environmental risks

Black History Month: Generation Green

By Kuae Kelch Mattox
National President, Mocha Moms, Inc.

When I was growing up, I don’t remember being concerned much about the environment. We didn’t scrutinize labels, all our trash went into one can and we never considered buying “organic.” But now I’m mother to three children who remind me every day what I should be doing to be a kinder, gentler friend to this world in which we live.

My nine year-old daughter tells me I waste water when I let it run while brushing my teeth. My thirteen year old son regularly reminds me he can’t bring anything but a reusable water bottle onto the lacrosse field. He’s also the resident scholar on which plastic is recyclable, and which is not. My teenage environmentally conscious daughter chastises me for putting groceries in plastic bags and points out suspicious chemical key words on cosmetic labels. At our local elementary school, Waste Wednesday is a school tradition. Classes compete to see whose lunchroom trash weighs the least.

Our children are growing up in an era of unprecedented environmental consciousness. The environment is an important part of science and social studies curriculum, science fairs are hot ticket events and extracurricular programs remind our children how their actions impact the environment.

I have always seen myself as my children’s first teacher, but when it comes to the environment, I find that my children are often the ones teaching me. It is a source of great pride that they see taking care of the environment as a serious matter. I see it as my role, particularly as an African American mother, to guide them along the way, to serve as a reminder that it does feel good to treat the place that we call home with honor and respect. Each moment that they teach me is an opportunity for me to show them that I am listening and I, too, care. I also want them to understand the unique needs of the African American community, and that in many communities people of color suffer from disproportionate levels of environmental risk.

For my son, who has asthma, he needs to understand in particular the importance of breathing clean air. For all children, we must be ever vigilant, making sure that their natural curiosity and desire to do good for the earth continues as they grow into adulthood. Let’s talk about the issues – dirty water, polluted air, leaking pesticides, dangerous toxins, health disparities, and let’s explore solutions. Let’s teach our children to be environmental advocates and help this generation to “green” the next one. Let them know, it isn’t just about recycling plastic bottles and paper products. It’s about giving love to the planet – the grass, the trees, the birds and yes, the bees. It’s about planting vegetable gardens, beautifying the landscape outside your school and leaving that odd shaped stinkbug on your wall alone. It’s also about understanding the environmental justice battles of our African American forefathers, knowing how far we have come, and how far we still have to go.

The baby steps we take with our young environmental stewards today will help the next generation to take even bigger steps in the future.

About the author: Kuae Kelch Mattox is the National President of Mocha Moms, Inc., a non-profit organization that supports stay at home mothers of color with 100 chapters in 29 states.

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 Our Nation’s Children

Each October, EPA celebrates Children’s Health Month through activities specially designed to increase awareness on the importance of protecting our children from environmental risks. First, we must note that no matter how precocious and bright children are nowadays, they are not little adults. Their bodies are in full development. They inhale more air, drink more water, and eat more food in proportion to their body size. Therefore, environmental exposures such as allergens, pesticides, chemicals and toxics present much greater risks in children than adults. Furthermore, their common behavior of crawling and taking many objects to their mouth just intensifies these risks. That’s why we have to keep their environments healthy—where they live, learn, and play. Our nation’s children need healthy environments at home, at day care centers, in schools, and their neighborhoods.

As EPA’s Hispanic liaison, I’m taking this message to Hispanic parents via Spanish-language media outlets, our Spanish portal and social media like @EPAespanol on Twitter in order to overcome their linguistic barriers to environmental awareness. It’s not only communicating the message in Spanish, but culturally tailoring the message to diverse Spanish-speaking communities. Why is it necessary to do Hispanic outreach? Census studies reveal that the Hispanic population, in general is younger than their non-Hispanic counterparts in the US. For example, 25% of the children in the US are of Hispanic descent. 62% of Hispanic households include children younger than 18. Furthermore, 53% of Hispanic 4 year-olds were enrolled in nursery school in 2007. In addition, when we take into account the fact that many Hispanic and multilingual communities tend to work, leave, learn, and play in areas where they may be subject to greater environmental exposures, we would be negligent if we did not make special efforts to take EPA’s message to the community—that will be the subject of a future blog.

In the meantime, please celebrate Children’s Health Month, learning how you can better protect all our nation’s children from environmental risks in the home, at school, or in the great outdoors. We have these tips available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean.유해한 환경으로부터 어린이 보호하기 (2 페이지MS WORD/.doc)
What You Can Do to Protect Children from Environmental Risks

With these simple steps, we can go along way to help our children have long and productive lives. Let’s do this today to guarantee a better future for generations to come.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. 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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Protegiendo nuestros niños a nivel nacional

Cada octubre, la Agencia de Protección Ambiental celebra el Mes de Salud Infantil mediante actividades diseñadas para fomentar la concienciación sobre la importancia de proteger a nuestros niños de riesgos ambientales. Debemos tomar en cuenta que no importa cuan precoces sean los niños hoy en día, no son pequeños adultos. En efecto, sus cuerpos están en pleno desarrollo. Ellos inhalan más aire, beben más agua, e ingieren más alimentos en proporción al tamaño de su cuerpo. Sin embargo, las exposiciones medioambientales como los alergenos, los pesticidas, las sustancias químicas y tóxicas presentan mayores riesgos para los niños que para los adultos. Además, su comportamiento común de gatear y llevarse muchos objetos a la boca sólo sirve para intensificar estos riesgos. Por esa razón tenemos que mantener los entornos saludables donde ellos viven, aprenden y juegan, sea en el hogar, en las guarderías, en las escuelas o sus vecindarios.

Como portavoz hispana, ya he comenzado a llevar ese mensaje a los padres hispanoparlantes mediante medios noticiosos en español, nuestra página cibernética en español y medios sociales como@EPAespanol en Twitter a fin de vencer barreras lingüísticas a la concienciación medioambiental. No se trata sólo de comunicar el mensaje en español, sino desarrollarlo para que se ajuste a la sensibilidad de comunidades que hablan español. ¿Por qué es necesario hacer actividades de alcance al público hispano? Los datos del censo revelan que la población hispana es más joven que sus contrapartes no hispanos en este país. Por ejemplo, 25% de los niños en Estados Unidos son de origen hispano. En el 62% de los hogares hispanos residen niños menores de 18 años. Además, 53% de los niños hispanos de 4 años estaban matriculados en escuelas preescolares en el 2007. Mas aún, si tomamos en consideración el hecho de que muchas familias hispanas y multilingües normalmente trabajan, viven, aprenden, y juegan en áreas sujetas a mayores exposiciones medioambientales, seríamos negligentes si no nos esforzáramos a llevar el mensaje de EPA a la comunidad—pero ese será el tema de otro blog.

Mientras tanto, celebre el Mes de Salud Infantil, aprendiendo cómo proteger mejor a nuestros niños de riesgos ambientales a nivel nacional en el hogar, en la escuela o al aire libre. Estos consejos están disponibles en inglés, en españolen chinoen vietnamita,  y coreano. 유해한 환경으로부터 어린이 보호하기 (2 페이지  MS WORD/.doc)

Con estos pasos sencillos, podemos lograr que nuestros niños vivan largas vidas productivas. Hagamos esto hoy para garantizar un mejor futuro para generaciones venideras.

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. 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.

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.