smog

Las madres toman acción en favor del clima

Por Gina McCarthy

Participé recientemente en la charla Twitter de Madres por un Aire Limpio (#CleanAirMoms Twitter chat) con Moms Clean Air Force, un gran grupo de madres que se están asegurando de mantener nuestro medio ambiente seguro y saludable para todos nuestros hijos.

Como madre, estaba muy emocionada por el entusiasmo de la charla y la energía que la gente demostró, por la red y otros medios luego de la charla, para hacer una diferencia en sus comunidades. Algunas madres me preguntaron el por qué el Presidente Obama se interesa tanto por el cambio climático.

Es una pregunta fácil de contestar. Cuando el Presidente reveló su Plan de Acción para Afrontar el Cambio Climático en junio pasado a jóvenes en la Universidad de Georgetown, él subrayó que no hablaba como nuestro presidente, sino como un padre. Como las personas que cuidamos a nuestros niños, tenemos la responsabilidad primordial de asegurarnos de que el mundo a su alrededor sea seguro y saludable. El Presidente cree en eso y yo también.

Otras madres hicieron preguntas acerca del vínculo entre el cambio climático y la salud infantil.

Está claro que la contaminación de carbono conduce a condiciones del tiempo más calurosas, las cuales conllevan a aumentos en los niveles del smog, los que a su vez conducen a tasas más elevadas de incidencias de asma y temporadas de alergias más largas. Si su hijo no necesita un inhalador, considérese como un padre afortunado, porque uno de cada diez niños en los Estados Unidos padece asma y vive con esta enfermedad todos los días, la cual se agrava cuando hay contaminación de carbono en nuestros cielos.

Es por eso que estamos colaborando para asegurarnos de implementar pasos de sentido común para asegurarnos de reducir la contaminación de carbono—como el que proviene de nuestros vehículos y las plantas de energía eléctrica—para proteger la salud de nuestros niños  y el medio ambiente que nos rodea.

Y muchas de las madres querían saber cómo podían participar en estos esfuerzos y comunicar su sentir. El hablar con otras compañeras madres es un buen comienzo para difundir el mensaje. La voz de los padres, especialmente de nosotras las madres, es un recurso crítico. No hay nadie más creíble para hablar acerca de nuestras obligaciones como padres responsables.

Mis tres hijos, Daniel, Maggie y Julie, me recuerdan todos los días acerca del por qué realizo mi labor. Ellos me dan el valor de actuar de la misma manera que lo hacen los hijos de madres a través de América.

Gracias a todas las madres de #MadresAireLimpio (#CleanAirMoms) por una excelente charla. Espero impacientemente por recibir noticias de ustedes nuevamente.

Acerca de la autora: Gina McCarthy es la administradora de la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de Estados Unidos.

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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Air Quality Awareness Week: Greener Hearts Result in a More Enjoyable Summer

By Dr. Wayne Cascio

I was pleased to see that the American Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air” report notes that the country’s air is getting cleaner—a perfect way to kick off Air Quality Awareness Week (April 29 through May 3). The report, based on EPA findings from 2009 through 2011, should not only indicate a healthier U.S. public, but also a savings of billions of dollars in reduced medical costs.

As an EPA environmental health researcher, cardiologist, and promoter of our Green Heart initiative to raise awareness of the links between air quality and cardiovascular health, it was rewarding to note the many Agency efforts that have contributed to the improved state of the country’s air quality.

EPA has lead many research efforts to examine the effects of environmental irritants—such as dust, smoke, and smog (which is most prevalent during the approaching summer months)—in the air. Our studies have resulted in recommendations on actions that people predisposed to asthma and heart-related diseases can take to protect their health.

One valuable tool is EPA’s color-coded Air Quality Index, which provides guidelines for at-risk individuals for

School Flag Program

being outdoors or exercising in relation to air quality. A similar program has been introduced at local schools called the School Flag Program. The colored flags displayed on school yard flagpoles alert students, teachers, coaches and the community to the air quality forecast for the day.

According to 2010 EPA data (the most recent year available), benefits from improved air quality helped to avoid 1.7 million asthma attacks and reduced hospital admissions and emergency room visits significantly. Such impacts also yield major savings of medical expenses across the country.

So, as we enter the summer season when air quality issues are common, remember to acquaint yourself with the Air Quality Index and other EPA tools, rely on their guidance to assist you in staying well, and enjoy your summer!

About the Author: Wayne E. Cascio, MD is the Director of EPA’s Environmental Public Health Division, a Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a Fellow of the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology. His research explores the effects of air pollution on the heart and blood vessels.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Wearing a Mask

Several links below exit EPA Exit EPA Disclaimer

Greetings from New England!Each Monday we write about the New England environment and way of life seen through our local perspective. Previous postsBy Amy Miller

In some Asian towns an estimated one out of five people wears a face mask. Until you see it, though, that’s just a statistic from afar. In the last five years in Boston, New England’s largest city, I don’t recall ever seeing a face mask outside a doctor’s office.

But sitting recently in a Bangkok café, riding a “tuk tuk” in Luang Prabang, Laos, and touring the ancient temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, I saw the reality. We, residents of Planet Earth, have begun to build our bubbles – bubbles protecting us from the world we are polluting.

My journey to Southeast Asia began during Chinese New Year, when millions of Chinese tourists filled the streets. The month before had seen a national health emergency in Beijing – the second most populous city in China. As the city experienced 19 days above acceptable air pollution levels that month, many of them way above, companies gave masks to employees, residents were told to stay home, factories were closed and government cars were ordered off the road.

At the height of the smog, readings for PM2.5 – particles small enough to penetrate the lungs deeply – hit 993 micrograms per cubic meter, almost 40 times the World Health Organization’s safe limit. According to EPA, levels between 301 and 500 are “hazardous,” meaning people should avoid outdoor activity.

Many of the masked tourists were coming off the heels of this.

But the reasons to wear a mask can range from fear of getting sick to fear of infecting someone else to protection from air pollution. On dusty roads masks make breathing easier. Masks are even becoming fashion statements, I read.

The masked included police officers in Chiang Mai, Thailand; construction workers in Angkor Wat, Cambodia, and residents on motorbikes in Laos. And of course Chinese tourists everywhere. All protecting themselves from the world around them.

On the same trip, I visited a village in the mountains of northern Laos where the men still weave bamboo walls for houses, women head to the fields to reap grass for making brooms and night falls in a world devoid of electricity, letting the stars in the sky light the way to the loo.

I am not prone to sentimental musings on sunsets or dewdrops. But confronting so directly the human cost of pollution, set starkly against a backdrop of unspoiled beauty, I greatly appreciated stepping off the plane into Boston, where the AQI was, oh, about 35 on the day I landed.

http://airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=airnow.local_city&zipcode=02138

About the author:  Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, seven chickens, two parakeets, dog and a great community.

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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Asthma Awareness Month: Part I

By Elias Rodriguez

Growing up in New York City along with countless other children, I faced many of the environmental impacts of life in the gritty inner city. Poor air quality, few green spaces and litter were some of the downsides to life in the “City that Never Sleeps”. In grade school, it seemed like I always had one classmate or another who carried an asthma pump. May is Asthma Awareness Month and it’s important for parents and children to learn more about the disease and its triggers, so we can prevent asthma attacks and better protect our health and our children’s well being.

Pollution from vehicles, industrial and commercial facilities combine and cook in the hot stagnant air and form smog. Smoggy days are particularly hard on people with respiratory conditions, such as asthma, as well as for children and the elderly.  Exposure to elevated ozone levels can cause serious breathing problems, aggravate asthma and other pre-existing lung diseases, and make people more susceptible to respiratory infections

The EPA is encouraging Americans to take action against asthma by learning more about the disease and how it affects their families and communities. Nearly 26 million Americans, including more than 7 million children, are affected by this chronic respiratory disease, with low income and minority populations at the highest rates. The annual economic costs of asthma, including direct medical costs from hospital stays and indirect costs such as lost school and work days, amount to approximately $56 billion.

In enforcing the Clean Air Act, EPA has helped prevent millions of asthma attacks across the country and continues to work alongside federal, state and local partners to address this nationwide problem. In 2010 alone, pollution prevention standards under the Clean Air Act lead to reductions in fine particle matter and ozone pollution that prevented more than 1.7 million incidences of asthma attacks. Recent standards, such as the 2011 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, will further reduce air pollution and help prevent asthma attacks.

In my next blog, I’ll highlight some statistics that illustrate the City’s challenges when it comes to addressing asthma.

About the Author: Elias serves as EPA Region 2’s bilingual public information officer. Prior to joining EPA, the proud Nuyorican worked at Time Inc. conducting research for TIME, LIFE, FORTUNE and PEOPLE magazines. He is a graduate of Hunter College, Baruch College and the Theological Institute of the Assembly of Christian Churches in NYC.

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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Telling the Truth About the Environment and Our Economy

This is cross-posted from The Huffington Post

By Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

It’s a certainty in Washington that lobbyist talking points and inside-the-beltway speeches are going to be overblown and exaggerated. But lately, misleading claims about the EPA’s work have been making their way into the mainstream debate.

The most notable is an industry report that the EPA is responsible for an unprecedented “train wreck” of clean air standards that will lead to the mass closure of power plants. The “train wreck” claim has been repeated by everyone from congressional leaders to major newspapers. It sounds pretty scary, but the trouble with these reports — there is no “train wreck.”

Earlier this month a Congressional Research Service report concluded that industry’s claims were made “before EPA proposed most of the rules whose impacts they analyze,” and are based on “more stringent requirements than EPA proposed in many cases.”

On the issue of plant closures, I take the word of industry leaders like the Chairman and CEO of Exelon Corporation, who said “These regulations will not kill coal… up to 50% of retirements are due to the current economics of the plant due to natural gas and coal prices.” The Congressional Research Service report also found that EPA’s standards will primarily affect “coal-fired plants more than 40 years old that have not, until now, installed state-of-the-art pollution controls.” That echoed the remarks of the CEO of American Electric Power from April of this year: “We’ve been quite clear that we fully intend to retire the 5,480 megawatts of our overall coal fleet because they are less efficient and have not been retrofitted in any particular way.”

This is just one example from the larger debate over the EPA’s effect on the economy. That’s an important debate when job creation is our nation’s top priority, and that makes it all the more troubling to see the EPA attacked for measures we haven’t actually proposed, and to hear our fundamental responsibility of protecting the health and environment for all Americans targeted as an enemy of job creation.

Some in Washington are working to weaken safeguards and undermine laws that protect our families from pollution that causes asthma, cancer and other illnesses, especially in children. Big polluters are lobbying congress for loopholes to use our air and water as dumping grounds. The result won’t be more jobs; it will be more mercury in our air and water and more health threats to our kids. As a senior official from the Bush EPA recently wrote, “Abolishing the EPA will not cause a revival of America’s economy, but it will certainly result in a major decline in public health and our quality of life.”

It’s time for a real conversation about protecting our health and the environment while growing our economy. EPA’s 40 years of environmental and health protection demonstrate our nation’s ability to create jobs while we clean our air, water and land.

When big polluters distort EPA’s proposals as a drag on our economy, they ignore the fact that clean air, clear water and healthy workers are all essential to American businesses.

They also overlook the innovations in clean technology that are creating new jobs right now. The CEO of Michigan’s Clean Light Green Light recently said, “EPA has opened the doors to innovation and new economic opportunities. By spurring entrepreneurs who have good ideas and the drive to work hard, the EPA has helped give rise to countless small businesses in clean energy, advanced lighting, pollution control and more, which in turn are creating jobs.”

It’s time to recognize that delays of long-expected health standards leave companies uncertain about investing in clean infrastructure, environmental retrofits, and the new workers needed to do those jobs. These are potential opportunities for engineers and scientists, as well as pipefitters, welders and steelworkers. Pledges to weaken or slow proposed standards, many of which have been developed over years and with industry input, prevent businesses from investing in those jobs.

Some leaders in congress have already stated their intent to roll back critical environmental protections when they return to session. Misleading claims are translating into actions that could dismantle clean air standards that protect our families from mercury, arsenic, smog and carbon dioxide. All of this is happening despite the evidence of history, despite the evidence of Congress’ own objective Research Service, and despite the need for job creation strategies that go well beyond simply undermining protections for our health, our families and our communities.

Telling the truth about our economy and our environment is about respecting the priorities of the American people. More than 70 percent of Americans want EPA to continue to do its job effectively. Those same Americans want to see a robust economic recovery. We have the capacity to do both things if we don’t let distractions keep us from the real work of creating jobs.

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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Behind the Jargon: Air Quality Alerts Simplified

Woman Jogging on Boardwalk

By Kasia Broussalian

In this photo, a woman runs along the piers of the Hudson River Park on a morning with several air quality alerts for the metro area. A brownish haze illuminates the buildings of downtown Jersey City across the river. It seems like every few days this summer, New Yorkers receive a little warning with their morning weather updates; an air quality alert warning. Having lived most of my life near the beautiful mountains in Colorado (yes, the air really is crisp there. I can see why 19th century doctors believed the place could cure tuberculosis), an air quality alert is anything but clear to me. Scrolling down the alert message, I am told to be aware of high ozone and particle matter levels, especially if I am in a high risk group. First of all, is the ozone layer down at my level? Uh hem, Kohl Elementary School, you taught me that the ozone layer was in the stratosphere above me. Did you lead me astray? Second, what are these particles?! That’s very vague. Third, what constitutes a high risk group? But, rest assured fellow New Yorkers equally confused as me, I have done some research. More

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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