Monthly Archives: January 2012

Radón: La principal causa medioambiental de mortalidad debido al cáncer

A lo largo de mi carrera como militar en salud pública y como empleada de la EPA, siempre me ha sorprendido el nivel relativamente bajo del conocimiento sobre el radón en todo el país. El radón es un carcinógeno de clase A, que se sabe que causa cáncer en los seres humanos. Sin embargo este enorme riesgo medioambiental no está en la mayoría de las “pantallas de radar” de las personas. El radón es un gas radioactivo que proviene de la descomposición del uranio en el suelo. Ya que es un gas se puede mover fácilmente a través de los espacios en el suelo y escapar al aire donde se diluye. Sin embargo, cuando el radón entra a una casa a través de grietas en los cimientos u otras aberturas, queda atrapado en el interior de la misma y puede acumularse. Usted no puede ver, oler ni percibir el radón, pero está ahí. De hecho, se descubrió como un problema en el medio ambiente interior cuando un individuo. Stanley Watras, hizo activar las alarmas al entrar a una planta de energía nuclear debido a que los niveles de radón en su casa eran muy altos.

Muchas personas no se dan cuenta de que el radón es la segunda causa de cáncer pulmonar en los EE.UU., superado solamente por el tabaquismo. Para los no fumadores el radón es la causa número uno de cáncer pulmonar. Los estudios científicos han confirmado el riesgo y no se ha descubierto ninguna evidencia de que existe algún nivel seguro de radón.

Si nos fijamos en la tabla de abajo se puede ver que las muertes de cáncer pulmonar causadas por el radón [la concentración promedio en los EE UU es de 1.3 picocuries /litro de aire (1.3pCi/L)] están en el mismo rango general que las muertes por leucemia y linfoma y son mayores que en los canceres seleccionados actualmente donde se gastan grandes cantidades de dinero en la investigación y/o combatiéndolos.

Proteja a su familia. La única forma de saber si hay radón en su hogar es haciendo la prueba. La prueba es fácil de hacer y de bajo costo. Si el nivel es alto, solucione el problema. Es una de las mejores inversiones que puede hacer por la salud de su familia y también aumentará el potencial de venta de su hogar en el futuro. Para más información de cómo hacer la prueba de radón y corregir los niveles en su hogar visite

Si está construyendo una casa considere emplear las técnicas resistentes al radón en construcciones nuevas (RRNC, por sus siglas en inglés) para evitar tener que lidiar con las concentraciones de radón. Es menos costoso usar estas técnicas (RRNC) durante la construcción, que tener que solucionar un problema de radón en el futuro.

Sobre el autor: La Dra. Susan Conrath es capitana con el Servicio de Salud Pública del Cuerpo de Comisionados de los EE UU. Ella trabaja en la oficina de Aire y Radiación de los interiores como epidemióloga y experta internacional en los riesgos del radón.

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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Program Your Way To Savings

By Brittney Gordon

Do you use a programmable thermostat? For many years I would have had to answer no to that question. I always tried to turn down the heat/air conditioning as I left for work in the morning and before I went to bed, but that strategy was 50/50 to say the least. If only I had known that for a very small investment I could have regulated the temperature in my home and saved about $180 a year.

A programmable thermostat comes with settings that allow you set the temperature of your house based on your family’s schedule. Use this chart to get started.

Here are some rules of thumb for properly using these thermostats:

  1. Keep the temperature set at its energy-saving set-points for long periods of time (at least eight hours).
  2. All thermostats let you temporarily make an area warmer or cooler, without erasing the pre-set programming. This override is cancelled automatically at the next program period. Beware: You use more energy and will pay more on energy bills if you consistently override the pre-programmed settings.
  3. Units typically have two types of hold features: (a) hold/permanent/vacation; (b) temporary. Avoid using the hold/permanent/vacation feature to manage daily temperature settings. “Hold” or “vacation” features are best when you’re planning to be away for an extended period. Set this feature at a constant, efficient temperature (i.e., several degrees warmer temperature in summer, several degrees cooler during winter), when going away for the weekend or on vacation. You’ll waste energy and money if you leave the “hold” feature at the comfort setting while you’re away.
  4. Cranking your unit up to 90 degrees or down to 40 degrees will not heat or cool your house any faster. Most thermostats begin to heat or cool at a set time, reaching set-point temperatures sometime thereafter. Units with adaptive (smart) recovery features are an exception to this rule.
  5. Many homes use just one thermostat to control the whole house. If your home has multiple heating or cooling zones, you’ll need a programmed setback thermostat for each zone to maximize comfort, convenience, and energy savings throughout the house.
  6. If your programmable thermostat runs on batteries, don’t forget to change the batteries each year. Some units will indicate when batteries must be changed.

If you need help installing your programmable thermostat, EPA’s ENERGY STAR program has everything you need to get started here.

About the author: Brittney Gordon is a member of EPA’s ENERGY STAR program communications team. The Baltimore native has worked for EPA since 2010.

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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Manhattan: A User’s Guide

By Elias Rodriguez

Do you exit the bus or subway and find yourself walking in the wrong direction before you realize your mistake? Does a NYC transit map look like a Jackson Pollock painting to you? Well, you’ll be glad to learn that most of Manhattan’s street grid is designed based on a simple rectangular scheme. If you can count and know the alphabet, you can navigate the big city island. 

Manhattan’s street pattern is largely the work of surveyor and city planner John Randel. His framework was formalized in the so-called Commissioners’ Plan of 1811, which laid out the streets of Manhattan from 14th Street to 155th Street into a neat, rectangular grid. It was quite a shock to me when I dared venture beyond my native habitat and sojourned to the other boroughs. There I stood, one fateful day in Queens at the corner of 204th Street and 89th Avenue. I quizzically considered, “Where in the world did they put the other 88 avenues?” Anybody know if there is a compass app for Blackberries? 

I suffered a similar episode of geographic grief when pondering routes back to my hotel while in Washington D.C. Let’s see, if I am milling about at 1299 E Street Northwest will I ever make it to Z Street? And does the Northwest part refer to the White House or some other central axis? I’m fairly certain that Mr. L’Enfant had something in mind when he designed that grid. Now, what was it? 

Anyhow, I am ever grateful to return to the mean streets and sharp edges of Manhattan. Pull up stakes at 25th Street and 9th Avenue and head one block north. Do you know what you’ll find? 26th Street. Go west and you’ll find, OMG!, 10th Avenue followed by 11th Avenue, followed by 12th Avenue, followed by the river. The design represents brilliant logic in a metropolis of mayhem. Go north, or uptown as we say, and the streets go UP in number. Venture south and the numbers go DOWN. 220th Street is at the northern most tip of the island and 19th Street is much further south, 125th is somewhere in between just where you would expect. Going east to west her avenues ascend from 1st Avenue on the eastside to 12th Avenue on the westside. Her streets make perfect sense and for the most part, the grid flows felicitously. 

South of 14th Street the grid kind of collapses due to how the island narrows at the southern tier and probably because we wanted to confuse the British during the Revolutionary War.  So, next time you Brooklynites, or similar foreign dignitaries, find yourselves at the corner of Avenue X and Ocean Parkway, think of Manhattan’s street grid and put your mind at ease.

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 Good, the Bad and the Ugly

By Jeanethe Falvey

To date, most of the photos submitted to State of the Environment have been stunningly beautiful; artistic landscapes and captivating creatures. If that’s what the cumulative picture of our planet is right now, incredible! However, I know there is work to be done and that beauty is one side of the story. You know this too and we’re OK with that. We’re OK with photos that show the environmental challenges and problems that exist. That’s part of the picture and that’s what made Documerica great.

This photographic documentary is an unprecedented opportunity for every one of us to make a statement about our environmental quality right now. What is our drinking water like? Can we fish without overfishing? Swim and enjoy our lakes and beaches without getting sick? Is our air healthy to breathe? Where is our food coming from and what does it take to get it there? Are we protecting wildlife and conserving open space?

These photos show our priorities and our struggles. This documentary is coming together on a scale that can’t be genuinely replicated by a small group of people no matter how well traveled you are. It’s thousands of unfiltered opinions coming right to EPA’s doorstep, resulting in a picture that just may lead to greater awareness and perhaps a better way forward that we can all take ownership in.

Not only is State of the Environment showing what our world looks like now, the result of how we’ve cared for it in the past, but it will show our actions for the future. Based on today, what might our environment look like decades from now?

Not every country is as lucky as we are. We’re an involved public. We’re involved in our government and we’re passionate about what happens inside and outside of our national boundaries. We can expect a lot for our quality of life and we CAN air our discontent. There were times and places in history where doing that would have put you into a moat of lions.

So grab your camera, even your smartphone, sign up on Flickr and show us what you see. The good, the bad, even the ugly.

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey writes from EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education, as the project-lead for Pick 5 and the State of the Environment, two projects geared towards learning, sharing and gaining a greater collective connection to our environment.

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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Water Widgets for the Web!

By Trey Cody

Do you have a blog, website, wiki, social media profile, or other form of a web page? EPA has something that you might be interested in to jazz up your site! They’re called widgets (sometimes referred to as gadgets), and they are an easy way to keep your viewers interactive and entertained on your page.

“What’s a widget?”, you might be wondering.  A widget is small piece of Web programming code that makes something interesting appear on your blog or Web page. Widgets can feature updated information (like a clock, countdown, or news ticker) or let the reader perform an action (like use a search box). EPA’s widgets allow users to see or search for environmental concepts.

Some cool water widgets offered by EPA are:

  • WaterSense Tip – Get a new tip on water efficiency each month and get more information from the WaterSense Web site.
  • Natural Lakeshores – This widget provides a series of ten tips for improved lakeshore stewardship, focusing on natural lakeshores – lakeshores with plenty of native trees, shrubs, and overhanging vegetation. Native vegetation along lakeshores provides food, shelter, habitat and shade for fish and protects the lake from the damaging effects of erosion and polluted stormwater runoff. This contributes to improved water quality, which can in turn help increase the value of lakefront property.
  • Find Your Watershed – Enter your ZIP code to get information about the watershed(s) in that area.

If you’re interested in EPA’s widgets, check out the widget page containing more fun environmental widgets for everyone!

Do you have any environmental widgets on your blog or page that are not from EPA?  What other kinds of widgets have you seen around the web that you’d like to see EPA create?  Let us know about your experience with them!

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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Mobile Apps and Our New Year’s Resolutions

By Carmen Torrent

In January, people reflect on their lives and make a list of things they want to get, change or strike out. The tradition of making resolutions comes from ancient times. The Roman Empire established January 1 as the beginning of the year and placed Janus, a mystic god, as the guardian of the door of the New Year, and he became the symbol of the resolution. Janus has two faces representing beginnings and endings, one looking to the past and the other to the future.

Topping my list of resolutions this year is to be healthier, and part of being healthier is to maintain a healthy home. That’s why I decided to test my home for radon. Now that I know radon is the number two cause of lung cancer behind smoking, testing for radon is a high priority for me. While it’s true that we all start the New Year determined to carry out our resolutions, I know that as time goes by some are forgotten. Like my grandmother used to say, “It’s easier said than done.” And I didn’t want to forget this important resolution, so I came up with an idea that would help me achieve my resolutions this year, and I get to have fun using my new smartphone.

I recorded my resolutions on my phone and then I used a mobile application to remind me of my new year’s resolutions: “How do I test for radon?” And the app sent me to find out how to test my home and what to do if I have high radon. Try it; it’s fun! Never thought that I would put this technology to good use to protect the environment.

January marks the beginnings in many ways, and it’s also designated by EPA as National Radon Action Month. Radon is a radioactive gas; it is invisible and odorless. Radon gas enter the lungs when you inhale, the radioactive particles damage your lung tissue and can cause lung cancer. You can have a healthier home simply by testing your home and taking the necessary actions to lower radon levels. The only way to know if you have radon in your home is to test, and what a better time to test than in the New Year? For more information on health risks, visit

Today let’s look to the future. Do not wait; test your home for radon and make the necessary repairs to your home, it could save your life.

About the author: Carmen Torrent a public affairs specialist in EPA’s Office of Indoor Air.

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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Aplicaciones móviles y las resoluciones del nuevo año

Por Carmen Torrent

En enero la mayoría de las personas reflexionan sobre su vida y hacen una lista de cosas que quieren conseguir, cambiar o eliminar de sus vidas. La tradición de hacer resoluciones viene de la antigüedad El imperio romano estableció el 1ro de enero como el inicio del año y colocaron a Jano, dios místico, como el guardián de la puerta del nuevo año y éste se convirtió en el símbolo de la resolución. Jano tiene dos caras que representan los comienzos y los finales, una de las caras mira hacia atrás y la otra hacia el futuro.

Encabezando mi lista de resoluciones para este año figura la de ser más saludable y parte de ser saludable es mantener un medio ambiente sano en mi hogar. Es por eso que decidí hacer la prueba de radón. Ahora que sé que el radón es la segunda causa de cáncer pulmonar después del fumar, hacer la prueba de radón en mi hogar es una prioridad primordial para mí. Si bien es cierto que todos comenzamos el año nuevo decididos a lograr nuestras resoluciones, sé que al pasar los meses nos olvidamos de algunas de ellas. Como decía mi abuela “Es más fácil decir que hacer las cosas”. Yo no me quiero olvidar de esta importante resolución, así que se me ocurrió una idea para ayudarme a conseguir mis resoluciones para este año y a la vez divertirme con mi nuevo teléfono inteligente.

Grabé mis resoluciones en mi teléfono usando una aplicación en mi teléfono celular para recordarme, ¿Cómo puedo hacer la prueba de radón? La aplicación móvil me envió a para averiguar cómo hacer la prueba en mi hogar y qué hacer si los niveles son altos. Inténtelo, es muy divertido. Nunca pensé que esta tecnología también podría usarse para el beneficio del medio ambiente.

El mes de enero marca el comienzo en muchas formas,y también ha sido designado por la EPA como el mes nacional para tomar acción en contra del radón. El radón es un gas radioactivo e invisible que no tiene olor ni sabor. El radón penetra a los pulmones por inhalación, sus partículas pueden dañar los tejidos de los pulmones y causar cáncer pulmonar. Usted puede tener un hogar sano simplemente haciendo una prueba de radón en su hogar y tomando la acción necesaria para bajar los niveles de radón. La única manera de saber si hay radón en su hogar es haciendo la prueba, y qué mejor tiempo para hacerlo que en el nuevo año. Para más información sobre el radón

Hoy miremos hacia el futuro. No espere mas, haga la prueba de radón y las reparaciones necesarias en su hogar, le puede salvar la vida.

Sobre la autora: Carmen Torrent es especialista de relaciones públicas en la Oficina de Aire Interior 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.

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Upcoming Weekend Activities

The threat of a ‘wintry mix’ shouldn’t keep you at home! Get inspired by our list of activities and show January that you won’t be intimidated into being housebound.

E-Waste Recycling Events: The Lower East Side Ecology Center continues its month-long campaign to make electronics recycling convenient by holding a slew of events across the city. Check out where to bring your out of date or broken electronics this Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Exploring our Climate: Attend this free talk as Park Rangers tackle the topic of climate change and how we can help prepare the city for a more sustainable future. Sunday, January 22, 1 p.m.

Bike Repair Class: Keep your bike in shape all winter long with this free class. Learn how to do simple repairs this Sunday, January 22 from 4-6 p.m.

Nature Exploration Hike: Enjoy the urban forest on Staten Island with a guided hike. Saturday, January 21, 11 a.m.

Pier 15: The newest addition to the NYC waterfront is open to the public and includes sustainable design elements such as recycled plastic lumber and native plantings. Come check out the red-roofed Pier 15 and get a glimpse of SHoP Architects’ design before it becomes overrun by summer tourists. Open daily, 6 a.m. till dusk.

Pre-Lunar New Year Gala: Free admission all weekend at the Queens Botanical Garden means you can catch a glimpse of Dragon Dance performances, Kung Fu demonstrations, music and visits from the Fortune God. Saturday and Sunday, January 21-22, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Pop-up Park: Where can you lounge on grass and have a picnic in the winter? At Park Here, a pop-up, indoor park in SoHo. It’s free and open daily from noon-8 p.m.

Recess for Grownups: Play freeze tag, red rover and other childhood games through the streets of the Financial District. Referees will be on hand to review the rules in case you forgot how to play these timeless schoolyard games. Saturday, January 21, noon-3 p.m.

Terrarium Demonstration: Admission is free all weekend at Wave Hill Gardens and Cultural Center, take advantage by attending this special program that will give you tips to create your own winter windowsill wonderland. Saturday, January 21, 1-3 p.m.

Winterfest Celebration: Head to the Bronx for the 2nd Annual Winterfest Celebration – a day full of fun-filled activities for the whole family including games, sports, outdoor adventure experiences, arts and crafts. Saturday, January 21, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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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Got an old cell phone?

cell phonesDo you know what to do with your old cell phone when it stops working or when you buy a new one?

You  might decide to keep the old one as a back-up in case or you could pass it along to a friend that might not have one.  This is a great way to recycle or reuse!

Sometimes people throw  away old cell phones in the same fashion we throw away other items we don’t use anymore. Our electronics are made up of lots of resources like metal, plastic, and glass, which can be recycled and used to make other devices. These resources are valuable and take lots of energy to make. Many electronics contain elements that take time to find in the earth’s natural environment.  By throwing away these items, we’re wasting non-renewable energy (like gas or fossil fuel) instead of trying to reuse them in some way.

Most electronics also contain parts that can’t be broken down in the environment – they aren’t biodegradable.  If they don’t biodegrade they have the potential to sit in landfills taking up more and more space.  Some may even start to leak harmful liquids and substances into the ground like lead and mercury.  These toxins can make their way into our water supply and pollute it.

What if we donated used electronics for reuse? It would extend the lives of valuable products. Recycling electronics prevents valuable materials from going into the waste stream.  One of the best way to get rid of old electronics is to recycle, reuse, and refurbish!

Here are some ways to eCycle electronics:

1. Check manufacturer’s websites for recycling programs. Sometimes you can save a percentage on your next purchase by recycling!
2. Donate electronics to charities. Some charities are even recycling old phones!
3. Ask friends or family if they want your used electronic item.
4. Check with local electronic stores for recycling kiosk.

If you have any questions or are searching for resources, check the EPA’s website on eCycling for more information:
http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/ecycling/

Wendy Dew is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8 in Denver, Colorado.

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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Resolving To Find The Beast Within

By Amy Miller

There are people who make New Year’s Resolutions and those who think we are silly.

January 1 gives the former a date to wipe the slate clean. On Feb. 1, we might decide to consume less or moisturize more. On March 1, we might swear to eat more healthfully or exercise more diligently. But on Jan. 1, we reinvent ourselves.

The other day I found the kind of inspiration one needs before crafting resolutions. It came from Malaysia in an award-winning documentary about purposefully choosing one’s path. It also happened to be about protecting our planet.

“Man & Nature,” an 8-minute video, was produced on the tropical island of Lankawi and it features Irshad Mobarak, who was a banker before he became a naturalist.

“After five years of banking I realized this is not what I want to do,” said Mobarak, whose sister is my friend in Maine. Mobarak concedes some people may want to be bankers and “that’s fine.” But Mobarak found “I had this connection to nature …I really wanted to get back to.”

Mobarak asks each of us to park ourselves in a corner and watch the birds. He thinks we’ll find they are not so different: they also go through challenges and relationships. If we keep watching we’ll learn how animals protect each other. The squid, for instance, gives an alarm that an animal of prey is coming. And we can learn cooperation from the little bird who attacks the eagle.

“We are caught up as human beings in a fast moving world and we have lost our connection to the environment; this is something that has left us empty,” Mobarak said.

My job at the EPA is to write, to promote a government regulatory agency. But it is also to be part of an organization that aims to give humans and trees and animals a healthier more vibrant connection.

As with many people, my dog is my most intimate connection with nature. When she ate one of our live chickens recently I was reminded that she is still a beast. When she refuses to obey me, I am reminded that the Husky in her is determined genetically to be fiercely independent.

As my New Year’s Resolution, instead of putting on more controls – eat less, exercise more, organize better – I will work on removing some controls. Perhaps I will resolve to honor the beast within and the human connection to nature.

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, seven chickens, two parakeets, dog and a great community.

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.