Monthly Archives: October 2008

Energy Efficiency – a Ready Tool to Address Power Demand

About the author: Rob Lawrence joined EPA in 1990 and is Senior Policy Advisor on Energy Issues in the Dallas, TX regional office. As an economist, he works to insure that both supply and demand components are addressed as the Region develops its Clean Energy and Climate Change Strategy.

Poster for conference.  It reads: Blue Skyways Energy Savings Conference, Utilities greening the future and the bottom line. For utilities, by utilities EPA offices in Dallas and Kansas City, through a public/private partnership group – the Blue Skyways Collaborative, hosted a conference on Energy Savings for utilities in the central part of the United States on September 25 in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The participants included investor owned utilities, local electric cooperatives, municipal and other publicly owned utilities as well as state and federal regulators. Since energy efficiency programs are scalable, the approach is as easily implemented by a small co-op with 15,000 customers as it is for large multi-state operations with millions of subscribers.

One of the principal messages of the conference was that an aggressive energy efficiency campaign for residential properties, farm & small business operations, and commercial & industrial customers should be the first option when a utility is managing an increase in power demand. Several utilities said that it was possible to harness the same amount of power created by new generation and transmission facilities through efficiency efforts for between 10 to 50% of the cost of new construction.

Glenn Cannon of the Waverly, Iowa, municipal utility outlined why this approach was a win/win solution. The environmental benefits include lower emissions including greenhouse gases than from new power plants as well as a reduction in water usage. The economic savings go to consumers, including low income and fixed income residents. Since steps like rebates for buying newer appliances and retrofitting houses with more insulation and higher quality windows and doors happen in the local area, there are positive impacts to the local economy through local purchases and the use of nearby workers. The utility benefits from a quicker response to the power demand with ongoing, long-term benefits; lessening the need for building and permitting new generation and transmission facilities, and without increasing carbon emissions.

As one of the members of the conference planning committee, I was impressed that all of the participants felt that energy efficiency programs will be an important tool to meet these future demands with certainty and benefits to all involved.

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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Energy Vampires Causing Distress in Many Ways

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Lea la versión en español a continuación de esta entrada en inglés.
Some links exit EPA or have Spanish content. Exit EPA Disclaimer

The other day I was translating a press release on energy vampires. Energy vampires, you may ask? Yes, they are lurking around in our homes, backyards, and communities. No, I’m not trying to be funny nor creepy. They are real! I’m talking about those electronic devices, big and small, that continue to suck up energy (and money from our wallets) even when they are officially “off”.

I confess that I had fun with the translation. As it often happens, I learned something in the process. These electronic devices continue to use energy even when we turn them off at night, so we recommend pulling the plug or using a power strip to limit the flow of energy when these appliances (TVs, VCRs, computers, chargers, etc.) are not in use.

On my way home from work that night, I saw a house that definitely gets the prize for Energy Vampire of the Month, perhaps, Energy Vampire of the Year! Every year the owners go the extra mile to decorate their house to the nth degree according to the holiday of the season. Be it Halloween, Christmas, Easter, the 4th of July, you name it. The place is full of decorations. But we’re not talking only about simple colorful decorations covering every square inch—there are lights galore!

So, in addition to eliminating the mysterious energy vampires in our daily lives, we should start thinking of those vintage holiday decorations that might have been in the family for years, but are not environmentally friendly. Maybe it’s time for some greener substitutions. There are new decorative lights with LED (light emitting diodes) technology that consume 75% less energy than conventional incandescent light strands. These EnergyStar certified lights will help you get into the holiday spirit without risking heart failure when you get the bill.

So by all means, go green this Halloween, but pull the plug on those energy vampires!

Los vampiros de energía nos amargan la existencia de muchas maneras

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

El otro día estaba traduciendo un comunicado de prensa sobre los vampiros de energía. ¿Se preguntarán si existen esos vampiros? Efectivamente, están al asecho en nuestros hogares, patios y comunidades. No, no estoy bromeando ni tratando de asustarle. ¡Existen! Estoy hablando de los aparatos electrónicos grandes y pequeños que continúan chupando energía (y el dinero de sus bolsillos) aún cuando están oficialmente apagados.

Confieso que fue divertido hacer la traducción. Y como sucede muchas veces, aprendí algo. Estos aparatos electrónicos continúan utilizando energía aún cuando están apagados por la noche, por lo tanto recomendamos que los desenchufen o utilicen un interruptor especial (power strip) para interrumpir el flujo de energía a enseres como televisores, VCRs, computadoras, cargadores, etc., cuando no están en uso.

Cuando regresaba a casa las otras noches, ví una casa que definitivamente se gana el premio de Vampiro Energético del Mes, o quizás, Vampiro de Energía del Año! Cada año los dueños decoran su casa a la enésima potencia dependiendo de la temática de la celebración del momento. Sea la fiesta de las brujas (Halloween), las Navidades, la Pascua Florida o el cuatro de julio. Cualquier ocasión es buena para desplegar las decoraciones. Y no estoy hablando simplemente de coloridas decoraciones que cubren cada centímetro cuadrado del lugar. ¡Allí hay luces por doquier!

Asimismo, además de eliminar los misteriosos vampiros de energía de nuestras vidas cotidianas, debemos pensar en las antiguas decoraciones de luces que llevan años nuestros hogares, pero no son muy beneficiosas para el medio ambiente. Quizás ha llegado el momento de optar por sustituciones que sean más favorables. Hay nuevas luces decorativas con tecnología LED (diodos emisores de luz, por sus siglas en inglés) que consumen 75% menos energía que las bombillas de luz incandescente convencionales. Estas luces con la certificación de EnergyStar pueden ayudarle a entrar en el ambiente de las fiestas sin correr el riesgo de un fallo cardíaco cuando le llegue la factura de la luz.

Por ende, adopte prácticas verdes en la fiesta de las brujas y desenchufe esos vampiros de energía!

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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Science Wednesday: Why is EPA Interested in Understanding How the Environment Affects Children’s Health?

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

About the author: Michael Firestone, Ph.D., is a biochemist who is the Science Director in EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection and Environmental Education.

Simply put, EPA is interested in children because they are not little adults. Their bodies are developing; they eat more, drink more, and breathe more in proportion to their body size than adults; and their unique behaviors such as crawling and putting their hands and objects in their mouths can expose them more to chemicals and organisms. These differences may increase the susceptibility of children to environmental contaminants such as mercury and lead and certain pesticides.

photo of little girlIn 1987, I was fortunate for two reasons – I received a promotion to manage a group of scientists who evaluated occupational and residential exposure to pesticides, and I became a father for the first time. Watching my young daughter crawl around on the grass and picking up a small pebble to explore with her mouth made me wonder about possible exposure of young children to pesticides used on lawns – at the same time, I realized that our group of scientists had very little data to answer the question. Thus, I began on a 20-year journey to promote research related to better understanding children’s environmental exposure.

Along the way, even the President became concerned by issuing Executive Order 13045: Protection of Children from Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks.

Photo of toddler ladling water from a toiletTake some time and watch a toddler very carefully and you will begin to understand just how unique children’s behaviors can be compared to adults – here is a great example:

We’ve made great progress toward improving our knowledge about children’s exposures including the development of guidance to standardize childhood age groups and a brand new database of children’s exposure factors information.

And the federal government is starting an exciting new study called the National Children’s Study whose goal is examine the effects of environmental influences on the health and development of 100,000 children across the United States.

It has been said that our children are our future – so let’s make sure we develop the tools and data which will help us protect both!

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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New Climate for Action: Pack a Waste-Free Lunch

About the author: Ashley Sims, a senior at Indiana University, is a fall intern with EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection and Environmental Education through the Washington Leadership Program.

Managing money is something a student has to learn, particularly as the cost of living rises. If money grew on trees my life would be a lot easier – unfortunately it doesn’t. I try to save as much money as I can during the week so I can have plenty left over to enjoy my weekends. My roommates and I try to take a lunch to work every single day – eating out can be very expensive. Plus, some students might get fed up with school lunches. Packing your lunch is cheap, reduces trash and saves energy too!

Lots of trash is generated from the packaging on food and disposable lunches. Did you know that each school lunch generates 67 pounds of waste per school year? That means, just one average-size middle school creates over 40,000 pounds of lunch waste a year. That’s a lot of trash! Getting rid of the trash or waste uses energy and releases greenhouses gases into the environment. Start a waste-free program at your school to keep landfills from overflowing and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A waste-free lunch program involves educating students, parents, and school staff about where our trash ends up and how we can reduce the amount of trash we generate. Waste-free lunch programs support the use of reusable food containers, drink containers, utensils, and napkins. They discourage the use of disposable packaging, such as prepackaged foods, plastic bags, juice boxes and pouches, paper napkins, and disposable utensils.

Here are some tips to keep in mind while packing your lunch to school or work.
Do include:

  • Sandwiches in reusable containers
  • Whole fruits without packaging
  • Drinks in containers that can be reused, such as a thermos, or recycled, such as a can
  • Snacks purchased in bulk and brought in reusable containers

Don’t include:

  • Individually wrapped snacks
  • Plastic baggies that are not reusable
  • Disposable forks and spoons
  • Straws

Your waste-free lunch program will help create a new climate for action by reducing trash, saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And you will save money too! Be sure to let me know what you are doing to reduce lunch waste.

For more information on Waste-Free Lunches go to http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/education/lunch.htm

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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Question of the Week: What are your energy vampires?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. You can answer the poll or let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Vampires could be lurking the shadows of your home. Energy vampires continuously suck energy from electrical outlets and unnecessarily waste energy. These vampires won’t drain your blood; they’ll drain your pockets! Energy vampires cost Americans almost $10 billion a year, and account for almost 11 percent of all U.S. energy use!

Energy vampires are the electronics, adapters, and appliances with fangs in your outlet, sucking power even when apparently not in use or “off.” For example, a TV always uses a little power so it can always receive the “on” signal from the remote control. Adapters, too, use power even when not plugged into their device. You can easily check your home for energy vampires using your power meter. Turn everything off as you normally do, as if you were leaving for the day – but don’t unplug anything you don’t normally unplug. Now, look at your power meter. What do you have for vampires sucking energy from your home?

What are your energy vampires?

(en español)

[poll id=”9″]

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En español: Cada semana hacemos una pregunta relacionada al medio ambiente. Por favor comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos y comentarios. Siéntase en libertad de responder a comentarios anteriores o plantear nuevas ideas. Preguntas previas.

Podrían haber vampiros al asecho en las penumbras de su hogar. Los vampiros de energía continuamente chupan energía de los interruptores eléctricos y malgastan innecesariamente la energía. Estos vampiros no le chupan la sangre. Al contrario, ¡están vaciando sus bolsillos! Los vampiros de energía cuestan a los estadounidenses alrededor de $10 mil millones cada año lo cual representa cerca del 11 por ciento de toda la energia usada en EE.UU.!

Los vampiros de energía son los efectos electrónicos, adaptadores, enseres eléctricos cuyos colmillos clavan al interruptor y chupan la energía aún cuando aparentemente estos aparatos no están en uso o está apagado (“off”). Por ejemplo, un televisor siempre usa un poco de energía para que pueda recibir la señal de “on” del control remoto. Los adaptadores también usan energía aún cuando no se le haya enchufado el efecto electrónico. Usted puede verificar si hay vampiros de energía en su hogar utilizando un medidor de energía. Apague todo como normalmente hace como si fuera estar fuera de la casa por todo el día, pero no desenchufe nada. Entonces mire su medidor de energía. ¿Cuáles son algunos de los vampiros que están chupando la energía de su hogar?

¿Qué son los vampiros de energía?

[poll id=”10″]

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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Greening the Dragon

About the author: Ken Sandler is Co-Chair of EPA’s Green Building Workgroup. He has worked for EPA since 1991 on sustainability issues including green building, recycling and indoor air quality.

This past summer, the world’s eyes turned to Beijing to watch the Olympics. With that attention came more scrutiny to the many environmental issues resulting from China’s long economic boom.

Two facts demonstrate the mix of hope and challenge that China represents for our future. First, carbon dioxide emissions (the greatest contributor to climate change) are growing rapidly in China, to the point that some estimate China has already surpassed the U.S. as the world’s leading emitter. Yet China also is projected to have surpassed the rest of the world as the leading producer of clean, renewable energy – including wind, solar and hydropower (according to the Renewables 2007 report sponsored by Germany).

I had the privilege of visiting this remarkable country this past April, as part of an EPA delegation meeting the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) in Beijing. On this trip, I got to meet people who are working to make green building a reality in China, from the government, major universities (Tsinghua, Shanghai Research Institute of Building Sciences, Huazhong University of Science and Technology) and even a government-supported non-profit (Administrative Center for China’s Agenda 21).

While there are vast differences between the situations of our two countries – chief among them the major environmental crises facing China and the disparity between our governmental systems – I was struck by a few of the similarities. There, as here, the status quo too often prevails against the wisdom of making our buildings more efficient in their use of energy, water and materials, and healthier to live in and around. There, as here, progress often hinges on the initiative of a few heroic individuals willing to stick their necks out to try something new and innovative.

I got to meet several such individuals on my trip, working on such projects as the Eco-House that will be showcased at the Shanghai World Expo in 2010. They were eager to learn more about EPA programs like Brownfields and ENERGY STAR, and about the progress Americans have made in establishing green building as a major trend in the U.S.

In the Olympic spirit, I’d like to see the US engage in strenuous but healthy competition with China, to see which of our countries can move faster toward discovering and applying the greenest technologies – in our buildings, vehicles, factories and more. Call it the race for the Green Medal – and let the games begin!

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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….And I’ll huff and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow this house down…

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Lea la versión en español a continuación de esta entrada en inglés.
Some links exit EPA or have Spanish content. Exit EPA Disclaimer

We are fast approaching the end of hurricane season 2008. With the exception of hurricane Ike, the US territories and mainland have been largely spared the ravages of storms past. However, hurricane season got me to thinking, how can we develop construction materials that are sustainable while, at the same time, they will withstand hurricane force winds and rains of the likes of Ike, Katrina, Georges, and Andrew, to name a few?

I think the Agency has made great strides in supporting technological advances in green building, enhancing energy and water efficiency. However, I wonder how we can take those green benefits to areas that are more susceptible to nature’s onslaught during hurricane season?

For example, in Jeffrey’s blog from Hawaii, he noted how little air conditioning was used in many of the homes. However, the Hawaiian Islands are not in the paths of the storms that come from Africa to the Americas like the Caribbean Islands. We’ve seen Brenda’s efforts to reduce the carbon footprint in Puerto Rico, but I still haven’t seen any green substitute for good old concrete when it comes to withstanding hurricane force winds.

So, I would like to use the Web to start a greenversation. I want to consult with experts in this area. Are there green materials stronger than hay and sticks yet greener than bricks? Let’s find materials that will not allow the bad hurricane wolves to blow our houses down. Looking forward to your comments.

¿Resistiría la embestida?

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

Nos estamos acercando rápidamente al final de la temporada de huracanes del 2008. Salvo el huracán Ike, los territorios y continente estadounidenses se libraron de los azotes de tormentas pasadas. Sin embargo, durante esta temporada de huracanes me he puesto a pensar sobre cómo podemos desarrollar materiales de construcción que sean sostenibles y que a la misma vez puedan resistir el impacto de vientos huracanados y lluvias torrenciales como los Ike, Katrina, Georges, y Andrew, del mundo?

Pienso que la Agencia ha logrado grandes avances al apoyar tecnologías en edificios verdes, la eficiencia energética y la conservación de agua. Sin embargo, me pregunto si podemos llevar esos beneficios ambientalistas a las áreas que sean más susceptibles a los ataques de la naturaleza durante la temporada de huracanes?

Por ejemplo, en el blog de Jeffrey desde Hawai, destacó cómo limitaban el uso del aire acondicionado en muchos hogares. Sin embargo, las Islas Hawaianas no se encuentran en el paso de las tormentas que salen de África camino a las Américas como están las islas del Caribe. Vimos los esfuerzos de Brenda por reducir la huella de carbono en Puerto Rico, pero todavía no he visto un buen sustituto verde al consabido concreto cuando se trata de resistir un vendaval huracanado.

Por lo tanto, quisiera usar esta página para comenzar una conversación verde, Greenversation. Quisiera consultar con expertos en esta área. Como en el cuento de los tres cerditos, ¿acaso hay materiales verdes que sean más fuertes que la paja y la leña, pero más verdes que los ladrillos? Encontremos materiales que no permitan que los malos lobos huracanados derriben nuestros hogares. Me encantaría leer sus comentarios.

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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Science Wednesday: On the Green Hunt

About the Author: As the news director for EPA’s Office of Research and Development, Melissa-Anley Mills is always on the hunt for good science stories. She joined the Agency in 1998 as a National Urban Fellow.

Oh boy, it’s Sunday night, and I can’t wait to get to work tomorrow and tell my co-workers that this weekend I met The Raging Blue Robots, Saturnalia, Nuts for Squirrels and the Taco Buddahs. Now these aren’t the names of the latest bands to hit the DC music scene who hope to win legions of adoring fans, these are folks with an entirely different focus: winning the Marian Koshland Science Museum’s first annual eco-scavenger hunt called “The Green Hunt.”

You see, on Saturday, I helped staff The Green Hunt for the U.S. EPA. Free to the public, the event honored Earth Science Week 2008 and was designed to inform people about climate and earth science, and show that urban environments provide great learning opportunities for outdoor science activities.

photo of familyAs we neared the start time, we were anxious to see who’d burst through the Koshland doors proclaiming “We’re here for the Hunt!” From 11 until about 4:30 a diverse set of teams arrived, all ready to run around the neighborhood, looking for science clues: Teams of friends, teams of big sister/mentors, teams of college students on a homework mission, mom-headed teams, dad-headed teams, mom-and-dad-headed teams, abuela y padres headed teams.

photo of people huddled around a table covered in papersOnce their time cards were stamped, they were off! Dashing about DC’s Penn Quarter trying to complete the clues and challenges as fast as possible. There were challenges for the observant, brain teasers, some math, and things that you had to track down and take photos of or doodle. Once the teams checked back in and had their return time recorded they headed to the registration desk to have their answers checked.

Here are links to the map and clue sheet from the hunt you can use to set up a similar science event in your own town, city, or school. So, what did folks think? The general consensus was: FUN – for both the teams and for me! Not bad for my Saturday at “work!”

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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New Climate for Action: Get Involved and Be a Leader

About the author: Ashley Sims, a senior at Indiana University, is a fall intern with EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection and Environmental Education through the Washington Leadership Program.

I remember back when I was in high school and how stressful it was to prepare for college. Filling out college applications, deciding what school I wanted to go to, and keeping up with school work was a lot to manage. My mentors and teachers always recommended that I get involved in extra-curricular activities as a way to prepare me for college. And they were right. Getting involved in school and local organizations allowed me to develop leadership skills that were crucial to my success in college. My friends and I got involved in school organizations that did community service to better ourselves and our community. It is so important to get involved in local groups such as environmental organizations because it shows others your passion and dedication to issues that are essential to your community. You can help create a healthier environment while doing your part for your community. If your community doesn’t already have an environmental organization, get your friends together and create your own.

Become a leader. Take action and motivate others to engage in activities to address climate change and reduce its effects on children’s health. If you are a middle and high school student interested in global climate change, then become a Climate Ambassador. Here is what you need to do:

  • Motivate at least 5 other students to give climate change and children’s health presentations to other students,
  • Get 10 people to Change the World and Take the ENERGY STAR Pledge
  • Motivate your school or school district to take the ENERGY STAR Challenge to improve energy efficiency
  • Recruit at least one leader from your community, school, or other organization to issue a climate change and children’s health proclamation
  • Lead an effort to reduce energy consumption in your school or community and calculate your results

If you’re a leader in climate change, I hope you will share your story so that other students can learn from your example. Please tell us how you are getting your school and/or community to reduce their energy usage. I am excited to hear people’s stories and get new ideas.

For more information, go to http://www.epa.gov/climateforaction/lead/become.htm

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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Question of the Week: What have you done to protect children from lead poisoning?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Lead is highly toxic and can cause serious health problems in sensitive groups such as children. If you are buying or renting a home or apartment built before 1978, inquire about lead hazards. Also, home renovation can generate a lot of dust if the work area isn’t properly contained and cleaned.

What have you done to protect children from lead poisoning?

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En español: Cada semana hacemos una pregunta relacionada al medio ambiente. Por favor comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos y comentarios. Siéntase en libertad de responder a comentarios anteriores o plantear nuevas ideas. Preguntas previas.

El plomo es altamente tóxico y puede ocasionar serios problemas de salud en grupos susceptibles como los niños. Si va a comprar o alquilar un hogar o apartamento construido antes de 1978, infórmese acerca de los peligros del plomo. Además, la remodelación puede generar mucho polvo si el área de trabajo de la remodelación no es contenida y limpiada debidamente.

¿Qué ha hecho para proteger a los niños del envenenamiento por plomo?

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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