Monthly Archives: October 2010

¡Venga a ver la investigación de EPA en acción!

Por Maggie Sauerhage

Cuando el otoño llega cada año, trae temperaturas más frías, hojas coloridas, y maravillosos festivales otoñales. Pienso que los festivales son una gran manera de pasar el día al aire libre con mi familia, disfrutando de su mutua compañía y todo lo que el festival ofrece. Este fin de semana, tendré el placer de participar en el Festival Estadounidense de Ciencia e Ingeniería y trabajaré en el pabellón de la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de Estados Unidos.

El festival, la culminación de una celebración de un mes de duración centrada en inspirar a los jóvenes y las personas de todas edades a redescubrir la ciencia y la ingeniería, ocurrirá el 23 y 24 de octubre, en el National Mall en Washington, DC. El pabellón de EPA va a tener muchas actividades y experimentos esperando por los participantes entusiastas.

Estoy emocionada de poder ayudar en las diversas mesas de actividades, como la que destaca las reacciones químicas. Allí, los empleados de EPA ilustrarán los conceptos científicos más importantes al combinar varios productos encontrados en la cocina regular, creando experimentos y reacciones comúnmente usados por los químicos.

También, vamos a tener un experimento para evaluar la capacidad de los pulmones donde participantes puedan calcular su propia capacidad pulmonar y compararlas con las medias nacionales y otros participantes. Como aficionada al deporte de correr, creo que mis pulmones están muy fuertes. Tendré que ver cómo se comparan a las mil personas que esperamos visiten nuestro quiosco durante el fin de semana.

Cuando empecé a trabajar en EPA, me pareció la agencia simplemente como una entidad reguladora. Me asombré de ver de todas las investigaciones avanzadas e influyentes que los científicos de EPA están realizando. Muchos de esos científicos innovadores estarán en el festival durante los dos días usando actividades simples y complicadas para demostrar sus trabajos. También destacarán cuán importante es proteger el medio ambiente y la salud humana en nuestro país y el mundo.

¿Se ha preguntado cómo pueda hacer un experimento químico en una manera que no hace daño al medio ambiente o cómo se purifica el agua potable? ¿Por qué es el número de insectos en un arroyo un buen indicador de calidad del agua? ¿Cómo los genes desempeñan un papel en la adaptación de una población con el pasar del tiempo? ¡Venga al pabellón de EPA este fin de semana para descubrir las respuestas a todas estas preguntas y muchas más!

Sobre la autor: Maggie Sauerhage cursa estudios en la Universidad de Indiana donde se especializa en el español. En la actualidad, ella está pasando el semestre trabajando en la Oficina de Investigación y Desarrollo de EPA.

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Boast Your Coast!

Displays and Booths at Walnut PlazaJust because you don’t live anywhere close to beachfront property doesn’t mean you’re not a coastal resident! In fact, if you live near and/or between Philadelphia and the northeast corner of Pennsylvania, then most likely your everyday actions have a huge impact on the closest coastal region. Why? Because you are directly connected to the Delaware Estuary, which stretches from Trenton, New Jersey, south to Cape May, New Jersey and Cape Henlopen, Delaware.  Estuaries are areas partially surrounded by land where rivers meet the sea. The Delaware Estuary ecosystem is fed by the Delaware River and its tributaries which includes all of the Delaware Bay. Inhabitants of the area rely on the estuary for drinking water, industry and recreational activities. As do all estuaries, it posseses many habitats suitable for vast amounts of plants and animals and is the birthplace of many different kinds of wildlife.

There are millions of people who live in the Delaware River Basin which includes parts of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. The activities of those millions have an effect on the quality of water in the estuary. For this reason, the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, Inc. held the 2010 Pennsylvania Coast Day on September 13th. This day of family fun boasted ferries, schooners, and other kinds of sea transportation. For those who were prone to sea-sickness, there were over 20 booths and displays at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia, educating child and adult alike.

You can bet that representatives from EPA Region 3’s Water Protection Division were there to do just that. With many fun-filled activities, including a Water Wheel of Questions, Region 3 employees shared the importance of water conservation and keeping our streams clean. Responses from one question on the water wheel really surprised us. “How long is your normal shower?” While it is recommended that you try to keep it to 10 minutes or less, many participants said they take 15 to 30 minute showers! That got us to wonder how many other people take an extended time in the shower. How long do you take? Let us know or tell us how you make an effort to conserve water around your home. And if you were at the event and visited our display, do you have any suggestions for activities or issues we could incorporate at EPA’s booth for Coast Day 2011?

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Science Wednesday: “Nifty Fifty” Scientist Inspires Next Generations of Innovators

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

By: Paul LaShier

On Thursday, October 7th, 2010, Dr. Paul Anastas, the Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development, visited Calvert Hall College High School in Baltimore, MD, as part of the USA Science and Engineering Festival’s Nifty Fifty Program.

The goal of the Nifty Fifty Program is to invigorate the younger generation, such as myself, to take on careers in the sciences, engineering, and technology.

Dr. Anastas started his lecture, titled Innovating Tomorrow, by presenting abstract images and asking the audience what they were. My personal favorite was when he used Georges Seurat’s painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Using Seurat’s technique of pointillism to his advantage, Anastas zoomed into the painting to show thousands of soda cans piled up in a landfill, representing the 106,000 aluminum cans we use every 30 seconds.

Dr. Anastas made it clear that we need to change the world. He told us that not everything is 100% perfect and that we cannot be lazy and expect someone else to fix it.

He let us know that we can do tremendous things, but that these things can have tremendous consequences, such as the BP oil spill. According to him, sustainable design would have made the BP oil spill impossible. He says it is not about making things less worse, but making things better, invoking us to view the way we approach problems differently.

To conclude his speech, Anastas then told us inspiring words that the innovators today will not be the innovators tomorrow. He was, in a sense, passing the torch to us, telling us we are the leaders we have been waiting for. He reinforced that innovation is not some abstract concept that we cannot really comprehend by stating that his iPhone has more computing capability than the entire mission control had during Apollo 11. This is only possible because of innovation.

Dr. Anastas accomplished the Nifty Fifty Program’s goal of inspiring students, and to say it in Dr. Anastas’ Boston dialect, he did so in “wicked awesome” fashion.

About the Author: Paul LaShier is currently a senior at Calvert Hall. Paul has a deep interest in the environment today, which has in a large part been influenced by his father, who like Dr. Anastas also works for the U.S. EPA.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Science Wednesday: EPA and World Statistics Day

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

By Barry D. Nussbaum

Today, October 20, 2010 is World Statistics Day. Gosh, that might not be noteworthy for most, but as EPA’s chief statistician, it has a large significance to me. Today EPA is inundated with data arriving by satellite and monitoring devices as well as mounds of administrative data. Plenty there to roll up one’s sleeves and analyze for important relationships. But that wasn’t always the case. Early on, we had to settle for very little data, but what we did with it was crucial. I learned that I never met a datum I didn’t like. One very vivid situation, a legal case, sticks out in my mind.

Early in my career, EPA had some indications that a large number of motor vehicles (pretty big muscle cars with 360 and 400 cubic inch engines) had excessive carbon monoxide emissions. Many meetings with the auto manufacturer proved fruitless, so the enforcement case ended up with the United States as the plaintiff in administrative law court. In preparation for the case, I realized that the “United States” did not mean that the attorney general was the lead prosecutor; it was a young lawyer in our own division. And, as for the statistical expert, that was me. With lots of interaction and preparation among EPA’s legal, technical, policy, analytic, and statistical employees, we WON the six-week court case. The manufacturer had to recall 208,000 vehicles. And how many samples did we have to win this case – – – ten. Yep, with data on only ten cars we proved victorious. I knew that ten was enough, but convincing a lay judge took every adrenaline kick I could muster.

The case was a huge success for EPA. For me it demonstrated the power of statistics; but for the country, this victory was even larger. One outcome was a large deterrent effect for the automakers. They built cars more carefully with respect to emissions after that case. And when you realize on this World Statistics Day that there are 230 million vehicles in the US traveling 240 billion miles annually, the fact that each one is just a little bit cleaner makes a BIG difference. I’d like to think I had something to do with that.
And why did they pick today for World Statistics Day? Using the international notation of day/month/year, today is 20.10.2010. You gotta love numbers!

About the author: Barry D. Nussbaum joined EPA in 1975. He has worked in both the Air Office and the Policy Office prior to becoming the Chief Statistician of the Agency in 2006.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Reduce, REUSE, and Recycle!

By Erin Jones

The 3 R’s – Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle have been around for awhile. I think people understand the basic concepts behind them. In a nutshell: REDUCE—look to purchase products that require less packaging or to limit the waste you are producing; REUSE—use a travel mug or reusable water bottle and avoid single-use bags; and RECYCLE—paper, plastic, glass, magazines, electronics, and more can be processed into new products while using fewer natural resources and less energy. This is the 3 R’s mantra.

I am always looking for ways to make these 3 R’s a little bit more fun and a whole lot “cooler”. I find a lot of cool when I look at the REUSE possibilities. A whole culture of folks across the U.S. are taking yesterdays products, reusing them and making those things cool again. I recently attended the Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago, IL and found a whole lot of cool REUSE action in the crafts that artists were selling there.

I saw birdhouses and picture frames made from reclaimed wood, bottle caps reused and turned into magnets, cufflinks and jewelry made from reused maps and postage stamps, seatbelts reused to make belts and guitar straps, and skirts and dresses made from old textiles and tailored into new modern clothes.

This makes me think, what do I already have, that I could REUSE and make cool again?? It also gets me thinking about these artists whose jobs help reduce the waste that our society has produced. Craft fairs and other markets for “green” consumer products seem to be popping up all around us. And although these products reduce harm to the environment to differing degrees, I believe every little change I can make in my consumer behavior has got to help. So step back, think about the 3 R’s, and try to make them fun and interesting in a way that matters to you. Break out of the traditional 3 R’s mantra and be creative and find ways to make reducing, reusing, and recycling cool enough to be a part of your every day life.

Note: The Renegade Craft Fair is a traveling show with free admission. This past year, it stopped in Austin, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago throughout the spring and summer months and will return to Chicago and San Francisco in December 2010.

About the author: Erin Jones is an Intern at EPA Region 5 working in environmental education. She is currently working on her Master’s in Geography & Environmental Studies at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, IL.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Children's Health in Indian Country

By Margo Young

As a mom of two young children I relate to any parent or caregiver trying to create a healthy environment for children to thrive and grow. As a public health worker in the field of children’s health protection, I am also acutely aware that the environments we raise our children in this country are vastly different from neighborhood to neighborhood, city to city, state to state, and that these differences impact the health and well-being of our children.

This is especially true in Indian Country. While many Native American populations maintain intricate and ecologically interdependent relationships with the natural environment, these relationships have been impacted by environmental pollution, changes in subsistence lifestyles and political isolation, which threaten the health, wellness, and way of life of tribal communities. In light of Children’s Health Month, it is appropriate to highlight these differences, but also embrace the common goal of protecting our most vulnerable populations of children.

Children often bear a disproportionate impact from environmental contaminants. Living conditions, walkable communities, access to play areas and health care and limited resources are some of the challenges that tribal communities face in addressing environmental health issues. American Indian and Alaska Native children are more than twice as likely to suffer from asthma and other respiratory diseases and are more likely to be hospitalized from these chronic conditions. These illnesses can be caused or exacerbated by substandard housing conditions and poor indoor air quality, including mold and moisture, wood burning, the use of pesticides and other chemicals, smoking and inadequate ventilation. Fixing and addressing these problems can prevent certain life-long impacts on children.

The good news is that there are many actions we can take to address these issues and make homes and communities healthier for children. You can find information and tips on improving indoor air quality in tribal communities from EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Tribal Partners Program. Protecting the health of children is a compelling motivation to improve our environment — during Children’s Health Month and throughout the year. Take the initiative now and find out what you can do to improve children’s health.

About the Authors: Margo Young lives in Seattle and is the Region 10 Children’s Environmental Health and Environmental Education Coordinator and has been with EPA for over 5 years.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

From Railroad Lines and Landfills to Running Trails and Playgrounds: Exercise for the Whole Family Right in Your Own Backyard

By Melissa Greer Dreyfus

As the oppressive heat of summer is now fading into fall, I am able to take more time to actually enjoy my surroundings in the great outdoors during my weekend runs. (This is in contrast to summer outdoor running, where my goal is to make it to the next drinking fountain without over-heating.) I’ve always enjoyed trail running as a means to escape some of the traffic and intensity of living in the Nation’s Capitol area. I’ve had the opportunity to test out several of the great scenic running/biking trails in the area including the Mount Vernon Trail, Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal Trail, Rock Creek Park Trail, Rock Creek Trail and Capital Crescent Trail.

Amazingly, the Capital Crescent Trail and thousands of miles of other trail systems across the country were constructed along old railroad routes. The Capital Crescent Trail follows the route of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad’s Georgetown Branch rail line. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is a non-profit organization that is “dedicated to assisting local communities in converting unused railroad corridors into trails”. There are many trails not only in the DC Metro area, but across the country. Trail information is accompanied by local resources such as hotels, to plan a complete getaway virtually anywhere in the U.S.

Not only can you exercise on former railroad routes converted to trails, but land reuse options also encourage a variety of community recreation activities.  The Superfund Redevelopment Program at EPA is helping communities return some of the nation’s worst hazardous waste sites to safe and productive uses. Along with cleaning up these Superfund sites and making them protective of human health and the environment, the Agency is working with communities and other partners in considering future use opportunities and integrating appropriate reuse options into the cleanup process. Communities across the country now have areas such as recreational model airplane flying fields, open space, athletic fields soccer, football and baseball, playgrounds, and equestrian trails on land previously contaminated and unavailable for public use.

Exercise and a healthy lifestyle are critical for combating the obesity epidemic among children in this country. By providing a variety of fun activities, and exercising as a family, we can lead a healthy lifestyle and set a good example for kids to follow as they grow. Along with the great sight-seeing, these trails and recreation facilities offer excellent options for outdoor activity close to home at little to no cost.

Grab your friends and family and explore options for outdoor activities in your own backyard!

About the author: Melissa Greer Dreyfus is an Environmental Health Scientist in the Community Involvement and Program Initiatives Branch in EPA’s Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation in Arlington, VA.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Protecting Our Children From Exposure to Lead

By Lina Younes

During my youngest daughter’s yearly check up, the nurse asked the traditional lead screening questions regarding possible exposures to lead. “Does my child live in or regularly visit a home, child care or building built before 1950?” “Does my child live or regularly visit a home or child care built before 1978?” “Does my child spend time with anyone that has a job or hobby where they may work with lead?” and several more. Luckily, I was able to answer “no” to all the lead screening questions. However, the questions highlighted the fact that there are multiple possibilities of exposure in addition to lead-based paint.

Childhood lead poisoning remains a major environmental health problem in the United States. Exposure to this toxic metal can harm young children and babies even before they are born. Exposure to high levels of lead can damage the developing brain and nervous system of young children, plus cause serious behavior and learning problems. For years, the main source of lead exposure has been lead-based paint or dust particles from lead-based paint. Although the federal government banned the use of lead in paint in 1978, many homes built before the ban may still have remnants of lead-based paint.

What are some of the other sources of lead? Well, pottery and ceramics made in other countries may have lead. Some folk remedies like greta and azarcón which may be used to treat stomach ailments may also have lead. Furthermore, we’ve also heard of other problems with lead in some imported toys and children’s jewelry.

So, what do you do if you think your child might have been exposed to this toxic metal? Does your child show behavioral problems or developmental problems? The first step to allay your concerns will be to have your child tested for possible lead poisoning. A simple blood test will indicate the course to follow.

During National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week help us to spread the word so we all can protect our children.

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 in Greenversations 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.

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Proteja a sus hijos de la exposición al plomo

Por Lina Younes

Durante el examen médico anual de mi hija más pequeña, la enfermera me hizo las preguntas tradicionales de rastreo de plomo referente a las posibles exposiciones al plomo.

“Acaso su niño vive o visita regularmente una casa, centro de cuidado infantil o edificio construido antes de 1950?” “Su niño vive o visita regularmente un hogar o sitio de cuidado infantil construido antes de 1978?” “Su hijo pasa tiempo con alguien que trabaje o tenga un pasatiempo donde maneje plomo?” Bueno, esa fue una muestra de algunas de las preguntas que me hicieron en el consultorio médico. Afortunadamente, pude contestar “no” a todas estas preguntas. Sin embargo, las preguntas destacaron el hecho de que hay múltiples fuentes de exposición al plomo además de la pintura a base de plomo.

El envenenamiento por el plomo en los niños sigue siendo un serio problema de salud ambiental en los Estados Unidos. La exposición a este metal tóxico puede hacer daño a los niños pequeños y aún a los bebés que todavía no han nacido. La exposición a altos niveles de plomo puede hacer daño al cerebro y sistema nervioso de los niños pequeños aún en desarrollo. Esta exposición también puede ocasionar serios problemas de comportamiento y aprendizaje. Durante años, la principal fuente de exposición al plomo ha sido la pintura a base de plomo o partículas de polvo provenientes de la pintura a base de plomo. Aunque el gobierno federal prohibió el uso del plomo en la pintura en 1978, muchas viviendas construidas antes de esta prohibición todavía pueden tener pintura a base de plomo en las paredes.

¿Cuáles son otras fuentes de plomo? Bueno, la alfarería, cerámica y vidrios pintadosfabricados en otros países podrían tener plomo. Algunos remedios caseros como greta y azarón utilizados para tratar problemas estomacales podrían tener plomo. Además, también hemos escuchado acerca de otros problemas con el plomo en joyería infantil y juguetes importados. Entonces, ¿qué podría hacer si teme que su hijo haya sido expuesto a este metal tóxico? ¿Acaso su niño da indicios de problemas de comportamiento o desarrollo? El primer paso a tomar para tranquilizarse consiste en hacerle la prueba a su hijo para detectar un posible envenenamiento por el plomo. Una prueba de sangre sencilla le indicará qué curso a seguir.

Durante la Semana Nacional para la Prevención del Envenenamiento por Plomo ayúdenos a concientizar al público sobre este importante problema de salud ambiental para así proteger a nuestros niños.

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Is Your Well well?

Click for links to your states website15% of Americans rely on private wells for their daily water needs.  Private well water quality is the responsibility of the homeowner and is not regulated by the EPA; however, there may be state or local laws that apply so check for those, too. It is important if you are using a private well to have your well water tested for quality. Once a year it is recommended that you test for total coliform bacteria, nitrates, total dissolved solids, and pH level. Depending on where you live you may want to test for other contaminants. Visit your state’s private well web site to find more information.
 Testing well water is an important practice for private well users but equally important are prevention practices. Some useful things to keep in mind about your private well:
• Septic tanks should be at least  50 feet away from the well and depending on the hydrogeology of the site , 100 feet might be recommended
• Minimize the use of pesticides and herbicides on your land
• Do not dispose of household and lawn care wastes near your well
• Regularly check underground oil and gas holding tanks; these tanks can leak into your drinking well
• Ensure your well is protected from livestock, pet and wildlife waste
• Make sure well casings are at least 8 inches above the ground and a sanitary well cap is used at the top of the casing.
Visit the American Groundwater Trust. It is an organization that has been around since 1986 and educates people about maintaining and testing their ground water wells. The Trust has a very informative website with many useful resources.
Also check out the Mid-Atlantic Master Well Owner Network for information on proper construction and maintenance of private water systems in Pennsylvania and throughout the Mid-Atlantic Region.
Do you get your water from a private well? Share some things to watch out for or problems you have encountered and what solution worked best for you.
 Read more information on private drinking wells.

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.