Monthly Archives: May 2012

Listo hoy, más seguro mañana

Por Lina Younes

La temporada de huracanes del 2012 comienza oficialmente el 1ero de junio.  Sin embargo, dos tormentas en mayo fueron denominadas con los primeros dos nombres de la lista de huracanes del 2012 semanas antes de la inauguración oficial de la temporada. Aun cuando NOAA ha pronosticado una temporada de huracanes casi normal para este año para la región del Océano Atlántico y el Mar Caribe, nunca es demasiado temprano para prepararse antes de que la tormenta se aproxime a nuestras costas. Independientemente de si usted reside o no a lo largo de zonas costaneras, podría sentir el azote de un huracán tierra adentro sea de los vientos huracanados, las lluvias torrenciales, las tormentas, los derrumbes subsiguientes, o del flujo de escombros.

¿Entonces, qué debería hacer a la mayor brevedad posible? Desarrollar su propio kit de emergencia y plan de preparación para huracanes para usted y su familia.  He aquí algunos de los pasos que puede tomar con antelación para prepararse para este evento y permanecer seguro.

• Al desarrollar su kit de suministros de emergencias, almacene comida enlatada, agua embotellada y otros suministros de utilidad como linternas y baterías.
• Coloque una caja de fósforos en un envase a prueba de agua.
• Almacene vasos y platos desechables y utensilios plásticos
• Acuérdese de almacenar alimento para sus mascotas
• Tenga los documentos familiares importantes a mano en un envase portátil y aprueba de agua
• Tenga a mano dinero en efectivo o cheques de viajero
• Tenga libros, juegos, y actividades para los niños
• Tenga a mano un abrelatas portátil
• Alrededor de la casa, inspeccione los desagües y asegúrese de que no estén obstruidos.
• Infórmese acerca de las rutas de evacuación en su zona
• Inscríbase para recibir mensajes de texto de FEMA via su teléfono móvil con información actualizada acerca de la tormenta
• Tenga los números de teléfono de emergencia a mano para poder reportar si hay apagones en su área y para obtener información acerca de los refugios en su localidad .

Después que el huracán haya abandonado el lugar, todavía podría sentir la secuela de la tormenta. He aquí algunos consejos que le podrían ayudar a permanecer seguro y recuperarse rápidamente.

• No use un generador dentro de su casa, garaje u otras áreas encerradas. El monóxido de carbono proveniente del escape del generador puede acumularse fácilmente con consecuencias letales.
• Si su agua no está sana, hiérvala por un minuto a punto de ebullición para matar cualquier enfermedad transmitida por el agua.
• El crecimiento de hongos es un problema que puede surgir después de inundaciones. Infórmese acerca de la limpieza después de inundaciones para evitar problemas de calidad de aire interior.

Esperamos que estos consejos sean de su utilidad. ¿Algunas sugerencias personales sobre cómo prepararse para una tormenta?

Acerca de la autora: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de EE.UU. desde el 2002 y se desempeña, en la actualidad, como portavoz hispana de la Agencia, así como enlace de asuntos multilingües de EPA. Además, ha laborado como la escritora y editora de los blogs en español de EPA durante los pasados cuatro años. Antes de unirse a la Agencia, dirigió la oficina en Washington, DC de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales a lo largo de su carrera profesional en la Capital Federal.

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.

Mes de Concientización sobre el Asma:

Por Elías Rodríguez

Criándome en la ciudad de Nueva York, junto a un sin número de otros niños, me enfrenté a muchos de los impactos ambientales comunes en un centro urbano. La pobre calidad de aire, pocos espacios verdes, y la basura fueron algunas de las desventajas de la vida en la llamada Ciudad que Nunca Duerme. En la escuela primaria me parecía que siempre tenía un compañero de clase que llevaba un inhalador de asma. Mayo es el Mes de Concienciación sobre el Asma  y es importante que los padres y los niños aprendan más sobre esta enfermedad y sus desencadenantes. De esta manera usted podrá prevenir ataques de asma y mejorar la protección su salud y la de sus hijos.

La contaminación de los vehículos, instalaciones industriales y otras fuentes se combinan con el aire caliente y estancado para formar el ‘smog.’ Días con smog son particularmente difíciles para las personas con condiciones respiratorias como el asma así como para los niños y los ancianos. La exposición a elevados niveles de ozono puede causar problemas respiratorios graves, agravar el asma y otras enfermedades pre-existentes de pulmón, y hacer las personas más susceptibles a las infecciones respiratorias.

La EPA está animando a los estadounidenses a tomar acción contra el asma, aprendiendo más sobre la enfermedad y cómo afecta a sus familias y comunidades. Cerca de 26 millones de estadounidenses, incluyendo más de 7 millones de niños, se ven afectados por esta enfermedad respiratoria crónica, incluyendo personas de bajos ingresos y las poblaciones minoritarias tienen las tasas más altas de la enfermedad. El costo económico del asma, incluyendo los costos médicos directos de las estancias hospitalarias y los costos indirectos, tales como días perdidos de asistencia a la escuela o al trabajo resultan en la cantidad de aproximadamente $56 mil millones.

A través de la Ley de Aire Limpio, la EPA ha ayudado a prevenir millones de ataques de asma en todo el país y continúa trabajando junto con socios federales, estatales y locales para combatir este problema a nivel nacional. Sólo en el 2010, las normas de prevención de la contaminación en el marco de la Ley de Aire Limpio pudo conducir a reducciones en la materia de partículas finas y la contaminación por ozono que impidió más de 1.7 millones de casos de ataques de asma.

Como boricua y nativo de Nueva York me preocupa el alto nivel de asma, en particular entre los latinos. Aproximadamente 2 millones de hispanos en los EE.UU. tienen asma y el efecto en los puertorriqueños es desproporcionado: La incidencia de asma entre los puertorriqueños es 125% más elevada que entre las personas blancas no-hispanas y 80% mayor entre las personas negras no-hispanas.

En Nueva York, la tasa de hospitalización por asma  por cada 1,000 personas  (de edades de 0 a 14 años) es de 9.2 en el Bronx, en Brooklyn 4.1, en Manhattan 4.0, en Queens 3.9, en Staten Island 2.0 y en para la ciudad de Nueva York 5.0. En algunas aéreas en particular la tasa aumenta de manera dramática. Hunts Point-Mott Haven en el Bronx tiene una tasa de 11.5 y el este de Harlem en Manhattan tiene una tasa de 11.2.

Durante mi niñez recuerdo haber visto mi compañero de clase sufrir un ataque intenso de asma. Afortunadamente, la maestra sabía precisamente qué hacer y tenía su inhalador a mano. Tener un plan de acción para el asma es uno de los consejos que la EPA ofrece para las personas que sufren de asma. La gente puede aprender a controlar sus síntomas y mantener un estilo de vida activo.

La EPA recomienda que las personas sigan estos cinco pasos principales para prevenir ataques de asma:

• Llévelo afuera. Uno de los desencadenantes de ataques de asma más comunes en el hogar es el tabaquismo pasivo. Hasta que las personas no dejen de fumar, los fumadores deben fumar al aire libre, no en el hogar ni en el auto.

• Juegue a lo seguro. La contaminación de ozono y partículas puede ocasionar ataques de asma. Las personas deben vigilar el Índice de Calidad de Aire (AQI, por sus siglas en inglés) durante su informe meteorológico local. Cuando el ÁQI indique que los niveles son malsanos, debería limitar sus actividades al aire libre.

• Los ácaros de polvo también desencadenan ataques de asma. Para controlar los ácaros, debería cubrir el colchón y las almohadas con cobertores a prueba de alergenos. También debería lavar las sábanas y mantas semanalmente con agua caliente.

• Establezca su territorio. Las mascotas caseras pueden provocar el asma. Debería mantener las mascotas fuera de la habitación y no dejar que se suban a los muebles.

• Elimine el moho. El moho es otro desencadenante de asma. la clave para controlar el moho consiste en controlar la humedad. Las personas deberían lavar y secar las superficies duras para prevenir y remover el moho. También sustituya las baldosas de techo y alfombras que estén mohosas.

Con mayor conocimiento y vigilancia todos podremos respirar más tranquilamente.

Sobre el autor: Elías sirve como portavoz de la EPA en la Región 2. Antes de unirse a la EPA, el nuyorican trabajó en Time Inc. para las revistas Time, Life, Fortune y People. Es un graduado de Hunter College, Baruch College y el Instituto Teológico de la Asamblea de Iglesias Cristianas en Nueva York.

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.

New Asthma Action Plan!

Lung anatomyBy Sally Perreault Darney, Ph.D. 

As asthma awareness month comes to a close, a new window of opportunity for helping children with asthma is opening.  Today EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, in partnership with senior leaders of the US Departments of Health and Human Services, and of Housing and Urban Development, is rolling out a new Action Plan for reducing racial and ethnic asthma disparities.  

As an EPA scientist working in human health, I am honored to have served on the work group that developed this plan over the past two years.  I enjoyed meeting asthma experts from across the Federal Government, from academia, and from advocacy groups, and attending workshops and meeting where we discussed the many dimensions of asthma. 

Did you know that approximately seven million children aged 0 to 17 in the United States suffer from this complex disease which is caused and/or aggravated by a host of environmental, genetic and social-economic factors? And that children from minority groups and children from low-income households are at greater risk for having the disease and, once they have it, they are at greater risk of suffering more because of it?   

My job was to convey how the research we do in EPA provides a critical environmental piece of the larger public health puzzle that is asthma, and how we can contribute to implementing the new plan.

Our research is helping to figure out why certain children get asthma and suffer disproportionately from it.  For example, we are evaluating the extent to which living near a busy street may increase a child’s risk for asthma.  We also evaluate whether certain diets, such as those rich in omega 3 fatty acids, may reduce the severity of asthma for some children.  And of course we are trying to determine what causes a child to get asthma to begin with.

“The Coordinated Federal Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Asthma Disparities: Promoting Greater Collaboration and More Effective Use of Resources to Reduce the Burden of Asthma for Minority Children and Children Living Below the Poverty Level,” is aimed at increasing coordination of Federal programs, including those in EPA, designed to get the right asthma care with the right support to the right children.  It offers ways to help doctors, school nurses, and parents work together to ensure that children with asthma receive the most appropriate treatment, and that homes and schools will be asthma-friendly places in which all children can learn, play and thrive.   

About the Author: Sally Perreault Darney, Ph.D., is an Associate National Program Director for EPA’s Sustainable and Healthy Communities research program. She has 20 years of research experience in reproductive toxicology and epidemiology, with a focus on pre-conception and prenatal determinants of children’s health. 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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.

Surviving on this Island

I’ve often walked around Chicago in the peak of summer, only to feel the pavement underneath my feet feel as if it sizzling in the beating sun.   It’s hot.  I literally feel like a piece of frying bacon on the sidewalk sometimes.   It’s a heat island. 

A heat island is a built-up area which is consistently hotter than its surroundings, particularly in the summer.  The heat island effect is caused mostly by the difference between the generally dark surfaces of a city like roads and sidewalks and the vegetation it’s replaced. These dark surfaces absorb sunlight, heat up, and retain more heat than open space areas.  Add hot air from vehicle exhausts and industry, the temperature rises even more.

There is one place that I know of that is high above the pavement of the city streets and it’s still cool.  It’s the green roof on top of City Hall.  In 2001, it was completed and took this large underutilized space in the thick urban Chicago jungle and created an oasis of green living.  The 20,300 square foot City Hall rooftop garden has over 20,000 native plants that were installed as plugs of more than 150 varieties.  Although rainwater is collected and saved, a supplemental irrigation system aids in establishing the plants as well as provide supplemental water during extreme periods of drought.  Pretty neat, huh? 

I wondered about the inside of the building and so I asked a few members of the staff about their thoughts on the green roof.  Did it make a difference?  All agreed that it insulates the building, making it warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.  They also noticed that when they walk out of the building, immediately there is a cool breeze surrounding the building before they step further out into the thick humidity of the day. 

If a green roof is helping change the heat island effects in one part of Chicago, think about what it could do if they were all over the country.  Communities can take a number of common-sense measures to reduce the effects of summertime heat islands.   You can help! 

To find out more, go to http://www.epa.gov/heatislands/index.htm

Yvonne Gonzalez is a SCEP intern with the Air and Radiation Division in Region 5. She is currently pursuing a dual graduate degree at DePaul University.

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.

Nadar, montar en bicicleta, correr (a pesar de tener asma)

Yo no me dedico a competir en triatlones, esas personas son feroces.  Pero cada año, “compito” en uno o dos triatlones de carreras de distancias olímpicas.  Recientemente un amigo me hizo la misma pregunta que me hago constantemente durante la carrera, ¿Por qué quieres hacer esto?  Buena pregunta.

Bueno, para mí, es un reto a conseguir un buen estado físico, así como también una gran manera de disfrutar del aire libre durante el entrenamiento.  Muchas veces es difícil de incorporar el entrenamiento a una agenda cargada, pero apenas unos 30 minutos de ejercicio diario pueden servir de ayuda.  Me gusta nadar en las mañanas, cuando hay buen tiempo voy al trabajo en bicicleta y corro por el parque Rock Creek, un recurso maravilloso cerca de donde vivo.  Desde hace varios años, me inscribo en triatlones y acabo de terminar mi décimo triatlón (el primero en el año 2012) en Siesta Key, Florida que denominada como la mejor playa en los Estados Unidos en el año 2011.  Sin embargo, durante mi entrenamiento de este año, aprendí algo nuevo: tengo asma.
¡Qué extraordinario que yo aprendiera sobre esta condición en el mes de mayo! que es el Mes de la Concientización sobre el Asma.   Mi nueva súper fantástica doctora me explicó que tengo asma causada por el ejercicio.  “Ah, ¿quieres decir que toser después de hacer ejercicio no es normal?” Vaya, ¡yo he experimentado eso toda mi vida!  También me explicó que es uno de varios tipos de asma y me recetó un inhalador de albuterol  para utilizarlo antes de empezar los ejercicios.  Es importante reconocer que se puede permanecer activo a pesar de tener asma.  Al hablar con mi doctora tuve la oportunidad de crear un plan de acción contra el asma que me ha ayudado a reducir la tan familiar tos después de arduos entrenamientos.  Y es bueno saber que los atletas profesionales, como la leyenda del NFL (y ex compañero de dormitorio de Notre Dame – ¡arriba los Dawgs!) Jerome Bettis,  son capaces de manejar sus síntomas de asma mientras compiten al más alto nivel de actividad física.  No estamos solos, ya que casi 13 millones de estadounidenses reportaron haber tenido un ataque de asma en el último año. 
Así que a medida que hacemos la transición al Mes de la Vida al Aire Libre, que es en junio, piense en las diferentes maneras en que pueda salir y disfrutar con tranquilidad sus actividades favoritas.  ¿Cómo va a disfrutar de nuestro medio ambiente?  Yo revisaré la calidad del aire y el índice ultravioleta (UV) con útiles aplicaciones (apps) para planificar mi entrenamiento al aire libre para mi próximo triatlón.   Me gustó mucho nadar en la playa de Siesta Key, así que voy a ver qué triatlón cuenta con un mar abierto para las competencias de más adelante en el verano.  También me voy a asegurar de usar algún protector solar y visitar el sitio web de avisos de playas contaminadas antes de ir a nadar, montar en bicicleta o correr.

Sobre el autor: Scott es el Director Adjunto de la Oficina de Compromiso Público de la EPA y trabaja con asociados tales como grupos de deportes al aire libre.  Le gusta estar al aire libre siempre que puede.

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 Human Health: That Explains It!

By Elizabeth Erwin

Child plays with water.

EPA's IRIS Program provides health effects information to help protect public health and the environment.

This past December, I had the opportunity to attend the annual Society for Risk Analysis (SRA) meeting in Charleston, SC. One of my responsibilities was to cover a symposium on EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) chaired by Becki Clark, Acting Director of my EPA office, the National Center for Environmental Assessment (NCEA).

Over the past year, I have become very familiar with IRIS, as a large part of my job is to communicate to the public, other federal agencies, and stakeholders what IRIS is, what it isn’t, and what it does to protect human health and the environment.

When I mention IRIS to friends and family, I’m often met with quizzical expressions. After several failed attempts at an explanation that included chemical names like “hexabromocyclododecane” and other scientific mouthfuls, I began giving them the bottom line: while IRIS assessments are not regulations or by themselves full risk assessments, the information they contain is an important basis for decisions that protect the health of all Americans.

Obviously, each of us has at some point taken a drink of tap water, inhaled deeply while enjoying an afternoon outside, or tracked soil into our homes. We perform these and dozens of other mundane daily activities without giving a second thought to potential harmful consequences, thanks in large part to EPA’s actions, many of which are based on IRIS human health assessments of more than 550 chemical substances.

Earlier this year, EPA finalized the long-awaited non-cancer assessment for dioxin, a major milestone for the Agency. Dioxins are toxic chemicals that exist in the environment naturally and can be released in greater quantities through forest fires, backyard burning of trash, certain industrial activities, and residue from past commercial burning of waste.

This final IRIS assessment is the latest effort in a successful, coordinated strategy by the Federal government that has reduced known and measurable air emissions of dioxins in the United States by about 90 percent since 1987.

Risk assessors, health professionals, and state, local, and international governments can now use these latest findings to guide future efforts to identify any residual sources of dioxin and protect public health.

Achievements such as this are what make me proud to be associated with EPA’s IRIS Program, especially when I get that oh-so-common question, “So, what do you do?” Attending the IRIS presentation reminded me that to answer that question, all I have to say is simply, “I help support the science that protects human health” – because that’s exactly what the IRIS Program does.

About the Author:  Elizabeth Erwin is a member of EPA’s science communication team where she helps make IRIS and other EPA science programs and assessments available and accessible.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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.

Wondrous Wetlands

By Tarlie Townsend

What’s your favorite ecosystem? Rainforest? Tundra?

Scenic wetlandsAfter talking with EPA postdoctoral researcher Amanda Nahlik, I’d answer “wetlands”— those water-saturated areas like swamps, bogs, and marshes. They’re so much more than the dreary, monster-infested settings of the movies. In fact, they do great things for us!

Here are just three examples of benefits (“ecosystem services”) we all get from wetlands:

  • Wetland as barrier (storm protection): They reduce the size and speed of waves hitting the shore, helping protect coastal communities during storms.
  • Wetland as sponge (flood amelioration): Amanda recounted one firsthand example: it was springtime in Ohio, the snow had just melted, and heavy rains were imminent. Scientists at The Ohio State University (OSU) Olentangy River Wetland Research Park (where Amanda worked), were concerned that their downstream campus might flood. The solution: manage the nearby experimental wetlands by installing weirs so the wetlands could hold and absorb the floodwater. It worked! The wetland functioned like a sponge, and OSU went flood-free. After the storm, the scientists removed the weirs and slowly released the water back into the river.
  • Wetland as kidney (water purification): Wetlands even clean our water! Myriad wetland organisms absorb contaminants and excessive nutrients (primarily nitrogen and phosphrous) cleaning the water flowing through them.

Here’s where Amanda’s current research comes in. One substance “cleaned” by wetlands is excess nitrogen (primarily from fertilizer runoff). How much nitrogen is absorbed, and how that correlates with other wetland conditions, isn’t well understood. But it matters, because wetlands across the world—under stress from physical destruction, climate change, pollution, and more—are changing, compromising their ability to provide ecosystem services in the form of nitrogen removal.

Existing methods of measuring nitrogen removal are both expensive and time-intensive. And because the amount of denitrification varies, numerous rounds of testing are necessary.

Amanda and colleague J. Renée Brooks may have a solution: comparing the ratio of different nitrogen isotopes (Nitrogen-15 and Nitrogen-14) to measure how much denitrification occurs in a given wetland over time. If more nitrogen-15 is found in the soil, they reason, the wetland is reducing nitrogen pollution and its harmful effects—a good way to help assess the condition of the wetland, and the “ecosystem services” it provides.

Amanda is in the preliminary phase of testing soil isotope measurements in order to develop an indicator of denitrification. So far, the results look good, and could lead to a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to measure how much nitrogen is being removed. Learning about the research also gave me better appreciation for the value of wetlands—my new favorite ecosystem!

About the Author: Tarlie Townsend recently completed an internship in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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.

Ready Today, Safer Tomorrow

By Lina Younes

The 2012 Hurricane Season will officially begin on June 1st. However, two named tropical storms on the list have made their early appearance in May weeks before the official season opening. Even though NOAA is predicting a near-normal 2012 hurricane season for the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea area, it is never too early to get ready before a storm approaches our shores. Even if you do not reside along coastal areas, you could feel the wrath of a hurricane inland from strong winds, torrential rains, flooding, subsequent landslides or debris flow.

So, what should you do as soon as possible? Develop your own emergency kit and hurricane preparedness plan for you and your family. Here are some of the steps you should take in advance to prepare for this event and stay safe.

  • In developing your emergency supplies kit, store up on canned food, bottled water, and other supplies like batteries.
  • Place matches in a waterproof container
  • Stock up on paper cups, plates, plastic utensils
  • Remember to stock up on pet food for your pets
  • Have important family documents on hand in a portable waterproof container
  • Have cash on hand
  • Have books, games, activities for children
  • Have a battery-powered portable radio
  • Have a manual can opener
  • Around the house, clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts
  • Learn about hurricane evacuation routes in your area
  • Using technology, you can sign up to get text messages from FEMA with updated information about the storm
  • Have emergency phone numbers on hand to report power outages with your local utility company or get information on local shelters

After the hurricane is long gone, you might still have to deal with the storm aftermath.  There are certain tips that should help you to stay safe and recover faster after the storm.

  • Do not use a generator inside your home, garage or other enclosed areas. Carbon monoxide in generator exhaust can easily build up with lethal consequences.
  • If your drinking water is not safe, boil for one minute to kill water-borne diseases.
  • Mold growth may be a problem after flooding, get more information on flood cleanup to avoid indoor air quality problems.

Hope you find these tips useful. Any personal suggestions on preparing for a storm?

About the author: Lina Younes is the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. Among her duties, she’s responsible for outreach to Hispanic organizations and media. She spearheaded the team that recently launched EPA’s new Spanish website, www.epa.gov/espanol . She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. She’s currently the editor of EPA’s new Spanish blog, Conversando acerca de nuestro medio ambiente. Prior to joining the agency, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and an international radio broadcaster. She has held other positions in and out of the Federal Government.

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.

Asthma Awareness Month: Part III

By Elias Rodriguez

On a rainy, Friday the 13th the last in a long line of seven children was born to a Puerto Rican immigrant in Manhattan’s Beth Israel Hospital. Yep! The Big Apple welcomed me as a native New Yorker once upon a time, but no one gave me a “heads-up” about New York City’s poor air quality. Sometime around grade school I recall seeing my classmate suffer a wheezing, intense, asthma attack. Thankfully, the teacher knew what to do and she had his inhaler handy. Having an Asthma Action Plan is one of the key tips EPA offers to people who suffer from asthma. Folks can learn to control their symptoms and still maintain active lifestyles.

Here are some simple steps:

Know your Asthma Triggers and Avoid Them: Air pollution, dust mites, mold, secondhand smoke and even cockroaches can trigger asthma attacks. Learn your triggers and avoid them in your home and neighborhood.

Create an Asthma Action Plan: You can help avoid the emergency room by managing your asthma daily. With a doctor’s help, you should create an asthma action plan to help you effectively manage your asthma and reduce exposure to triggers.

Get Active: Even if you have asthma, by taking the appropriate medications and avoiding your triggers, you can still participate in sports and activities.

Be ‘Air Aware': Check local air quality conditions at airnow.gov and make informed decisions about participating in outdoor activities.

Effective execution of clean air laws has improved air quality in New York City significantly, yet it still remains important for people to manage their asthma by knowing the warning signs of attacks, avoiding things that can trigger asthma attacks, and following the advice of their healthcare providers. Children are especially vulnerable, but can learn to manage their asthma at an early age with the help of their doctors, teachers, friends, and families. So, keep up the good fight and learn to breathe easy!

About the Author: Elias serves as EPA Region 2’s bilingual public information officer. Prior to joining EPA, the proud Nuyorican worked at Time Inc. conducting research for TIME, LIFE, FORTUNE and PEOPLE magazines. He is a graduate of Hunter College, Baruch College and the Theological Institute of the Assembly of Christian Churches in NYC.

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.

Connecting at the Water’s Edge

By Maryann Helferty

Young Red Belly Turtle seen at Lardner's Point

Young Red Belly Turtle seen at Lardner's Point

Late on a warm spring afternoon a few weeks ago, I walked along a newly restored tidal wetland and gazed at the young sedge grasses and arrowhead plants.  The line, “If you build it they will come” from the movie Field of Dreams passed through my mind.  Here at Lardner’s Point Park in Philadelphia, PA, both wildlife and people were reclaiming their spot at the water’s edge.

Earlier that week, the opening ceremony for the park celebrated the creation of 300 feet of shoreline access and four acres of open space.  After the ribbon-cutting, a visitor spotted a small baby turtle climbing up the fresh soil bank.  It was a red-belly turtle, a threatened species in Pennsylvania.  It had emerged from the river to welcome the park supporters, just as the early players from baseball’s past entered the cornfield ballpark of Kevin Costner’s dreams. A local water scientist reported that in ten years of boat surveys, he had not seen a young turtle of this species in this area.

Creation of the park was truly a Cinderella story, as the shoreline had been wrapped in a concrete bulkhead from its days as a ferry terminal, and was later fouled by an oil spill.  Over $500,000 in federal funding was dedicated to the restoration and mitigation project.

The ecological restoration of Lardner’s Point is about more than the re-emergence of a living marine ecosystem for plants and animals.  Along the industrial riverfront, open space is as rare as the threatened turtle. The design of this site features a fishing pier, connection to a bike trail and picnic tables.  Check out our podcast on the Lardner’s Point restoration to learn more.

These amenities bring a breeze of recreation to the dense, row-home neighborhood of Tacony nearby.  That’s why as part of the Urban Waters Movement, EPA is seeking to help communities — especially underserved communities — as they work to access, improve and benefit from their urban waters and the surrounding land.

As I left the pier, I said hello to a 10-year old boy carrying a fishing rod.  He happily reported that this was the first time he could walk with his grandfather and fish on the Delaware.  By reconnecting the river to wetlands and greenspace, the park was also connecting friends and family with great memories along the river.

With summer coming, how are you going to connect at the water’s edge?  May is American Wetlands Month, so take some time to learn how you can protect and restore wetlands near you.

About the Author: Maryann Helferty is a water quality scientist with the Mid-Atlantic Regional office of the EPA.  She has worked on groundwater and watershed protection in both the rural Pacific Northwest and the urban corridors of the Atlantic.  One of her passions is teaching urban youth about water through the poetry curriculum: River of Words.  You will find her this summer walking the water’s edge in the Wissahickon Watershed.

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.