Monthly Archives: December 2009

Helping Schools in Our Communities Create Healthy Learning Environments

My organization, the National Education Association (NEA), has partnered with EPA for over a decade to help education professionals organize and implement comprehensive indoor air quality (IAQ) management programs.

Now, why would an organization representing teachers and education support professionals care about IAQ or the IAQ Tools for Schools Program? It’s simple: we know that IAQ is important to the health of our members – individuals central to the schools in which they work and the communities in which they live. Our members can spend upward of twenty years in one school, making IAQ a vital component of their long-term health and, according to the latest research, their job performance. In addition, our members see how IAQ directly affects students, who aren’t yet able to advocate for themselves. Our members speak for them, too.

NEA education professionals have an obvious stake in advocating for IAQ management, but I want to tell you why you should become educated about IAQ and advocate for IAQ management in your community’s schools. In addition to the role that many of us play as parents or mentors of a student, there are many other reasons each of us has a direct interest in the health of our schools.

Schools are the hearts of our communities; they represent the values we hold. Surely, environmental management and stewardship should start there. We all have a stake in how schools are being managed. We invest in them every day through taxes; we should be sure our investments are used wisely. Not to mention, schools are where our future leaders are being educated.

Through its Health Information Network, NEA offers many resources to learn about IAQ. In fact, in January, 2010, an online training for school environmental quality will become available for anyone to access. Of course, EPA’s IAQ Tools for Schools Program is the definitive resource for school IAQ management. Encourage school leaders to download the IAQ Tools for Schools Action Kit and attend EPA’s IAQ Tools for Schools Symposium. These resources will help school leaders develop their knowledge and put it into action to ensure schools continue to be healthy environments for teaching and learning.

Please join me, NEA, EPA and your neighbors in advocating for your community’s health. Take action to improve IAQ in your schools.

About the author: Jennie Young is the Senior Program Coordinator for the National Education Association Health Information Network (NEAHIN). Since joining NEAHIN, Jennie has become a staunch advocate of IAQ management and an indispensable partner of EPA’s IAQ Tools for Schools Program.

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 Chemicals Safely!

Hey Pick 5’ers, it’s time again for you to share what you’ve done and how you did it.  If you haven’t done it yet, Pick 5 for the Environment and then come back to comment. Today we cover action #7: Use Chemicals Safely! Please share your stories as comments below.

After reading more about chemicals, I realize the harm I was bringing to my home. Because my oven isn’t a self cleaning oven, I have to clean it myself. When cleaning my oven I was unaware of the danger of the chemicals. I always use a spray oven cleaner along with gloves. But what I never knew was how harmful it is for pets. It states on the can that pets should not to be in the area while the oven is being cleaned, and that pets should be removed from the area until the smoke and fumes dissipate. So now I no longer clean my oven with my pets around.

My experience with the oven cleaner has been an eye opener for me. I now read labels on products and make sure I use them properly. I also make sure that I store my cleaners, paints and pesticides where my kids can’t reach them. Learn more about using toxics and pesticides safely and about protecting your pets from pesticides and toxics .

Don’t hesitate to share your other Pick 5 tips on how you save water, commute without polluting , save electricity , reduce, reuse, recycle , test your home for radon and how do you check your local air quality.

Note: to ward off advertisers using our blog as a platform, we don’t allow specific product endorsements.  But feel free to suggest Web sites that review products, suggest types of products, and share your experiences using them!

About the author: Denise Owens has worked at EPA for over twenty years. She is currently working in the Office of Public Affairs in Washington, DC.

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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Convey the Message: How Social Media Helps Us Serve you Better

On January 7, 1994, as I was about to leave for another semester at Loyola University in New Orleans, there was an oil spill in San Juan Bay. An oil tanker leaked 750,000 gallons of fuel in the Atlantic coastal area. I read the news two days later in my first class on News Editing. That was the first time I used the Internet in a classroom. My professor, a seasoned journalist and a great mentor, asked me, “Aren’t you from San Juan?” We read the story on a California newspaper Web site. Countless pictures from the disaster spoke for themselves. EPA personnel from Caribbean Environmental Protection Division were on the scene responding to the disaster.

A few weeks ago, when the CAPECO oil tank farm in Bayamon burst into flames, less than a mile from home, I went straight to the Internet for information. While most local news sites only had a few sentences on the incident, some of my friends had already posted their amateur videos of the fire on Facebook. As a public affairs specialist, I can tell you that we’ve come a long way from just using traditional media tools. Nowadays messaging happens in realtime. The Internet and social media have added a new dimension to the field of communications.

The blog you are reading is part of this new dimension. When I was asked to write for Greenversations, I was a little hesitant. With training from EPA’s Office of Public Affairs, I got it nailed. Since blogs are statements from a personal perspective, they are a great tool to quickly strike a resonating chord with the reader.

Recently I read a speech on social media given by GSA’s Chief Information Officer. In it she emphasized how government is changing the way it interacts with citizens through blogging. I also read an article on crisis communications which discussed how blogging shapes our response to a crisis. It provides timely information from a human perspective. A human voice can help connect with the public’s emotional response during a crisis. I invite you to read Greenversations or Gov Gab at USA.gov and GobiernoUSA.gov It is one way to stay connected with the people we work for: the general public.

About the author: Brenda Reyes Tomassini joined EPA in 2002. She is a public affairs specialist in the SanJuan, Puerto Rico office and also handles community relations for the Caribbean Environmental Protection 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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Llevando el mensaje: cómo los medios sociales nos ayudan a comunicarnos con el publico

El 7 de enero de 1994 justo cuando regresaba a la Universidad de Loyola en New Orleans, ocurrió un derrame de petróleo en la Bahía de San Juan. El tanquero Morris Berman derramó 750,000 galones de combustible en las aguas de la costa del Atlántico norte. Me enteré de este suceso por la Internet dos días después en mi primera clase de edición de noticias. Esa fue la primera vez que usé la Internet en mi vida. Mi profesor, un experimentado periodista, tomó la noticia como muestra en la clase por que yo era de San Juan. La leímos en un periódico de California que tenía un sitio Web. Las fotos del desastre hablaban por sí solas.
Hace varias semanas la instalación de almacenamiento de combustible de CAPECO se incendió a menos de una milla de nuestra residencia. Mientras muchos periódicos tenían sólo titulares sobre el incidente ya mis amistades habían puesto sus fotos y videos caseros en Facebook a menos de una hora de la explosión inicial. Como especialista en asuntos públicos, conozco la importancia que estas herramientas de comunicación social tienen hoy día a la hora de mantenernos informados. Ciertamente la Internet, Tweeter y Facebook y otros medios sociales, han añadido una nueva dimensión a la manera en que nos comunicamos.

El blog que está leyendo forma parte de esa nueva esa dimensión. Cuando empecé a escribir para Greenversations hace mas de un año me encontraba un poco nerviosa. Poco a poco le tomé el gusto ya que los blogs son ensayos cortos que expresan una perspectiva personal. Le dan un toque humano a la escritura y permiten desarrollar empatía entre el autor y el lector.

Recientemente leí un blog de comunicación social de la Jefa de Información de GSA sobre social media . En dicho discurso ella enfatiza cómo el gobierno ha cambiado la forma en la que interactúa con sus constituyentes mediante los blogs y cómo estos constituyen un nuevo espacio para la discusión pública de asuntos importantes. Por otra parte hace varios meses leía en un boletín de comunicación en crisis al que estoy suscrita de cómo los blogs afectan la manera en la que los comunicadores respondemos a una crisis. El blog nos permite acercarnos al público, mantenernos accesibles, a la vez que informamos . Estos medios proveen las herramientas para lograr conexión con el público en un momento de crisis. Le invito a que lea nuestro Greenversation o Gov Gab en USA.gov o GobiernoUSA.gov Es nuestra manera de estar cerca de nuestro publico.

Sobre la autor: Brenda Reyes Tomassini se unió a la EPA en el 2002. Labora como especialista de relaciones públicas en la oficina de EPA en San Juan, Puerto Rico donde también maneja asuntos comunitarios para la División de Protección Ambiental del Caribe.

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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Year of Science Question of the Month: Can You Think of a New Year’s Resolution to Improve Both Your Health and the Environment?

For each month in 2009—the Year of Science — we pose a question related to science.

The theme for December is Celebrate Science and Health. Since science and health are at the core of pretty much everything EPA does, it’s a perfect theme to wrap up Year of Science activities!

Can you think of a New Year’s resolution you want to make that are good for both your health and the environment?

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: It’s Been a Great Year of Science…What’s Next?

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

Those of you who have followed Science Wednesday over the past year know that the first week of each month has included a post focused on the monthly theme of the Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science’s (COPUS) Year of Science celebration, and a Question of the Month. EPA’s Office of Research and Development is a participating member of the COPUS network. Please check back this afternoon for this month’s Year of Science Question of the Month where we will ask if you have any resolutions for the New Year that combine both your health and the health of the environment. We would love to hear from you.

December’s theme—Celebrate Science and Health—is not only a great way to wrap up the year, but a perfect fit for EPA. EPA’s mission is “to protect human health and to safeguard the natural environment—air, water and land—upon which life depends.” A lot of human health research is conducted in support of that mission.

What’s next? Over the last 12 months, Science Wednesday has covered everything from nanotechnology to the biodiversity found across entire ecosystems.

What’s in store for 2010? Already, we’re gearing up for regular posts to celebrate some of the incredible science behind the Clean Air Act. This landmark environmental legislation—like the EPA itself—turns 40 in 2010.

One of my own resolutions is keep to Science Wednesday rolling. So, if there are any particular areas of EPA science that you’d like to see covered, please post your suggestion in the comment section below. I’ll do my best see that it’s covered.

Thanks again for everyone who has followed Science Wednesday during 2009, and I look forward to your comments in 2010!

About the author: Aaron Ferster is the lead science writer in EPA’s Office of Research and Development, and the editor of Science Wednesday.

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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Smell the Holidays

Today begins the countdown for holidays. That is, unless you haven’t already started counting down the days. Usually, it’s during this time, that I pull out my cookie sheets and apron and begin baking. It’s really the only time of year that I truly get into baking. I absolutely love making cookies. My favorite kind of cookie to make is spritz. Even though I might only make a couple dozen cookies, it seems like my house smells of the sweet aroma radiating from the oven for days.

While the weather outside is cold and windy, I can be assured that the heat from all of the baking inside my house keeps me warm. I love the smells of the holidays. Smells of baking, scented candles, and roasted pecans keep me inside for most of December. However, there may be one smell that you and your family may not be able to nor want to smell. I am talking about carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is produced whenever a fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal is burned. If appliances are not working properly or are used incorrectly, dangerous levels of carbon monoxide can result.

Knowing the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can help. At very moderate levels, you or your family can get severe headaches, dizziness, confused, nauseated, or faint. If you do experience these symptoms, get fresh air immediately! Also, go to an emergency room and tell the physician you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning. It can be diagnosed by a simple blood test done shortly after exposure.

Here are some tips to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Make sure your fuel-burning appliances e.g. gas furnaces, gas ranges and ovens, fireplaces, and wood stoves inspected by a trained professional at the beginning of every heating season.
  • Make sure flues and chimneys are connected and in good condition without being blocked.
  • Don’t idle the car in a garage, even if the garage door is open.
  • Don’t sleep in any room with an unvented gas or kerosene space heater.

By taking steps ahead of time, you and your family can enjoy all the wonderful smells of the holiday baking season. And the tastes that come with it as well!

About the author: Emily Bruckmann is an intern at the Office of Children’s Health Protection. She is a senior attending Indiana University who will graduate with a degree in public health this spring.

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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