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Educational Resources & Activities

By Carly Carroll

Going into classrooms and sharing environmental has always been my favorite part of being an environmental educator. One of my favorite experiences was participating in EPA’s Science Day at an elementary school in North Carolina. The teachers and students were always so happy to open their doors and let EPA scientists and community volunteers come in and share a hands-on activity with them. My favorite activities were those that really got the students involved and doing something – like measuring how much electricity various appliances used, or measuring lung capacity and learning about air quality. Seeing these activities lead to teachers asking if EPA had any resources they could use in to bring more environmental science into their classrooms. The answer is yes!

In addition to what EPA has already developed in the past, The Office of Environmental Education is working with various program offices to develop resources highlighting upcoming important issues and monthly themes.

  • October is Children’s Health Month! Check out our series of resources and activities on protecting children’s health at home and at school!
  • Students can learn how to protect their own health with activities on lead, mold, and indoor air quality.
  • All of EPA’s student and teacher resources are in one easy place! Check out the recently updated Students and Teachers page for games, factsheets, teacher resources, activities, and more!

About the author: Carly Carroll is an Environmental Education Specialist with EPA’s Office of Environmental Education in Washington, DC. Prior to joining the office in 2011, she worked as a Student Services Contractor at EPA in Research Triangle Park, assisting with environmental education and outreach.

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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After the Storm

By Denise Owens

After the departure of Hurricane Irene, I was left with tons of damage and cleanup. My basement was my first concern. I couldn’t believe the amount of water I was seeing, but with the electricity off, I had to wait until the morning to actually see what was damaged.

I knew my first priority was to get the water out as quickly as possible because of the danger of mold . The electricity being out for a week made it harder, but I just had to get it done.

With the water gone, the next step was to remove the carpet to get the basement dry. Then I realized the walls were damaged. Since my home is older, I had paneling instead of drywall; it also had to be removed. Proper clean-up was necessary to avoid mold showing up later.

After I cleaned the basement, I just didn’t feel safe or comfortable with my results, so I hired a professional company to come out and do a thorough cleaning. After the company cleaned for hours, they assured me that I wouldn’t have any further problems and my basement was mold-free.

I didn’t realize it would take me so long to get things back to normal, but I’m so happy that my basement is mold free!

About the author: Denise Owens has worked with the Environmental Protection Agency for over 20 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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Why Is My Child Sick?

By Kara Belle

In 2002, we moved from Texas to Atlanta with my perfectly healthy 8-month old. Within a month, my daughter was in the hospital, face flush, lips blue, high fever and straining for every breath. The doctors would treat her, we would go home, and two to three weeks later we would be back to the emergency room for the same thing. It got so bad my daughter’s pediatrician requested that I remove my daughter from day care for six weeks so that her body would have time to heal and recover. My mom kept my daughter in her home during this time and miraculously she had no breathing problems, no fever, and looked great. I brought her home and within hours she was ill. This was my ah-ha moment. It was my apartment! Upon close inspection, I found mold underneath sinks and around windows in my apartment. I also recounted the numerous times her daycare would flood during heavy rains. In addition, we lived a stone’s throw from a major interstate. I later learned outdoor pollutants like emissions from cars, factories, and power plants can contribute to asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses.

My daughter was diagnosed with asthma but no one ever sent me home with tips on what environmental exposures may be triggering her asthma and respiratory infections. I can’t tell you how much I have learned since then. I bought books, searched the Internet, talked to other moms and found some really great information on asthma triggers and allergens both indoors and outdoors. I don’t want other parents or caregivers to go through an arduous and unnecessary learning curve as I did.

Most importantly, I’ve learned the importance of working with your child’s doctor to help create an Asthma Action Plan to prevent future asthma attacks. This is an essential preventative step toward managing asthma. Although, there is no cure for asthma yet, asthma can be controlled through medical treatment and management of environmental triggers. Had I known about the Asthma Action Plan earlier, my sweet baby girl would not have had to suffer needlessly as she did.

I always try to share my story with other parents who are becoming sadly aware of the asthma epidemic. Please join me and share your story. The more we talk about the importance of a healthy environment the better we can champion children’s health as parents, as a community, and as a nation.

About the author: Kara Belle works in the Office of Children’s Health Protection

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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Children's Health in Indian Country

By Margo Young

As a mom of two young children I relate to any parent or caregiver trying to create a healthy environment for children to thrive and grow. As a public health worker in the field of children’s health protection, I am also acutely aware that the environments we raise our children in this country are vastly different from neighborhood to neighborhood, city to city, state to state, and that these differences impact the health and well-being of our children.

This is especially true in Indian Country. While many Native American populations maintain intricate and ecologically interdependent relationships with the natural environment, these relationships have been impacted by environmental pollution, changes in subsistence lifestyles and political isolation, which threaten the health, wellness, and way of life of tribal communities. In light of Children’s Health Month, it is appropriate to highlight these differences, but also embrace the common goal of protecting our most vulnerable populations of children.

Children often bear a disproportionate impact from environmental contaminants. Living conditions, walkable communities, access to play areas and health care and limited resources are some of the challenges that tribal communities face in addressing environmental health issues. American Indian and Alaska Native children are more than twice as likely to suffer from asthma and other respiratory diseases and are more likely to be hospitalized from these chronic conditions. These illnesses can be caused or exacerbated by substandard housing conditions and poor indoor air quality, including mold and moisture, wood burning, the use of pesticides and other chemicals, smoking and inadequate ventilation. Fixing and addressing these problems can prevent certain life-long impacts on children.

The good news is that there are many actions we can take to address these issues and make homes and communities healthier for children. You can find information and tips on improving indoor air quality in tribal communities from EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Tribal Partners Program. Protecting the health of children is a compelling motivation to improve our environment — during Children’s Health Month and throughout the year. Take the initiative now and find out what you can do to improve children’s health.

About the Authors: Margo Young lives in Seattle and is the Region 10 Children’s Environmental Health and Environmental Education Coordinator and has been with EPA for over 5 years.

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.

Hispanic Heritage 2010 – Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

By Carmen Torrent

Is the air in your home healthy? Do you know how harmful substances got there and what to do about them? These are important questions to ask. Asthma triggers, mold, radon and secondhand smoke are all known to reduce the quality of indoor air.

As a Latina, one of the most important values for me is my family. I hold close to my heart not only my immediate family, but also my extended family of friends, neighbors and my three dogs.

A healthy family is an important part of our heritage. However, families often don’t know how important good indoor air quality (IAQ) is to their health. My neighbor, whom I love dearly, is a sweet, elderly woman who is mostly home-bound. This is actually not unusual, for the average American spends more than 90 percent of their time indoors. When I found out she has asthma, I helped her identify her triggers. I went through her house with her and pointed out how dust mites, mold and animal dander and other problems can be controlled to help reduce asthma triggers. Now she has an asthma action plan, takes the proper medication, and is controlling the quality of the air in her home. Learn more about those asthma triggers and watch the video “Breathing Freely: Controlling Asthma Triggers.”

Breathing clean air (whether indoors or outdoors) is essential for good health. The first step is to identify the source of pollutants and then take action to resolve any problems. Some key actions we should all take to protect our families include:

  • Get the mold out! Some people, such as infants and children, are especially vulnerable to mold exposure. Fix or eliminate any water problems, clean up the mold and control humidity levels.
  • Test and fix your home from radon. In fact, radon is the #1 cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. You don’t know if you have a radon problem unless you test your home. Learn about how to get a test kit.

Remember, we can all control the quality of our own indoor air while preserving our heritage and the health of our loved ones.

About the author: Carmen Torrent a public affairs specialist in EPA’s Office of Indoor Air.

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.

Healthy Schools, Healthy Children

I’ve never questioned that good indoor air quality in schools is critical to the success and health of our students and teachers. In addition to the health effects, students and staff that are exposed to poor indoor air quality (IAQ) experience decreased performance and diminished concentration levels. That’s why, as part of the Jicarilla Apache Nation Environmental Protection Office, I’ve been working with schools to improve their indoor air since 1995. Truthfully, we initially had mixed success. It was difficult to communicate to every school group why indoor air quality was important – from custodians to teachers to principals, everyone valued something different. So in 2000, when we heard about the Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Program and that it offered a framework for schools to do just that, we were on board. We didn’t know if the guidance would help us, but thankfully it did.

Over the past nine years, we’ve had a lot of successes. We were able to get everyone in our schools advocating for healthy indoor air quality and convinced them that by using a systematic approach, and ready-made checklists and resources, they could lead this effort. I’d like to share a couple of our stories that show just how much a comprehensive program can make a difference.

The first story is short, but it packs a lot of punch. Not long after we met with teachers for a formal IAQ training, we received a report from a teacher who was concerned that her classroom was making her and her students sick. When we investigated the room, we discovered a major mold problem. Following remediation guidance, we were able to clean up the mold and the teacher and students were able to enjoy a safe and healthy learning environment once again.

The second story revolves around radon, another important component of an IAQ management program. As part of our comprehensive IAQ effort, we conducted radon testing in all of our schools. At the Dulce Middle School, we discovered levels well above EPA’s action level of 4 pCi/L and undertook five distinct mitigation projects to guarantee low levels of radon. In the end, our mitigation effort was successful, but it took a lot of work, time and money.

I encourage anyone who works with schools, in schools, or for schools to take these stories to heart and advocate for an IAQ management program. You will make a difference. Start with the EPA guidance and if you can, attend the Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Symposium – a premier event that helps brings this guidance to life.

About the Author: Pauline Electric-Warrior is a member of the Jicarilla Apache Nation. She works in the Environmental Protection Office of the Jicarilla Apache Nation in Dulce, New Mexico.

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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Question of the Week: What do you do to protect children from environmental hazards?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Many people don’t realize children can be more sensitive to environmental exposures, indoors as well as outdoors. But there are many, often simple things we can do to protect children from environmental hazards, including avoiding asthma triggers such as secondhand smoke or mold. October is Children’s Health Month.

What do you do to protect children from environmental hazards?

En español: Cada semana hacemos una pregunta relacionada al medio ambiente. Por favor comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos y comentarios. Siéntase en libertad de responder a comentarios anteriores o plantear nuevas ideas. Preguntas previas.

Muchas personas no se dan cuenta cuán más sensitivos son los niños a las exposiciones ambientales, tanto en entornos interiores como exteriores. Sin embargo, hay pasos, muchas veces sencillos, que usted puede tomar para proteger a los niños de los peligros ambientales, incluso el evitar los desencadenantes de asma como el tabaquismo pasivo o el moho. Octubre es el Mes de Salud Infantil.

¿Qué hace para proteger a los niños de los peligros medioambientales?

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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