Pollen, Toxins and Waste...Oh My!

How Government Transparency Educates Citizens on Regional Variants

Spring is in the air. Trees are budding, flowers are blooming, temperatures have warmed and grilling season has officially begun. As I sat outside at a friend’s house yesterday for the first barbeque of the year, a familiar scene unfolded: kids rolling in the grass, dogs barking, smoke from the grill filling the air.

Relaxing on the deck, glass of wine in hand, I was content. For about 15 minutes. Then the pollen took hold and I quickly disintegrated into an itchy, sneezy, watery-eyed, miserable mess.

If, like me, you’re one of the more than 50 million Americans with seasonal allergies, Spring isn’t all roses. Instead, it’s a time to reevaluate your geographic location (fancy a move to Fargo?) and allergy medication (I’ve been taking Zyrtec, which clearly isn’t strong enough).

Thanks to recent government advances in citizen transparency, there are a million ways that we can be better informed consumers.

Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration launched its public-facing Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS), which leverages Qlik to provide the public with easy, anonymous access to five decades of data on adverse events from medications and medical devices—handy when considering an alternative allergy medication. Check it out for yourself here.

As for the question of “where to live”, there are obviously more factors involved than spring pollen. Fortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency is also making great strides in informing us about the quality of our air, water and soil through their Toxic Release Inventory (TRI).

Intended to empower citizens with data about the environmental quality of where they lived (or were considering moving to), it wasn’t until recently that the data was easy to access and use. In recent years, the EPA has been overhauling their static files with interactive Qlik Sense applications embedded directly into their site. The results are much more approachable to consumers.

They have several variants of the TRI; here are a few:

Bottom line: everything’s relative. As Washington, DC area native, I was lamenting living in my hometown because of the high pollen count, but guess what? DC isn’t even in the top 25 cities for pollen in the US. And in the scheme of pollutants, when compared with toxic chemicals, suffering from a few weeks of pollen isn’t so bad.

Heather Gittings discusses how you can leverage FDA and EPA data alongside Qlik to fight your allergies and enjoy spring time!

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