Monthly Archives: May 2010

Take It From Me: You Want to Be SunWise on Don’t Fry Day and Every Day

Back in the 60’s, in efforts to help heal a skin condition, my family doctor advocated a high level of sun exposure and UV treatments. Thinking that the sun could only help improve my condition – there were many intentional sun exposures, skin burnings/peelings, convertible top-down rides and sun lamp exposures. Fast forward about 25 years! The sun/UV exposure therapy started to reap negative benefits in my late 40’s – the generation of keratoses started and continued well into my 50’s. By my late 50’s – the crown jewel of skin cancer manifested itself. When I had my skin checked by my dermatologist, he urged me to have a biopsy of a suspicious darkened skin patch on the side of my forehead. Three days later I remember getting the call at work from my dermatologist – “It’s a melanoma and you have to get it out – fast!” My life immediately was placed on hold for three weeks until the surgery. With support and guidance from my wife Marisa, who was an oncology nurse, along with my dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon – the melanoma was removed successfully.

Since that time, I have become an advocate for what I call “sun sense” – especially for young children and adults. Our schools need to take sun safety seriously and run programs designed to make students aware of the damaging effects of the sun – encouraging “sun sense.”

sunwise_logoTo help foster this action, I have written several safety columns in cooperation with my dermatologist for science teachers on how to help students understand the causes, risks and preventative actions needed to help prevent skin cancer – especially at their young age. EPA programs like SunWise and the public health campaign of Don’t Fry Day also help spread the word about this ever increasing problem.

My own lifestyle has changed dramatically as a result of dodging this bullet. I am always searching the Internet for mainstream and alternative health actions to try and help rectify the damage done to my skin. With semiannual skin inspections by my dermatologist, juicing key fruits and vegetables, supplementing with Vitamin D, smart UV clothing, sunscreen and more, I attempt in earnest to reduce and repair damage done as much as possible. In addition, I remain vigilant and missionary in helping to get the word out there – covering up is good sun sense!

Learn how to do full body scans at: www.aad.org/public/exams/self.html

About the author: Dr. Ken Roy is a melanoma skin cancer survivor. He is known as the “safety marshal.” He is an environmental health and safety compliance officer for a public school district in Connecticut, safety consultant and author/columnist worldwide. He is a staunch advocate for what he calls “sun sense.” As part of his advocacy and protection, he wears wide brim western-style hats – thus the “safety marshal” persona was created!

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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Be Out There – Safely!

DontHi! I’m Anne Keisman and I work on the Be Out There campaign at the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). Sometimes I can’t believe my luck – every day I am tasked with coming up with new ways to inspire people – especially parents and children — to go outside and play. I’m excited to partner with Don’t Fry Day to spread the word about sun safety. At NWF, we love to promote the positive side of the sun. It helps green things grow, keeps animals warm, and lets us see the world around us.

And children love the sun too. From the moment they can wield a crayon, plump yellow suns show up in their drawings – right next to the fluffy white clouds!

But — like many things in nature — the sun can be dangerous if we don’t take precautions. If you know the facts about protecting your family, you won’t have to be anxious when your family heads out to the beach or the park.  Once you’re protected from UV rays, pledge to spend more time outside with your family. Kids today spend twice as much time indoors as their parents did, missing out on the simple pleasures and lasting mental and physical health benefits of daily outdoor time.

NWF recommends that parents give their kids a “Green Hour” every day — time for unstructured play and interaction with the natural world. Be Out There’s practical tools for families, schools and communities make being outdoors a fun, healthy and automatic part of everyday life.

Stumped for ideas for outdoor fun? Check out National Wildlife Federation’s Summer Guide and our Green Hour activities for great tips for your family.

And on June 26, camp under the stars – in your own backyard! Join the Great American Backyard Campout.

Have fun in the sun!

About the author: Anne Keisman is Senior Associate Editor for the Be Out There Campaign at the National Wildlife Federation. Follow her at www.twitter.com/greenhour.

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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Blessing in Disguise

In times of uncertainty, the natural tendency for people is to look for ways to limit expenses. Whether you’re a recent graduate just venturing into the workforce, whether you are a small business owner who has seen limited economic activity in your shop, or whether you’re the head of a household concerned about the future, you’re probably looking at ways to save money right now.

As we look for savings in our daily lives, we should start by looking at our everyday activities at home. How can we save water? For example, taking short showers instead of baths conserves water and saves money. How can we save energy? Using energy efficient appliances saves energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. How can we generate less waste? How can we reuse what we have? The fact is that all these steps to save money are also green actions. In other words, by saving greenbacks, we are also going green and protecting the environment all in one! Furthermore, many of those green actions can also be taken at the community level as we develop smart strategies for a sustainable future.

So, as we actively pursue a green lifestyle, why not take a few minutes to share with us how you plan on going green? Visit our Pick5 Web page where you be able to get information on how people from all over the world are joining efforts to become true environmentalists. You won’t have to drive a car nor fly to a faraway destination. The information is just one click away.

Ultimately, this saving trend may be a blessing in disguise.

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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No hay mal que por bien no venga

En tiempos de incertidumbre, la tendencia natural de las personas es buscar maneras para limitar sus gastos. Independientemente si uno es una persona recién graduada que entra a la fuerza laboral, o un pequeño comerciante que ha visto actividad limitada en sus negocios, o un padre de familia preocupado por el futuro, probablemente usted está buscando maneras de ahorrar dinero ahora mismo.

A medida que buscamos ahorros en nuestra vida diaria, deberíamos empezar por analizar nuestras actividades cotidianas en nuestro hogar. ¿Cómo podemos ahorrar agua? Por ejemplo, si toma una ducha rápida en vez de un baño de tina conserva agua y ahorra dinero. ¿Cómo podemos ahorrar energía? Si utiliza enseres eléctricos eficientes, puede ahorrar energía y reducir emisiones de gases con efecto invernadero. ¿Cómo podemos generar menos desechos? ¿Cómo podemos reutilizar lo que tenemos? La realidad es que estos pasos sencillos para ahorrar dinero son acciones denominadas como “verdes”. En otras palabras, el ahorrar dinero puede conducir a actividades sostenibles beneficiosas para el medio ambiente simultáneamente. Además muchas de estas acciones verdes tomadas a nivel comunitario pueden fomentar el desarrollo de estrategias inteligentes para el desarrollo sostenible en el futuro.

Por lo tanto, si quiere emprender un estilo de vida sostenible, ¿por qué no toma un momento para compartir con nosotros lo que planifica hacer? Visite nuestra página Web Pick5 (Elija 5) para obtener información acerca de cómo personas alrededor del mundo se están uniendo a estos esfuerzos como verdaderos ambientalistas. No tiene que manejar un auto ni volar a un destino lejano para llegar. La información está al alcance de sus manos. Sólo haga clic.

En fin de cuentas, esta tendencia ahorrista puede ser una bendición después de todo. Como reza el dicho, no hay mal que por bien no venga.

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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Sticking to a Pollution Diet

Click to visit the Mid-Atlantic Chesapeake Bay TMDL website

Map of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Bob Koroncai and Rich Batiuk are diet gurus of sorts. It’s not love handles these veteran EPA officials are after. Their target is the excess pounds of nutrients and sediment that are clogging the arteries of the Chesapeake Bay and creating unhealthy conditions for the nation’s largest estuary.
Like food, nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus are good things at the right levels. But the bay and its rivers, streams and creeks are getting far too much of the stuff, choking off oxygen for fish and crabs, and blocking light needed by underwater grasses.
Koroncai and Batiuk are taking their sweatsuits and whistles throughout the massive Chesapeake Bay watershed to help the states and the District of Columbia do what it takes to shrink their pollution waistlines. But the effort needs your help. There are many ways to lighten up on the nutrients you deliver to your local waters — from driving less to skipping the spring fertilizer. Check out this list of actions you can take to help protect your favorite river or stream.
Have you taken any of these steps or others? Our EPA dieticians want to know.

And for the latest information on the effort to reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, sign up for our June 7 webinar and visit our website at www.epa.gov/chesapeakebaytmdl.

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: Sustainability on Steroids

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

Have you heard about geoengineering? It has been around as a concept for over a decade, but has come into the forefront recently because of a Royal Society report last fall and a new book. It is offered as a solution to global climate change, one of the biggest sustainability issues.

The idea behind geoengineering is that planet earth came to its present state because humans engineered natural systems on a large scale. For example, humans changed the flow of rivers. We straightened them, dammed them, diverted them, reversed them. Humans changed the landscape: cut down forests, plowed the soil, blew up hills and mountains. Humans changed the atmosphere. We sent toxic wastes skyward, spewed out CO2 from combustion, filled the skies with particles.

In short, we engineered the planet on a very large scale.

Unfortunately, these projects had unintended consequences such as poor water quality or decreased quantity, land erosion and loss of nutrients in the soil, global climate change. So, a kind of large-scale reverse engineering might be in order to fix these problems.

In particular, geoengineering has been offered as a possible way to reverse the effects of climate change. For example, geoengineers have suggested :

  • fertilizing the ocean to increase the growth of algae which take up CO2 and give off oxygen as they photosynthesize
  • putting huge mirrors into orbit to reflect back some of the warming sunlight
  • seeding the clouds so it would rain when and where wanted
  • pumping CO2 deep into the earth or ocean

All this sounds like science fiction, but it is proposed by perfectly objective scientists/engineers. The concern is that someone will come along and say let’s “just do it.” There may or may not be dire consequences from “just doing it.” This is where science comes in.

Barbara KarnBecause of the importance and scale of these issues, we need to gather the knowledge to make intelligent decisions. Ignorance is not bliss and must be erased in the light of facts.
In the case of geoengineering, we must neither avoid research in this area just because it seems like a science fiction solution to our climate problem, nor should we embrace it as a quick fix and neglect the long term action of lowering and controlling emissions. Just like steroids’ quick fix, these solutions may have dire consequences.

About the Author: Dr. Barbara Karn is a scientist in EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research and a regular Science Wednesday contributor.

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:OnAir: Particle Pollution Causes Cardiovascular Disease, says EPA, American Heart Association

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

Congressional staff, physicians, members of industry, and the public health community gathered on Friday, May 21 at the inaugural   Air Science 40 briefing, an event co-sponsored by EPA, the American Heart Association (AHA) and the House Committee on Science and Technology in recognition of the 40th anniversary of EPA air pollution research.

At the seminar, leading scientists presented evidence that air pollution causes cardiovascular disease and death.

The news that air pollution impacts the heart may have been new to some, but for others it served as official affirmation of a scientific link that researchers have been building a case toward for several years.

Dr. Robert Brook, physician and researcher of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Michigan, presented an official AHA statement that emphasized the “causal relationship between PM2.5 exposure and cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.”

Brook is lead author of the statement, which was produced by a large panel of scientific experts after an in-depth evaluation of the breadth of current scientific literature on the health impacts of air pollution.

Brook noted that the AHA statement panel reached consensus on the causal relationship between particulate matter and cardiovascular health independently from EPA, which reached a similar conclusion in its most recent Integrated Science Assessment for Particulate Matter (PM).

Dr. C. Arden Pope III, economist and environmental epidemiology researcher at Brigham Young University and co-author of the AHA statement, presented additional groundbreaking findings on the vast benefits of air pollution regulations to human health.

He shared his landmark 2009 finding that air pollution regulations over the past two decades have increased the average American life expectancy by “a half to a full year,” and discussed an array of other studies on air pollution’s impact on cardiac morbidity and mortality that have proved “reproducible and remarkably robust.”

The AHA statement and supporting science presented by Brook and Pope deems fine particle exposure a “modifiable factor contributing to cardiovascular morbidity and mortality,” and includes new recommendations to physicians on how to advise patients at high risk for air pollution health effects. The statement offers several practical suggestions for reducing particle exposure and limiting potentially harmful physical activity in relevant cases.

While science to support the link between air pollution and cardiovascular health is constantly evolving and developing, the conclusions presented Friday should be taken seriously, Brook said.

He emphasized one of the concluding sentences in the AHA statement presenting the scientific evidence linking cardiovascular with air pollution, which asserts: “at present, no credible alternative explanation exists.”

About the Author: Becky Fried is a science writer with EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research. Her OnAir posts are a regular “Science Wednesday” feature.


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 Cracks BENEATH The Street

So, I am sitting in my Project 52, which those of you who spend time on whitewater rivers will know to be a kayak.  The river level is up, which makes for lots of company on the water and the guy I am chatting with asks me what I do for work.  “I work for EPA on water infrastructure sustainability.”  His reaction is typical – no idea what that means.  But he kayaks and has some interest in water and seems up for the explanation.

Most folks I know don’t think much about where their water comes from, where it ends up when it goes down the drain, or the extensive ’infrastructure’ systems that take care of all that.  The ones I have cornered – like that kayaker – now know that those ‘water infrastructure’ systems of pipes and treatment plants are in quiet crisis.  Our utilities have done a great job of providing us with safe water to drink and collecting and treating wastewater before discharge, usually into a nearby waterway (that some of us kayak in).  But many utilities have underinvested in renewing those systems.  And a BIG bill is coming due.

We need to start replacing that stuff at a rate that is sustainable.  I have heard estimates that we replace about 0.5% of water distribution pipes a year.  That would mean we expect those pipes to last, on average, for 200 years.  Not likely.  NOT sustainable…

Nationwide, annual utility revenues are roughly $25 billion less than what a sustainable replacement pace would require.  We can cover a good portion of that through efficiency and I coordinate a slew of programs to help utilities cut costs and make the most of every dollar.  But utility revenues – and so the price of water services – are also going to have to go up to close that gap.

So next time you hear that water or sewer rates might go up, think about how you depend on those services.  Think about how much you spend on cable T.V. or your cell phone (typically MORE than on water services).   Lots of folks have very tight budgets, no question –but if we want to continue to enjoy fabulous water services, we are all going to have to help keep our utilities ….‘afloat.’

To tune in more to the issue, join us at our facebook page:  EPA – Water Is Worth It.

About the Author:   Andy Crossland is the Sustainable Infrastructure Coordinator for EPA’s Office of Water.

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 hace para prudente con el sol (Sunwise) y protegerse de la exposición excesiva al sol?

¿Sabía que a pesar de que es fácil de prevenir, hay más casos de cáncer de piel cada año en comparación a los casos de cáncer del seno, cólon pulmones, y próstata? ¿O que el cáncer de la piel está afectando a gente cada vez más joven? Eso se traduce a más de un millón de estadounidenses con cáncer cada año. Todo los años se designa el viernes antes del Día de Recordación por los Caídos como el “Día para no Freírse” (Día para Protegerse del Sol”) —como un recordatorio para ser prudente con el sol (Sunwise) y proteger su piel cuando disfrute del tiempo al aire libre.

¿Qué hace para prudente con el sol (Sunwise) y protegerse de la exposición excesiva al sol?

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 to be SunWise and protect yourself from overexposure to the sun?

Did you know that although it’s easy to prevent, there are more cases of skin cancer each year than cases of breast, colon, lung and prostrate cancers combined? Or that skin cancer is affecting younger and younger people? That adds up to more than one million Americans getting skin cancer annually. Every year, the Friday before Memorial Day is designated as Don’t Fry Day as a reminder to be SunWise and protect your skin while enjoying the outdoors.

What do you do to be SunWise and protect yourself from overexposure to the sun?

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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