sun exposure

Protect Your Skin, Rain Or Shine

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By Lina Younes

In the United States, Memorial Day weekend is considered the kickoff of the summer season when we relax, enjoy outdoor activities and have fun under the sun. Some people even go the extra mile “to get ready” by visiting tanning salons in advance so they won’t seem so pale when they don their bathing suit for the first time. However, did you know that by tanning your skin, whether under the midday sun or in a tanning bed, you are actually damaging your skin? That “frying process” can actually cause skin cancer, one of the most common forms of cancer in the United States?

That’s why EPA,  its federal partners, and the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention have come together to educate people about what they can do to protect their health and prevent skin cancer. The Friday before Memorial Day has been designated as “Don’t Fry Day” to make sure that people in this country enjoy outdoor activities while protecting themselves from the harmful ultraviolet rays that shine through even on the cloudiest days.

I confess that my attitude towards the sun has changed over the years. I was one of those that in my teens started using those tanning oils that basically “fried” me. However, with time, and increased awareness I’ve realized the harm I was doing to myself and now I use sunscreen instead when I’m going to be active outdoors. I’ve tried to do my best with my children teaching them to where sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats when they were on the swimming team or playing outside. Luckily, my youngest still is following my advice and happens to love wearing hats and sunglasses. While she does it for fashion purposes, I’m happy for the sun safety benefits as well.

Furthermore, the elderly have to take “additional”  steps for protection – simply they need to take steps to protect themselves.  Repeated sunburns during their youth can come back to haunt them in their golden years. Powerful UV rays can also cause cataracts. My parents, both in their 80’s, have lived most of their life in Puerto Rico. While Mom always uses sunscreen and sunglasses, she has been suffering of cataracts and sun-related damage to her eyes.   Dad, on the other hand, rarely uses sunscreen and he just had a basal cell carcinoma removed last year! At least the cancer was detected early and he is fine now.

So, regardless of your natural skin tone or where you live, you should protect yourself from those harmful ultraviolet rays. EPA has developed a free mobile app you can download to your smartphone with your local UV Index forecast. Have fun under the sun safely! Do you have any sun safety tips you would like to share with us?

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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Scientists Working For You

By Rey Rivera

When you woke up this morning, did you ponder for a few minutes about how science contributes to your life from the moment you open your eyes (and even while you’re asleep)? I bet you didn’t.

Many of us go from sleeping in a room with clean air, depending on an alarm clock to wake up, taking a warm shower with clean water, to enjoying a healthy breakfast without even stopping for a second to think about all the scientific knowledge that is put in practice for our benefit and comfort throughout the day.

Among the scientists that contribute to the enjoyment of your daily life are the thousands of scientists who work here in the EPA. In our case, we analyze scientific facts and provide you with easily understandable information to help you protect your environment, your health and your family’s health.

Would you like to learn about protecting your family from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, or about asthma triggers?  Or what about pesticides, or radon? Would you like to know more about new technologies to cleanup sites contaminated with hazardous wastes? Or what about water quality and water conservation?

Those and many other questions could be answered with a few clicks on EPA’s website, talking with our experts, or checking out ongoing scientific projects in our Office of Research & Development.

While in school, the realization of how important science is in our lives and how much it could help others lead me in the direction of becoming a scientist myself. My 25 career in EPA has been a very gratifying experience that gives me the satisfaction of being able to put in practice my scientific training to contribute to the quality of life of many people.

Now, in this busy life that many of us have –enjoying the amazing products that science give us– I invite you to pause for a moment, look around you and realize just how much we owe to the knowledge that science discovers and put into productive use. And if you cross paths with a scientist, please say thank you… I’m sure he or she is very pleased to be working for you.

About the author: Reiniero (“Rey”) Rivera started working for the EPA in 1987 as an environmental engineer in the Chicago regional office and currently works in the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance in Washington DC.

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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"That Healthy Glow"

By Becky Bronstein (Student Intern Region 3 Summer 2012)

With my fair skin and red hair I always knew I had to be careful when it came to sun exposure. I was especially aware of my risk after a trip to my dermatologist when I was proclaimed the “moley-est” of my family. When I went to the beach as a kid I was forced to wear baggy t-shirts to protect my sensitive back and shoulders as well as wear a wide brim hat to shield me from UV rays; not to mention a healthy slathering of the kind of sunscreen that refused to rub in, leaving me even more white and pasty.

As a senior in high school I thought I had it all. I was captain of two varsity sports, class president, and involved in a slew of extracurricular activities. I had a wonderful group of friends, a supportive family, and a recent acceptance into the college of my choice. However, in the spring of 2011 when I visited my dermatologist for a routine mole check I was told I needed to surgically remove an “interesting” looking mole from my right shoulder immediately. Even though I was well aware that my mom had recently had a malignant mole on her forearm, I never thought some “interesting” mole could amount to anything. Shortly thereafter I had the mole removed. I was playing softball the very next day.

When the test results came back I learned that the mole was pre-cancerous. Where did I go wrong? Sure my fair skin and maybe genetics put me at an increased risk, but I thought I took all of the precautions. Oh wait, could it have been those long weekends in the sun playing softball? Could it have been that time I didn’t reapply sunscreen after hours at the beach? Surely those sunburns I could count on one hand couldn’t have brought me to the brink of cancer. What if I had not gone to the dermatologist or waited just a few more months for my check up?

I am 18 years young and I will have a wormy looking scar on my right shoulder for the rest of my life. At first I was scared of what that scar represented. It was a reminder that I could have had cancer. Now, however, the scar is a part of me and it serves instead as a reminder of the precautions I must take.

Cancer doesn’t care who you are. It doesn’t care if you are only 17, if your family has already had enough of it or even if you’ve tried to avoid it. Cancer can affect anyone. By no means will I stay indoors during the hours of 10 am to 4 pm or panic at the appearance of a new freckle, but I will continue to wear protective clothing and seek shade when I can. I can do without that “healthy” glow. I’ll stick with my pasty white sunscreen.

About the author: Rebecca Bronstein completed a volunteer internship this summer in the Air Protection Division at EPA Region 3 where her work focused on climate change, promoting renewable energy and educating students. Becky is a rising sophomore at the University of Delaware, where she is majoring in Environmental Science as a member of the Honors Program and the Dean’s List.

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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To Your Health!

Haga clic en la imagen para unirse a la conversación en nuestro blog en español... ¡No olvide de suscribirse!

By Lina Younes

As I was sending my youngest daughter off to day camp on a very hot and sunny day, I advised her to apply sun block often. In response, she said her own words of wisdom that have motivated me to write this blog. “Mom, they should have an app for that!”

Well, many smart phones, in fact, have mobile applications that can remind you of action items and many other activities. Although we don’t have a mobile app addressing the sun block issue specifically, we do have an app that promotes sun safety. We have the UV Index app that provides the forecast for UV radiation in your area. Equipped with this information, people can make the right choices to protect themselves from the sun.

Are you interested in learning about the environmental conditions where you live? To learn about the air quality in your city, you can visit www.airnow.gov to download a free AirNow Enviro Flash app for smart phones. This information is invaluable especially for sensitive groups like asthmatics, the elderly and children.


So, this brings me to another issue where innovative technologies can be developed to apply environmental data for the benefit of human health.  Would you be interested in developing mobile technology such as a portable sensor that would measure the conditions of the air around you and detect in real time their physiological effect on your body? Well, we are very interested in this technology as well and have issued a challenge so innovators and software developers may develop such prototypes. During Phase 1 of this challenge, up to four finalists will get up to $15,000 each and they will move on to Phase 2. The ultimate winner of this challenge will be awarded $100,000.

The goal is to empower people with information about their own health and the air around them. By having a portable device such as a sensor, health measurements can be taken in real time to provide invaluable data to the individual and their doctor. It will be a win-win situation all around.

Visit the challenge.gov website for more information on this challenge, timeline, review criteria, and eligibility rules. The submission period ends on October 6, 2012.

What type of innovative technology would you like to see to better protect your health and the environment?

About the author: Lina Younes is the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. Among her duties, she’s responsible for outreach to Hispanic organizations and media. She spearheaded the team that recently launched EPA’s new Spanish website, www.epa.gov/espanol . She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. She’s currently the editor of EPA’s new Spanish blog, Conversando acerca de nuestro medio ambiente. Prior to joining the agency, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and an international radio broadcaster. She has held other positions in and out of the Federal Government.

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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Do You Know Any Aspiring Artists in the K-8 Grade Range?

By Rob Landolfi

Walk into the average person’s workspace, and there’s a good chance you’ll see some art made by a special young person. In my cube it’s a poster of “Fluffy, the Sun Burn Horse-maid.” As with most endearing children’s artwork, this poster has its share of misspelled words, a heavy reliance on primary colors, a Picasso-like sense of perspective and proportion, and some wildly creative subject matter. Usually the owner of such art is the parent or some other relative of the artist. I don’t know the genius behind Fluffy at all but I feel pride and joy in it just the same.

Fluffy is an entry in the SunWise with SHADE poster contest, and is one student’s effort to teach others how to avoid the dangers of too much sun exposure—one of over 100,000 such posters sent in over the years. I’m proud to have helped so many kids protect their own health and use their creativity and talents to teach other kids to do the same, and I’m joyful because I recognize in Fluffy the hallmarks of serious learning and serious fun. I taught middle- and high-school science for 10 years before coming to EPA, and I’ve worked with enough messy science fair projects to know that nothing engages a student’s brain like the ability to bring something original and personal to a topic, and to spread understanding and ideas to her peers, regardless of how polished the final product turns out. I may never fathom why Fluffy wears a shirt that says, “Rock N’ Nose,” but I don’t have to understand that to know that this student really took in some important ideas about science and health, and had a good time telling other kids about those ideas.

So, if you know any K-8 teachers or kids in this age group, let them know about our fun and educational poster contest. The deadline is fast approaching – April 1st.

About the author: Rob Landolfi works with EPA’s SunWise Program to fight skin cancer, cataracts, and other disease by teaching people about the health risks of UV exposure. He also helps manage the SunWise with SHADE poster contest.

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.

Pick 5: Enjoy the Outdoors Safely!

Hey Pick 5’ers, it’s time again for you to share what you’ve done and how you did it. If you haven’t done it yet, Pick 5 for the Environment and then come back to comment. Today we cover action #9: Enjoy the Outdoors Safely! Please share your stories as comments below.

After surviving the biggest snow storm of the season, I had a lot of snow to clear. I cleared three, count ‘em three decks, plus a set of steps in between two of them. After a lot of time in the sunshine getting to know my snow shovel, I decided to call it a day. I was amazed to find out that I had sunburn across my nose and cheeks. I’ve always been aware of the UV index level. During the summer months I’ve always used sunscreen, but never thought I would need it during the winter. Boy was I wrong. After doing a little research, I realized that using sunscreen is critical whenever the sunshine is strong, not just when it’s hot outside.

I’ve never been a fan of cold weather and have always stayed inside during the winter months, so I’ve never given much thought to protecting myself from the sun when it’s cold out . So make sure you enjoy the sunshine safely, regardless of the season.

Don’t hesitate to share your other Pick 5 tips on how you save water , commute without polluting , save electricity , reduce, reuse, recycle , test your home for radon , how do you check your local air quality, use chemicals safely and eCycle!

Note: to ward off advertisers using our blog as a platform, we don’t allow specific product endorsements.  But feel free to suggest Web sites that review products, suggest types of products, and share your experiences using them!

About the author: Denise Owens has worked at EPA for over twenty years. She is currently working in the Office of Public Affairs in Washington, DC

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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