pets

This Spring, Look for the Safer Choice Label

Today, we’re unveiling a new Safer Choice label, which will make it easier to find household cleaners and other home products that are safer, more environmentally friendly—and still get the job done. If you missed the video where I shared the new label, check it out here:

The name says it all: Safer Choice products are safer for you, your kids, your pets and the environment. Our scientists employ a stringent set of human health and environmental safety standards when reviewing products for the Safer Choice program, so a product with the label is backed by EPA science. Consumers know it’s a credible stamp they can trust.

Safer Choice products are a winning idea for the companies that make them, too. Major producers and retailers like Clorox, Walmart, Jelmar/CLR, Earth Friendly Products, Bissel, Wegmans, and hundreds of others have agreed to start putting Safer Choice products on the shelves this year.

These companies know that developing and selling safer products is good for business. When they demonstrate a commitment to the health of their customers and the planet, consumers respond. This spring and summer, products will start to carry the Safer Choice label, and we expect many more will be added over the coming months and years.

So look for products with the Safer Choice label in stores later this spring. I’m looking forward to using them in my home.

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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Harbinger of Spring

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By Lina Younes

Spring is the season associated with the awakening of nature and rebirth.  You see it in the trees and bushes that begin to sprout new shoots and buds. You see it in the leaves of the bulbs that are starting to push up through the ground. You see it the increasing activity of wildlife. And you hear it in the sounds of nature that rise from their wintry slumber.

The other day as I returned home from work, I noticed a loud chirping.  I looked around and found one robin redbreast perched at the very top of a tree. There were no other birds in sight.  In my mind, it seemed like he was calling “look at me” and proclaiming “spring is right around the corner.”

This time I was equipped with my camera in my handbag and was able to capture the scene.  Since that evening, I’ve seen plenty of robins actively hoping around my back yard. Now I’m looking forward to seeing other colorful birds visiting the area.

During springtime, it’s a great time to consider greenscaping techniques to have a greener and healthier yard to protect the environment and save money. By creating a healthier garden, you’ll be able to enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of nature while creating a happier setting for your family, pets, wildlife and the environment as a whole.

Have you seen any early signs of spring in your neighborhood? As always, we love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and 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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Protecting Children Comes First

By Lina Younes

I hate pests! I loathe disease-carrying rodents with a passion.

Several years ago, I participated in the filming of a TV interview in Spanish with an expert in healthy homes. Together, we went room by room through a home and day care to identify potential environmental hazards and, above all, to learn how to keep areas pest free.

I found the experience very informative. Personally, I was struck by the behavior of rodents. Did you know that mice and small rats can fit through holes about the size of a quarter and can squeeze their way into your home and take up residence, nesting in corners and feeding on food crumbs? Yuck!

Likewise, small children have their own behavioral characteristics. They spend a lot of the time on the floor, crawling or playing. Their innate curiosity leads them to grab small articles they find along their way and often put them into their mouths, including mouse pellets they may find in open trays on the floor. More than 10,000 kids each year in the U.S. are exposed to mouse and rat pellets, often by putting them in their mouths. That is why EPA has been working with pesticide manufacturers to change consumer mouse and rat poisons to be sold in enclosed bait stations, to protect curious kids from the poison. The enclosed bait stations are also protective of household pets.

In addition, EPA is banning four of the most toxic poisons from consumer products, to protect wildlife. Mouse and rat poisons that you use inside your home can harm wildlife because poisoned rodents that venture outside can poison wildlife like hawks and foxes that ingest rodents as prey.

So, what can you do to keep your children safe from accidental poisonings in the home?

  1. Read the label first! By not following the instructions carefully, you can actually put your family at risk.
  2. Create barriers to prevent rodents from entering the home by closing cracks, using wire mesh along pipes, so that these unwanted visitors will not seek shelter in your home and you will need to use less poison.

Do you have any safety tips that you would like to share with us? We always like to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and 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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Keeping Pets—and People—Safe from Toxic Algae

Visible green slime in Lake Needwood during harmful algal bloom outbreak in September 2012.

By Patty Scott

Two years ago, our family planned to take our Yellow Labrador puppy Fiona to Lake Needwood near our home in Rockville, Maryland for a swim. Our puppy needed somewhere to exercise and the scenic lake near Rock Creek Park seemed like the perfect place. My husband, however, mentioned something about a warning for a harmful algal bloom. At the time, I had just started working on EPA’s National Lakes Assessment, the agency’s report card on the condition of the nation’s lakes, and thankfully knew about the dangers of harmful algal blooms. Blue-green algae can produce harmful toxins that can be fatal if ingested. Since people are not allowed to swim in Lake Needwood, the dangers are not as great for humans. However, dogs are especially at risk if they swim in or drink the water. We decided against taking Fiona anywhere near the lake.

While Montgomery County did not know the cause of the outbreaks in Lake Needwood, harmful algal blooms are often triggered by excessive levels of the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus. Many of our lakes, rivers, streams and bays are becoming overloaded with nutrients from a wide range of sources. Excess nutrients spur the growth of algae to the point where they can explode into vast — and sometimes toxic — colonies of slime. Algal blooms often peak during the summer months, but in some parts of the country they occur year round.

Nutrient pollution is a growing concern because it threatens public health, recreation and our economy. National data is not easy to find on impacts to our four-legged friends, but sadly dog deaths have been reported due to harmful algae.

Warning sign advising residents and their pets to avoid direct contact with the water at Lake Needwood in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Like many pet owners, we treat Fiona and Jake, our other lab, like part of our family, and we’d be devastated to lose them. It’s best to keep pets away from the water anytime there is visible surface scum, if the water is discolored or if there is a strong musty smell. Also, keep in mind that not all waters are monitored. You can check EPA’s new How’s My Waterway app to find out about the condition of your local waterway and whether it’s been tested.

Everyone can help make a difference. One easy way to combat algae is to take care not to over-fertilize. And always remember to pick up pet waste. To learn more about how you can prevent nutrient pollution, visit

About the author: Patty Scott works in EPA’s Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds on communications and outreach.  She loves fishing, kayaking, cycling and other outdoor pursuits.

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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What About Our Pets?

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By Lina Younes
This summer we’ve had our share of weather events from intense heat waves, unexpected storms wildfires, hurricanes and floods. Given that we still have nearly three more months of hurricane season, the threat of tropical storms is still there. While I’ve written several blogs on having a plan for these unexpected events, there is one thing that I haven’t addressed. What shall we do with our pets in an emergency?
If you have pets at home, make sure to make plans on how to ensure their safety before a storm or emergency. Most emergency shelters do not allow pets. So where are you going to take them if you have to evacuate your home or seek disaster refuge? As you develop your own emergency plan, take into consideration what you are going to do with your pets before, during and after a storm.
  • In advance of a storm, contact your local animal shelters and local animal control services for information on protecting your pets in an emergency.
  • The American Veterinary Medical Association also provides information and resources to assist veterinarians and animal owners to prepare for animal safety in the event of a natural disaster.
  • Develop a pet disaster supply kit for your animal. Make sure you have the proper identification, immunization records, a pet carrier, and the like. If you have a cat, also have a portable litter box and fresh litter handy to take with you in case you evacuate.
With the proper planning you can make sure that you and your pet will survive the emergency as best possible. Since September in National Preparedness Month, now would be a good time to get ready before it is too late.
About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and 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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Eyes can change the world.

Manta-Ray-Palau-2011

Ever looked a manta ray in the eye? I never thought I’d get to either.

Their eyeballs are bigger than you might expect. If you’ve had a pet, you’ll most likely understand where I’m going with this and if not, well call me crazy.

We had a moment.

Through my scuba mask, between about a foot of sea water, our eyes met and our mutual curiosity in one another collided. The only difference was, he snuck up on me. That means he had a motive.

When it’s not a matter of who is lower on the food chain, I love it when roles reverse like that. He was bigger than I was by quite a margin. Even if I had the time to be frightened or see a teensy bit of my life flash before me, I wouldn’t have been. His eyes said it all. He was just plain curious about me. Humans are a bit out of their element underwater, so I guess it’s not all that strange that he wanted a closer look.

And I mean close! I’m less sure what our exchange meant to him, but it changed my life. I’m also fairly certain my guide hasn’t forgotten either. He was the one to motion for me to turn around, his expression read, “somebody wants to say hi.” Bubbles of laughter followed and he later said that my expression, particularly my eyes, grew so much in my mask that I more closely resembled a cartoon.

These are the things I think about on a regular basis. Just like dogs that have looked up at me for a belly rub, hand out, or just a return look of adoration. A lot is communicated through eyes. It can stop you in your tracks. That experience and others have shaped who I am and what I do for work. I can’t ignore those few seconds where an entirely different species met my glance and held it.

That’s their only chance to speak up. It makes you want to do something.

That something might be as simple as being tuned in to what’s happening in our oceans. Being tuned in might lead to conversations. When people talk, that’s when the action happens. EPA’s two year photo project, State of the Environment, isn’t just about photos. It’s about experiencing our incredible planet and finding the inspiration to take more action every day thereafter.

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey writes from EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education, as the project-lead for Pick 5 and the State of the Environment, two projects geared towards learning, sharing and gaining a greater collective connection to our environment.

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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Pets can be green, too!

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.

Lea la versión en español a continuación de esta entrada en inglés.
Some links exit EPA or have Spanish content. Exit EPA Disclaimer

We’re in the process of getting a dog for my little one who’s turning seven. It was a promise we made two years ago. We can’t postpone it any longer. The dog search has become a family affair. Although we all had different preferences, we agreed that we were looking for a dog that is good with kids and low maintenance. The days of taking poodles for grooming are long gone in my house. Therefore, we settled on a puggle-half pug, half beagle. Both breads are kid friendly. It has short hair so I’ll be able to check the low maintenance box in my book.

We were searching adoption sites and shelters around our home, but didn’t find a dog or puppy that met our needs. After some heavy duty searching, my daughter Leila finally found a female puggle puppy two hours away and she’ll bring it home this weekend. That should be a beautiful fall drive.

In preparing for the dogs arrival, I decided to do some Web surfing to find out how we could still observe some environmentally friendly pet care practices with the new addition to the family. Found some good info on EPA’s Web site about protecting pets from common problems such as fleas and ticks. Also found a how to go green pet guide, which I would like to share. The guide has a lot of green pet tips which I look forward to implementing at home. So can you. Good luck.

¡Las mascotas también pueden ser verdes!

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.

Estamos en el proceso de encontrar una perrita para nuestra pequeña que cumple 7 añitos. Es una promesa que le habíamos hecho hace dos años y ya no la podemos seguir posponiendo. La búsqueda de la nueva mascota se ha convertido en una empresa familiar. A pesar de que todos optaríamos por razas diferentes, creo que hemos acordado que quisiéramos un perro que fuera bueno con los niños y requiriera poco mantenimiento. Ya yo no estoy para esas jornadas de llevar mis perras poodle al salón de belleza para animales. Demasiado trabajo. Por ende, hemos optado por una puggle-un cruce entre los perros pug y los beagle. Ambas razas se conocen por ser buenas para las familias que tienen niños pequeños. También tienen el pelo corto por lo tanto cumplen con mi requisito de poco mantenimiento.

Buscamos varios refugios y centros de adopción de mascotas cerca de la casa, pero no conseguimos ningún perro o cachorro que cumpliera con nuestros requisitos. Después de una intensa búsqueda, mi hija Leila finalmente consiguió una perrita puggle a sólo dos horas de distancia de la casa. La traerá este fin de semana. Me imagino que podría disfrutar de un buen paseo otoñal durante el viaje.

En preparación para la llegada de la perrita, visité varias páginas Web para aprender información sobre el cuidado de cachorros que fuera beneficiosa para el medio ambiente. Encontré buena información en el sitio Web de EPA sobre cómo proteger las mascotas de problemas comunes como las pulgas y garrapatas. También encontré una guía sobre cómo lograr que su mascota sea verde la cual quisiera compartir con ustedes. La guía tiene algunos consejos útiles que me interesa implementar en el hogar. Usted también podría hacerlo. Mucha suerte.

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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In the Dog Days of Summer

About the author: Rob Lawrence joined EPA in 1990 and is Senior Policy Advisor on Energy Issues in the Dallas, TX regional office. As an economist, he works to insure that both supply and demand components are addressed as the Region develops its Clean Energy and Climate Change Strategy.

two brown dogs standing near poolAlthough we haven’t hit the record number of consecutive days over 100 degrees this Summer (69 days in 1980), we have experienced over 2 dozen days between 100 and 108 in Dallas. And while most of the human population has the option of going indoors, we need to think of our pets that remain outside after we go to work or to school. Here is a photo of our vizslas (Nebo on the left and Jena on the right) that inspired today’s blog entry.

The most important step is to check out the yard or kennel area that your dog will be staying in. There are general areas of concern: Is there adequate shade to give protection from the sun? If there isn’t a tree providing a canopy, you could stretch a tarp across a corner of the kennel or build a lean-to shelter. Is there plenty of fresh water available? Providing a bucket of clean, fresh water in a shaded area is necessary. A child’s plastic wading pool could be a great spot for your pet to dive in and cool off. Is there good ventilation in the area? I’ve been known to run a small electric fan in the peak of the day if there is not a good breeze in the area. [Note: make sure that the fan and power cord are safely away from your dog’s reach.]

And if you are like me, taking your pets for an outing to the home improvement store and pet supply store on Saturdays is a highlight of their week. Just make sure that you do not leave your dog locked in a sealed vehicle when you run an errand. You would be amazed how quickly the temperature rises inside the car or truck and you are putting your pet’s life in danger. Remember – in some areas, including here in north Texas, it is against the law to put your pet at risk.

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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Pets and Asthma

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.

Lea la versión en español a continuación de esta entrada en inglés.
Some links exit EPA or have Spanish content. Exit EPA Disclaimer

During the month of May, Asthma Awareness Month, I’ve been working on several activities to increase awareness among Hispanics about asthma. This pulmonary disease affects about 22 million individuals across the United States. While this is a serious, sometimes life-threatening disease, it can be controlled so asthmatics can live a healthy life.

During interviews in Spanish-language media, I have discussed several tips to address environmental asthma triggers, in particular, how to reduce indoor asthma triggers such as second hand smoke, dust mites, mold, cockroaches and other pests, warm-blooded pets (like cats, dogs or hamsters), and nitrogen dioxide, as a way to control asthma attacks.

I know that trying to keep beloved pets away from the bedrooms and off the furniture can be sometimes easier said than done. Nonetheless, that’s essential if you want to keep the pet dander, saliva, and hair away from the sleeping areas, upholstery and carpets.

Short of giving your pet up for adoption (a necessary drastic measure if pet allergens are your key asthma trigger), there are some steps you can take to reduce the exposure to cat allergens. A friend shared an article recently which recommends soaking a washcloth or sponge with distilled water and wiping the cat down twice a week to minimize its dander. The article published last year in Health Monitor emphasized the importance of using distilled water while highlighting that its use was much more effective than other commercial products that make the claim to reduce pet allergens. In the perfect world, asthmatics should leave the cat grooming to someone else. However, if the allergic individual lives alone, a paper mask can be used to minimize inhaling the allergen. Furthermore, vacuuming frequently using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter is also highly recommended.

Needless to say, that working with your doctor to create an asthma plan that works for you is one of the first steps to managing this disease and living a fruitful life. Just wanted to share some advice for those who simply cannot say goodbye to their furry friend.

Las mascotas y el asma

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.

Durante el mes de mayo, el Mes de Concienciación sobre el Asma, he estado trabajando en diferentes actividades para crear conciencia entre los hispanos acerca del asma. Esta enfermedad pulmonar afecta cerca de 22 millones de individuos en Estados Unidos. Mientras es una condición seria, y a veces puede ser mortal, si es controlada debidamente los asmáticos pueden vivir una vida saludable.

Durante varias entrevistas con medios hispanos, he mencionado varios consejos para abordar los desencadenantes ambientales del asma, en particular, cómo reducir los desencadenantes del asma en entornos interiores tales como el tabaquismo pasivo, los ácaros de polvo, el moho, las cucarachas, y otras plagas, los animales de sangre caliente (como gatos, perros o hámsters), y bióxido de nitrógeno, como una manera para controlar los ataques de asma.

Sé que el mantener a las queridas mascotas fuera de los dormitorios o lejos de los muebles puede resultar más fácil decirlo que hacerlo. No obstante, esto es esencial para asegurar que la caspa de los animales, la saliva o los pelos no tengan contacto con las áreas donde duerme, los muebles tapizados o las alfombras.

Mientras que en los casos más extremos es posible que tenga que dar su mascota en adopción (una medida drástica, pero necesaria si los alergenos de mascotas son el principal desencadenante de sus ataques de asma), hay algunos pasos que usted debe tomar para reducir la exposición a los alergenos de gatos. Una amiga me envió un artículo recientemente que recomienda el mojar un paño o esponja con agua destilada para limpiar a su gato dos veces en semana para minimizar la caspa. El artículo fue publicado el año pasado en Health Monitor.com. ] [El artículo enfatiza la importancia de utilizar agua destilada y destaca el hecho que su uso es mucho más efectivo que otros productos comerciales que alegan la reducción de los alergenos de las mascotas. En un mundo perfecto, los asmáticos deberían dejar que otra persona limpie su querido gato usando este método. Sin embargo, si la persona alérgica vive sola, entonces debe utilizar una máscara de papel limpiar la mascota y para minimizar el inhalar el alergeno. Además, el pasar la aspiradora frecuentemente utilizando un filtro HEPA también es altamente recomendado.

Demás está decir que el trabajar con su médico para crear un plan de asma que funcione para usted es uno de los primeros pasos a seguir para manejar esta enfermedad y vivir una vida fructífera. Sólo quería darle algunos consejos para aquellas personas que simplemente no pueden prescindir de sus queridas mascotas.

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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