generators

Are You Ready for a Snowstorm?

By Lina Younes

Luckily meteorologists in the Washington, DC metro area are not forecasting a major snowstorm in the near future. Nonetheless, as survivors of Snowgeddon 2010, my family and I are beginning to discuss preparations for the next major North American blizzard. We’re not all on the same page, though. While my youngest is praying for another major snow storm so that she can stay home and go sledding, my husband and I are debating the pro’s and con’s of investing in a snow blower and/or generator.

During the first day of Snowgeddon 2010, we were without electricity for 15 hours.  Energy Star windows kept the house comfortable for nearly 12 hours. When it started to get cold, we lit a fire and had great family time around the fireplace. While a cozy fireplace is still an option, we have to make sure that we burn firewood wisely.  Smoke produces a combination of gases and fine particles from burning wood. If you don’t use your wood-burning appliance properly, you can expose your family to serious health effects,
especially if they suffer from heart or respiratory diseases.

Personally, I am very concerned about the use of generators around the home. These gasoline-powered appliances can produce deadly concentrations of carbon monoxide in indoor air. Even though I know we have to operate generators outside to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, the mere thought of the nearby exhaust scares me. Although we have a carbon monoxide detector, don’t want to have my family anywhere near that exhaust.

Now the other thing we’re also debating is the issue of the snow blower. It was not fun shoveling those tons of snow and we have the “battle scars” to prove it. Furthermore, gas-operated equipment like snowblowers and generators are also sources of air pollution, something we should all try to prevent. The only thing that is making me consider investing in this high ticket item is the probability that if we buy it, it won’t snow this year. We shall see. Are you preparing for snowgeddon 2011?

More about snow and ice

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 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.

Beware of Silent Killers

Old Man Winter definitely has been hitting with a vengeance this season. While these spells of subfreezing temperatures and wintry mixes cause numerous problems on the nation’s roads, one of the areas of greatest risk might be in our own homes if we don’t take the right steps to protect our families.

Snow and ice storms can lead to blackouts. People often resort to portable generators to power up the house. Others use combustion appliances to stay warm. Please note, that generator exhaust is extremely toxic! These generators need to be outside, away from doors, windows, and vents. They produce carbon monoxide (CO) which builds up quickly and is deadly. Since you cannot smell, see, or taste this exhaust, this gas can buildup with tragic consequences.

Furthermore, area heaters which operate as combustion appliances also present their own environmental hazards if not used properly. These appliances that burn fuels liquid kerosene, coal, and wood have to be properly maintained and installed in order to minimize the production of toxic gases in the home such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. Once again, ventilation is key!

While we’re addressing those invisible and silent killers like carbon monoxide, we cannot forget radon. It is a radioactive gas that may be present in your home. Exposure to radon causes lung cancer in non-smokers and smokers alike. In fact, EPA has designated January as National Radon Action Month. The Agency recommends that homeowners and renters have their home tested for radon. Test kits are easy to use. They can be ordered online or purchased at a local hardware store.

For other suggestions on how you can do something today to protect the environment where you live, work, and play, just visit our Pick 5 page. That’s a good way to start the new year.

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.

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.

Ojo a los asesinos silenciosos

La temporada invernal ha sido implacable este año. Mientras las gélidas temperaturas y nevadas pueden ocasionar numerosos problemas en las carreteras a nivel nacional, una de las áreas de mayor riesgo podría estar en nuestros propios hogares si no tomamos las precauciones necesarias para proteger nuestras familias.

Las tormentas de nieve y hielo pueden ocasionar apagones. Hay personas que utilizan generadores portátiles para producir electricidad en las casas. Otras usan enseres a base de combustión para calentar. Tengan en cuenta que los gases de escape de estos generadores son extremadamente tóxicos. Estos generadores tienen que ser colocados al exterior de la casa lejos de puertas, ventanas o rendijas. Estos generadores producen monóxido de carbono (CO) que se acumula rápidamente y puede ser mortal. Como no se pueden oler, ver ni saborear los escapes, este gas se puede acumular con trágicas consecuencias.

Además, las unidades de calefacción a base de combustión también presentan sus propios riesgos medioambientales si no son operados adecuadamente. Estos enseres que queman combustibles como querosén líquido, carbón y madera deben ser instalados y manejados debidamente para minimizar la producción de gases tóxicos en el hogar como el monóxido de carbono, el dióxido de nitrógeno y el dióxido de azufre. ¡La ventilación es clave!

Al mencionar los asesinos invisibles y silenciosos como el monóxido de carbono, no podemos olvidarnos del radón. Este es un gas radioactivo que puede existir en su hogar. La exposición al radón ocasiona cáncer pulmonar entre los no-fumadores y fumadores por igual. De hecho, la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de Estados Unidos ha designado enero como el Mes Nacional de Acción del Radón. La agencia recomienda a los propietarios e inquilinos que hagan la prueba del radón en el hogar. Estas pruebas son fáciles de hacer. Se pueden ordenar vía el Internet o comprar en una ferretería cercana.

Para más sugerencias sobre lo que usted puede hacer hoy mismo para proteger el medio ambiente donde vive, trabaja y juega, visite nuestra página de Seleccione 5 Esa es una buena manera de comenzar el nuevo año.

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.