollution can negatively impact our drinking water sources, natural swimming areas, and the creatures that live in our lakes, streams and rivers.

The following tips can help you become part of the solution to runoff pollution:

  • Keep litter, pet wastes, leaves, and debris out of street gutters and storm drains. These drains go directly to lake, streams, rivers, and wetlands.
  • Dispose of used oil, antifreeze, paints, and other household chemicals properly. Do not pour them into storm drains.
  • Have your septic system checked to be sure it's working properly.
  • Use lawn and garden chemicals sparingly and according to directions.
  • Be aware that many chemicals commonly used around the home are toxic. Use non-toxic substitutes wherever possible.
  • Celebrate drinking water week on May 4-10, 2008, by contacting you local water provider to see how you can get help in protecting your drinking water. Also, check out EPAs drinking water website at  www.epa.gov/safewater/dwh/getin.html