Local News

State is Offering Free Radon Test For Your Home

Thursday, 3 January 2019

As Tennesseans resolve in the New Year to lead a healthier lifestyle, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) is bringing light to a health issue that goes beyond the gym by encouraging everyone to test for radon in their home.
 
Long-term exposure to radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States behind smoking and is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.
 
“People are very health conscious at this time of year, so it makes perfect sense to consider the potential for health risk at home,” said Kendra Abkowitz, assistant commissioner for the Office of Policy and Sustainable Practices. “We want Tennesseans to be aware of what levels of radon may be in their homes, and we are making it easy to find out by providing free radon test kits.”
 
Gov. Bill Haslam has proclaimed January 2019 as Radon Action Month and encourages all Tennesseans to be aware of potential health risks of radon and to take easy steps to test for radon levels where they live.
 
TDEC provides simple, do-it-yourself, radon test kits at no cost to citizens. For more information and to request a free test kit, visit: https://www.tn.gov/environment/program-areas/opsp-policy-and-sustainable-practices/community-programs-and-services/radon.html.
 
TDEC administers the Tennessee Radon Program through its Office of Policy and Sustainable Practices. Since 2008, TDEC has distributed more than 65,000 test kits. The Tennessee Radon Program is funded by the EPA State Indoor Radon Grant. The program offers a variety of other services and assistance to residents.
 
Radon is formed as a result of the breakdown of uranium, which occurs in soil and rock. Radon is odorless and invisible. It is known to exist in every county in Tennessee, and levels can vary greatly from building to building based on a variety of factors, including ventilation, building structure and weather events. Any home may have an elevated level of radon, even if other homes in the same neighborhood do not. Testing for radon in the home is the only way of knowing if radon is present. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends testing for radon in the home every two years. Identified radon problems can be mitigated or repaired.
 
According to the American Cancer Society, being exposed to radon for a long period of time can lead to lung cancer. Radon gas breaks down into tiny radioactive elements that can lodge in the lining of the lungs, giving off radiation, which can damage lung cells and potentially lead to lung cancer.
 

Farmers Advised On Use of Dicamba

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture is advising soybean and cotton farmers to follow federal guidelines when applying pesticides containing dicamba approved for “over-the-top” use.

Dicamba products are commonly used to control weeds in soybean and cotton fields. Each product includes an extensive and detailed label outlining the requirements for use. Applicators must follow the label directions precisely to be in compliance with the law.
 
In October, EPA extended the registration of new formulation dicamba products for two years and announced new label requirements. As a result, Tennessee will not seek an additional special needs label for the next planting season.
 
“We have reviewed EPA’s new label requirements and have determined that they address—and in some cases, exceed—the steps we have taken in Tennessee to help farmers use these products responsibly,” Agriculture Commissioner Jai Templeton said. “We will not seek additional restrictions. Instead, we will focus on helping producers comply, while promoting commonsense practices to further protect sensitive areas.” 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is emphasizing the following new label requirements for dicamba applicators:

  • Only certified applicators may apply dicamba over the top of growing plants.
  • Over-the-top application on soybeans is prohibited 45 days after planting and prohibited for cotton 60 days after planting.
  • For cotton, the number of over-the-top applications is limited to two. 
  • Applications are allowed only from one hour after sunrise to two hours before sunset.
  • The 110-foot downwind buffer applies to all applications. However, in counties where threatened or endangered species may exist, the downwind buffer will remain at 110 feet and there will be a new 57-foot buffer around the other sides of the field.
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Tennessee counties that include the additional buffer are Chester, Davidson, Franklin, Grundy, Madison, Maury, McNairy, Montgomery, Polk, Rutherford, and White. Due to the presence of particular endangered species, pesticides containing dicamba cannot be sprayed in Wilson County. To learn more about the various protected species and for more information, applicators should consult the product label.
 
Under the new federal guidelines, application of dicamba is expected to be significantly limited by mid-season in Tennessee based on historical crop planting schedules. This eliminates the need for a state cut-off date, which Tennessee implemented the past two years.
 
The new label also includes improved tank cleaning instructions, clarification of the training period, and enhanced explanation to improve applicator awareness of potential volatility of the pesticide.
 
In addition, new state rules took effect this year restricting the use of older formulations of dicamba products and increasing civil penalties. Those rules are outlined on the Dicamba Resources webpage. Agricultural inputs inspectors with TDA will conduct application reviews in the field to confirm that applicators are following the label requirements, with emphasis on potential off-target movement of the herbicide. The Commissioner of Agriculture also has authority to implement emergency rules to address any unforeseen issues.

The University of Tennessee is an invaluable partner in educating pesticide applicators for practices to ensure the proper use of dicamba products. Although not a label requirement, UT weed specialists recommend that producers do not spray dicamba when the temperature is above 85 degrees. TDA is working with UT and pesticide manufacturers to expand training opportunities, with options online and in-person at County Extension offices and regional grain conferences. That training will be available by Jan. 15.
 
TDA will also continue to maintain FieldWatch, the free, online registry for apiaries and commercially grown crops sensitive to pesticides. Applicators are required to check FieldWatch before applying pesticides to avoid any potential impact to sensitive crops or bees. Tennesseans with qualifying crops or hives are encouraged to register their locations at www.fieldwatch.com.
 
The Tennessee Department of Agriculture will continue to monitor the use of dicamba products and remains committed to protecting the best interests of agriculture, as well as the health, safety and well-being of everyone in Tennessee.
 
You will find more information on TDA’s Dicamba Resources webpage here.
 

TWRA Looking For Photographers

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is now accepting entries for its 2019-20 photo contest for publication in Tennessee Wildlife’s annual calendar issue. All interested photographers are invited to submit up to 10 of their best photos on fishing, hunting, boating, and wildlife species native to Tennessee.
 
The photos will be reviewed for publication in the annual calendar edition of Tennessee Wildlife, which is the summer issue. If a photo is selected for the calendar edition, the photographer will receive a cash stipend of $60.
 
Photographers must submit their photo entries by the March 20, 2019 deadline. Photos must be horizontal (landscape), in JPEG format, and submitted on a CD. They must be sized to print no smaller that 8-1/2x11 and resolution should be at least 300 pixels/inch.
 
Photographers must be sure to provide their name, address, phone number, and e-mail address with their disk. Disks cannot be returned.
            Entries may be mailed to:
            Tennessee Wildlife
            Calendar Issue                       
            P.O. Box 40747
            Nashville, TN 37204

Hospitals Must Provide Price List

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

With the new year, many new laws take effect.  Hospitals nationwide will have to list prices for standard services as part of a new federal rule. The federal rule was put in place by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to make hospitals more transparent and help give patients more information when deciding on important healthcare decisions.

It’s being called the Prospective Payment System rule. The new requirement will require hospitals to list prices for procedures on their websites.
 

Ring In New Year With Safety In Mind

Friday, 28 December 2018

Fireworks can ensure your New Year rings in with a bang, but they can also pose safety concerns for consumers who choose to produce their own backyard show. To avoid injuries or starting a fire, the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) is advising residents to always leave fireworks to the experts for the New Year’s celebration.
 
“Celebrating the start of a new year with a fireworks display is a tradition for many residents,” said Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Julie Mix McPeak. “While fireworks are fun to watch, they can also pose a safety hazard for those detonating them. We encourage consumers to attend public displays run by professionals to keep their New Year’s activities safe and fun.”
 
Thousands of people, most often children and teens, are seriously injured each year because of fireworks. In Tennessee, fireworks caused 377 unintended fires and resulted in over $1 million in property damages and one death from 2013-2017 according to state fire data. The State Fire Marshal’s Office strongly advises that individuals attend organized public fireworks displays where compliance with state-of- the-art fire codes offers a safer way to ring in a new year.
 
If consumers choose to shoot fireworks themselves, they should familiarize themselves with local fireworks laws. Several counties and cities in Tennessee have ordinances and restrictions related to fireworks usage. Before purchasing or detonating fireworks, the SFMO urges residents to check with their local police or fire departments to determine local laws about fireworks.
 
Earlier this year the Town of Woodbury passed an ordinance out lawing the the use of fireworks inside the town's corporate limits.
In addition to local laws, Tennessee has several state laws pertaining to fireworks:

  • A 2007 Tennessee law prevents children under 16 from purchasing fireworks. Those who are 16 or 17 must present a photo ID to purchase them.
  • State legislation passed in 2011 reclassified sky lanterns as special fireworks exclusively for use by individuals with a professional license. The general public cannot purchase or use sky lanterns. If a sky lantern is found in the possession of someone who does not have a professional license issued by the SFMO, the device can be confiscated and destroyed.
  • A law passed in 2015 prohibits flying a drone (unmanned aircraft) above an outdoor ticketed event with more than 100 people, or in the vicinity of a fireworks display site, without the permission of the event operator.

If consumer fireworks are legal where you live and you decide to use them, the SFMO offers the following safety tips:

  • Never allow children to handle or ignite fireworks – this includes sparklers. Sparklers are not toys and cause hundreds of injuries every year. Sparklers can reach temperatures as high as 1,200° F, and stay hot long after they’ve burned out. You wouldn’t hand a matchbook or lighter to a child to wave so never give a sparkler to a child. 
  • Read and follow all warnings and instructions.
  • Wear eye protection.
  • Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks. Never throw or point fireworks at people or animals.
  • Only light fireworks outdoors on a smooth, flat surface away from homes, dry leaves and flammable materials.
  • Never try to relight fireworks that have not fully functioned.
  • Keep a bucket of water and a garden hose nearby in case of a malfunction or fire.
  • The SFMO advises all Tennessee homeowners to have working smoke alarms installed on every level of their homes, including the basement. Additionally, homeowners should create a home fire escape plan with two ways out of every room and a designated outside meeting place. Practice the plan with all family members of your household both at night and during the day.
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For more fire safety information, visit tn.gov/fire.
 
 

Always Check Before Giving

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Kind-hearted Tennesseans will turn to charitable organizations this year to help make a positive impact for those who are less fortunate. Unfortunately, charity scammers will use the end-of-year giving surge and take advantage to consumers’ generosity. To help consumers avoid charity scams, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance’s (TDCI) Division of Consumer Affairs is advising consumers to always research charitable organizations before opening their wallets or entering personal information online.
 
Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak advises, “The holiday and end of year season is a great opportunity to donate to legitimate charitable organizations in order to give back to the community,” said TDCI Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “When making a donation, we advise consumers to always practice due diligence in order to ensure the money will be going to the intended organization, not a scammer.”
To learn more about being a savvy consumer, visit tn.gov/consumer.
 
 

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