Monthly Archives: March 2011

New Picture Book Teaches Kids about Air Quality

By Melissa Payne

We’re big readers in our house. With two small children always looking for something to do, reading is easy, fun, and lets Mommy (and Daddy) sit down for a minute. Recently, we’ve started getting into books that correspond to the seasons- books about falling leaves in autumn, snow and holidays in the wintertime, and planting seeds in the spring. We can now add another season to our repertoire- ozone season- which lasts from May until October.

“Why is Coco Orange?” is a new book about a chameleon with asthma who can’t change colors. He and his friends at Lizard Lick Elementary solve this mystery as they learn about air quality and how to stay healthy and active when the air quality is a concern. This picture book explains the concept of ozone to young children in a way that they can understand. My kids keep coming back to this book, and find something new to learn every time.

Parents, teachers and other caretakers will learn along with the children as they read this story together. Schools, libraries, doctors’ offices, and families can take advantage of the book–it’s free to order your copy. With Earth Day (Friday, April 22) and Air Quality Awareness Week (May 2-6) coming up, now is the time to place your order. Celebrate the return of warmer weather with Coco and his healthy tips. Happy reading!

For more information on air quality, please visit airnow.gov

About the author: Melissa Payne has worked at EPA Headquarters since 1997, and currently works on air quality rule implementation.

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.

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Women in Science: Nancy Stoner – Beaches and Clean Water

By Nancy Stoner

As I look out my window, the budding trees, blooming flowers and falling rain signal that spring is coming. With the warmer weather, my family and countless others will be headed outdoors to enjoy time by the water. For many of us, this means trips to the beach.

Recently, I spoke at the National Beach Conference to discuss water quality at beaches and efforts to protect them from pollution. Beaches are among the most beloved water bodies for my family and many Americans. In fact, about 100 million people visit America’s beaches every year. Beach tourism also pumps more than $300 billion into the U.S. economy annually.

As a mother and an environmental professional, I am deeply motivated to protect human health and the environment, which includes our beaches and the people who visit them. We shouldn’t have to cancel beach trips – or become ill or develop skin rashes – because of pollution in our coastal waters.

EPA is working closely with state and local officials across the country to develop better measures for beach water pollution. Since 2000, EPA, in partnership with state, territorial and tribal governments, has made significant progress in improving the protection of public health at our nation’s beaches. From 2004 to 2009, U.S. beaches have been open for swimming about 95 percent of the time.

EPA grants have helped fuel this progress. During the last decade, EPA provided $102 million in grant funds to 37 coastal and Great Lakes states, territories and tribes to implement programs to monitor beaches for pollutants like bacteria and to notify the public when water quality problems exist. This year, EPA is providing almost $10 million in grants to continue and expand this important monitoring.

Additionally, to make our waters safer for swimming and to prevent pollution, we are working with communities to improve sewage treatment plants; strengthening storm water regulations to reduce polluted runoff from cities and towns; and working with our federal partners to prevent marine debris from entering our oceans.

We can all do our part to help keep beaches clean by taking actions such as planting more trees, installing rain barrels, picking up pet waste, keeping trash off the beach and properly disposing of household toxics, used motor oil and boating waste. After all, clean water is important to my family and yours!

Stay tuned to Greenversations throughout Women’s History Month and check out the White House website.

About the author: Nancy Stoner is the Acting Assistant Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Water and grew up in the flood plain of the South River, a tributary of the Shenandoah River.

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.

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Bugs, Bugs, Bugs

By Lina Younes

I love the arrival of the smells, sounds, and sights of spring. New blooms, birds chirping, fresh smell of grass and early flowers, all beckon an awakening. However, there are some things that I am not particularly fond during the new season. I’ve never been one to like bugs. I know that bugs serve a function in the ecosystem. However, with the exception of pollinators like butterflies and bees, I wish bugs simply didn’t exist. I let them be in nature, but I definitely don’t like to see them anywhere inside my house!

No, I don’t believe in using pesticides as a preventive measure to keep bugs away. What is the best non-chemical way to keep your home bug-free? Integrated pest management! It’s easier than you think. Basically, don’t create an environment in your home that will be “friendly” towards bugs and other pests. Don’t give them anything to eat nor drink. Dirty dishes in the sink, soda spills left to dry on the table, or leftovers and crumbs left out in the open only serve as magnets to these unwanted creatures. Also, don’t provide them with plenty of shelter. Well, bugs and other pests just love messy stacks of papers and boxes because they offer plenty of hiding places. If you have pets, don’t leave food or water in their feeding bowls at night. This just attracts the attention of pests while you are fast asleep.

So, if you have created a non-friendly environment for these pests and they still decide to pay you a visit, please use pesticides appropriately by reading the label first. Simple steps will help you reduce your child’s chances of pesticide poisoning. Play it safe!

As always, will love to hear from you regarding the steps you’ve taken to keep your home bug-free.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as Acting Associate Director for Environmental Education. 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.

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Insectos, insectos, insectos

Por Lina Younes

Me encanta la llegada de las fragancias, sonidos y vistas de la primavera. Nuevos retoños, el gorjeo de las aves, la fresca aroma de la hierba y primeras flores, todos auguran un nuevo despertar. Sin embargo, hay algunas cosas que definitivamente no me atraen durante la nueva temporada. Nunca me han gustado los insectos. Sé que estos animales sirven una función en el ecosistema. Sin embargo, con la excepción de los polinadores como las mariposas y las abejas, yo preferiría que los insectos simplemente no existieran. Yo no interfiero con sus vidas en la naturaleza y al aire libre, pero definitivamente no los quiero tener en ningún lugar de mi casa.

No, definitivamente no creo en utilizar plaguicidas como una manera preventiva para alejar los insectos. ¿Cuál es la mejor manera de mantener su casa libre de insectos? ¡El plan integrado para el manejo de plagas! Es mucho más fácil de lo que piensa. Básicamente, evite crear en su hogar un entorno placentero y amistoso para los insectos y otras plagas. Me explico. No les dé nada de comer ni de beber. Los platos sucios en el fregadero, la gaseosa derramada sobre la mesa, las sobras y migas al descubierto sólo sirven de imanes para estas criaturas no-deseadas. Tampoco les debe ofrecer refugio. A los insectos y otras plagas les encanta el desorden de papeles y cajas amontonadas porque les ofrece un entorno ideal para esconderse. Si tiene mascotas, no deje la comida y agua en sus comederos durante la noche. Eso sirve para atraer las plagas de noche mientras usted duerme plácidamente. Por lo tanto, si ha creado un entorno poco amistoso para estas plagas y todavía deciden hacerle una visita inesperada, favor de usar los plaguicidas adecuadamente leyendo la etiqueta primero. Estos pasos sencillos le ayudarán a reducir las probabilidades de exponer a sus hijos a envenenamientos por pesticidas. ¡Juegue a lo seguro para llevar una vida sana!  Como siempre, nos encantaría escuchar su sentir acerca de las acciones que ha tomado para mantener su hogar libre de plagas.

Acerca de la autora: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y se desempeña, en la actualidad, como directora asociada interina para educación ambiental. 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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Put your local water body to the test!

Click here to visit the World Monitoring Day website!By Trey Cody

Did you know you have the power to monitor local rivers, streams and lakes for water quality? It’s true! Not only in the United States but worldwide over 120,000 people monitored water in 2009. With the help of watershed groups, citizen networks and local chapters of national organizations, it is easy to monitor water by becoming a volunteer monitor.  A volunteer monitor is trained to monitor the conditions of local streams, lakes, estuaries and wetlands.  Initiatives like this help to not only protect the quality of water, but also to build awareness amongst a volunteer’s community to pollution problems. Volunteers perform the role of helping to identify and restore problem sites, become advocates for their watersheds and increase water quality information available on our waters.  Click on your state to find monitoring programs around you.

World Water Monitoring Day (WWMD) is another way you can get involved with your area’s water quality. WWMD is an international education and outreach program that builds public awareness and involvement in protecting water resources around the world by engaging citizens to conduct basic monitoring of their local water bodies. The day is celebrated every September 18. Data can be collected from March 22nd until December 31st. Visit the WWMD website for more information and learn how you can acquire your own water testing kit to monitor your local water body!

Visit EPA’s website to find out more about the Monitoring and Assessment of Water Quality and how you can do your part by volunteering.

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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Women in Science: Noha Gaber — Building Bridges of Leadership and Collaboration

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

By Noha Gaber

When I meet with college students to talk about the benefits of government service and the great work that we do at EPA, I usually put up a slide of a number of beautiful bridges and challenge the students to think about what I do here. After several guesses, I reveal that although I am an environmental engineer by training, I use my technical knowledge to serve as a metaphorical bridge builder at EPA. In my role as the Director of EPA’s Council for Regulatory Environmental Modeling, I work with staff from across EPA to help ensure the quality, consistency and transparency of the computer models that EPA relies upon in its work. We are also working with a large number of U.S. and international collaborators to use these powerful tools to help promote sustainability and think of the environment as an integrated whole.

Shortly after I joined EPA, I came up with another bridge-building project! In early 2006 I started the EPA Emerging Leaders Network (ELN) and worked with a small group of young EPA employees to develop ELN into a thriving organization that is helping to create a more collaborative, innovative and effective EPA. In just 5 years, ELN has grown to over 1000 members in EPA’s HQ and Regional Offices.  One of our coolest activities in 2010 was the ELN Chesapeake Bay Expedition, which provided a great leadership, development, networking and community service opportunity for about 50 ELN athletes and volunteers.

I joined EPA five years ago driven by a dream to make a significant positive impact in environmental and human health protection. I’ve learned a lot in this short time — about the Agency and its diverse programs and activities, the many dedicated and talented individuals who work here and about myself as a woman who builds human bridges. Above all, I’ve learned some important lessons about leadership, collaboration and making innovative ideas a reality. I leave you with my favorite motivational quote: “Collaboration: When a collection of brilliant minds, hearts and talents come together … expect a masterpiece.”

About the author: Noha Gaber is a team leader in the Office of the Science Advisor and enjoys participating in many community service, cultural and outdoor athletic activities in her spare time.

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.

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Leadership At Any Age!

By Ameshia Cross

Student leadership is something I hold near and dear to my heart. As a high school student, I served as president of my school’s environmental club and started a conservation group. I also actively participated in student convocations spreading the word about environmental issues and how young people can make a difference. My leadership and political skills helped me when I formed a committee to write to my state legislators concerning environmental impacts of human activity. These days, I am glad to discover that I am not the only one who knows how powerful a teenager’s voice can be.

The Michigan 4-H Youth Conservation Council is a group of 15 high school students from across the state. These students were chosen from 4-H groups within their localities and given the task of choosing an environmental issue to focus on in Michigan. This year the council is focusing on wetland conservation. The students have already developed a plan of action that includes a written report that addresses the needs of the region and the communities it comprises. Additionally, the students came together to work on recommendations for change…These are some organized kids! This is a group who not only see a problem that they want to fix, they are crafting solutions and working to make sure that these solutions are heard by the right people.

Based on the recommendations and reports the students have drafted, the students are presenting some proposed policies about wetlands conversation to Michigan’s Senate Committee on Natural Resources, Environment, and Great Lakes on April 28, in Lansing, MI. These teens are proving that age doesn’t matter when it comes to leadership.

About the author: Ameshia Cross joined the EPA in December as a STEP intern in the Air and Radiation Division in Chicago. She has worked for numerous community organizations, holds seats on youth education boards, and is active in politics. She is currently pursuing a Masters in Public Administration with an emphasis on environmental policy and legislation

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.

A Hard Lesson in Poison Prevention…Children Really Do Act Fast

By Darlene Dinkins

I knew the slogan by heart, “Children act fast, so do poisons,” could recite prevention tips in my sleep, and rattle off poisoning data. Still, by the end of the evening, I found myself frantically calling the Poison Control Center for help.

It was a typical evening of trying to wrestle my 1-year-old son and 2-½-year-old daughter into the bath and bed by 7:30 pm. My husband and I usually shared this wonderful duty, but he wasn’t home, so I had the honor to myself. As I turned back to help my son, I heard the “ssssssssss” of aerosol and Niya’s scream, “My eyes! Mommy…my eyes!” When I turned around and saw Niya, her eyes were closed tight. She was holding a disinfectant can. I grabbed her and ran to the bathroom to flush her face with cool water and tried to calm her. Meanwhile, I couldn’t help but think about how this would affect her vision. Is the chemical burning her eyes? Should I take her to the emergency room? At that point, I started to panic and decided to call Poison Control. The poison center expert I spoke to on the phone was courteous, informative, and calm. She confirmed that flushing with cool running water was best. My daughter was fine. I was relieved.

That incident happened nearly 12 years ago, but I still think about it every March as I prepare for National Poison Prevention Week. I still remember the relief I felt – for immediate access, expertise, and reassurance from the poison center.

That day I learned the true value of the 60 American Association of Poison Control Centers nationally. The relief, knowing that Niya would be fine, and that I didn’t need to take her to the emergency room was priceless.

I was also reminded about the need to be diligent: keeping household chemicals out of children’s reach, using child-resistant packaging properly by closing the container tightly after use, and reclosing products if I’m interrupted.

And, the most memorable thing I learned that evening was that children really do act fast.
For tips on preventing poisonings, visit

About the author: Darlene Dinkins has been working for EPA since 1992 and has served on the Poison Prevention Week Council since 1995. She assists with coordinating national efforts to educate the public on preventing poisonings.

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.

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Women in Science: From Tide Pools to Children’s Health – One Scientist’s Journey

By Brenda Foos

How did I become a woman in science? In third grade I got an “A” in science class, and I have been hooked ever since! Why environmental science? That lesson came when I was in high school and I participated in a field studies course in Acadia National Park. Growing up in Wisconsin, this was the first time I had ever seen the ocean. We spent time each day observing the tide pool ecology of the shoreline; this was a study of the complex interactions of the rocky geology, the physics of wave and tidal action, and the transient plant and animal communities that live at this high energy intersection. It was all new and incredibly interesting.

The work I do at EPA is very different from this first environmental lesson, but it is the unlimited number of fascinating science topics to learn about (biology, chemistry, toxicology, medicine, etc.) and how they all interrelate that continue to keep me challenged. Integrating the application of so many different types of science to help protect human health and the environment is what makes my work so interesting.

I don’t work in the laboratory, studying one subject in depth; I’m in EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection, where we help the Agency apply the best science to protect children from the effects of pollution. Among other things, we interpret studies on the effect of the air pollutant ozone on human disease, estimate children’s exposures to drinking water contaminants that may be regulated in the future, and work on new methods for how EPA assesses risks to children.

I enjoy studying such complex health and environmental science issues and applying the science in ways that ultimately helps to protect children and their families from environmental health hazards.

I hope you share my concern for children’s health and will join me in working to protect it.

About the author: Brenda Foos works in EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection where she is the Director for Regulatory Support and Science Policy. She is also dedicated to sharing the environment with her own family and to protecting them from environmental hazards.

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.

Women in Science: Innovative Girl Power Impacts U.S. Workforce – You Can Too!

By Barbara Bennett

For Women’s History Month, I’d like to celebrate the importance of women in the work force.  In 2009, women accounted for 51 percent of all people employed in management, professional, and related occupations.  In 2007, there were 7.8 million women-owned businesses with receipts totaling $1.2 trillion. Over 140,000 of those businesses had revenues of $1 million or more and over 7,600 had 100 or more employees.  Talk about Girl Power!

We still have progress to make.  Only 3 percent of the 2010 Fortune 500 companies have women CEOs and women make up only 16 percent of the current 112th U.S. Congress.  Yet I think it’s important for us to remember that our career is as much a journey as it is a destination.

During my years in private industry, I didn’t anticipate a future career at EPA.  I realize, however, that the intersection of environmental research, green infrastructure and private markets for technological innovation are all initiatives that draw strength from both private and public sectors; neither one should be doing it alone when leveraging each other’s strengths works to the benefit of all. I am proud to be here as EPA’s Chief Financial Officer and I have found many opportunities speak to private industry about “green” investment.

No matter what career path you have chosen or are considering, I encourage you to bridge the gaps, connect the dots, and reach out to your peers in old or new career paths in search of new knowledge, or existing knowledge that can be applied in new ways.  Go ahead, take a chance, try a new idea….women scientists, and women in all fields, are in such a great position today to pursue new innovations for the benefit of society and the economy.

About the author: Barbara Bennett is the Chief Financial Officer for EPA. Prior to joining the Agency, she served as Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Discovery Communications, Inc.

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.