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Interviews with Farm Broadcasters Helps Us Build a Trust Relationship

2014 December 4

NAFB blog-Kris.Nov 2014

By Kris Lancaster

I’m excited and passionate about my decade of representing EPA Region 7 at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) Trade Talk each year. I enjoy the buzz of rich, booming voices and the sound of tripods clicking in the aisles of 125 exhibitors.

My agricultural policy experience, agri-business employment, federal crop insurance sales, and farmland sales help me build a relationship of trust with farm broadcasters. Most of the broadcasters have solid agricultural backgrounds and this common ground strengthens relationships. I can “talk shop” about the price of corn and beans, average yields, crop protection products, soil conservation, fertilizers, and renewable fuels.

This year, EPA Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks and I conducted 20 interviews with reporters and broadcasters from the East Coast to America’s Heartland. The airing of these interviews helps EPA reach hundreds of thousands of farmers and ranchers in the Heartland and all across the country. Farmers and ranchers trust farm broadcasters, just like they place confidence in their local agri-businesses.

This annual opportunity at the NAFB Trade Talk affords us a one-stop shop to interact with broadcasters, representatives of farm trade associations, USDA, and other farm organizations. This year, interview topics NAFB blog-Karl.Nov 2014included the Waters of the U.S. proposal, chemical safety, concentrated animal feeding operations, grain elevator air emission regulations, agricultural outreach, renewable fuels, soil conservation practices, water quality initiatives, and nutrient reduction efforts.

EPA is committed to engaging in discussion early and often with representatives of the agricultural media, farmers and ranchers to create a trust relationship in support of strong rural communities and a healthy environment. We regularly share environmental regulatory updates with media, state agribusiness associations, farm organizations, and state agencies. We rely heavily on public input, and farm broadcasters help us reach those individuals who can provide valuable input. I look at environmental regulations not only from a science perspective, but from an agri-business and farmer’s perspective as well.

Farm broadcasters provide us access to farmers who desire news about environmental regulatory information. We look forward to participating in the 2015 NAFB Trade Talk and for many years to come.

 

More information about EPA and NAFB Trade Talk:

www.epa.gov/region7/priorities/agriculture

www.facebook.com/eparegion7

www.facebook.com/FarmBroadcasting

#NAFB2014  #NAFBSocial  #TradeTalk

 

Kris Lancaster serves in EPA Region 7’s Office of Public Affairs, specializing in agricultural relations.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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It’s Time to Test Your Home for Radon

2014 October 27

By Bob Dye

Football season is in full swing, leaves are starting to fall and furnaces will be heating our homes.  With colder weather, people are spending more time indoors, sitting with their kids and friends, and watching their favorite college or professional teams on the tube.  As people close up their house for winter to keep warm, it is an excellent time to test for radon.

U.S. EPA Radon PSA

U.S. EPA Radon PSA

Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the decay of naturally occurring radium and uranium in the soil. It is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and children are more sensitive to radon exposure as their lungs develop.  The EPA estimates that as many as 21,000 lung cancer deaths a year are caused by radon exposure. Radon is colorless, tasteless and odorless, so the only way to know if your home has a problem is to test for it.

The EPA and the US Surgeon General recommend testing all homes for radon and if the levels are high, take steps to lower them. You can get low cost test kits through the National Radon Program Services at Kansas State University at http://sosradon.org/test-kits or you can contact your state radon program to find you where you can get a test kit.

Take steps to protect your health and your children’s health by testing your home.  Order a test kit today. Get more information at www.epa.gov/radon.

Bob Dye is a radiation & indoor air specialist in EPA Region 7’s Air and Waste Management Division.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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We Don’t Have to Live with Lead Poisoning

2014 October 20

By Crystal McIntyre

As I sit working on this dreary, rainy morning, I think about the things that are not taking place today like soccer games and outside recess at schools.  When the rain comes or the cold weather hits, many activities cease and change. It would be safe to say that outdoor activities slow down during the fall and winter months, including home improvement work; work that is done outdoors, work that is done by skilled professionals and homeowners alike.

Lead Based Paint

Lead Lurks

But what about the months before, when many people complete various projects to make their homes look better? Many people aren’t aware that the positive urge to improve their homes can have unintended but potentially harmful consequences for children.

It all has to do with the fact that many homes in the country—particularly those built before 1978–STILL contain dangerous amounts of lead-based paint. When that paint is disturbed by home renovation or improvement work, it can present a major hazard to pregnant women and especially to children under the age of 6—those children whose brains are still developing, who play on floors and tend to have more frequent hand-to-mouth contact. No caring adult wants to harm children, but that’s exactly what happens when lead-based paint is disturbed and proper steps are not taken to keep children safe.

October is Children’s Health Month, with a special focus on lead poisoning prevention during National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (Oct. 19-25).  During this week, many organizations and agencies, including EPA, are asking parents and caregivers to have their children tested, have their homes tested, and get the facts about lead poisoning.

I’m personally asking everyone to be aware that lead is STILL a problem. Lead will continue to be a problem as long as it remains in our homes, schools, yards and playgrounds. We just need to be diligent about what we can do to keep our children safe. The good news is, there’s so much good, free and easily accessible information available to us about lead poisoning, so it’s easy for anyone to start by reading just a little and asking a lot of questions.  Both EPA and the Centers for Disease Control have helpful online information on lead hazards and the effects of lead poisoning.  You can find it at www.epa.gov/lead and http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/tips.htm

It’s never too late to prevent lead poisoning. It IS a preventable disease that currently half a million U.S. children are known to have.  How many more could be exposed? The answer is unknown, but lead does not discriminate. It is a highly toxic and sometimes deadly poison that we can learn about and don’t have to live with.

 

Crystal McIntyre is EPA Region 7’s Lead-Based Paint Program Coordinator

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Don’t Let Your School be Spooked by Creepy Crawlies; Use Integrated Pest Management to Keep from Being Bugged

2014 October 16

By Katie Howard, EPA Region 7 and Erin Bauer, University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) Extension

 

How many hours a day does your child, nephew, niece, or grandchild spend in a school or child care facility?  October is Children’s Health Month here at EPA! It’s also the month of creepy crawlies as we look forward to Halloween. In observance of these two events, we’d like to talk about a   topic that’s important to children’s health and involves those creepy crawlies (spiders and roaches and rats, oh my): Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM has a technical sounding name, but it really just stands for common sense approaches that help keep pests out, which in turn means you don’t have to use pesticides as often.

Some pests can trigger allergies, while others carry bacteria and transmit diseases. IPM can help manage pests while improving human health and safety and protecting the environment. IPM uses a variety of methods, such as sanitation (keeping things clean), exclusion (keeping pests out), habitat modification (sealing holes), moisture control, mechanical controls (fly swatters or trapping) and low-toxic chemical controls to get rid of pests.

But the news isn’t all scary! There are experts across the country working hard to help schools and child care facilities start using IPM. Some of the very best of those experts are right here in EPA Region 7. Joining me on this blog post today is Erin Bauer from University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) Extension. Erin tells us a little bit about some of the IPM success stories the specialists at UNL Extension have been working on:

 

School IPM 2015 Coalition: Integrated Pest Management

School IPM 2015 Coalition

Bringing People Together: As part of an effort called School IPM 2015, we here in Nebraska began a coalition in 2009 consisting of representatives from University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension, pest control companies, school districts, Parent Teacher Associations, Nebraska Department of Ag, Winnebago and Omaha tribes, EPA, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, and child care organizations. We meet quarterly to discuss current “hot topics,” such as bed bugs, as well as how to implement IPM in the state of Nebraska. During the summer, we hold a half-day meeting where we bring in several speakers, provide lunch, and network. We are always welcoming new members!

Helping People Get Started: We conducted IPM demonstration projects in Omaha and Lincoln public schools, where we did pest assessments and helped them implement IPM principles. This was an educational experience that benefited everyone involved: the school districts, the pest management professionals who work with the schools, and those of us at UNL Extension. Since the original demonstration projects, the Lincoln and Omaha school districts are developing IPM policies for their districts and working toward IPM Star Certification. We have also helped the Omaha and Winnebago tribal schools start using IPM by conducting walk-throughs, training staff members, and developing IPM policies. Several child care centers in the Lincoln area have also asked us for assistance starting IPM programs. Overall, thousands of children in Nebraska are spending their days in safer environments thanks to IPM!

Integrated Pest Management Private Eye Game

Pest Private Eye

Making IPM Fun: I am pleased to announce thatthe full version of Pest Private Eye and the Case of IPM in Schools (Pest PI), our educational first-person role-playing video game, is available free on our website at http://pested.unl.edu/pestpi. Pest PI teaches children and the educators who work with them about pests and how to control them using Integrated Pest Management.Also on the website you’ll find links to online versions of a Teacher’s guide and comic book, a user’s survey, and other resources about pests and IPM.

Creating IPM Resources: Check out our Integrated Pest Management in Sensitive Environments: a How-To Guide! This manual is an update of our IPM in Schools: a How-To Guide, and we have edited and integrated information to fit not only schools, but other sensitive environments such as hospitals, nursing homes, child care centers, etc. It also has a new chapter on bed bugs, which of course has been a highly-talked about topic over the last few years.

Integrated Pest Management in Sensitive Environments: a How-To Guide

Integrated Pest Management in Sensitive Environments: a How-To Guide

The manual includes chapters about IPM, including monitoring and inspection, treatment strategies, action and injury levels, and how to develop an IPM program. It also has chapters on specific pests that cause problems in structures or on lawns and grounds, such as cockroaches, flies, lice, rodents, and stinging insects.

Thank you for reading about IPM in schools and child care facilities. If you would like more information about IPM at EPA and UNL, please visit http://www.epa.gov/opp00001/ipm/ and http://pested.unl.edu/schoolipm.

Katie Howard is a program specialist in the Pesticide Section of EPA Region 7’s Water, Wetlands and Pesticide Division. Erin Bauer is an associate with University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) Extension.

 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Teach Kids the Triple R’s

2014 October 9

By Toni Castro

Being young and feeling invincible can be hazardous to your health, or even deadly. There have been other asthma stories here on the Big Blue Thread, but I wanted to share my family’s crisis because it was a very close call that really made us think about our asthma plan. Hopefully, our story will help you or a loved one take heed and review your asthma plan, too.  Remember the basics: review your asthma plan, refresh your medicines if needed, and remind yourself how serious asthma is.

Our daughter Shanice was diagnosed with asthma 18 years ago at the age of 3 and we’ve managed it pretty well without many incidents. Managing it consists of medication and close monitoring by an asthma/allergy specialist.

Asthma awareness!

Shanice lives with asthma everyday.

One evening last fall, we got a phone call from Shanice, who was away from home for the first time at college. She began by explaining that she had been hospitalized and was waiting for a ride back to her dorm room. My husband and I knew she’d been struggling with asthma symptoms brought on by a cold, so we were communicating with her regularly to check on her condition. Apparently, she had an asthma attack and still wasn’t feeling 100 percent but was ready to leave the emergency room. This was not her first attack but it was the first one away from home, so it was especially frightening to us because we felt helplessly far away.

Shanice’s breathing became increasingly harder as the day progressed and by evening, she was weak and lethargic. The medicine she typically uses when in the asthma danger zone was not effective. She was fortunate enough to have a good friend and dorm mate who insisted she go to the campus clinic. After seeing her blue lips, which indicated dangerously low oxygen levels, the clinic staff recommended that she be immediately transported to the hospital emergency room. At the hospital, Shanice was given oxygen, an IV (intravenous injection) for medicine, and a breathing treatment. After a few hours, she was finally stable enough to go back to her dorm.

Now that Shanice is on her own, we are hoping that she will remember to keep these critical things in mind, in addition to the Triple R’s:

  • Be aware of your triggers, environmental or otherwise.
  • Always take your medicines as directed, if prescribed.
  • Have emergency phone numbers readily available.

Statistics (American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology) show that in 2008, 48 percent of adults who were taught how to avoid triggers did not follow most of that advice. For young adults and parents of young adults with asthma, managing asthma is nothing new, but managing it without the guidance and monitoring by a parent or guardian may be. As your children become young adults, make the Triple R’s – review, refresh and remind – a mantra as part of their asthma plan.  The mantra may someday save their life.

Learn more by visiting EPA’s Asthma Triggers website.

Toni Castro works in the Office of Public Affairs as a Visual Information Specialist.  She has worked in Region 7 for just under 27 years and the last 8 in the Office of Public Affairs.  She is married and has 3 daughters, 1 grandson and a 2 year old Yorkie.  While an active family keeps her busy, she does enjoy reading, traveling, cooking and music.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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EPA In Your Community (Pedal Away!)

2014 July 11

By Brendan Corazzin
Region 7’s EJ Grants Coordinator

While biking may be an excellent way to exercise, it can also serve as a viable and inexpensive form of transportation that has many environmental and health benefits. Joe Edgell tells us it is easier than you think. Let me tell you about one of EPA’s Environmental Justice Small Grant awardees and the work they are doing in St. Louis to address the inequitable distribution of biking infrastructure in the city.

Example of a shared traffic lane. This picture was taken in Arlington, Virginia. Image by Brendan Corazzin.

Example of a shared traffic lane. This picture was taken in Arlington, Virginia. Image by Brendan Corazzin.

Often times, transportation is an overlooked environmental justice issue. It is not uncommon for low-income households to lack access to a personal vehicle and many low-income urban neighborhoods have poor access to public transportation.  Entire communities are cut off from valuable public services and amenities. Lack of transportation means a lack of access to fresh foods, a lack of access to medical facilities, and poor access to jobs. In St. Louis, Missouri, a small non-profit organization, Trailnet, is working to reverse this trend by promoting bicycling as a viable mode of transit.

St. Louis Rain Garden Stop

During a bike ride with Trailnet staff and project partners, we stopped at a rain garden at 14th and Clinton Street in the Old North Neighborhood of St. Louis. Image by Brendan Corazzin.

In 2013, Trailnet, Inc. was awarded an EJ Small Grant to work with low-income neighborhoods across St. Louis on bicycle planning and advocacy. Historically, planning activities related to bicycle infrastructure have left out low-income and minority communities. As a result, the existing infrastructure does not serve the needs of these communities. Through a series of educational activities, planning workshops, and community events, Trailnet will encourage bicycling as a mode of transportation and bring community members to the table so they can be involved in the planning process. This past May, I was in St. Louis to visit with Trailnet regarding their project. Rather than driving a car from Kansas City to St. Louis, I decided to use alternative modes of transportation starting with a bike ride from my home in midtown Kansas City to the train station downtown. After a 5 hour train ride, I arrived in St. Louis at the downtown train station and over the next two days I experienced St. Louis’ biking infrastructure first hand.

I will admit, my experience lead me to the conclusion that St. Louis and Kansas City (where I live) have pretty similar biking infrastructure…which is less than impressive. Don’t get me wrong, both cities have invested quite a bit in bicycle planning and both cities support bicycling, but they’re still early in the process. Getting around the downtown area, where most of my activities were, was fairly easy. There are a few dedicated bike lanes in downtown and few more “shared traffic lanes”. A shared lane is really just a regular traffic lane with a bicycle emblem painted on it, alerting drives to the possibility that there may be a cyclist in the lane. I also rode in west St. Louis and on the south side of town, where again there were a few dedicated bike lanes and some shared traffic lanes. In North St. Louis, however, travel was a bit more difficult because there are only shared traffic lanes.

Scheomehl Pots

“Schoemehl Pots” are frequently found at the intersections of neighborhood streets in St. Louis. The pots were originally installed to divert traffic from residential streets and could be reused to improve biking routes. Image by Brendan Corazzin.

North St. Louis is predominately African American and low-income. This is where one could witness the historical presence of environmental injustice in transportation planning. While other parts of town are accessible by bike lanes and downtown has its fantastic bicycle station, a public bicycle storage and maintenance facility, North St. Louis is left with only shared traffic lanes. This problem is compounded by the fact that beginner riders typically lack the skill and confidence to ride in traffic. As a result, you have a community where bicycling could serve as a viable form of personal transportation – taking people to work, the grocery store, school, or church – yet ridership remains low. Admittedly, there are many reasons for low ridership, but better infrastructure is an important part of increasing bike usage and our grant to Trailnet will help!

By working with residents, city staff, and elected officials, Trailnet hopes to break down the barriers that are preventing the community from utilizing bicycles as a cheap, efficient, effective and safe means of getting around St. Louis. By bringing community members to the table, Trailnet has been able to gather important information about community needs and wants. This input will inform transportation planning in St. Louis and help shape a future that supports bicycling by establishing safe, low stress routes that connect points of interest important to the community. Environmental Justice is all about supporting communities so that they can use their voice and knowledge to create positive changes and improve their environment. The Environmental Justice Small Grants Program has a long history of supporting communities in their fight to improve their environment. To learn more about environmental justice and EPA’s EJ grant programs, check out EPA’s website.

This map was used during a public meeting in North St. Louis. Residents were asked to identify points of interest, streets they bike or walk on, and streets that they would bike on if conditions were more inviting. Image by Brendan Corazzin.

This map was used during a public meeting in North St. Louis. Residents were asked to identify points of interest, streets they bike or walk on, and streets that they would bike on if conditions were more inviting. Image by Brendan Corazzin.

Brendan Corazzin works in the Environmental Justice Program at EPA’s Region 7 office. He serves as the regional EJ grants coordinator. He lives in Kansas City’s Volker neighborhood and prefers to leave his car at home. He is an avid supporter of alternative transportation including walking, biking, and riding to work in a vanpool.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Helping Them Breathe More Freely

2014 May 29

By Karl Brooks
EPA Region 7 Administrator

brooksAsthma and its triggers constitute a real public health threat.  The almost 25 million Americans who suffer from this serious, sometimes life-threatening disease already know what triggers their disease and have a plan of action.  At EPA, controlling these triggers is part of our mission to protect human health and the environment.

EPA has joined with federal, state and local partners to build the nation’s capacity to control asthma and manage exposure to indoor and outdoor pollutants linked to asthma.

Throughout the month of May, EPA Region 7’s inside look into the lives of an asthmatic child and her parents (one an EPA scientist) starkly, personally reminds us of this devastating disease’s toll.

Asthma awareness should begin with a discussion on indoor asthma triggers.  Americans spend up to 90 percent of their time indoors, where indoor allergens and irritants play a significant role in triggering asthma attacks. Triggers can cause asthma symptoms, an episode or attack, or make asthma worse. Persons with asthma may react to one or more triggers.

kids

Outdoor triggers have also been a focus of EPA’s outdoor air pollution programs throughout the years. Air pollution can trigger your child’s asthma. Even healthy people can have trouble breathing on high air pollution days.  Asthma attacks can occur the same day, but may also occur the day AFTER outdoor pollution levels are high. Air Quality Index (AQI) reports help to alert people to unhealthy levels.

For most people, the main air pollution triggers are small particles—also known as particulate pollution—and ozone. These pollutants come from smoke, road dust, and emissions from cars, factories and power plants. In general, ozone levels are highest in the summer, but levels of particle pollution can be high any time of year. They tend to be higher near busy roads and where people burn wood.

These challenges will build because the recently released National Climate Assessment (NCA3) tells us that we are faced with increased heat wave intensity and frequency, increased humidity, degraded air quality, and reduced water quality will increase.

Protecting health is one of our primary goals, so EPA must create real solutions for these very real problems.  Just one wheezing, coughing, struggling-to-breathe child in the Heartland epitomizes the millions who suffer from asthma. Helping them breathe more freely is cause enough.  EPA remains diligent in our efforts to educate and resolute in our actions to clean the air we breathe.

Dr. Karl Brooks is the Regional Administrator for USEPA Region 7.  Brooks earned a Ph.D in History and Environmental Studies from the University of Kansas, and served as Associate Professor at KU until joining EPA in 2010.  For his full bio visit EPA Region 7.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Earth Day Festivities…Waterfowl, Stream Impairment & Smokey The Bear…Oh My!

2014 May 28

By Amber Tucker

Earth Day was last month but since we like to tout that every day is Earth Day here at EPA, I am safe in posting this now.  We also love it when the “official” Earth Day rolls around.  Each year on April 22nd, people across the globe participate in various events and activities to raise awareness and promote the environmental movement.  2014 marks the 44th Earth Day Observance.

Prior to the first Earth Day in 1970, there was no EPA, no Clean Air Act, no Clean Water Act. There were no legal or regulatory mechanisms to protect our environment.  It was legal and even common for black plumes of toxins to fill the sky, and tons of hazardous waste to be dumped directly into waterways.  These practices had gone on for so long, that finally the detrimental effects on environmental resources could no longer go unnoticed, and concerned citizens felt compelled to take action to protect their environment. In spring 1970, Senator Gaylord Nelson created Earth Day as a way to force this issue onto the national agenda. Twenty million Americans demonstrated in different U.S. cities, and their efforts paid off tremendously!  In December 1970, Congress authorized the creation of a new federal agency to tackle environmental issues, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

earthday

In response to the expanding public demand for cleaner air, water, and land, President Richard Nixon and Congress established the U.S. EPA.  EPA was tasked with the challenging goal of repairing the damage already done to the environment and to establish guidelines to help Americans in making a cleaner and safer environment a reality.

Fast forward 44 years to today…from its 20 million strong 1970 roots, more than 1 billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world, according to the Earth Day Network (http://www.earthday.org).  On a local scale, EPA is fortunate to be able to participate in local community events each year.

julia

Julia helping out with the Impaired Waterways activity

The Sac & Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska held their 2014 annual Earth Day event on Tuesday, April 22nd at their community building in Reserve, KS.  The Sac & Fox Environmental Department has hosted this event for several years in an effort to actively engage children of various ages in learning about the environment.  They have worked closely with and invited outside agencies to participate in this important event.

On Tuesday April 22nd, approximately 90 children ranging from 1st through 3rd grades came to the Sac & Fox community building to celebrate Earth Day.  Three staff members from EPA Region 7, Julia Cacho, Heather Duncan, and Amber Tucker, were privileged to be able to attend and take part in these festivities.  The Sac & Fox Environmental Department secured presenters on a variety of environmental topics such as surface water quality, air quality, Brownfields, recycling, Squaw Creek Waterfowl, and the water cycle.  Environmental Department staff also developed program specific presentations to showcase the Sac and Fox Nation Environmental Department and its functions. All of the attendees were able to soak up some Vitamin D out on the lawn during lunch, where lunch was served (in recyclable brown boxes). The day was topped off by crafts activities and a very welcomed appearance from Smokey the Bear.  Smokey was a big hit, and took pictures with the children, which were printed and incorporated into one of the crafts for the children to take home.  At the end of the day, 90 happy kiddos and several tired presenters were evidence of a successful Earth Day event!

Smokey

Julia, Heather, Smokey & Amber

For additional information about Earth Day, please visit http://www.epa.gov/earthday/index.html.

Amber Tucker is an Environmental Scientist who serves as a NEPA reviewer for EPA Region 7.  She is a graduate of Haskell University and serves as Region 7′s Special Emphasis Program Manager for Native American Employment Programs.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Ashlynn’s Plan

2014 May 12

By Heather Duncan, Region 7 Water, Waste & Pesticides

asthma

My daughter Ashlynn is seven years old. She loves the color pink. She enjoys reading but she would rather play outside. She is a daddy’s girl. Her favorite school subject is math. She dreams of being a spy someday.

And, my daughter has asthma.

Ashlynn’s asthma is triggered by sudden changes in the weather (otherwise known as spring and fall in the Midwest), respiratory viruses, acid reflux, poor air quality, and by dry ice at high school theatrical productions. (You can imagine how “fun” it was to discover that last one…)

No matter how well controlled it is, asthma redefines a family’s version of normal routine. Our family has had five years to adjust to our version of normal. It currently includes:

  • An asthma action plan involving a full rainbow of colored inhalers and nebulizer treatments with names like Dulera®, Flovent®, albuterol, and DuoNeb®;
  • A calendar on the kitchen counter, where we track Ashlynn’s asthma symptoms and her yellow and red zone medication doses;
  • Family budget line items for co-pays, annual family flu shots, monthly prescription refills, and caffeine (that last one is for me, not for Ashlynn);
  • A roll of quarters in the glove box of my vehicle, for the vending machines during an unexpected journey to the emergency room; and
  • A thankfulness for our employers who understand when our family’s schedule changes suddenly – and for the medical insurance they provide.

In other words, our routine involves accepting that from August to April, normal is just a setting on the dryer. The goal of Ashlynn’s asthma action plan is to prevent asthma from being her limiting factor. That goal is a family goal, and most days, we accept whatever version of normal comes with it.

And, we hope for a better day tomorrow.

Implementing The Plan

3:07 p.m.        Just as the meeting conversation picks up, my cell phone buzzes. Caller ID says “Pathfinder Elementary”. I duck into the hallway to answer the call before it goes to voicemail.

3:11 p.m.        I thank Nurse Brooke and hang up the phone, sighing with relief. Thank goodness for amazing school nurses, I think. I step back into the room and reengage with the meeting.

5:35 p.m.        Ashlynn tells me about her day as we walk out of after school club. “I was squeezy after recess. Nurse Brooke gave me my rescue inhaler,” she relays. “How are you feeling now?” I ask. “A little better,” she says hesitantly. Probably time for the yellow zone of her asthma action plan, I remind myself.

5:40 p.m.        I set out the yellow zone inhaler when we get home. Ashlynn takes a daily controller medication in her green zone, and she adds a second controller medication during her yellow zone. There is also a red zone. The red zone is not fun. We hope it doesn’t come to that this time.

6:45 p.m.        Was that a cough I heard? I glance at the clock. It’s been less than four hours since her last asthma treatment. After my not-so-subtle Mom stare, Ashlynn gives in. “Four puffs of your red albuterol inhaler…,” I remind her. Dulera®, Flovent®, albuterol, prednisone… Asthma is a language all its own!

7:15 p.m.        “Mommy, I’m still squeezy,” Ashlynn says, wearily. Her hands jitter from the side effects of the albuterol. I begin to think through our asthma action plan options. Do we try an albuterol stack? “Let’s get your nebulizer and the iPad. You can watch a movie while you take your next treatment.” Ever the daddy’s girl, Ashlynn climbs on her father’s lap to finish her treatment.

8:30 p.m.        Ashlynn’s bedtime. As I tuck her in, I wonder how long the medicine will hold her. Asthma is usually worse at night than during the day, and well, today wasn’t that great. Best get to bed early yourself, Heather. Get some sleep while you can. Meanwhile, I ponder what may have triggered this attack. Was there a big weather change? Is she coming down with a cold? How was Kansas City’s air quality today? Most times, we can point to something.

9:22 p.m.        “I’ll take the first shift,” Jason says. My husband and I have learned to subdivide the night during asthma flares. First shift means asthma duty from bedtime until 1am; second shift involves from 1am to wakeup. This way, we’re both guaranteed a few hours of sleep and someone is fresh enough to help the rest of the family get ready in the morning.

5:15am           I turn off my alarm clock and wander to the kitchen. Ashlynn’s asthma calendar – the calendar where we track her asthma symptoms and her yellow and red zone medication doses – sits on the kitchen table. Only one treatment after bedtime... Not too bad!

6:35am           Ashlynn is not a morning person.

6:40am           Ashlynn begrudgingly gets out of bed, and trudges to her closet to pick and accessorize her outfit. Odds are, she’s wearing something pink.

6:52am           Cough.

6:54am           Cough. Coughcoughcough.  Sometimes, getting out of bed is too much activity for an already irritated airway. I instinctively load another DuoNeb® treatment in the nebulizer.

7:15am           After the treatment, the coughs have subsided, and Ashlynn’s takes her daily and yellow zone medications. I leave a voicemail for Ashlynn’s asthma coordinator at the pediatrician’s office – they will want to know we’ve used four treatments in the past 24 hours.

7:25am           Jason and I agree Ashlynn should go to school today. I shoot a quick email to Nurse Brooke and Mrs. McCall, letting them know how the overnight went and when Ashlynn’s last treatment was. The goal of Ashlynn’s asthma action plan is to prevent asthma from being her limiting factor. Most days, we succeed. Today, even as her asthma flares, Ashlynn will get to be a first grader who loves math class. We hope for an uneventful day today, a restful night tonight, and a better day tomorrow.

Heather Duncan has been with EPA Region 7 since 2006. Since 2006, Heather has also married her husband, purchased a house, gave birth to three children (one with special medical needs), and unsuccessfully attempted to give up caffeine three times.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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March Madness and Dancing… Did you know……?

2014 April 16

By Jim Callier

The NCAA basketball tournaments just concluded.  None of our local schools made it very far in the “big” dance, although a shout-out does need to go to the Central Missouri State University Mules men’s team for winning the NCAA Division II Championship.  In this spirit, I want to pose a couple of interesting intercollegiate sports questions to introduce one of our Region’s noteworthy institutions.  Below are three questions relevant to the geographic area of EPA Region 7.

1) Player and Coach, Chauncey E.  Archiquette, is credited by Dr. James A. Naismith, originator of basketball, for introducing the zone defense into the game.  Can you tell me the school associated with Mr. Archiquette?

2) Milton P. Allen, the son of Forrest C. (Phog) Allen, famous University of Kansas basketball coach, coached basketball at what school in EPA Region 7?

3) Can you name the school whose gridiron team lost only 3 homes games in a 34 year period of time? (Hint:  approximately 1898 to 1932).

So, how did you do with these three questions?  The answer to the questions is “Haskell”, currently referred to as “Haskell Indian Nations University.”

EPA and Haskell have a special relationship dating back a number of years.

Since its inception, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) mission has been focused on the protection of human health and the environment.  The EPA Region 7 (EPA R7) recognizes that participation from all citizens is essential to support effective environmental policies, problem solving, and sustainable practices. In an effort to encourage student participation and study in the field of environmental science, a partnership was established, in the form of Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between EPA R7 and Haskell.  The purpose of this MOA is to formalize and strengthen the relationship between EPA and Haskell while enhancing their educational programs/activities and increasing their institutional awareness of the environment through training and consultation.  Through this partnership, students from Haskell have worked at EPA R7 as part of the intern program, and many of these students have gone on to become employees of the agency after graduation.

Last year, Amber Tucker blogged twice about a special environmental conference at Haskell focused on mercury deposition and mercury in fish tissue, where students and scientists learned about these issues facing their communities.

For more than 130 years, American Indians and Alaska Natives have been sending their children to Haskell, and Haskell has responded by offering innovative curricula oriented toward Native American cultures.  Today, Haskell has an average enrollment of over 1000 students each semester, with multi-tribal student representation from rural, reservation, ranchero, village, pueblo, and urban settings.  The Haskell campus spans over 320 acres in Southeast Lawrence, KS, and is home to 12 structures on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Haskell Memorial Football Stadium.  Haskell offers baccalaureate degrees in Indigenous and American Indian Studies, Business Administration, Elementary Education and Environmental Science.

We feel that minority colleges serve an integral part to their specific cultures and communities. They fulfill a vital role in maintaining and preserving irreplaceable languages and cultural traditions, in offering a high-quality college education to younger students, and in providing job training and other career-building programs to adults and senior citizens. Haskell clearly offers a rich resource to provide the required institutional framework to address the problem of under representation of American Indians/Alaska Natives in science, technologies, engineering and mathematics fields. Additionally, it provides a platform for EPA to aid in the development of an environmentally-conscious campus through direct consultation and training.

haskell

Haskell University, Lawrence, KS

 

Jim Callier is Chief of the Resource Conservation and Pollution Prevention Section at EPA in Kansas City and has thirty years of experience working at EPA, primarily in Region 7. Jim has both working and management experience in many of EPA’s programs including hazardous and solid waste, brownfields, and pollution prevention. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri at Rolla with a B.S. Degree in Geological Engineering and is a Registered Professional Geologist in the State of Missouri.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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