Monthly Archives: June 2009

No permita a las plagas arruinar sus actividades al aire libre

A medida que las temperaturas a lo largo del continente estadounidense comienzan a calentar, estamos empezando a planificar más actividades al aire libre o a pensar en nuevas maneras para comunicarnos con la naturaleza. Independientemente de si nos interesan actividades como la jardinería, la natación, el escalamiento, la pesca, o visitas a los parques nacionales, muchas podrían producir unos encuentros cercanos indeseados y poco placenteros. No estoy hablando de pumas, osos, lobos o serpientes. Estoy hablando de criaturas mucho más pequeñas como sabandijas molestosas o insectos voladores. Sí, lo sé. No todos los insectos son malos. De hecho, muchos invertebrados desempeñan un papel favorable para el medio ambiente como en el caso de agentes polinizantes como las abejas y las mariposas, o las mariquitas y lombrices (gusanos de tierra). Estas sabandijas que más me preocupan son aquellas plagas como los mosquitos y las garrapatas que pueden transmitir enfermedades. Esas son las que debemos evitar a como dé lugar, si es posible.

image of birdbath with standing waterDebido a las lluvias copiosas en ciertas áreas de Estados Unidos, podemos anticipar grandes cantidades de mosquitos en áreas urbanas y rurales. El primer consejo para eliminar muchas de estas plagas voladoras con el uso mínimo de sustancias químicas consiste en eliminar su hábitat o sea las áreas donde estos insectos viven y se reproducen alrededor de su hogar. Si usted elimina el agua estancada de los desagües, llantas usadas, juguetes, o cualquier contendor abierto en el cual los mosquitos no pueden reproducirse. Por cierto, los mosquitos no necesitan grandes cantidades de agua para multiplicarse. ¿Sabía usted que sobre 150 mosquitos pueden salir de una cucharada de agua estancada? Si usted tiene baños para aves o pequeñas piscinas para sus hijos, debe cambiar el agua frecuentemente al menos una vez a la semana para evitar que los mosquitos se reproduzcan. Si va a pasar un buen tiempo al aire libre, use repelentes de mosquitos registrados por la Agencia de Protección Ambiental (EPA, por sus siglas en inglés) cuando sea necesario. Sobre todo, lea la etiqueta y siga las instrucciones al pie de la letra. Si hay advertencias de brotes de enfermedades transmitidas por mosquitos en su área, tales como el virus del Nilo Occidental, consulte con su estado o departamento de salud local para más información sobre medidas de control de mosquitos que se hayan implementado en el área donde vive.

Cuando vaya a disfruta de actividades al aire libre, hay otras plagas como las garrapatas que también transmiten enfermedades como la de Lyme, por ejemplo. Si va a ir a un bosque o entrar en áreas de mucho pasto, debe usar ropa adecuada como pantalones y camisas de manga larga. Los repelentes son eficaces también. Por lo tanto, no deje que las plagas arruinen sus vacaciones o sus ratos de ocio al aire libre.

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.

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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Playing Pandy

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

About the Author: Melissa-Anley Mills is the news director for EPA’s Office of Research and Development [http://www.epa.gov/ord/]. She joined the Agency in 1998 as a National Urban Fellow.

When the big blue package about the size of a stack of four tires arrived at my home, my husband excitedly asked: “What’s in the package?” that was husband speak for “is it for me.”

“It’s a panda,” I said, without looking up from my paper.

“Um, yeah, really, what’s in the package?” He didn’t believe me until I pulled out the panda head and told him that in addition to my regular duties I was organizing a group of
EPA staff to volunteer at the local Six Flags Math and Science Day.

image of costumed panda bear standing out of doorsThis was no ordinary panda gig, I would assume the identity of Pandy Pollution, EPA’s environmental education mascot, who joins forces with the EPA staff at special events to teach them about pollution prevention and protecting our earth.

But first, I needed the hubby’s help to make a module to illustrate lung capacity so we could talk about the importance of air quality, and the impact of air pollution and health effects.

Out came the power tools….

Using Archimedes’ principle of displacement we set at creating a water gizmo that when you blew air into it would displace enough of the water to reflect lung capacity.

We assembled our supplies: a plastic barrel, a translucent bucket, plastic tubing, a plug, disposable straws, and waterproof tape.  We quickly pulled together a low-tech but nifty gadget.  We felt like a couple of sixth graders who’d just finished their science fair projects.

I gently packed up the gizmo along with the other modules on stream ecology, the water cycle, pollution, recycling, UV radiation, and the role of the ozone layer.

I suited up as Pandy to help steer kids to the demos and modules. Oh, boy did that work!  The kids just loved Pandy and showed it with lots of hugs, poses for photos and heartwarming comments like: “Pandy Pollution, I recycle!”; and  “I love pandas, and I love the planet!”.

By the time the last school bus pulled away from the parking lot the EPA staff was exhausted but happy having had many curious, smart and environmentally minded kids visit our demos.  The lung capacity gizmo was a hit—a nice reminder that experiments can be done at home, with simple items, they just require a little effort and sometimes (but not always) some power tools!

Check out our web site from Math and Science day for more information.

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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Students for Climate Action: Locally Grown Produce

About the Author: Michelle Gugger 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

In the US, produce travels an average of 1,500 miles before it reaches the grocery store. If you were to travel that same distance in your car for a piece of produce, you would be emitting almost a ton of carbon dioxide emissions into the environment with every trip! Most of the produce that we buy at our local grocery stores comes from miles away, from all over the world. This means that some of our produce is being sent to our local grocery stores in ships, planes and trucks – all of which release significant amounts of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions along the way.

We can definitely reduce our environmental impact the next time we go produce shopping by purchasing locally grown produce. According to Sustainable Table, if Iowa provided 10 % more produce for its local consumers, an average of 280,000 – 346,000 gallons of fuel would be saved, and 6.7 – 7.9 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions would be reduced each year!

Eating locally grown produce is also one good way for you to become a climate ambassador in your community. You can educate your friends and family about our food system and the environmental importance of eating locally grown produce.

  • LocalHarvest.org will help you find local farmers in your community.
  • BackyardGardener can help you learn more about staring your own garden to take advantage of the spring and upcoming summer season by growing your own tomatoes, herbs, carrots, peppers, etc.

Be sure to share some more ideas on how we can all eat locally!!!! And let us know how you plan on reducing your environmental impact through sustainable produce practices.

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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Yours (yôrz)…

About the author: Linda Travers is EPA’s Acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Environmental Information and Chief Information Officer

… pronoun. 1. That which belongs to you <as in, “The data we – the federal government – collect is yours.”>

President Obama believes you should have much better access to the data government collects on your behalf, and has launched an exciting government-wide effort to make sure that happens. It’s called Data.gov. The White House unveiled this web site last month as one of the leading examples of its Open Government Initiative, created to bring greater transparency, openness and collaboration to how the government conducts the public’s business. I was fortunate enough to be tapped as co-chair of the Data.gov effort.

image of data.gov homepageData.gov is designed to deliver a variety of machine readable datasets and tools over the Internet that the public can download for their own use. We think that easier access to these resources will prove valuable to a broad array of individuals and communities – from researchers to business people to educators and volunteer groups. One of the basic ethics underlying Data.gov can be found in its Data Policy on secondary use, “Data accessed through Data.gov do not, and should not, include controls over its end use.” Simple.

We’ve also designed Data.gov to be a two-way street. We’d like to understand what data and tools you’re curious about and need. And we’re encouraging you to share your own innovative ideas to help us provide the best possible service to the public.

With millions of hits on the web site over the past two weeks, Data.gov has already generated some real interest. But this is just the beginning. We expect that the types and volume of data and tools residing in Data.gov will grow steadily over time. We hope you find our work valuable and stimulating, and we ask that you join us in enhancing this public resource. After all, it’s yours.

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’s your favorite place out in the environment?

Relaxing in your backyard. Hiking in a national park. Birding in a wetland. We all have a favorite place where we go to connect with nature. June is Great Outdoors Month.

What’s your favorite place out in the environment?

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.

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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Pregunta de la Semana: ¿Cuál es su lugar preferido en el medio ambiente?

Reposar en el patio. Ir de caminatas en parques nacionales. Observar las aves en los humedales. Todos tenemos un lugar predilecto donde vamos a conectarnos con la naturaleza. El mes de junio es el Mes de Actividades al Aire Libre. (en inglés)

¿Cuál es su lugar preferido en el medio ambiente?

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.

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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Remains of Historical Vessels at Rest in the River

image of authorAbout the author: Kristen Skopeck is from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She is an Air Force veteran who joined EPA in 2007 to be a member of the Hudson River PCB dredging project team. She likes to spend her time reading, writing, watching movies, walking, and meeting new people.

go to EPA's Hudson cleanup site
In 2009 dredging began in the Upper Hudson River to remove sediments with PCBs. Read more.

Last week, a team of archaeologists and divers evaluated the remains of a late-18th or early-19th Century boat long submerged in the eastern channel of Rogers Island. Enough of the boat was intact to see that it had a distinctive centerboard keel slot technology that was an important innovation in early American shipbuilding. Divers used a small hydraulic dredge (similar to a vacuum) to further expose the vessel, screened the dredged sediment, measured the vessel, and took photos and video of the work. Afterward, the vessel was exhumed in pieces and added to a collection of other large debris, like tree stumps, that will ultimately be disposed of at a permitted landfill. Unfortunately, the boat’s deterioration and its coating of PCB-contaminated sediment prevented it from being brought to the surface and restored.

The entire PCB-removal project has been done in accordance with the National Historic Preservation Act, which states federal agencies must take into account the effects of their actions on any district, site, building, structure or object listed in or eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. So far, archeologists have found 10 sunken vessels that are being evaluated in the first phase of the project.

So, how did this boat end up submerged by Rogers Island? Fort Edward’s historian, Paul McCarty, said there is no way to know if the boat was put there for a reason or if it was a wreck, but the odds are that the boat was sunk in an accident and left underwater as a derelict. He hopes the underwater investigation and subsequent report will give some indication of what timeframe the boat met its demise and, maybe, help us understand why it happened.

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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Vetrazzo…Environmental Award Winning Countertops

About the author: Sara Jacobs recently celebrated her 10th year working at EPA Region 9. She has spent most of her years in the Drinking Water Office, but is currently on a detail to the Superfund Division, working with the Navajo EPA.

My two-bedroom flat in San Francisco was built in 1926 and I don’t think much has happened to the kitchen since. We still have no dishwasher or disposal and no flooring other than the sub floor since we ripped up the old stained and cracked vinyl. As we dream of some day being able to take on a kitchen remodel, we wonder how we could minimize the environmental impact of our project. Yet, we still need to stay on budget, maintain product quality, and still display our own unique style. Is this even possible?

We know that using recycled, locally manufactured, non-toxic materials are all good ideas, but where do we find these products? There is so much information to dig through on the web and as a busy, full-time working mother of two, I am just overwhelmed by the task. That’s why I was so excited when I read that one of the Pacific Southwest Environmental Award winners, Vetrazzo, takes glasses that are not recyclable elsewhere and turns them into beautiful countertops. (I can say beautiful because I saw the samples!)

image of hand holding pieces of colorful glass with bottles in the backgroundVetrazzo uses old glass from traffic lights, windshields, plate glass windows, dinnerware, stemware, laboratory glass, stained glass, and beverage bottles and transforms them into a superior green building material. In 2008, Vetrazzo transformed 650 tons of recycled glass into countertops, table tops, bar tops, fireplace hearths, shower surrounds and flooring.

Vetrazzo is made from glass processed directly from the recycler without melting. Since 2007, creation of 11,600 metric tons of carbon dioxide has been avoided by transforming recycled glass into Vetrazzo instead of new bottles or fiberglass. That is the same amount of energy saved by removing 2,125 passenger vehicles from the road for an entire year.

image of countertop with colorful glass pieces embedded“Being recognized by the U.S. EPA is a tremendous honor for us,” said James Sheppard, CEO and Co-Founder of Vetrazzo, LLC. “Our product creates a focal point for green building by boldly and visually demonstrating the value of recycling. When an average kitchen counter can contain as many as 1,000 bottles, the impact of using a sustainable surfacing material is undeniable. It gets people talking.”

So now I have a solution for my counter tops. Does anyone have a suggestion for flooring?

Photo credits: ©2008 Joel Puliatti for Vetrazzo

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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Take Some Common Sense With You When You Go To The Pool

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.

image of a toddler standing in a kiddie pool wearing sunglasses, a hat and a life jacketMemorial Day Weekend unofficially indicates the beginning of the summer season in the US Mainland. With this new season, many Americans resume another summer ritual—the trek to the neighborhood pool. Whether it’s at the end of a long work day or during the weekend, many eager children successfully drag their parents for some playtime at the pool. Don’t get me wrong. I love the summer! I enjoy warm sandy beaches and swimming in the pool. However, I don’t know if getting older has made me wiser or wary, but sometimes I think twice when going to the pool, especially kiddy pools, where there are too many diaper-clad children.

In researching the subject of this blog, I confirmed my suspicions. Across the United States, there has been an increase in the number of Recreational Water Illness (RWI) outbreaks during the past twenty years associated with swimming pools, water parks, hot tubs, and other bodies of water. You would think that the antimicrobials and chlorine used to treat pool water would be enough to keep the pools safe from some waterborne germs and bacteria such as Crypto (short for cryptosporidium) and E coli, to name a few.

The fact is you need much more than chemicals to purify the water. A good dose of common sense is essential. Here are some basic guidelines for healthy swimming: First of all—do not swim when you have diarrhea. Don’t let your children swim either if they have diarrhea since swimming will only help spread germs in the water and make others sick. Secondly, avoid swallowing pool water. This is sometimes easier said than done with little kids, but you have to teach them at an early age. Good hygiene practices are essential in and outside the pool. Take a shower before swimming. Wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Take your kids on bathroom breaks or diaper checks often even if they don’t mention the need to relieve themselves. By the time you hear “Mommy, I have to go”, it might be too late. Change diapers in a bathroom or diaper-changing area. Please don’t change them at poolside. Above all, please wash your child thoroughly (especially the rear end) with soap and water before swimming. Sounds simple, right? It’s common sense. With some simple steps, you can protect yourself, your family and friends. Oh, by the way, before you head to the pool or beach, don’t forget to put on the sunscreen! Enjoy the summer!

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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Use su sentido común cuando vaya a la piscina

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.

image of toddler stanind in a kiddie pool wearing a hat, sunglasses and life jacketEl fin de semana del Día de la Recordación por los caídos en guerras de Estados Unidos indica el comienzo extraoficial de la época veraniega en el continente estadounidense. Y con esta nueva temporada, muchos estadounidenses reanudan otro ritual veraniego—la excursión a la piscina de la vecindad. Sea al final de una larga jornada de trabajo o durante el fin de semana, muchos niños entusiastas obligan a sus padres a llevarlos a la piscina para un momento de diversión. No lo tomen a mal. ¡Me encanta el verano! Me encantan las cálidas playas arenosas y nadar en la piscina. Sin embargo, con el pasar del tiempo, no sé si se trata de mayor sabiduría o cautela, pero a veces lo tengo que pensar dos veces antes de entrar al agua, especialmente las piscinas infantiles, cuando veo demasiados niñitos envueltos en pañales.

Al investigar el tema de este blog, confirmé mis sospechas. A través de Estados Unidos, ha habido un aumento en el brote de enfermedades relacionadas a las aguas de recreo (RWI, por sus siglas en inglés) en los últimos veinte años asociadas con las piscinas, parques acuáticos, piscinas de agua caliente y otros cuerpos de agua. Uno pensaría que los  antimicrobianos y el cloro usado para tratar el agua de las piscinas sería suficiente para mantener las piscinas seguras de algunos gérmenes y bacterias que se difunden en el agua como el Cripto el E coli.

La realidad es que se necesita algo más que las sustancias químicas para proteger el agua. Una buena dosis de sentido común es esencial. He aquí algunas pautas básicas para la natación sana. En primer lugar—no nade si usted tiene diarrea. Tampoco deje que sus hijos naden si tienen diarrea ya que el agua en la piscina servirá para transmitir los gérmenes y enfermar a los demás. En segundo lugar, evite tragar el agua de la piscina. Esto es algo que los niños pequeños muchas veces hacen inconscientemente, pero tiene que educarles sobre el tema a temprana edad. Las buenas prácticas de higiene son esenciales dentro y fuera de la piscina. Dúchese antes de nadar. Lávese las manos después de ir al baño o de cambiar pañales. Lleve a sus hijos al baño con frecuencia y cámbiele el pañal aún cuando no se lo pidan. Cuando ya los niños dicen tener los deseos de ir al baño, podría ser demasiado tarde. Cambie los pañales en el baño o en el área de cambio de pañales. No lo haga cerca de la piscina. Sobre todo, lave a su hijo (especialmente la parte trasera) con agua y jabón antes de nadar. Suena sencillo, ¿verdad? Es puro sentido común. Con unos pasos sencillos, usted puede protegerse a sí mismo, a su familia y amistades. Y por cierto, antes de ir a la piscina o la playa, ¡acuérdese de la crema de protección solar! Disfrute el verano.

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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