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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sunscreen, Sunburns, SPF, UVA, UVB... (Plus a Couple DIY Recipes)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 by Amanda Hofland

It is that time of year again. The time when flip flops and shorts are pulled out, you take walks and bike rides in the park regularly, you sip a margarita on the patio, have cookouts with friends and family, and spend weekends at the beach or lake. Oh, and the time you often come home looking like a lobster.

Summer is glorious in so many ways, but painful sunburns are not so fun – not to mention harmful. So to help you stay safe in the summer sun this season, here’s everything you need to know about taking care of yourself.


What Is a Sunburn?

Basically, a sunburn is when there is visible damage to the skin as a result of too much exposure to the sun’s UV rays.

It doesn’t appear immediately though. A sunburn appears hours after exposure and is most painful 6 to 48 hours afterward. Skin begins to peel three to 10 days after the burn. If there is severe pain or blistering, you should see a physician.

Why It Matters

We all know by now that there are major dangers to too much sun exposure. The sun’s UV rays can damage skin cells and contribute to wrinkles, accelerated aging and skin damage, and some can even disrupt your body’s hormones.


What Does SPF Stand For?

Enter sunscreen to protect against those rays. Today, sunscreens bear a number called SPF, which stands for “sun protection factor.” This number refers to the level of protection against the sun’s UV rays, particularly UVB, which are the rays that cause skin to burn (notice that doesn’t include harmful UVA rays).

Generally, the higher the SPF number, the better. But don’t buy in to sky-high SPFs, which can give a false sense of security. You’d think that a SPF of 100 would give twice the protection of SPF 50, but that is not the case. The additional protection above 50 is actually marginal. It’s because of this that Environmental Working Group (EWG) recommends avoiding products with a SPF higher than 50. Regardless the number on your bottle, it’s still very important you reapply any sunscreen often and follow all the other sun safety tips.

Sun's UV Rays

Current Sunscreen Regulations

Very Emollient Sunscreen - Fragrance Free - SPF 30

The FDA announced new sunscreen regulations in 2011, including banning “waterproof” claims on labels, the sale of towelettes and powders, and allowing the term “broad spectrum protection” on products that meet their criteria, which implies both UVA and UVB protection.

Critics are saying that these changes did little to actually improve sunscreen products and that “broad protection” criteria are too loose. In Europe, much stricter EU standards have been set, and the EWG estimates that half of the U.S. sunscreens wouldn’t even make it on shelves there.

The EWG assessed hundreds of sunscreen items on the market in 2014, and many fell short. Only 149 products met their criteria. On the good list were items from brands you can find in the Swanson store, including All Terrain, Alba Botanica, Badger, California Baby, Kiss My Face and Nature’s Gate.

The EWG also assessed moisturizers with SPF, and 62 products made the good list. Some of those items include Avalon Organics Vitamin C Moisture Plus Lotion, Andalou Naturals Brightening BB All-In-One Beauty Balm Sheer Tint, Mineral Fusion Facial Moisturizer, and MyChelle Dermaceuticals Sun Shield Unscented.


Dangers of Sunscreen

Now, the downside to blocking the sun’s rays is that you’re not only blocking the bad, but you’re also blocking the good. Vitamin D, commonly known as the “sunshine vitamin” is manufactured in our bodies in response to sun exposure. We need vitamin D for healthy bones, optimal calcium absorption and healthy immune response. By slathering on the sunscreen, your body cannot make enough vitamin D on its own.

In fact, even before sunscreen, many experts are saying most Americans don’t get enough of this vitamin in their daily lives. Even then, it’s hard to estimate how much time you’d need in the sun to get your vitamin D allotment from sun alone. Factors such as your skin type, how much skin is exposed, time of day and time of year all play a role. An approximate estimation is just 10-15 minutes a day for lighter-skinned people between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

How can you get this essential vitamin but still be safe? Hint hint: we sell it. You got it – supplements! Most vitamin D supplements deliver 400-10,000 IU of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), which is the form your body produces from natural sunlight. You can also monitor your diet to deliver vitamin D through food, though that can be difficult to reach the right amount as well.

Another downside to many sunscreens is the inclusion of chemicals and bad-for-you ingredients in many store-bought products. See the words “paraben,” “oxybenzone” or “retinyl palmitate” on your label? That’s bad.

The good news is that there are some sunscreen products on the market that are natural and don’t contain harmful ingredients—a handful of those are mentioned in the above section on regulations.


How To Choose a Sunscreen (What to Look For)


Tips for Preventing and Treating Sunburns

  • Apply moisturizers and lip balms with SPF daily, even if just going outside for a brief period of time
  • Wear protective clothing, included brimmed hats and sunglasses
  • Choose shaded areas instead of direct sunlight
  • Frequently apply sunscreen with a high SPF
  • Limit your exposure to short periods of time
  • Avoid the sun when the rays are strongest (approximately 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.)
  • Eat tomatoes to get the antioxidant lycopene, as well as dark green, red and yellow fruits and veggies to promote skin health
  • Take vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene supplements for further antioxidant power
  • Apply aloe to soothe burns (and store it in the fridge for extra cooling!)


Natural Alternatives at Home

It’s also really easy to make your own sun care remedies right at home using safe, natural ingredients. The easiest way to make sunscreen is to simply mix plain zinc oxide ointment with your favorite lotion, and voila! To treat a sunburn, try a cool compress or cool oatmeal bath. Even a half cup of baking soda in a tub of water provides relief. Here are a few additional DIY recipes you can try at home to avoid toxic chemicals:

Homemade Sunblock Lotion, approx SPF 20, via

You’ll need:

  • 2 ounces shea butter
  • 2 ounces coconut oil
  • 1 ounce zinc oxide
  • Approx 8 drops of tea tree (or your favorite essential) oil


  1. Melt the shea butter and coconut oil together. You can use a double boiler or a Pyrex measuring cup set in a saucepan.
  2. Remove from heat; stir in zinc oxide (careful to not inhale the particles in this step!). Pour into desired container.
  3. Cool completely before use. Store at room temperature and avoid direct sun exposure.

DIY Homemade Sunblock Lotion


Homemade Overnight Sunburn Remedy (use in place of aloe) via

You’ll need:

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (ACV)
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 100% pure coconut oil
  • A spray bottle (optional)


  1. Pour the ACV into the spray bottle, adding a cup of cold water on top of that. Shake well and spray liberally over burnt skin. Have a towel on hand to blot up any excess that drips. Let dry.
  2. (Or if you don’t have a spray bottle, simply dab the mixture gently with a cloth.)
  3. Gently rub your skin with the coconut oil. Put on a loose shirt so you don’t get your sheets oily and go to bed. The burn should decrease significantly overnight.

DIY Homemade Sunburn Remedy


Tanning without the Sun

If you’re looking to get a golden glow safely sans sun, there are plenty of alternatives that don’t involve going outside at all.

  • Apply self tanning lotions (I personally use the Alba Botanica Sunless Tanner and love the subtle color and great scent it gives my skin)
  • Use bronzing makeup powders to sweep some color on easily

For any tanning lotion, to prevent looking orange and streaky, make sure to exfoliate well prior to use, and read reviews of the product so you can be confident in the reputation of what you’re using. And especially if you have sensitive skin, always do a patch test first so you don’t have a bad reaction all over your body.

These simple tips can ensure that you and your family can have fun outdoors this summer while staying safe.



“Take Care of Yourself” by Donald M. Vickery, M.D. and James F. Fries, M.D.

50 Ways to Use Coconut Oil to Better Your Life

Thursday, May 29, 2014 by Anthony N.


Uses for Coconut Oil

coconut oil usesScientific research on coconut oil has revealed health benefits that affect your entire body, inside and out. You've heard good things about it and now you have a tub of it sitting in your pantry. So how do you use coconut oil?

We asked our Facebook fans and coworkers how they use coconut oil. Here are some of the numerous ways coconut oil is used. If you'd like to participate in conversations about coconut oil or other natural health topics, I definitely recommend you connect with our Facebook page by clicking the like button below.

This post lists 50 different ways to use coconut oil and it also links out to a bunch of DIY coconut oil recipes to help you try the different uses. I hope you find it valuable.

If you read the entire post and decide you want to try coconut oil, you can buy some right here at We're family owned since 1969, have extremely low prices, great reviews, offer free return shipping - it basically amounts to no risk shopping. It's why those 150k+ people up above 'Like' us on Facebook. Interested in buying?

Click Here to Buy Our Top-Rated Coconut Oil 
(Over 280 customer reviews rate it 4.9/5!)


Cooking and Eating

1) Cooking at High Heat - Some oils are unsafe to cook with at high temperatures, coconut oil is a great alternative. Check out our Guide to Cooking Oils to find  healthy cooking oils for whatever meal you are creating.
2) On Toast Instead of Butter - Simply use coconut oil instead of butter on your toast.
3) Eat it by the Spoonful - Coconut oil is that delicious and healthful. Enjoy one spoonful each morning.
4) Smoothies - Add one tablespoon of coconut oil into your favorite smoothie recipe and increase your energy with the oil's MCTs. Check out this post for the Top Smoothie Ingredients.
5) Fry Eggs - Lightly coat the bottom of your skillet with coconut oil to create a non-stick surface and delicious eggs.
6) Popping Popcorn - A sweet twist on a classic snack! To make stovetop popcorn, you need a heavy-bottomed pan. First, add the coconut oil and popcorn to the pot. Coat the area of the pot with the oil, and use just enough popcorn to make a single layer over the bottom of the pot. Give the pot a little shake to make sure all of the kernels are coated with oil. Next, place the pot over medium heat. Put the lid on the pot, leaving it slightly open so that steam can escape. It should take about five minutes for the popcorn to pop completely.
7) Popcorn Topping - Instead of butter, melt a little coconut oil and pour it over your popped popcorn. Then sprinkle lightly with Himalayan crystal salt.
8) Oven Baked Sweet Potato Chips - Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Thinly slice sweet potatoes to about 1/8” thick.  Place slices on a baking sheet and brush lightly with coconut oil. Bake for about 15 minutes or until chips are lightly brown.  Add salt to taste, and serve with salsa or dip. (Or just eat them plain – either way they’re delicious!)
9) Replace Vegetable Oil for Baking - Next time you make your favorite brownie recipe, replace the vegetable oil with coconut oil. Your friends will be begging you for the recipe.
10) Pan Frying - Next time you fry up a batch of sweet potato fries or a piece of chicken, use coconut oil.
11) Grilled Cheese with Coconut Oil - No need for butter the next time you are making a grilled cheese sandwich. 
12) Coconut Oil Coffee - Adding a spoonful to your coffee is a delicious way to start your day with a huge energy boost! Here is a great recipe for coconut oil coffee.
13) Homemade Granola - Check out this delicious recipe for coconut granola.
14) A Spoonful in Tea - Allow some coconut oil to melt and mildly flavor your next cup of tea. 
15) Salad Dressings - A simple recipe for a salad dressing with coconut oil can be found here.
diy coconut oil recipesCoconut Oil Skin Care
16) Cheekbone Highlighter - Apply a small amount on cheekbones over makeup.
17) Shaving Lotion - Close shave and a moisturizer at the same time.
18) Facial Scrub - Combine coconut oil with Himalayan crystal salt and apply to face each night. Washing it off is optional.
19) Body Scrub - Combine coconut oil and sugar. Check out this DIY Sugar Scrub recipe.
20) Makeup Remover - Healthier, stronger and longer eye lashes are just a bonus!
21) Homemade Deodorant - You only need a few ingredients in addition to coconut oil to make this simple deodorant recipe.
22) Homemade Lip Balm or Lip Gloss - Apply directly or create a flavored version with this simple lip balm recipe.
23) Diaper Rash Cream - Apply regularly to the baby's bottom to improve skin health.
24) Sexual Lubricant - Our Facebook fans swear by this one :)
25) Stretch Mark Preventer During Pregnancy - This safe, healthy oil can be applied multiple times each day to help moisturize your stretching skin.
26) Nipple Cream During Breastfeeding - Coconut oil is a popular choice for nursing mothers because it is a natural safe product.
27) Massage Oil - Coconut oil is the perfect choice for a massage oil. Not too greasy and with a relaxing scent.
28) Body Moisturizer - Apply directly after showering. 
29) Fade Age Spots - Rub on hands or other areas daily.
30) Sunburn Care - A great moisturizer to use after you've gotten a bit too much sun.
31) Facial Moisturizer - After you wash your face, massage a light layer on your skin.
32) Mix in Bath Water - Melt about 1/4 cup in the microwave and add it to your bath water and soak.
33) Tanning Oil - Put in a spray bottle and bring to beach. Spray on to keep skin moisturized.
34) Dry Feet Treatment - Mix with salt to form a foot scrub.
35) Elbow Rub - Helps manage the dry skin on your elbows.
coconut oil cooking vs other oils
Coconut Oil Hair Care
36) Leave-in Overnight Conditioner - Looking for a deep conditioning hair treatment? Rub a small amount of oil into hair (mostly at ends), comb through and put hair in a loose bun before bed, and wash out in the morning.
37) Hair Flyaway Tamer - Use very sparingly on ends or areas with flyaways.
38) Defrizzer of Split Ends - Just put a tiny amount on your hands and run them through the frizzy areas.
39) Static Reducer - Rub your hands together with a little bit of coconut oil on them and run them through your static-y hair.


Other Healthy Uses for Coconut Oil

40) Homemade Toothpaste - Combine equal parts coconut oil and baking soda. Sweeten with stevia and flavor with your favorite essential oil.

coconut oil in jar41) Aromatherapy - Whether you like coconut or not, the soothing aroma of coconut oil is pleasing to us all and can help us wind down after a long, stressful day. Read The Beginner's Guide to Aromatherapy.

42) Wound Care - Although you may not be ready to give up your Neosporin, coconut oil can even be used as a topical protector for wounds, shielding them with a thin chemical layer from outside contaminants. You can apply a small amount of coconut oil to small scrapes and cuts.

43) Metabolism Booster - 2 tablespoons per day are proven to rev up your metabolism.

44) Thyroid Supporter - Regular coconut oil consumption has been shown to support healthy thyroid function.

45) Energizer - 1 teaspoon can give you a burst of energy instead of turning towards a caffeinated energy drink.

46) Oil Pulling - Swish coconut oil around in your mouth for 10 minutes before brushing. Read next: Oil Pulling: Health Benefits or Healthy Hype?


Using Coconut Oil Around The House

47) Season a Cast Iron Pan - Here is a nice explanation of how to season a cast iron pan with coconut oil.

48) Use it as a lubricant on small motors/electronics - One Facebook fan uses it to keep his juicer's motor in top working condition.


Coconut Oil for Animals

49) Feed it to your Dog or Cat - Coconut oil isn't just healthy for humans. Here is some good info on the benefits for dogs and cats.

50) Put It On Your Cat's Paw - Put half a teaspoon on your kitty's paw to keep a shiny coat and cut down on hairballs.

buy organic extra virgin coconut oil cold-pressedWhat Kind of Coconut Oil Should You Buy?

We always recommend you buy a Coconut Oil that meets these guidelines.

  • Organic
  • Extra Virgin
  • Cold-Pressed
  • Non-Hydrogenated

The image on the right is the bottle of our 54 oz Organic Cold-Pressed Extra Virgin Coconut Oil. It is our best seller and of course meets all of the recommendations above.

Other popular brands (of course they are a bit more expensive than Swanson) include:


10 Out-of-the-Box Uses for Coconut Oil Infographic

Embed this image by simply copying and pasting the provided code below.

This post was written by , with the help of our awesome Facebook community. It was originally published in March 2013, and has since been republished with updated information. Last update was on: May 29, 2014.


These are some of the most popular ways to use coconut oil. There are hundreds of ways to use coconut oil.

How do you use coconut oil?

STOP the Salt Shame... Just Choose the Right Salt

Thursday, April 17, 2014 by Lee Swanson

Dear Friends,

It’s time to stop shaming ourselves over sodium. We’ve been taught a lie over the past several decades—a lie that began with good intentions—that salt is bad for us. The truth is, the wrong salt is bad for us, but the right salt, the naturally produced salt given to us by Mother Earth, feeds and energizes our bodies. This healthy salt delivers crucial minerals our bodies need to function at its best. And that’s the truth. And that’s why it’s time to set the record straight on salt...


Stop Feeding Your Family Chemically-Concocted Table Salt

Today’s common table salt has nothing in common with natural salt, formed over millions of years. In fact, table salt isn’t even natural at all. It’s a chemical concoction made with about 98% sodium chloride and a 2% mixture of random chemicals like moisture absorbents and iodine... a far cry from anything one would consider natural.


What about Sea Salt or Rock Salt?

If you think about all the pollution and toxic contaminants that have been dumped into our oceans over the past decades, you’ll easily understand why sea salt is no longer a healthy option. Rock salt, a seemingly better choice, is still nutritionally deficient...

Himalayan rock saltWhy? Because rock salt didn’t form over hundreds of millions of years under great pressure, which, in the case of Himalayan Crystal Salt, locks in the salt’s inherent minerals and trace elements in colloidal form, making these important nutrients readily available to your body’s cells.


Switch to Energizing Himalayan Crystal Salt Packed with Bioavailable Minerals

Himalayan Crystal Salt’s natural nutritional profile includes over 80 energizing minerals and important trace elements that your body needs for optimal function. It is the only healthy option for you and your family. It’s pure. It’s unrefined. And it’s the only salt that delivers life-giving, natural vibrational energy you can feel.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Himalayan Crystal Salt:

Question: Is Swanson Himalayan Crystal Salt tested for heavy metals? I'm specifically concerned about the arsenic levels in this salt.

Answer: Yes, it is. The spec sheet for our salt specifies the following...

Lead:                       2.75 µg/maximum daily dose                        

Arsenic:                  10 µg/maximum daily dose                             

Cadmium:               4.1 µg/maximum daily dose                           

Mercury:                0.3 µg(organic)/maximum daily dose                  

                                 3 µg(inorganic)/maximum daily dose                  

The maximum daily dose must be based on the maximum daily dose on the product label. While there may be arsenic in it that might be higher compared to some other foods, it will be less than 10 mcg per max daily dose (¼ tsp). With that being said, arsenic is a chemical that exists in very trace amounts in most all of your food (as it is found in the soil), water, and even the air you breathe. The concern for getting too much arsenic from one single source is minimal, especially with the FDA limitations that would require a product too high in arsenic be pulled from the market.

Himalayan Crystal Salt comparison

Question: I use both Himalayan and sea salt for their mineral content, but how do they compare with iodized salt for iodine content? If I'm not using iodized salt, do I also need to supplement iodine? I have gotten iodized sea salt but it is not always available.

Answer: Himalayan Crystal Salt doesn’t have any added iodine like the iodized salts do, so you would still want to ensure you are getting at least the RDA of iodine from other sources in your  diet or with the help of iodine supplements.


Himalayan Crystal Salt

Question: I switched from Celtic Sea Salt to Himalayan Crystal Salt when Swanson had an interview with Barbara Hendel and then had a huge sale on her salt.  Last week, I happened across a comment that stated that Himalayan Sea Salt has aluminum in it.  I'd appreciate any info regarding this.

Answer: Actually, ALL natural salts, including Celtic Salts and Sea Salts, will have some small trace amounts of aluminum as well as the scary things like lead and mercury… but it’s such a small trace amount that you’re likely to get more from any of the fresh fruits and vegetables out of your own garden. The unfortunate fact of nature is that all of those trace minerals exist in very trace amounts in all of the soil and all of the water in the world. The very fortunate fact is that your body has filtering organs like the liver and kidneys to remove toxins and other things you don’t want in your body.


Question: Why is Himalayan Crystal Salt considered more pure than sea salt?

Answer: Unlike a sea salt gathered from the open sea, which is exposed to the atmosphere and subject to environmental contamination, the Himalayan Crystal Salt is mined from deposits of ancient sea beds deep in the earth which have been shielded from environmental contamination.


Question: Where can you buy Himalayan Crystal Salt?

Answer: There are a lot of stores that sell Himalayan Salt online. Naturally, we recommend you shop with us. We have guaranteed low prices, the highest quality crystal salt, and amazing customer service. You can buy Himalayan Crystal Salt here.

Water Warning: What's In Your Glass and How Can You Make Sure It's Safe?

Thursday, March 27, 2014 by Courtney K

What's in your water?

Everyone’s heard warnings about poor quality drinking water in other countries, Montezuma’s Revenge and all that. When I was studying abroad we were warned about using the St. Petersburg, Russia, city water. If you don’t have boiled or bottled water to brush your teeth, they told us, use vodka. (Recent reports out of the Olympics in Sochi hint that that might still be the case.) The recent disaster in West Virginia that left local residents without safe water for over a week (and continues to be questionable) has brought the water quality and safety discussion to the forefront again.


How Is Drinking Water Regulated?

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) works in collaboration with a variety of regional groups to monitor drinking water and ensure safety standards are met. The theme I ran across while researching this post was, unfortunately, we don’t really know what’s actually safe when it comes to all the various elements in our water, and the cost of figuring it all out is, predictably, prohibitive.


What’s in That Glass of Water?


Here in Fargo, the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Information System reports no health violations and no monitoring or reporting violations. The Environmental Working Group—an environmental research and advocacy non-profit—has a National Drinking Water Database where you can find details on your local water supply provided by regional Health Departments. Their reports put Fargo on par with national averages:

  • Four contaminants that exceed federal and state health guidelines (national average: 4)
  • Zero chemicals above the legal limit (national average: 0.5)
  • Eight pollutants detected in the past 10 years (national average: 8)
  • 424 reported water quality tests (national average: 420)

What are Trihalomethanes

The four contaminants found were haloacetic acids, bromates, trihalomethanes, and lead. Three of these four—haloacetic acids, bromates and trihalomethanes—are actually byproducts of water treatment processes. They occur when certain natural materials in water react with particular disinfectants (in this case, chlorine, chloramines, and ozone) used by water treatment facilities. As happens all too often, our solution to one problem opens the door to host of new issues.

Trihalomethanes have been linked to liver, kidney, and nervous system problems. Animal studies suggest all of these contaminants may be carcinogenic, but the results of human studies vary and have yet to provide definitive evidence.

More, however, is known about lead. Long term exposure to lead can negatively impact a child’s neurological health and overall development. The National Institutes of Health state that “Other body systems may be harmed to various degrees, such as the kidneys and blood vessels. People who survive toxic lead levels may have some permanent brain damage. Children are more vulnerable to serious long-term problems.”

Tap Water Grades

The most common source of lead in drinking water is from corrosion of the pipes in household plumbing. Other sources include industrial pollution and natural erosion. According to a report from National Geographic, “In the American Society of Civil Engineers 2013 Report Card for America's Infrastructure, the nation's drinking water infrastructure was given a D grade for aging pipes, some of which date back to the Civil War.” The cost to get that infrastructure up to date nationwide is estimated to be in the trillions of dollars.

Also detected in the Fargo water system were a handful of agricultural and industrial pollutants, such as nitrates/nitrites, copper and barium. None of these were in exceedance of established health or legal limits. The degree of comfort you take from that statement, of course, is up to you.

Learn about your local water supply from the Environmental Working Group and the EPA’s Envirofacts database.


So How Can You Make Sure the Water You Drink Is Safe?

You could go buy bottled water, but that comes with its own complications: While it is regulated by the FDA and subject to the same safety standards as public water supplies, it is not required to meet the same EPA testing and reporting standards. Bottled water is also a major source of plastic waste, a significant environmental concern.

Another option is a water filter system for your home, either whole-house systems or point-of-use (i.e., at the tap) devices. These work on a handful of different principles, including filtration, distillation, reverse osmosis and ion exchange. A glass or stainless steel water bottle will help you to avoid reintroducing chemicals back into your water.

Whatever you do, the best place to start is knowing the quality of your tap water so you know what type of filter system you may need. Do you use a filter at home? Let us know in the comments section below.



Lead poisoning. MedlinePlus. Retrieved 17 Feb 2014 from

National Drinking Water Database. Environmental Working Group. Retrieved 17 Feb 2014 from

Water: Basic Information about Regulated Drinking Water Contaminants. US Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved 17 Feb 2014 from

Water in America: Is It Safe to Drink? National Geographic Daily News. Retrieved 17 Feb 2014 from

West Virginia Spill Reveals Threats to Drinking Water. National Geographic Daily News. Retrieved 17 Feb 2014 from

Water on Tap: What You Need to Know. US Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved 18 Feb 2014 from