Monthly Archives: October 2013

Una colaboración saludable para mejorar la salud infantil

Por Gina McCarthy y Dra. Elena Ríos

Cuando viajamos a ciudades y comunidades grandes y pequeñas, vemos de primera mano el vínculo directo entre un medio ambiente saludable y vidas saludables, especialmente, para los niños del país. Sin embargo mientras conmemoramos el Mes de la Hispanidad, vale la pena recordar que hay demasiados de nuestros niños, especialmente en comunidades minoritarias, que viven en medio ambientes malsanos que conducen a vidas no saludables.

Estudios científicos indican que los niños minoritarios que viven, aprenden y juegan en comunidades de bajos ingresos tienen mayores riesgos de tener problemas de salud ambiental como el asma, el envenenamiento por plomo, la exposición a plaguicidas, entre otros.

En el 2009, aproximadamente el 70 por ciento de los niños hispanos viven en áreas que no cumplen con las normas de calidad de aire, contribuyendo así a mayores incidencias de asma y otras enfermedades respiratorias. De hecho, los niños de origen puertorriqueño tienen entre los niveles más altos de incidencia de asma reportada en la actualidad en comparación con todos los demás grupos raciales y étnicos.  En los Estados Unidos, aproximadamente 1 de cada 10 niños de edad escolar tienen que batallar con el asma día a día y aquellos más afectados viven en comunidades de color de bajos ingresos.

Estas disparidades de salud representan mucho más que las visitas al hospital o más medicamentos. También significan más ausencias escolares, y una mayor incidencia de obesidad debido a menos ejercicios.

Es por eso que el mejorar la salud infantil y luchar por la justicia ambiental son críticos para la labor que realizamos. Y eso es por qué nos enorgullece el que la EPA y la Asociación Nacional Médica Hispana (NHMA, por sus siglas en inglés) han colaborado con socios federales, estatales y comunitarios para concientizar acerca de asuntos claves de salud ambiental, particularmente entre las poblaciones minoritarias más vulnerables.

Justo el año pasado, la EPA y la NHMA participaron activamente en el Grupo del Trabajo del Presidente Obama sobre los Riesgos a la Salud Ambiental y los Riesgos de Seguridad para los Niños que lanzó el Plan Coordinado de Acción Federal para reducir las disparidades raciales y étnicas del asma. Este plan ahora provee un marco para agencias federales con objetivos y resultados medibles para mejorar la salud ambiental de los niños de nuestra nación en consorcio con nuestros profesionales de cuidado de salud.

Otra manera clave en la cual combatir las disparidades de salud consiste en aumentar el acceso al cuidado de salud. La Ley de Cuidado de Salud a Bajo Precio ayudará a conectar al pueblo con seguros de salud asequibles de alta calidad mediante el nuevo Mercado de Seguros de Salud, una expansión de Medicaid, y protecciones al consumidor como el prohibir la discriminación en base a condiciones preexistentes, tales como la diabetes o el asma que afectan desproporcionadamente a las comunidades minoritarias.

Sin embargo, si vamos a abordar las disparidades de salud pública a gran escala con seriedad, especialmente para nuestros niños—tenemos que abordar con la misma seriedad la reducción de la contaminación de carbono y luchar en contra del cambio climático.

El cambio climático se trata de mucho más que el tiempo extremo. También se trata de la salud infantil. Tiene que ver con el aire limpio y saludable que respiramos. La contaminación de carbono que propulsa el cambio climático conlleva un tiempo más caliente—empeorando así los niveles de polen y smog y conduce a temporadas más largas de alergias y aumentos en el número de muertes relacionadas al calor especialmente entre los niños.

La urgencia de actuar sobre el cambio climático nunca ha sido más evidente que ahora. Es por eso que nos enorgullece poder seguir el liderazgo del Presidente Obama para unir a las comunidades para que podamos tomar pasos sencillos en el hogar y nuestros vecindarios para reducir el impacto adverso al clima cambiante y hacer lo que es correcto para nuestros niños.

A medida que viajamos por el país, vemos que el medio ambiente saludable significa niños saludables. Y a medida que conmemoramos el Mes de la Hispanidad, es nuestra promesa al pueblo estadounidense de seguir luchando por agua más limpia, aire más limpio y estándares de salud pública más firmes para todos nuestros niños y familias—independientemente de quienes sean, de donde provengan, y donde vivan.

Acerca de las autoras:

Gina McCarthy es la administradora de la Agencia de Protección Ambiental. La Dra. Elena Ríos es la presidenta y principal executiva de la Asociación Nacional Médica Hispana, (NHMA, por sus siglas en inglés) representa 45,000 médicos hispanos en los Estados Unidos. También sirve como la presidenta de la Fundación Nacional Médica Hispana de la NHMA afiliada con la Escuela Graduada de Servicio Público de Robert F. Wagner, de la Universidad de Nueva York, para dirigir actividades educativas y de investigación.

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: NYC

We’ve got some spooky and sustainable suggestions for your weekend in the New York area.  Check out the list below and let us know in the comments section if we missed something.

Cheer for 26.2 Miles: Pick any place along the NYC Marathon route and make up for last year’s cancellation by cheering even louder this year! Sunday, November 3.

East Harlem Bike Friendly Business Ride: Hop on your bike and join Transportation Alternatives for a ride through East Harlem. Saturday, November 2, 1 p.m.

Fall Foliage Walk: Your admission to Wave Hill Gardens in the Bronx includes a guided walk of the vibrant trees and shrubs throughout the grounds. Saturday, November 2, 2 p.m.

Free Bootcamp: Work off the extra candy calories at Willowbrook Park in Staten Island. Saturday, November 2, 9 p.m.

Hike and Seek: Head out to Montauk Point State Park on Long Island for a family-friendly hiking adventure. Reservations are required. Call 631-668-2554 for reservations and more information. Saturday, November 2, 1 p.m.

Insects in Contemporary Art: Visit this art exhibition at The Arsenal in Central Park to see how contemporary artists demonstrate the importance of insects through a variety of media. Mondays-Fridays, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (until November 13, 2013)

Jack-O-Lantern and Leaf Compost Collection: Bring your pumpkins and leaves to one of the drop-off locations in Manhattan. Saturday, November 2, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Wildlife Weekends: For two weekends, the Queens County Farm Museum is amping up the fun with activities and events centered around wildlife. Saturday and Sunday, November 2-3, 11 a.m. – 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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Mercury Rising 2: Electric Boogaloo

By Amber Tucker

Last week I briefly gave an introduction about mercury in the environment, and let you know that I would follow it up with  details from the September 12th, Mercury in the Environment Symposium held at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, KS.   Hosted by Haskell, with support from the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP), US EPA Region 7, and the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas, the symposium served as a gathering of minds from Tribal, Federal, and undergrad Haskell students, all ready to learn and discuss the effects of mercurial deposition and monitoring in our environment.

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Haskell University, Lawrence, KS

We heard from David Gay, coordinator for the NADP, about the efforts of his agency to provide measurements of both depositional and atmospheric mercury across the country.  Their two programs, the Mercury Deposition Network (MDN), and the Atmospheric Mercury Network (AMNet), collaborate with several partners from federal and state agencies, Tribal Nations, universities and research institutions as well as private organizations and businesses, to monitor and collect data and provide high quality measurements to support an array of objectives.  This national monitoring network measures total mercury in one-week precipitation samples at 80 sites across the United States. The objective of the MDN is to develop a national database of weekly concentrations of total mercury in precipitation and the seasonal and annual flux of total mercury in wet deposition. The data will be used to develop information on spatial and seasonal trends in mercury deposited to surface waters, forested watersheds, and other sensitive receptors.

The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma is one of NADP’s members, and currently operates monitoring stations for the MDN.  Wet deposition uses air monitoring stations to collect data using weekly samples or samples collected daily within 24 hours of the start of precipitation.  All MDN samples are sent to the Mercury Analytical Laboratory (HAL), which analyzes all forms of mercury in a single measurement and reports this as total mercury concentrations.  They also operate stations to catch and measure litterfall.  The litterfall monitoring initiative offers a way for a NADP site sponsor to get measurements to approximate a large part of the mercury dry deposition in a forest landscape. These samples are analyzed for the presence and concentration of mercury and methylmercury.

We heard from EPA R7 staff on additional monitoring methods, one of which is the Regional Ambient Fish Tissue (RAFT) Program.  Many of the Region 7 Tribes use data from fish tissue samples to determine the mercury content in their local waterways.  This is valuable information not only from an environmentally conscious standpoint, but this data also allows them to determine whether or not fish consumption advisories need to be in effect.

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Stan Holder of EPA Region 7 discussing the RAFT program

As part of the symposium, Tej Atili from the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas Environmental Department hosted a fish tissue sampling demonstration.  Literally hands-on, this demo allowed attendees to go through the process of clearing a small area in the dorsal area of scales, extracting samples using an 8 millimeter biopsy punch, and inserting the sample into a sterile scintillation vial.   While our tissue donor was of the frozen fillet variety, Tej walked us through what the “live” process entails and the importance of following proper procedures and protocol in sampling.  He also sprung a surprise math lesson on us; how to calculate the appropriate daily consumption rate of fish based on body weight.  While my calculations were all wrong (math is NOT a strong suit of mine), the equation that goes into it is actually quite interesting.  If I’m ever in a bind and need to know how much tuna I can eat though, I’m going to need some help; surely there’s an app for that!

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Tej Atili of the Kickapoo of Kansas demonstrating how to obtain a fish biopsy

Spending a day at my alma mater learning about mercury and sampling methods was a blast, and based on the turnout and positive feedback on this symposium, I hope they continue to hold it in the future, and maybe expand it.  In the meantime, if you’re interested in learning more about mercury monitoring and effects,  you can let your fingers do the walking and head over to EPA’s Mercury Page.  Also see NADP’s Mercury Deposition Network Page.   Until next time, I bid you adieu and wish you better fish-consumption calculation skills than I possess.  Seriously though, there’s gotta be an app for that!

Amber Tucker is an Environmental Scientist who serves as a NEPA reviewer for EPA Region 7.  She is a graduate of Haskell University and serves as Region 7′s Special Emphasis Program Manager for Native American Employment Programs.

 

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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Protecting the Chesapeake Bay

By Lina Younes

Over the summer, I had the opportunity to visit several sites in Maryland and Virginia along the Chesapeake Bay. I marveled at the beauty of this important watershed. Did you know that the Chesapeake Bay watershed covers six states and Washington, DC? In fact, it’s the largest estuary on the U.S. mainland.

Even if you don’t live along the coast, did you know that what you do at home, at school, at work or in your community affects the water quality and well-being of this important ecosystem? So, what can you do to protect the bay or your local watershed? Here are some tips:

  •  Use water wisely. Start by turning off the faucet when brushing your teeth or shaving. Also, take shorter showers instead of baths. Make sure that you have a full load of laundry or dishes before using the washer and/or dishwasher. Repair leaking faucets and toilets.
  • If you like gardening, plant native plants. They require less water and nutrients and are more resistant to pests.
  • As part of your next landscaping project, consider planting a rain garden. It’s a great way to reduce water runoff.
  • Keep your car in shape to avoid oil leaks, which contaminate water. If you change your car’s oil yourself, take the used oil to a service station for recycling. Did you know that used oil from one oil change can contaminate one million gallons of fresh water?
  • Use greener cleaning products with the Design for the Environment (DfE) label. They’re safer, they protect our water and they’re better for the environment as a whole.
  • Get involved in your community to increase awareness of water quality. Participate in a stream or park cleanup activity.
  • Pick up after your dog. Don’t let his waste pollute our water.

If you’re still doubtful of the link between your activities and water conservation, I recommend you watch this video so you can be part of the solution.

What did you think? Do you have any suggestions? We would love to hear from you.

About the author:  Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. 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 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 Healthy Collaboration to Improve Children’s Health

When we travel to cities and communities large and small, we see first-hand the direct link between a healthy environment and healthy lives, especially for our country’s children. But as we observe Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s worth remembering that too many of our children, especially in minority communities, live in unhealthy environments that lead to unhealthy lives.

Scientific studies show that minority children who live, learn, and play in low-income communities are at a greater risk of environmental health problems such as asthma, lead poisoning, pesticides exposure, among others.

In 2009, approximately 70 percent of Hispanic children lived where air quality standards were subpar, contributing to higher incidences of asthma and other respiratory diseases. In fact, Puerto Rican American children have among the highest levels of reported current asthma as compared to all other racial and ethnicity groups. In the United States, nearly 1 in 10 school-aged children live with asthma every day, those most affected live in lower-income communities of color.

These health disparities are more than just hospital visits and more medicine. They also mean more missed school days, and a higher incidence of obesity due to less exercise.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Protegiendo la Bahía del Chesapeake

Por Lina Younes

 

Este verano tuve la oportunidad de visitar varios lugares en Maryland y Virginia a lo largo de la Bahía del Chesapeake. Me maravillé de la belleza de esta importante cuenca fluvial. ¿Sabía  que la cuenca de la Bahía del Chesapeake abarca seis estados y Washington, DC? De hecho, es el estuario más grande en los Estados Unidos continentales.

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¿Aun cuando no viva a lo largo de la costa, sabía que lo que usted hace en su hogar, la escuela, el trabajo o en su comunidad afecta la calidad del agua y el bienestar de este importante ecosistema? ¿Entonces, qué puede hacer para proteger la bahía o la cuenca fluvial en su comunidad? He aquí algunos consejos:

·         Use el agua prudentemente. Empiece por cerrar el grifo cuando se cepille los dientes o se afeite. También dúchese en vez de tomar un baño de tina. Asegúrese de tener una tanda completa de ropa o vajilla cuando use la lavarropas o la lavaplatos. Repare las fugas y goteos en grifos e inodoros.

·         ¿Le gusta la jardinería? Siembre plantas autóctonas. Estas requieren menos agua y nutrientes y son más resistentes a las plagas.

·         Como parte de su próximo proyecto de paisajismo, siembre un jardín de lluvia. Es una excelente manera de reducir las escorrentías.

·         Dele mantenimiento a su auto con regularidad para evitar escapes de aceite que contaminan el agua. Si usted cambia el aceite de su auto usted mismo, lleve el aceite usado a una estación de servicio para reciclarlo. ¿Sabía que el aceite usado de un cambio de aceite podría contaminar un millón de galones de agua dulce?

·         Use productos de limpieza más verdes con la etiqueta de Diseño para el Medio Ambiente (Design for the Environment (DfE)) Son más seguros, protegen nuestra agua y son mejores para el medio ambiente en general.  103113 Bird OC formatted

·        Involúcrese en su comunidad para concientizar al público acerca de la calidad de agua. Participe en una actividad de limpieza en un riachuelo o parque comunitario.

·         Recoja después que su perro haga sus necesidades. No deje que contamine nuestra agua.

Si todavía tiene dudas acerca del vínculo entre sus actividades y la conservación de agua, recomiendo que vea este video para participar en la solución.

¿Qué le parece? ¿Tiene sugerencias? Nos encantaría saber su opinión.

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.

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To Your Good Health: Climate Action May Yield Significant Health “Co-Benefits”

By John Dawson

our_changing_planet_2008_166_20090708_2071842232 (1)Everyone likes a two-for-one deal, and a study published in Nature Climate Change shows we get such a bargain when we reduce carbon dioxide, an air pollutant also known as a greenhouse gas. Carbon dioxide emissions from cars, trucks, coal-fired power plants and other fossil-fuel-burning sources are causing a threat to our health because of the pollutant’s role in warming the atmosphere and causing climate change.

Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, EPA, and several other institutions identified co-benefits of reducing greenhouse gases. The study was funded by EPA’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program.

The team used computer models to simulate global air quality under two scenarios. One depicted a world with no global policy to limit greenhouse gases, allowing carbon dioxide concentrations to increase from present levels of just under 400 parts per million (ppm) to 760 ppm in 2100. A second scenario simulated global carbon emission reductions to achieve concentrations of 525 ppm in 2100. Scientists then calculated how these two disparate policies would affect other air pollutants, or “co-pollutants,” that are emitted along with carbon dioxide.

Their analysis showed that reductions in greenhouse gas emissions would yield major benefits by improving air quality and public health.

The researchers calculated that the second carbon emission reduction scenario (which includes expected economic growth) would prevent one-half million air-pollution-related premature deaths per year globally in 2030; these benefits would grow to 1.3 million fewer deaths in 2050, and 2.2 million in 2100.

These health benefits are estimated to be equivalent to between $50 and $380 per ton of carbon dioxide reduced globally.

The study shows that the health-related economic benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions may outweigh the costs of control—even before the benefits of reducing climate change are realized.

While a single scenario is not enough to draw definitive conclusions about the ramifications of future greenhouse gas emission reductions, the research does suggest there may be multiple benefits to reductions: limiting climate change, reducing other air pollutants at the same time and providing a safer and healthier environment.

To read the study, “Co-benefits of mitigating global greenhouse gas emissions for future air quality and human health,” go to http://bit.ly/15OY2Xr.

About the Author: John Dawson is a Physical Scientist in EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research.

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

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It’s Not Psycho to ‘Shower Better’ with WaterSense

By Kim Scharl    

You know how the classic horror film goes. You’re in the shower, escaping the outside world and winding down…until that music comes on and the curtain flings open.

How terrifying – you’re wasting so much water in your shower!  The horror!!

So what if there was a better, less scary way to shower? There is, thanks to WaterSense labeled showerheads. You can experience superior shower performance and save water, energy, and money simply by replacing your showerhead with a WaterSense labeled model this fall.

Drain with vampire teeth

If you dare, click the image above to listen to a podcast with more about the scary ways you may be wasting water, energy, and money in your shower.

Showering accounts for nearly 17 percent of residential indoor water use, or about 30 gallons per household per day. That’s nearly 1.2 trillion gallons of water used in the United States annually just for showering! The good news is that with a WaterSense labeled showerhead, you can save four gallons of water every time you shower.

Showerheads that have earned the WaterSense label are independently certified to use 20 percent less water and meet EPA’s performance criteria for spray force and water coverage, which means you really will shower better – comfortably and more efficiently, while getting just as clean.

What’s more, installing a WaterSense labeled showerhead can save the average family the amount of water it takes to wash more than 70 loads of laundry each year. Because energy is required to heat the water coming to your shower, your family can also save enough electricity to power your home for 13 days per year and cut utility bills by nearly $70 annually.

Whether you are remodeling your bathroom or simply interested in ways to save around the house, look for the WaterSense label on your next showerhead. To make the showering savings even sweeter, some utilities offer rebates, giveaways, promotions, or other incentives to promote water-efficient showerheads.

October is Energy Awareness Month, so this Halloween, learn more about WaterSense labeled showerheads and see a list of models at the WaterSense-Labeled Showerheads page. In addition, the WaterSense Rebate Finder lists some of the rebates utilities offer on WaterSense-labeled showerheads and other plumbing fixtures.  You can also listen to this spooky podcast about saving water and energy in your home.

So Shower Better with WaterSense.  Your water use can be one less thing to be scared of in the shower on a dark and stormy night.

About the Author: Kimberly Scharl has worked at the Environmental Protection Agency since 2010, after moving to Pennsylvania from Mississippi.  She is a financial analyst and project officer for the Water Protection Division, Office of Infrastructure and Assistance.  She is also the Regional Liason for the WaterSense Program.  Kim enjoys bowling and spending time with her family.

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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Advancing Children’s Environmental Health: Our Best Investment

Reposted from EPA Connect, the Official Blog of EPA’s Leadership

Group of children at schoolAnyone who has ever enjoyed watching a toddler explore their world knows that along with that marvelous sense of discovery comes potential trouble. Young children crawl around on the floor, play in the dirt, and don’t hesitate to retrieve a wayward cookie or other delectable treat hidden among the dust bunnies underneath the couch—and pop it straight into their mouth.

Behaviors like these, as well as their smaller bodies and still developing internal systems, make children more vulnerable to pollution and other environmental risks than us adults. That’s why we here at EPA make protecting children’s health a top priority.

read more…

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

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Advancing Children’s Environmental Health: Our Best Investment

Children image for Lek blog 10.30.13Anyone who has ever enjoyed watching a toddler explore their world knows that along with that marvelous sense of discovery comes potential trouble. Young children crawl around on the floor, play in the dirt, and don’t hesitate to retrieve a wayward cookie or other delectable treat hidden among the dust bunnies underneath the couch—and pop it straight into their mouth.

Behaviors like these, as well as their smaller bodies and still developing internal systems, make children more vulnerable to pollution and other environmental risks than us adults. That’s why we here at EPA make protecting children’s health a top priority.

More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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.