Monthly Archives: February 2010

Bringing National Attention to the Need for Comprehensive Asthma Care

EPA is currently accepting applications for the 2010 National Environmental Leadership Award in Asthma Management, which recognizes leadership in addressing environmental triggers as part of comprehensive asthma programs. I can personally attest to the benefits of winning; in 2006, it was awarded to my program, Improving Pediatric Asthma Care in the District of Columbia (IMPACT DC).

Winning the award gave us more visibility, increasing our network and allowing us to speak with a more validated voice. We’re leveraging more opportunities to enhance asthma care services for the underserved in our community, implementing projects that allow us to increase our impact where it’s needed most. For example, we are using geographic information systems (GIS) to map emergency department (ED) visits to identify neighborhoods in need of asthma outreach and education. In addition, a grant project through the National Institutes of Health is allowing us to leverage electronic medical records, improving communication among primary care providers and generating important information about long-term trends in community health.

The award also helped us develop high-performing partnerships with local, regional and national leaders. For example, we began working with the Boston Public Health Commission, a 2009 Award Winner, to develop a legal framework for environmental remediation of rented dwellings whose poor environmental conditions risk tenants’ health. Finally, winning the award helped us increase our funding base through grants and donations. Each of these projects, partnerships and funds enhances IMPACT DC’s ability to provide comprehensive asthma care to our community members, enabling them to lead healthier, happier lives.

EPA’s emphasis on comprehensive asthma care and willingness to broadly conceptualize the issues has been important to ‘turning the tide’ of asthma care in the United States. Through the National Environmental Leadership Award, programs like ours have a platform from which to show health care providers, insurance plans, health departments, and community-based coalitions that a comprehensive approach works to improve the health, quality of life and cost of medical care for people with asthma.

If you know of a health plan, health care provider or community program improving the quality of life for those with asthma, encourage them to apply for the National Environmental Leadership Award.

Together, we can bring these issues to the forefront of the nation’s consciousness and improve the lives of millions with asthma.

About the Author: Dr. Stephen Teach is the principal investigator and medical director of IMPACT DC, and also serves as the associate chief of Emergency Medicine and associate director of the Center for Clinical and Community Research at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

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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Volunteering to Protect the Environment

Students are often looking for opportunities to earn service hours. Non-profits, faith-based organizations often have such opportunities. Yet, why not think of creative ways to earn these service hours and protect the environment at the same time? And who says that community service should be limited to those who are currently enrolled in school? Volunteering for the environment should be everyone’s business regardless of age.

In last week’s blog, “Never Too late for a New Year Resolution,” I was struck by one of the statements from a regular Greenversations commenter, Michael E. Bailey. He highlighted how the City of Mission Viejo where he lives has made the 3 Rs (reduce, reuse, and recycle) one of its top priorities in environmentalism. He points out that this active community involvement has earned Mission Viejo a green reputation.

I was surfing EPA’s Web site and found useful information on how you can volunteer to protect the environment. There are tips for teachers and students, multicultural community groups, and other public participation opportunities.

There are many volunteer opportunities to improve the quality of our local waterways. The “Adopt your watershed” program has useful toolkits on watershed stewardship for volunteers. You can also recommend to your Girl Scouts troop to participate in the clean up of a local stream or waterway so the Girl Scouts can earn a service patch. Businesses can also board the green bandwagon by organizing environmental awareness activities to encourage green procurement.

These are just a sampling of some of the tools available. I’m sure that many of you have already put creative methods into practice. We would like to hear from you. So, as the old Chinese proverb says: “a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” It’s just a matter of starting. You can also make a difference today by engaging in environmental stewardship.

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.

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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El voluntarismo en acción protege al medio ambiente

Los estudiantes siempre están a la búsqueda de oportunidades para obtener horas de servicio. Muchas organizaciones sin fines de lucro o aquellas basadas en grupos de fe también brindan dichas oportunidades. Sin embargo, ¿por qué no pensar en maneras creativas para conseguir estas horas de servicio y proteger al medio ambiente al mismo tiempo? ¿Y, quién dice que el servicio comunitario está limitado solamente a aquellos que están matriculados en las escuelas? El voluntarismo a favor del medio ambiente es responsabilidad de todos independientemente de la edad.

En el blog de la semana pasada, “Nunca es demasiado tarde para una resolución para el nuevo año”, me sorprendió uno de los comentarios de uno de las personas que envía comentarios regularmente a nuestro blog Greenversations, Michael E. Bailey. El destacó cómo la Ciudad de Misión Viejo donde él reside ha adoptado las 3 Rs (reducir, reutilizar y reciclar) como una de sus prioridades en ambientalismo. Señala cómo este civismo comunitario activo le ha ganado a Misión Viejo una reputación verde.

Estaba visitando varias páginas del sitio Web de EPA y encontré información útil sobre cómo uno puede prestar servicios voluntarios para proteger el medio ambiente. Hay varios consejos para maestros y estudiantes, grupos comunitarios multiculturales, y otras oportunidades de participación pública
Hay muchas oportunidades para mejorar la calidad de nuestras vías acuáticas locales. El programa de EPA llamado “Adopte su cuenca fluvial”, tiene herramientas de comunicaciones para voluntarios interesados en actividades de civismo ambiental enfocados en temas de agua. Usted también puede recomendar a su tropa de “Girls Scouts” a participar en actividades de limpieza de arroyos o ríos locales para que las niñas puedan ganar un parche de servicio. Los negocios también pueden unirse al movimiento ambientalista al organizar actividades de concienciación ambiental que fomenten la adquisición de productos verdes.

Esto es sólo una muestra de las herramientas disponibles. Estoy segura que hay muchas otros métodos creativos que usted ya ha puesto en vigor. Nos encantaría escuchar su opinión. Como dice el antiguo proverbio chino, “un camino de mil millas comienza con un solo paso”. Sólo hay que comenzar. Usted puede hacer la diferencia hoy participando activamente en el civismo ambiental.

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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National Video Competition – “Our Planet, Our Stuff, Our Choice” – Closes With Over 200 Submissions!

The U.S. EPA asked for your ideas about how to better manage our stuff and you answered back with your passion, creativity, and many ideas on how to make a difference! U.S. EPA’s national video competition, “Our Planet, Our Stuff, Our Choice,” closed on February 16, 2010 with over 200 submissions. Thanks to all who entered!

Submissions were received from Florida to Alaska and most states in between. Contestants focused on raising awareness of the connection between the environment and the “stuff” people use, consume, recycle, and throw away. The medium was thirty to sixty second videos. Videos focused on both community and individual actions that can make a difference. There were serious entries and funny ones, too. Choosing the top twenty five and finally the prize winners will be tough for the review panel. First, second, and third place prizes will be awarded along with two student winners.

Visit our YouTube site to check out all the entries. Winners will be announced here in April 2010.

About the Author: Melissa Winters joined EPA’s Seattle office in 2007 where she works to reduce the climate impact of materials and their consumption.

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: You Say You Want A Revolution

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

You say you want a revolution,” said the Beatles. Well, we have one—a scientific revolution.

Nanotechnology is a scientific revolution of the sort described by Thomas Kuhn. In Kuhn’s description, science moves along with a certain set of beliefs until anomalies occur that don’t fit in with these beliefs. As the anomalies become more evident and common, somebody or some group forms a new and totally different theory that explains what’s going on–and shifts the whole direction of science. Hence, a scientific revolution occurs, and science moves forward on this new basis.

For example, 17th Century scientists were doing their “normal science” developing equations that explained how the sun rotated around the earth. These equations got more and more complicated trying to explain what was happening. Then, Galileo came along and said the earth rotated around the sun. This shifted the current geocentric paradigm and caused a scientific revolution in astronomy.

Unfortunately, Galileo was punished by the Inquisition for his “heresy,” but science marched on.

Before being able to work at the nanoscale, we thought that you could slice and dice materials to their smallest size, and they would still retain their properties—like color, magnetism, conductivity, melting point, etc. However, an anomaly occurred at the nanoscale. Materials were changing properties in a particular very small size scale—the nanometer scale.

For example, if you take a piece of gold jewelry, it is colored gold. You would expect that by chopping it up really, really small, its color would remain gold. That is not the case, however. If a particle of gold is 10 nanometers across, it is red. You also would not expect your gold ring to be reactive; yet, at a 2-3 nm size range, gold is a good catalyst.

All this is very exciting to scientists and engineers. Maybe we could “tune” properties to get the color we want or the reactivity we want. However, as scientists and engineers at EPA, we must make sure that the environment and human health are protected while making use of these really cool materials.

To carry out this mission, I support research in both applications of nanotechnology for helping the environment and implications of nanotechnology that may cause harmful effects. Some of the research results can be found at http://epa.gov/ncer/nano/.

About the Author: Dr. Barbara Karn is a scientist in EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research where she works in nanotechnology.

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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Growing Up with Urban Waters

I can still recall watching the soap suds fly over the River Park ball field from my Chicago front yard on a windy summer’s day. This was before the ban on phosphate enriched detergents that took away those dirty bubbles created by the small North Branch of the Chicago River flowing over the spillway into the North Shore Channel. This urban resource was fenced-in from the community for decades due to safety concerns, but my grandfather would still take me through a hole in the fence to look at the turtles, dragonflies and to watch him fish.

image of a walkway with shrubs on the right and a waterway on the left just beyond a fenceThanks to numerous restoration and protection efforts, this community at River Park now has a revitalized waterfront both upstream and downstream of the spillway. Access to the river has been made by removing the old fences, constructing walkways and viewing areas, and opening a boat launch just downstream of the spillway. River Park has developed into a popular fishing spot for more than just the immediate community.

This river is more than just a recreational opportunity for its residents to enjoy. It serves as a living laboratory for students and teachers to explore and learn. Adjacent to this urban waterway is a Chicago public high school – the Von Steuben High Science Center and two Universities (North Park and Northeastern Illinois). As a high school student I did a study relating bacteria counts to river flow at North Park University and as a senior I conducted an expanded research study of the aquatic life in the North Branch and presented it in the Chicago Science Fair. I was awarded a two year summer internship with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, which eventually led to my career at EPA.

Living along an urban waterway can inspire and provide special opportunities for community members to expand their understanding of their local waters and contribute to its restoration and protection. I know I’m not unique in this regard and I look forward to seeing more anecdotes on this blog describing how others were inspired and took action to improve our urban waterways.

About the Author: Wayne Davis is an environmental scientist in the Office of Environmental Information and has been promoting the use of aquatic biological indicators for community outreach for most of his 23 year EPA tenure. He also manages a Web site on biological indicators – http://www.epa.gov/bioindicators.

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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“The Great Outdoors”

The great snow storm that hit the East Coast last week left all of us in DC wondering what to do without work, school, and many other things that were shut down due to the snow. As soon as the snow hit, I was outside. Throughout the week I was determined to get out of my apartment and enjoy the snow as much as I could. I was outside a lot, but I was not the only one! People filled the streets, walking to the huge snowball fight in the city, shoveling snow, and sledding wherever possible.

This was shocking to see, as most of the news shows urged people to stay inside. It was great to see a substantial amount of kids outside, and admittedly, a little shocking as well. I expected the kids to stay inside to watch their TVs, text on their cell phones, and play video games. However, kids filled the streets and the sledding hills.

It is important for children to get outdoors! Not only are they missing out on the beauty of the world, but perhaps it is part of the reason why there is an increase in childhood obesity.

The No Child Left Inside Act is a good start for children to get outside and learn about the environment during the school day, but it is not enough. It is important for parents to encourage their kids to go outside and play, and even better if they join them in the play! If you’re having difficulties thinking of things to do in your own backyard or neighborhood, here are a few activities I used to do when I was younger:

  • Plant a garden
  • Go on a bike ride
  • Play basketball
  • Roller-skate
  • Play in the sprinkler
  • Rake leaves
  • Walk the dog

So, the big question is what will happen when all the snow has melted away, and the power is back on, and the children are back in school and parents back at work? Will children and their parents still continue to play outside? We all made the best of the snow and had our fun, but the fun doesn’t have to stop there!

What outdoors activities do you and your children do for fun?

About the author: Nikki Reising is an intern at the Office of Children’s Health Protection. She is a sophomore studying non-profit management at Indiana University.

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 did you do to protect human health and the environment today?

All of us can take part in protecting human health and caring for our environment. Whether it be doing something big like organizing a community recycling project, or doing something on a smaller scale like picking up a piece of trash someone else may have dropped, our combined efforts really can make a difference.  Tell us about something you did today to help us make a difference.

What did you do to protect human health and the environment today?

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: ¿Qué hizo hoy para proteger la salud humana y el medio ambiente?

Todos tomamos parte en la protección de la salud humana y el cuidado de nuestro medio ambiente. Sea algo grande como organizar un proyecto de reciclaje comunitario o hacer algo a menor escala como recoger un pedazo de basura que otra persona dejara caer, nuestros esfuerzos combinados pueden hacer una diferencia. Díganos algo sobre lo que usted ha hecho hoy para ayudarnos a hacer una diferencia.

¿Qué hizo hoy para proteger la salud humana y 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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The Rulemaking Gateway: A New Tool to Learn About Our Rules and Watch Their Progress

Before coming to EPA, I taught environmental law at Georgetown for 16 years. As a law professor, I was an avid consumer of information about EPA’s rules, their effects on communities of interest, and their status in the regulatory process. Unfortunately, I often found that it was often hard to find this kind of information at all, and close to impossible to find it all in one place.

This is why I’m so excited about our new Rulemaking Gateway. This is a new web site that makes EPA’s rulemaking process more transparent and easier to follow. It gives you the tools to understand how you can get involved in EPA’s priority rulemakings, how a rulemaking might affect you, and where each rule falls in our rulemaking process. As a former and future professor, I know this tool will be helpful to my students, my fellow academics, and to me. As a citizen, I see that the Gateway will be useful to me, my neighbors, and my community.

I hope you will find that the Gateway helps you to both track and participate in our rulemakings. I currently serve as EPA’s Regulatory Policy Officer, and in this role, I hear from many of our constituent groups. You have told me that you want to know what’s going on with EPA rules early and often. You want to know how you can get involved while the rule is still being drafted. Before I joined EPA, I wanted the same things. I wanted it to be easier to get a brief snapshot of an EPA rule and understand its evolution.

The Gateway does this and more. It gives you the opportunity to learn about a priority rule right from its start. It makes it easier than ever before to get up-to-date information as a rule goes through each phase on its way to being finalized. For example, EPA is working on a rule to investigate the potential hazards associated with lead weights used to balance the wheels on your car. Lead is highly toxic, especially to young children, and recent data shows that even very low levels of lead are associated with decreased intelligence, impaired neurobehavioral development, and behavioral effects. This rulemaking is in its early stages. We started working on it in fall 2009 and aren’t planning to ask for public comment until spring of 2011. Yet the Gateway already projects a date for the proposal; gives a description of how the rule might affect children’s health, environmental justice, small businesses, and sub-national governments; and provides a link where you can learn more about lead in paint, dust, and soil.

The Rulemaking Gateway is a major step forward in response to President Obama’s call to “establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration.” I hope you’ll use the Gateway to learn about and get involved in EPA rulemakings. They affect you; they affect everyone. Help us protect human and environmental health by getting involved. And once you’ve experienced our Gateway, visit our Discussion Forum where you can tell us how to make it work even better for you.

About the Author: Lisa Heinzerling is EPA’s Associate Administrator for the Office of Policy, Economics, and Innovation (OPEI). She is on a leave of absence from Georgetown Law.

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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