Partnerships

‘Dr. Lowry, I read on the internet that I shouldn’t feed my child rice cereal. Is this true?’

Introduction by LaTonya Sanders

October is Children’s Health Month. In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics established October as Child Health Month in order to focus national attention on children’s health issues. This month and throughout the year, EPA works with parents, teachers, health providers and other partners to promote healthy environments where children live, learn and play.

Only through partnerships and collaboration can we make a difference and leverage the needed resources and support to guard all children against environmental health threats.

PEHSUEPA is proud to partner with people and organizations that are on the forefront in protecting children’s health and the environment, which is consistently true for Dr. Jennifer Lowry and the Mid-America Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit. Dr. Lowry is a crucial partner to EPA, and her work is instrumental in creating a healthier future for our children.

By Jennifer Lowry, MD

Jennifer Lowry, MDPediatricians love children. We love helping children become the best people they can be. We love doing what is needed to make the world a better place for children to be healthy.

What pediatricians don’t love is being caught unaware of the latest blog, internet chat, or media storm regarding environmental health issues. Media and other news outlets often inform parents of possible environmental exposures that can cause harm to children.

Unfortunately, not all of the information is true, which causes undo concern for parents and confusion to pediatricians who are asked about these effects.

A World of Stuff

What is a pediatrician or family to do? It is important to realize we are surrounded by stuff. We, or the people who have come before us, have made choices that puts stuff in our world that is supposed to make things “better” or “easier.” Unfortunately, not all of the stuff we encounter fits both descriptions.

Cell phones, plastics, better beef, lead in paint, and synthetic athletic fields are just a few examples that may make life easier, but might not (or definitely not in some cases) make life better. But today, everywhere you turn, someone is saying our children’s lives are being damaged by the chemicals we have in the environment. Is this true?

A Matter of the Dose

As a toxicologist, I have been taught “Everything is a poison. It is just a matter of the dose.” Paracelsus was a Swiss-German Renaissance physician, botanist, alchemist, astrologer and general occultist. Born in 1493, he founded the discipline of toxicology. Paracelsus rejected the medical conditions of the time, and pioneered the use of chemicals and minerals in medicine. He is credited with the phrase “the dose makes the poison,” but is also known to have said: If given in small doses, “what makes a man ill also cures him.” Thus, he realized medicines can be beneficial at low doses, but cause harm at higher doses.

Paracelsus, founder of toxicology

Paracelsus, founder of toxicology

But what about chemicals and metals, both synthetic and natural? What about plants? Is it true there is no harm at low levels? Well, it depends. Medications used to treat illnesses are rigorously tested for safety and efficacy. Chemicals used in the environment are not. Alternative medications (dietary supplements) are not.

We know some medications have benefits at very low doses (micrograms), but can cause toxicity at the milligram dose (or 1,000 times the microgram dose). Some medications have no efficacy at the milligram dose and require much higher doses (grams or 1000 times the milligram dose) to have effect.

Why would we expect plants, supplements, chemicals or metals to be any different? Each chemical is different and has a different profile for efficacy and toxicity. Some chemicals (botulinum toxin, for example) are toxic at even lower doses. Unfortunately, we are finding out doses that were presumed safe were really not safe to begin with.

Arsenic and Lead

Chemical symbols for arsenic and lead

Chemical symbols for arsenic and lead

At one time, we erroneously thought because arsenic was “natural,” it could be placed in soil as a pesticide. However, arsenic is relatively immobile so anything that grows where it was placed (such as rice fields) can incorporate it into the food. Thus, higher levels of arsenic are found in foods grown where arsenic was used.

The same is true about lead. Pediatricians know that children are not little adults. But the level associated with toxicity in adults was applied to children early in the 1900s. However, it was soon realized children were more vulnerable and action was required at lower levels. Lead has not become more toxic over time. Our recognition of the toxicity of lead has changed for us to realize that even low levels of blood lead may result in harm.

So What Do We Do?

Can a 6-month-old child eat rice cereal? YES. Should they only eat rice cereal? NO. Does it have to be the first cereal they eat? NO. Can my teenager have a cell phone? YES. Should they be on it all the time? NO. Should they carry it in their pants or in their bra? NO. Should an infant or toddler play with a cell phone or tablet as their entertainment? NO.

How do you discover these answers? Great resources are available to help you sort this out:

  • Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSUs) – Staffed by health care professionals who are experts in pediatric environmental health, they can help to best inform health care providers and the public on how to keep children safe from environmental toxins.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics – Through the Council on Environmental Health, health care professionals can learn about the latest science on pediatric environmental health and how to incorporate this knowledge into their practice. This website is a great resource for families to find out what experts in children advise.
  • Poison Control Centers – Staffed by health care professionals, they are best able to help you with acute exposures. Some PEHSUs collaborate with poison control centers. Call 1-800-222-1222.

Lastly, be smart. Do you really need that stuff? Do you really need to throw it away? Reduce, reuse and recycle. It is easy to blame others before us for where we are now. But who will our children blame with what we leave them?

About the Introducer: LaTonya Sanders serves as the children’s health coordinator in EPA Region 7’s Office of Public Affairs in Lenexa, Kan. Her EPA career expands over 20 years in public affairs, communications, outreach, education and congressional relations.

About the Author: Jennifer Lowry, MD, is the medical director of the Mid-America Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, among several other prestigious titles. She served on EPA’s Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee from 2012 to 2014.

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 Summer Send-off at the Coast

by Megan Keegan

Enviroscape

EnviroScape – the ultimate tool for watershed education

How do you interest an audience of children, from toddlers to teens, in watershed protection? It’s easy: bring the subject down to their level – literally! That’s exactly what I did when I arrived to set up an exhibit at Pennsylvania Coast Day. By moving the timeless EnviroScape® – the ultimate tool for watershed education – from the tabletop to the ground, the children got a bird’s-eye view of a watershed comprised of several different land uses.  Parents looked on, amused, as the children helped “make it rain!” to demonstrate how common environmental pollutants make their way into our region’s waterways.

Along with EPA’s exhibition, Coast Day boasted a wide range of exhibitors with kid-engaging activities, like the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary’s demonstration of bivalve water filtration.  Bivalves include clams, oysters, and mussels. In our region, freshwater mussels are critically important because they provide valuable “ecosystem services” like stabilizing stream beds and filtering water. As we mentioned in a blog last year, an adult mussel can filter an astonishing 15 gallons of water per day. The Coast Day exhibit let passers-by see this filtration in action, with water in the aquarium tank going from cloudy to clear in a matter of hours.

The best part about the day?  It was totally free!  Although it was a cloudy day threatening to rain, Coast Day attracted a great crowd reflective of the diverse communities and family-friendly character of Philadelphia. If you missed this celebration of the Pennsylvania coast, head down to Lewes, Delaware, this Sunday for Delaware’s Coast Day – another free, fun, family event.

Find out more about your watershed – and even get involved with local watershed protection activities – by using EPA’s Surf Your Watershed website. If you’re an educator or parent looking for water education resources for children there are many fun, educational activities EPA’s water website.

 

About the Author: Megan Keegan is a new member of the Source Water Protection Team in EPA Region 3.  Her favorite state is Maine, where she enjoys fishing, kayaking, and picking blueberries. She considers Acadia to be the best National Park on the East Coast.

 

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 Your Drinking Water for 40 Years

By Ken Kopocis

Crossposted from EPA Connect

As I traveled across the country this year, there’s one thing I could count on everywhere I went: tap water that’s safe to drink. Drinking water is essential for healthy families, thriving communities, and strong local economies. And this month we’re proud to celebrate an important milestone as December 16, 2014 marks the 40th anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

We’ve made incredible progress in improving drinking water safety over the past 40 years. Before Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1974, EPA lacked the authority and the funding to ensure safe drinking water, and over 40% of our nation’s drinking water systems failed to meet even the basic health standards in place at the time.

Today, we almost take safe drinking water for granted. The Safe Drinking Water Act has been such a success that we sometimes lose sight of how far we’ve come. Americans drink over 1 billion glasses of tap water every day. We enjoy the cleanest drinking water in the world, with more than 90 percent of Americans receiving water that meets all standards, all the time.

We owe that accomplishment to this incredible law, and to the dedicated work of water professionals at the federal, state, and local level. Clean, reliable water is the foundation of what makes America great. It’s what lets our children grow up healthy, keeps our schools and hospitals running, and fuels our economy.

But we face new and legacy challenges to providing safe drinking water. Just this past year, the water sector struggled with the effects of a changing climate. Climate impacts hit the water sector first, with warmer temperatures, stronger storms, more extreme droughts, and changes to water chemistry.

We’ve also seen stark reminders this year that our drinking water supplies are still vulnerable. In January, a chemical spill upstream of the Charleston, WV, drinking water intake contaminated the drinking water supply for five days. Governor Tomblin estimated the spill cost the state over $70 million. And in August, algae in Lake Erie produced a toxin that made it into Toledo’s water supply. Local business came to a standstill and nearly half a million people were left without safe drinking water for two days.

These events make clear that we need to do more to protect our nation’s drinking water at the source. EPA will continue to coordinate efforts with partners like the Source Water Collaborative, made up of 25 national organizations dedicated to protecting our nation’s drinking water. The Collaborative has launched a Call to Action—asking utilities, states, federal agencies, and local governments to step up to protect source water. I encourage all of us to act.

Utilities can partner with landowners and businesses, and make sure they have plans in place with emergency responders. Local governments can help with land use planning to protect water where it counts most. States can update source water assessments.

And federal agencies can work better together. At EPA, we’re working with USDA Rural Development to better serve the 97% of our nation’s water systems with fewer than 10,000 customers. We’re offering specially tailored technical assistance and financing options for rural water systems, helping make sure they have the resources and expertise they need.

And EPA has taken an important step to protect headwaters and small streams from pollution with our proposed Clean Water Rule, which will reduce the need for expensive treatment.

Protecting drinking water has never been easy, and it’s not getting any easier. But when we focus on infrastructure investments, building partnerships, and protecting source water — we can continue to make a difference.

We’ll have to work together. And when we do, the Safe Drinking Water Act will protect future generations for decades to come.

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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Sports and a Sustainable Future

By Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe

With football season starting back up and baseball playoffs around the corner, this is one of my favorite times of the year – and I know many Americans share my excitement.

I am a sports enthusiast. But I am also an environmentalist. Today more than ever, these two passions of mine seem to go hand-in-hand. For the past few years, a number of sports teams, venues and leagues have come forward and expressed interest in greener, cost-saving ways of doing business. These improvements will ensure that, as each pitch is thrown, each goal is scored and each car completes another lap on the racetrack, we’re doing more to conserve resources, clean up our environment and protect the health of our communities.

Green Sports Alliance Board of Directors Chairman and Seattle Mariners Vice President of Ballpark Operations Scott Jenkins and U.S. EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe sign the memorandum of understanding.

Green Sports Alliance Board of Directors Chairman and Seattle Mariners Vice President of Ballpark Operations Scott Jenkins and U.S. EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe sign the memorandum of understanding.

Yesterday I joined representatives from the Green Sports Alliance, an organization that represents over 100 teams and venues from 13 different leagues, to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at the Alliance’s second annual Summit in Seattle, WA.

The agreement we signed seeks to build upon our current outreach and sustainability efforts, and it strengthens the partnerships we have with the Alliance so our work can be as far-reaching as possible. It will help ensure that America’s sports teams and venues have the tracking and reporting tools and technical expertise they need to address environmental challenges like waste management, water conservation and pollution. It will also help with the effort to make sports venues’ energy use more efficient – specifically through EPA’s Energy Star program. This year our annual Energy Star National Building Competition has attracted five new sports venues. That’s good news for teams, for the environment and for local communities: Last year’s competition resulted in $5.2 million of utility bill savings and prevented nearly 30,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering our atmosphere – about the same amount of emissions that come from more than 3,600 homes each year.

Teams, stadiums, and venues across the country are already taking significant steps to increase sustainability and protect our environment. The Philadelphia Eagles are preparing for on-site wind and solar generation at Lincoln Financial Field. The National Hockey League became the first league to join EPA’s Green Power Partnership, offsetting 100 percent of its post-season electricity consumption through its green power commitments. These are just two of dozens of examples of how the sports industry has been discovering cost-effective ways to reduce their environmental footprint and engage fans in bringing about a cleaner, healthier future for our communities.

The best news about all of this work is that it has the potential to reach far beyond the stadiums, the fields and the courts. From little league baseball to the majors, from Pop Warner football to the NFL, Americans share a great love for sports. Our favorite teams are not only important to us; they also have the ability to be influential in raising awareness among their fans and setting positive examples when it comes to sustainability.

For all of these reasons, I’m very proud of EPA’s work with the Green Sports Alliance, and I look forward to seeing where our partnership will take us in seasons to come.

About the author: Bob Perciasepe is the Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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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One Down, Three To Go

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.

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Beyond Translation Conference Banner“…Regardless of our heritage, we all have the same interest in a clean, healthy environment. Hispanics, with their deep sense of family and community, can help EPA spread the ethic of environmental stewardship to all segments of our society.” – EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson

Hard work pays off! We successfully hosted our first National Beyond Translation Forum on September 15th. Participation surpassed our expectations. Feedback from the attendees has been very positive.

This event was the first Beyond Translation Forum held at the national level in Washington, DC as a result of the successful initiative originated by employees in Dallas three years ago. EPA Employees in partnership with Hispanic organizations and state representatives came together for this important event.

As the theme of the conference suggests, “EPA and the Hispanic Community: Partnering, Engaging, and Building Awareness,” we’ve learned that our work has just begun. It didn’t end with the event last Monday. Far from it. Currently, we are identifying opportunities in which stakeholders will be able to work together. We plan to collaborate in order to increase environmental awareness on environmental health issues of interest to the Hispanic community as well as potential economic opportunities for Hispanic small business and organizations to work with the Agency.

After the presentations, it was very exciting to see many of the stakeholders come to me and other conference speakers to discuss ways in which we can join forces to build on the momentum generated by this important event. As administrator Stephen L. Johnson said in his speech at the BT Forum in Washington, DC this week, “with the help of the Hispanic community, we will continue our environmental successes.”

The next forum will be held on October 1st at EPA Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. At the EPA-RTP campus, we will be focusing on children’s environmental health.

Once again, thanks to the team members from the EPA Office of Small Business Programs, Office of Cooperative Environmental Management, our Office of Civil Rights, the staff from our program and regional offices, as well as many of the speakers from HHS, NASA, LULAC, AFOP, Hispanic College Fund, LCLAA, and others who gave their all for this event. It was a true labor of love.

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.

Beyond Translation Conference banner“…Independientmente de nuestro patrimonio cultural, todos tenemos el mismo interés en un medio ambiente limpio y saludable. Los hispanos con su profundo sentir de familia y comunidad pueden ayudar a EPA a difundir los valores de protección medioambiental a todos los segmentos de nuestra sociedad”. – Administrador de EPA Stephen L. Johnson

¡La ardua labor tiene recompensas! Auspiciamos exitosamente nuestro foro llamado “Más allá de las traducciones” el 15 de septiembre. La participación sobrepasó las expectativas y las reacciones han sido muy positivas.

Este evento fue el primer foro celebrado a nivel nacional en Washington, DC como resultado de una exitosa iniciativa originada por empleados en Dallas, Texas hace tres años atrás. Empleados de EPA en asociación con organizaciones y representantes estatales hispanos se unieron para este importante evento.

Como sugiere el título, “EPA y la comunidad hispana: Creando conciencia mediante colaboración y diálogo”, vemos que nuestra labor tan sólo ha comenzado. No culminó con el evento del pasado lunes. Al contrario, ahora estamos identificando oportunidades mediante el cual las partes interesadas empezarán a trabajar juntas. Esperamos colaborar a fin de fomentar la concienciación medioambiental sobre asuntos de salud ambiental que sean de interés a la comunidad hispana así como potenciales oportunidades económicas para pequeños negocios y organizaciones hispanas que quieren trabajar con la agencia.

Después de las presentaciones, fue excitante ver a muchos participantes acercarse a nosotros para discutir maneras en que podemos aunar fuerzas para seguir el ímpetu generado por este importante evento. Como el administrador Stephen L. Johnson declaró en su discurso en este Foro de Más allá de las traducciones en Washington, DC esta semana, “con la ayuda de la comunidad hispana, continuaremos nuestros éxitos ambientales”.

El próximo foro se celebrará el primero de octubre en las Oficinas del Triángulo de Investigaciones de EPA en Carolina del Norte. Allí nos enfocaremos en la salud ambiental infantil.

Nuevamente, mil gracias al equipo de EPA de la Oficina de Pequeños Negocios, la Oficina de Gestión Cooperativa Ambienta, nuestra Oficina de Derechos Civiles, el personal de nuestras oficinas programáticas y regionales, así como a los oradores de agencias federales y organizaciones como HHS, NASA, LULAC, AFOP, el Hispanic College Fund, LCLAA, y otros que dieron su máximo por este evento. Realmente fue una labor encomiable.

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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Maryland Without Crabs?

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.

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In my nightly Web surfing, I came across an article on the “Top 25 Things Vanishing From America.” As expected, the loss of some “old technologies” like the VCR, dial-up internet access, phone landlines, analog TV, made the list. However, what struck me enough to write about it in today’s blog was the mention of the Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs and honey bees.
Maryland has been my home for nearly 28 years. The blue crab, is practically a state icon. I must note that my family and I enjoy eating crabs in many ways. In this era of going “local” in our culinary habits, you would think that living in the Free State, eating crabs is the right thing to do. Yet this Internet article has made me reflect and question—should we keep crabs off the menu for a while?

Overfishing, water pollution and excessive nutrients are threatening the blue crab and aquatic wildlife that live in and around the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States. This important watershed spans six states—Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York and the nation’s capital, Washington, DC. EPA and its state partners work closely together to accelerate progress towards a healthy Bay. Through the Chesapeake Bay Program, EPA is trying to make a difference in restoring the blue crab habitat by working to improve water quality and submerged aquatic vegetation. In the meantime, the role of setting harvest regulations for the blue crab lies primarily on the states along the Bay.

Whether you’re concerned about the Chesapeake Bay or your local watershed, there are simple steps you can take in your home, school, community or the workplace to protect these precious aquatic resources. For example, conserve water! Don’t pour used motor oil down the drain! Used oil from a single oil change can ruin a million gallons of fresh water—A year’s supply for 50 people. Use greenscaping techniques in your garden. Bottom line—learn and get involved.

¿Maryland sin cangrejos?

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.

En mis viajes por Internet, encontré un artículo sobre las “Principales 25 cosas que están desapareciendo de América”. Como era de esperarse, la pérdida de algunas “viejas tecnologías” como los VCR, las líneas telefónicas terrestres, la TV análoga figuraban en la lista. Sin embargo, lo que me chocó y motivó a escribir el blog de hoy fue la mención de los cangrejos azules de la Bahía de Chesapeake y las abejas de miel.

Maryland ha sido mi hogar durante casi 28 años. El cangrejo azul es casi un ícono estatal. Debo destacar que a mi familia a mí nos encanta comer cangrejos de diversas formas. En esta era de abogar por los hábitos culinarios locales, uno pensaría que viviendo en Maryland, el comer cangrejos sería aconsejable. Sin embargo, con este artículo del Internet, me he puesto a pensar–¿acaso debemos eliminar los cangrejos del menú por algún tiempo?

La pesca en exceso, la contaminación del agua, y los nutrientes excesivos están amenazando el cangrejo azul y la vida silvestre acuática en y alrededor de la Bahía Chesapeake, el estuario más grande en Estados Unidos. Esta importante cuenca fluvial abarca seis estados—Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pensilvania, Virginia Occidental, Nueva York y la capital federal, Washington, DC. EPA y sus socios estatales trabajan estrechamente para acelerar el progreso hacia una bahía saludable. Mediante el Programa de la Bahía de Chesapeake, EPA está tratando de hacer una diferencia en la restauración del hábitat del cangrejo azul al trabajar para mejorar la calidad del agua y la vegetación acuática sumergida. Entretanto, el rol de establecer las regulaciones para la cosecha del cangrejo azul recae primordialmente sobre los estados vecinos a la bahía.

Independientemente de su interés en la Bahía del Chesapeake o su cuenca fluvial local, hay pasos sencillos que puede tomar en su hogar, colegio, comunidad o lugar de trabajo para proteger estos preciados recursos acuáticos. Por ejemplo, ¡conserve agua—cada gota cuenta! ¡No eche el aceite de motor usado por la alcantarilla! El aceite usado de un simple cambio de aceite puede contaminar un millón de galones de agua fresca—el suministro de 50 personas para un año. Utilice técnicas de jardinería verde en su jardín. A fin de cuentas—aprenda y participe activamente en la protección ambiental.

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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