||Tunnel and rack washers are periodically manually de-scaled with phosphoric acid, as shown here. Phosphate-free cleaners are more friendly to Chesapeake Bay.
NIH could reduce phosphate emissions by roughly 10-12 tons per year simply by changing
the soap used in many laboratories. Use of phosphate-free soap at the lab sink or cage washer can help protect the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
When purchasing high-use chemicals, especially
cleaning products, preference should be given
to obtaining phosphate-free, low phosphorus
and low nitrogen alternatives, says the NIH Environmental Management System (NEMS). Phosphate-free formulations such as citric acid-based cage descalers are readily available and already in use at some NIH facilities.
With 17 million people living in the bay watershed,
the cumulative impact of human activity on the estuary is significant and growing. Some common activities like applying fertilizers and using household cleaners, soaps and detergents
contribute more phosphorus and nitrogen
than the bay’s waters can handle, according to NEMS. Emissions from cars and from electricity-
generating power plants are major contributors
of nitrogen. Reducing miles driven, electricity use and the use of phosphorus and nitrogen-containing soaps and detergents are excellent steps any individual can take to minimize
Several NEMS “green teams” and working groups have identified goals to reduce the NIH impact of nutrients and other chemicals on the Chesapeake Bay. These groups also encourage
and set goals for energy reduction, greener procurement and reduction of certain chemical usage at NIH facilities.
The federal government is one of the signatories of Chesapeake 2000, which affirms the need to work with state and local governments as stewards to ensure the public’s right to clean water and a healthy and productive resource.
The nutrient load we all contribute to the bay with our day-to-day activities is slowly overwhelming it; a hypoxic zone is growing in the bay that will reach a record-setting size in 2008—3 cubic miles, according to studies conducted by the University of Michigan. This hypoxic zone is a “dead zone” that lacks oxygen
levels capable of supporting fish and other aquatic life. The size and scope of this zone has been predicted by UM’s Sea Grant Program: http://sitemaker.umich.edu/scavia/files/2008_chesapeake_bay_hypoxic_forecast.pdf.
To learn more about what you can do to “Green the NIH” and help protect the environment, visit www.nems.nih.gov.