Monthly Archives: February 2009

Sushi y el mercuro

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 trabajando en unos materiales multilingües diseñados para crear conciencia sobre los altos niveles de mercurio en ciertos tipos de pescado. A mi familia le gusta comer pescado especialmente cuando vamos a restaurantes. Como el pescado tiene niveles bajos de grasas saturadas y es una excelente fuente de proteína, yo no estaba tan preocupada por su consumo. Sin embargo, cuando empecé a leer los avisos de EPA y la FDA sobre el pescado, los leí con más detenimiento. Ahora veo la información desde otra perspectiva teniendo en cuenta nuestros hábitos de alimentación.

En primer lugar, solemos ir a un restaurante cercano que se especializa en la comida japonesa de sushi. Es uno de los pocos restaurantes a los cuales todos nos gusta ir. Mis tres hijas mayores de “edad fértil” todas les gusta comer sushi y a la pequeña le encanta comer el ikuradón que es un bol de arroz cubierto con los huevos de salmón. Aunque estaba algo tranquila porque sabía que no solemos comer pescados en la categoría de aquellos de altos niveles de mercurio como pez espada, tiburón, cabala del rey, lucieoperca, y el tilefish, por ejemplo, estos avisos no hacían mención especial de los altos niveles de mercurio en los huevos de pescado. La exposición al mercurio a altos niveles puede ocasionar daños al cerebro, el corazón, el hígado, los pulmones, y los sistemas inmunológicos de las personas de todas las edades. Sin embargo, los fetos, los bebés y los niños son mucho más vulnerables a los riesgos ambientales y posibles daños a sus sistemas neurológicos debido al hecho que sus órganos internos y sistemas están en pleno desarrollo.

¿Acaso estaba poniendo en riesgo a mis hijas, especialmente a la pequeña, con una dieta que no era saludable? Decidí buscar en la Internet información sobre el mercurio en los huevos de pescado sin mucha suerte. Decidí consultar a uno de mis colegas en EPA para tranquilizarme. Quisiera compartir la información con mis amigos de la blogosfera. Me alegra poder decirles que los huevos de pescado no tienen niveles elevados de mercurio. En general, los peces desarrollados y en los niveles más altos de la cadena alimenticia son aquellos donde suelen depositarse los contaminantes bioacumulativos. Algunos de estos contaminantes como los PCBs y el DDT se concentran mayormente en las áreas de mucha grasa como el hígado, pero el mercurio se encuentra a través de todo el pez. Los huevos de salmón, Ikura, (イクラ) en japonés no deben presentar problemas. Para ir a la segura, de ahora en adelante voy a alentar a mi pequeña que como más salmón que también le gusta. Mientras tanto, acompañaré la comida con un poco de wasabi y jengibre curtido. Arigato. Muchas gracias.

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: Thinking of Biological Integrity on Darwin’s Birthday

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

About the author: Dr. Mark Bagley is a research biologist and acting branch chief in EPA’s Office of Research and Development in Cincinnati, OH. Since joining the EPA in 1999, his work has involved application of molecular and population genetic methods to ecological questions.

image of authorThe Clean Water Act charges EPA with protecting and restoring “biological integrity” to aquatic ecosystems. I’ve been wondering lately what we mean by that. The Agency generally uses a definition that refers to the structural and functional similarity to an undisturbed ecosystem—how those factors compare to what we would expect to find in some ideal system.

But who is to say there is just one path to biological integrity? And can we really ever say we have achieved it?

In practice, we evaluate biological integrity by surveying the complexity of an ecosystem, typically taking into account differences among species in their sensitivity to different disturbances. We then compare the species we find to those in ecosystems that have been judged to be minimally impacted.

This approach works reasonably well but reinforces a somewhat static view of biological integrity, since comparisons are based on historical notions of what an optimal structure should look like. There are efforts within EPA to more fully understand and evaluate ecosystem functions. At present, there is a strong emphasis on assessing the value that these functions bring to people in the form of ecosystem services (water quality, fisheries, etc).

I think biological integrity requires maintenance of important biological processes, regardless of their value to human well-being and the make-up of the biological community that provides them. In the natural world, species within communities can change without hugely affecting the overall functioning of the ecosystem.

At longer time scales, as environments change, some turnover of species probably has to occur in order for the system to continue to function at an optimal level. And that makes me think that what we’re really talking about is the capacity of the community of organisms within an ecosystem to continue to evolve so that it can find the best solution to sustainable transformation of solar energy and nutrients into biological matter.

Isn’t it this optimization process that really describes biological integrity? It’s an odd question coming from someone whose training is in evolutionary biology. In my work and that of my colleagues, we almost never talk about evolution or the need to preserve evolutionary processes because it seems well beyond the mandate of the EPA. But I’m not so sure anymore.

Maybe in this, the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, it is time to acknowledge that lasting environmental protection isn’t possible without evolution protection.

What do you think real biological integrity is?

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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Climate For Action: Introducing New Student Bloggers

About the authors: Michelle Gugger and Loreal Crumbley will work as a team to continue the New Climate for Action Blog.

Michelle graduated from Rutgers University in 2008. She is currently spending a year of service at EPA’s Region 3 Office in Philadelphia, PA as an AmeriCorps VISTA.

image of authorI’m so glad that I have been given the opportunity to continue the great work that Ashley Sims has done with this blog. I work at the EPA in Philadelphia in the Water Protection Division. Here I am known as the VISTA in the office. VISTAs are volunteers in service to America. It is kind of like the PeaceCorps in that we volunteer our time working for social, economic and environmental issues. As a VISTA, I have chosen to spend my time working to protect human health and the environment. I have had a great opportunity to do this at the EPA. I spend most of my time supporting environmental initiatives and educating the public on water protection. So far, it has been a lot of fun and a great learning experience. There are so many people interested in making positive environmental changes. I would love to share some of the things that they have taught me and hope that you will share some of the things that you do for your environment. I have been following Ashley’s blog for a while now and it is a great way for students to educate each other on important environmental issues. I hope you continue sharing and I look forward to reading your great ideas!

Loreal, a senior at George Mason University, is an intern with EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection and Environmental Education through EPA’s Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP).

image of co-authorI currently work with the EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection and Environmental Education. I am very excited to work with Michelle in carrying on Ashley’s blog entries. I live in Virginia and am a native of the Washington D.C. area. I am in my fourth year at George Mason University and am pursuing a degree in Government and International Politics. I have extensive work experience in the environmental field, including an internship with the EPA’s Office of Cooperative Environmental Management, a student mentor at Science, Engineering and Technology Camp (a program dedicated to helping young girls excel in science fields), and the National Hispanic Environmental Council Minority Youth Training Institute (a scholarship to receive training from experts in environmental and science fields).

I look forward to writing blog entries on global climate change and hearing your goals and projects on the many environmental issues.

Look for next week’s Climate for Action Blog entry on recycling CDs and DVDs

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 do you do at home to help protect the environment if you don’t own your home?

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.

Many people don’t own their living space such as renters or workers assigned to temporary housing. Non-owners general don’t make major changes to their homes, such as buying more efficient large appliances or improving insulation.  Concerned citizens

What do you do at home to help protect the environment if you don’t own your home?

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: Qué hace en su hogar para ayudar el medio ambiente si usted no es el dueño de su casa?

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.

Muchas personas no son los propietarios del lugar donde viven tales como los inquilinos u obreros asignados a viviendas temporeras. En general, los que no son dueños no hacen arreglos importantes en sus casas como comprar enseres eléctricos grandes que sean más eficientes o proveer aislamiento.

¿Qué hace en su hogar para ayudar el medio ambiente si usted no es el dueño de su casa?

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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Summer Vacation for Science Teachers?

About the author: Kelly Leovic has been with EPA in Research Triangle Park, NC since 1987 and loves sharing environmental science with teachers, students, and her own children.

Last summer, I discovered how many N.C. science teachers spend their summer vacation — they become students! I participated in the NC Summer Science Leadership Institute in New Bern, which offers N.C. science teachers an opportunity to learn new skills that they can apply in their classrooms.

I held three EPA workshops during which I shared our favorite hands-on activities typically used as part of our environmental education program for middle school students. I linked my activities to science topics in the NC Standard Course of Study and included one for each middle school grade.

My first activity demonstrated a fun tool for teaching students (and their parents) how to understand and hopefully reduce their energy usage. We used a Watts meter to measure the energy consumption of everyday appliances, including comparing regular and compact florescent light (CFL) bulbs, a hairdryer, a toaster, and a plug-in air freshener. The next step was to discuss how students could use these data to calculate how much energy each appliance used in a day, week, and year. For example, the hairdryer used about 1,600 Watts but is only used for a few minutes each day, whereas the air freshener used only 1 Watt but is plugged in 24/7.

Next we talked about air quality where I shared the multitude of resources available from EPA, and then we each measured our lung capacity.

Finally, I shared three fun water-related activities: one on water conservation and two on watershed pollution. My favorite activity is called Sum of the Parts and is from Project WET. One of the teachers even suggested an improvement to the activity which I was able to implement my first day back at the office when I did the activity for a group of high school students from Raleigh who came to EPA to learn about careers. Even when they are students, teachers are still teaching!

The teachers seemed excited about the new activities and eager to apply them in the classroom. I did the math and realized that this is a good thing…20 teachers times four science classes each, times 20 students in each class equals 1,600 students.

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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