Monthly Archives: March 2012

Tell us why Water Is Worth It

By Travis Loop

As someone responsible for communications on water issues at EPA, I’m always working to explain how the agency’s actions matter to the American people. This year provides a unique opportunity to spark a national conversation about something that is vital to every single person – clean water.

2012 is the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the nation’s law for protecting our most irreplaceable resource. This year we will certainly talk about the tremendous progress in reducing pollution since 1972, the many milestones along the way, the ways that the job is far from over and the tough challenges we face today and in the future.

But we don’t want to have a one-way conversation. We want to hear from you. Tell us why Water Is Worth It.

We’ve set up a variety of ways that people can participate in the conversation about clean water. Our webpage will be the central location for information, activities, news and networking.

I imagine many of you are active in social media so I encourage you to follow our accounts. You can find us on Facebook . You can follow us on Twitter @EPAwater. We want to have a nationwide digital dialogue so use the hashtag #cleanwater.

Keep watching the Greenversations blog for entries by EPA officials and staff on water issues. Provide your thoughts in the comments section and share the blog entry with others.

Throughout 2012, EPA’s Watershed Academy will be offering free webinars on aspects of the Clean Water Act, including an introduction, State Revolving Funds, the National Estuary Program and more. If you can’t join these webinars live, they are all archived for future access.

To tell the visual story of water, we’ve gathered photos of water submitted in 1972 and 2012. We encourage you to add to this gallery. It would be especially interesting to see new photos taken in the same location as 1972 to see how the water and surroundings have changed.

We also invite you to participate in the Rachel Carson contest. There are four categories: photography, essay, poetry and dance. Submissions are encouraged to focus on the properties of water – how it tastes, what it sounds like, how it feels – and what water means you.

We’re looking forward to hearing you tell us why Water Is Worth It.

About the author: Travis Loop is the communications director for the Office of Water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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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Keeping City Children Safe from Rat Poisons | National Poison Prevention Month

By Marcia Anderson

Rodenticides are an important tool for controlling mice and rats around the home; however, the use of these products has been associated with accidental exposures to thousands of children each year.

Minor mouse infestations are often handled by consumers applying over-the-counter (OTC) mouse bait. Typically, these are casual applications of simply putting the bait in areas showing mouse activity. Moreover, mice are notorious for moving (translocating) pellet-style baits and depositing them in a variety of areas away from the placement site.

Anticoagulant rodenticides are generally applied in the form of pelletized baits or bait blocks which are odorless and tasteless. They cause death in rodents after repeated feedings resulting in accumulation to a lethal internal dose. Among rodenticides, the super warfarin rodenticides are 100x more toxic than warfarin rodenticides.

A newly designed, EPA approved, child proof and tamper proof mouse trap

Young children are especially vulnerable to exposure from rodenticides, as they are most often placed low to the ground, at the same altitude as the play, potentially adding to their increased susceptibility to exposure of laid baits and traps. In children, rodenticide exposure generally occurs via ingestion as most children obtain the poison from the site where bait traps are placed.  It is the loose baits that have been of great concern to health care providers, poison control and emergency personnel.

Nationally there are about 90,000 calls to Poison Control Centers concerning pesticide exposure annually. Of these, 20% (about 19,000) of those calls are for Rodenticides, with over 15,000 of Rodenticide calls (86%) for children under 6 years old ingesting rodenticides.

It appears that only a small number of exposed children experience medical symptoms or suffer adverse health effects, as a result of their exposure, however, these exposures often cause much concern and unnecessary alarm among parents. The problem is the perception that a “poisoning event” has occurred and the consequences are emotional and time consuming for all parties.

The EPA has addressed this situation by significantly reducing the likelihood of rodenticide exposure to children by taking the most toxic rat baits, the second generation “super” warfarin pesticides, off of the consumer market and requiring child proof / tamper proof packaging for all first generation warfarins that will be available to consumers.

About the Author: Marcia is the bed bug and vector management specialist for the Pesticides Program in Edison. She has a BS in Biology from Monmouth, second degree in Environmental Design-Landscape Architecture from Rutgers, Masters in Instruction and Curriculum from Kean, and is a PhD in Environmental Management candidate from Montclair – specializing in Integrated Pest Management and Environmental Communications. Prior to EPA, and concurrently, she has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology and Oceanography at Kean University for 14 years.

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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A San Diego Showcase for Equitable Development and Environmental Justice

By Megan McConville

Earlier this winter, I stepped off a bus into the brilliant sunshine. As I walked into a brightly painted neighborhood, I was greeted by residents wearing traditional Samoan clothing. They led me to an outdoor amphitheater where I enjoyed a performance of joyful Samoan dance and song.

I was not in Samoa, but in San Diego, California, participating in an educational tour at the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference. The largest smart growth conference in the U.S., New Partners explores all aspects of the field, from community revitalization, affordable housing, and small town livability to green building, health, climate change adaptation, and more. The tour I was on highlighted equitable development—a focus of the conference—in the Village at Market Creek.

The Village at Market Creek, a predominantly low income and minority community, shows how smart growth and environmental justice principles and goals can be integrated to achieve development that is healthy, sustainable, and equitable. Built on a cleaned-up former industrial site 5 minutes from downtown San Diego, the neighborhood offers convenient access to the city’s trolley and bus systems, is home to Market Creek Plaza, the first major grocery store in the community in 30 years, and the community’s ethnic diversity is celebrated throughout its public spaces. The village is projected to create 1,000 affordable homes and more than 1,000 jobs, many for residents.

A hallmark of the project is that it has been truly resident-led. The community guided the overall planning as well as the design of Market Creek Plaza. Now that it is built, hundreds of residents have bought shares of the project, earning returns on their investments while revitalizing their neighborhood.

As we toured this inspiring community, many in my group wondered how they could promote equitable development back home. The day before, EPA had released a draft publication, entitled Strategies for Advancing Smart Growth, Environmental Justice, and Equitable Development, on that very topic. The publication aims to build on successful examples like the Village at Market Creek and offer a menu of approaches overburdened communities can use to address longstanding environmental and health challenges, create new opportunities in their neighborhoods, and implement development that responds to residents’ visions.

Watch for the completed publication this summer on smart growth and environmental justice. Like my visit to Market Creek, I hope it will show that environmental justice and smart growth approaches must go hand in hand to produce healthy, sustainable, and inclusive communities.

About the author: Megan McConville is a Policy & Planning Fellow in EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities. She explores how overburdened communities can combine smart growth and environmental justice strategies to improve their neighborhoods, health, and quality of life.

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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National Poison Prevention Week—March 18-24, 2012

By Lina Younes

Did you know that poisonings continue to be a significant cause of illness and death in the United States? Did you also know that the majority of these poisonings are 100% preventable? That’s why EPA and its federal partners are joining forces to increase awareness of the dangers of poisoning during National Poison Prevention Week, March 18-24. More than 150,000 calls to poison centers involved pesticides. More than 50% of these exposures involve children 5 years old or younger.

EPA has taken special steps to prevent accidental exposures among young children because they are especially vulnerable for several reasons. Since their body and organs are in full development mode, any exposure increases poisoning dangers. Also, since children are frequently crawling and putting things in their mouth, these behaviors put them at a greater risk. In fact, last year, EPA took regulatory steps to prevent poisonings from rodent control products in the home. Now EPA is requiring that all manufacturers of rat poison products only sell them to consumers in bait stations that are tamper-resistant for children and pets.

So what can you do to protect your family from accidental poisonings? Here are some simple tips:

  • First of all, keep pest control products, household cleaners, and medication up high, out of children’s reach, in a locked cabinet or garden shed.
  • Read the label before using a pest control or household cleaning product.
  • Using more than indicated on the label does not kill more pests or clean better. In fact, misuse of the product only increases the risk of poisonings.
  • Keep pesticides and household chemicals in their original bottles.
  • Don’t use illegal pesticides. They are extremely toxic and dangerous.
  • Go through your home room by room to see where there are potential poisoning hazards and correct accordingly.
  • Program the Poison Help Line (800-222-1222) into your phone and post the poison help line number near your phone. In the event of an accidental poisoning, call the toll free Poison Help line which is staffed around the clock. Help is available in English, Spanish and other languages.

Help us spread the word during National Poison Prevention Week! Together we may prevent accidental poisonings in the home. Have you taken any steps to prevent poisonings lately? We would love to hear from you.

If you want additional information on the safe use of pest control products, visit our new Website.

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.

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.

Semana Nacional de Prevención de Envenenamientos—18 al 24 de marzo de 2012

Por Lina Younes

¿Sabía que los envenenamientos continúan siendo una causa significativa de enfermedades y muertes en los Estados Unidos? ¿Sabía que la mayoría de estos envenenamientos se pueden prevenir en un 100%? Es por eso que la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de EE.UU. (EPA, por sus siglas en inglés) y sus principales socios federales están uniendo sus fuerzas para crear conciencia sobre los peligros del envenenamiento durante la Semana Nacional de Prevención de Envenenamientos del 18 al 24 de marzo. Más de 150,000 llamadas a los centros de envenenamientos están relacionados con pesticidas. Más del 50% de estas exposiciones involucran a niños de 5 años y menores. EPA está tomando pasos especiales para prevenir exposiciones accidentales entre los niños pequeños porque ellos son especialmente vulnerables por varias razones. Como su cuerpo y órganos están en pleno desarrollo, cualquier exposición aumenta los peligros. También, como los niños frecuentemente están gateando o llevándose cosas a la boca, estos comportamientos los ponen en mayor riesgo. De hecho, el año pasado, EPA tomó pasos reglamentarios para prevenir envenenamientos debido a productos para el control de roedores en el hogar. Ahora EPA exige a todos los fabricantes de productos de venenos para ratas que sólo los vendan para consumidores en cebos encerrados que sean resistentes a los niños y a las mascotas, pero accesible a las ratas y ratones que quieren eliminar.

¿Y qué puede hacer para proteger a su familia de los envenenamientos accidentales? He aquí algunos consejos sencillos:

Primero que nada, mantenga los productos plaguicidas, limpiadores caseros, y medicamentos en anaqueles altos fuera del alcance de los niños en un gabinete cerrado o en la caseta del jardín.

Lea la etiqueta cuidadosamente antes de usar plaguicidas o productos de limpieza domésticos.

El usar más de lo que está indicado en la etiqueta no va a matar más plagas ni limpiar mejor. De hecho, el usar estos productos inadecuadamente sólo aumenta el riesgo de envenenamientos.

Mantenga los plaguicidas y sustancias químicas caseras en sus envases originales.

No use pesticidas ilegales. Son extremadamente tóxicos y peligrosos.

Vaya por su casa habitación en habitación para ver si hay posibles riesgos de envenenamientos y corríjalos correspondientemente.

Programe la línea gratuita de ayuda para control de venenos (800-222-1222) en su teléfono o coloque el número cercano al teléfono. En caso de un envenenamiento accidental, llame a la línea gratuita para control de venenos que tiene operadoras trabajando las 24 horas del día. Hay ayuda disponible en inglés, español y otros idiomas.

Ayude a comunicar el mensaje de la Semana Nacional para la Prevención de Envenenamientos. Juntos podemos prevenir los envenenamientos accidentales en el hogar. Ha tomado pasos para prevenir envenenamientos recientemente. Nos encontraría escuchar su sentir al respecto.

Si quiere información adicional sobre el uso seguro de plaguicidas, visite nuestra nueva página Web. Para mayor información en español sobre este tema y otros de interés ambiental, visite nuestra nueva página en español.

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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Imagination Playground

By Larry Siegel

What can be more fun than providing a safe space for children to have fun in the City? And, to top it off, it is a mobile play space! The “Imagination Playground” is a project of the Children’s Environments Research Group (CERG) and operates out of the City University of New York. CERG “links university scholarship with the development of policies, environments and programs to fulfill children’s rights and improve the quality of their lives.”

The playground enables children to engage in creative constructions and inventions and provides a higher degree of social interaction than a typical playground with fixed equipment.

Imagination Playground in a Box is a kit of parts suitable for a variety of outdoor and indoor sites. It offers a cost-effective means to provide children with opportunities to engage in open-ended, free play. The set includes Imagination Playground Blocks, parts that encourage sand and water play, a starter kit of “found parts,” and a storage unit on wheels. The “In a Box” model can be wheeled indoors and outdoors, and is suitable for supervised sites, such as child care and school settings. The two-part container can be used as open shelving or as closed storage.

To see a short video on the Imagination Playground or to order an Imagination Playground (yes, you can order one) you can go to this URL.

After providing massive amounts of safe and creative fun in the sun, the parts used in the playground are packed into containers and brought to another location on another day. Cool, huh?

About the Author: Larry Siegel has worked as a writer of corporate policies and procedures and as a technical writer. He currently works as a Pesticide Community Outreach Specialist for the Pesticide and Toxic Substances Branch in Edison, NJ

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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Eyes can change the world.

Manta-Ray-Palau-2011

Ever looked a manta ray in the eye? I never thought I’d get to either.

Their eyeballs are bigger than you might expect. If you’ve had a pet, you’ll most likely understand where I’m going with this and if not, well call me crazy.

We had a moment.

Through my scuba mask, between about a foot of sea water, our eyes met and our mutual curiosity in one another collided. The only difference was, he snuck up on me. That means he had a motive.

When it’s not a matter of who is lower on the food chain, I love it when roles reverse like that. He was bigger than I was by quite a margin. Even if I had the time to be frightened or see a teensy bit of my life flash before me, I wouldn’t have been. His eyes said it all. He was just plain curious about me. Humans are a bit out of their element underwater, so I guess it’s not all that strange that he wanted a closer look.

And I mean close! I’m less sure what our exchange meant to him, but it changed my life. I’m also fairly certain my guide hasn’t forgotten either. He was the one to motion for me to turn around, his expression read, “somebody wants to say hi.” Bubbles of laughter followed and he later said that my expression, particularly my eyes, grew so much in my mask that I more closely resembled a cartoon.

These are the things I think about on a regular basis. Just like dogs that have looked up at me for a belly rub, hand out, or just a return look of adoration. A lot is communicated through eyes. It can stop you in your tracks. That experience and others have shaped who I am and what I do for work. I can’t ignore those few seconds where an entirely different species met my glance and held it.

That’s their only chance to speak up. It makes you want to do something.

That something might be as simple as being tuned in to what’s happening in our oceans. Being tuned in might lead to conversations. When people talk, that’s when the action happens. EPA’s two year photo project, State of the Environment, isn’t just about photos. It’s about experiencing our incredible planet and finding the inspiration to take more action every day thereafter.

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.

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.

Are you a Volunteer?

logoI love volunteering!  I have been volunteering at my local animal shelter for the past few months.  It is so much fun to help animals in my local community.  I like volunteering at the shelter because it compliments my job as an Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator.  I get to help the environment by doing the big picture work and help individual animals one at a time at the shelter.  Volunteering is a great way to enhance your school resume, college applications or to simply do what you love.  Check out local volunteer opportunities near you at:  http://www.volunteer.gov/gov/

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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The Magic School Bus Speaks Spanish, Too

By Lina Younes

The Magic School Bus books have provided amazing educational experiences for children of all ages. For almost 25 years, this book series has explored interesting adventures and field trips featuring Ms. Frizzle and her class aboard the Magic School Bus. Several years ago, EPA and Scholastic, Inc. came together to create a new book in the series focusing on important environmental health topics and the need to reduce children’s exposure to diesel exhaust from diesel school buses. Just this week, the Agency and Scholastic joined forces again to issue the Spanish version of the book, The Magic School Bus Gets a Clean Up (El Autobús Mágico necesita una limpieza). Through this Spanish-language resource, the Agency hopes to educate the millions of Americans who speak Spanish as their primary language at home while educating them about clean air.

I’ve always been fascinated how children’s books are increasingly focusing on subjects that make science fun. Lately, I’ve found more books that are engaging children in environmental education issues at a very early age. Just like the Magic School Bus series, these books cover great messages on clean air, clean water, recycling and other issues in an entertaining manner. I like the way how children can learn about these key environmental issues without even realizing that they are learning in the process.

The sooner you instill the love of reading in your children the better. Have you found any good reading material for children lately? Would love to hear from you with any book recommendations.

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.

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.

El Autobús Mágico habla español, también

Por Lina Younes

Los libros del Autobús Mágico han brindado fantásticas experiencias educativas a los niños de todas las edades. Durante unos 25 años, esta serie ha explorado las interesantes aventuras y excursiones de la Srta. Frizzle (Srta. Rizos) y sus alumnos a bordo del autobús escolar mágico. Hace varios años, la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de EE.UU. y la editorial Scholastic, Inc  colaboraron para crear un nuevo libro en la serie enfocado en importantes asuntos de salud ambiental, así como en la necesidad de proteger a los niños de la exposición de los escapes de diesel provenientes de los autobuses escolares diesel.  Esta semana, la Agencia y Scholastic aunaron esfuerzos una vez más para publicar la versión en español de este libro.  El Autobús Mágico necesita una limpieza.  A través de este recurso en español, la Agencia espera poder educar a millones de estadounidenses que hablan español primordialmente en sus hogares mientras crean consciencia acerca del aire limpio.

Siempre me han fascinado cómo los libros para niños están dedicándose con mayor frecuencia a temas que hacen las ciencias divertidas. Últimamente he visto más libros que están motivando a los niños a interesarse en asuntos de educación ambiental a temprana edad. Así como en la serie del Autobús Mágico, estos libros están abarcando mensajes importantes como el aire limpio, el agua limpia, el reciclaje y otros asuntos de manera muy divertida. Me gusta cómo estos libros enseñan acerca de asuntos ambientales claves de una manera informal sin que los niños se den cuenta de que están aprendiendo en el proceso.

Mientras más temprano inculquemos estos valores y amor por la lectura en los niños mucho mejor. ¿Han encontrado algún material de lectura interesante últimamente? ¿Tienen algunas recomendaciones? Compártanlas con nosotros. Saludos

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 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.