sunwise

It’s Don’t Fry Day– Protect Your Skin Today and Every Day

Today is Don’t Fry Day, a day designated to remind Americans about the dangers of skin cancer and how to protect themselves. As we enter the summer season, we join with the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention to remind Americans that each year more people are diagnosed with this largely preventable disease. Today, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, affecting nearly five million Americans annually with a price tag of $8.1 billion. Most skin cancers are caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.

The SunWise program works to educate Americans about the simple steps they can take to stay safe in the sun all year long. These tips include checking the UV Index to plan outdoor activities when the sun is less intense. Our free UV Index app gives you an hourly forecast from your smartphone. Seek shade during the sun’s peak hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. And, my personal favorite: Slip, Slop, Slap, and Wrap: Slip on a shirt. Slop on SPF 30+ sunscreen. Slap on a wide-brimmed hat, and wrap on sunglasses.

This month marks the 15th anniversary of SunWise. Since 2000, more than 58,000 educators have joined SunWise and used its educational resources to teach children about stratospheric ozone, UV radiation, and the health effects of overexposure to UV radiation. These educators represent more than 34,000 schools and over 7,000 other partners from state and local health departments, non-profits, science and children’s museums, camps, scouts, 4-H clubs, and universities.

I’m proud of what we, together with our partners, have achieved. As we celebrate SunWise’s anniversary, I am pleased to announce a new collaboration between EPA and the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) that will extend the reach of SunWise and keep the momentum going. In working with health professionals, weathercasters, land managers, teachers and others, NEEF connects with millions of people and will be able to bring important SunWise messages and actions to a new and broader audience.

Today, we formalized this collaborative relationship with NEEF in a Memorandum of Understanding. I’m looking forward to a bright future for SunWise but some shade for me this weekend!

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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Free “Green” Apps

By Athena Motavvef

I’m a college student who is always on the go, so being able to quickly pull out my smartphone to access e-mail, weather information, or the latest news is really helpful. As a regular user of apps and an intern with EPA’s Office of Public Engagement, I became interested in what “green” apps were available. In my role at EPA, I help get the word out about the different ways citizens can better protect their health and help the environment by contributing to the weekly production of the EPA Highlights Newsletter. I’d like to share with you my top three favorite green apps.

sunwise

EPA’s SunWise UV index

Available for iOS, Android and Blackberry
When I go hiking with friends and family or just plan a day where I know I’ll be outside often, I want to protect my skin. I have fair skin, but no matter your skin type or the weather, anyone can be at risk of damage from the sun. The UV Index app allows you to check out daily and hourly UV forecasts so you can help keep your skin healthy. I did a quick check today and despite being a sunny winter day in the nation’s capital, the UV index is at a moderate 3. The app recommends that I protect myself with SPF 30+ sunscreen (will do), sunglasses (check) and a hat (check – it is cold out)!

Get the app: http://www.epa.gov/enviro/mobile/
Learn more about protecting yourself from the sun: http://www2.epa.gov/sunwise

airnow

 

EPA AIRNow

Available for iOS and Android
As a student growing up in Los Angeles and moving to the Inland Empire for college, I have been regularly affected by higher levels of air pollution than most areas of the country. Planning outdoor activities to keep my asthma from acting up is easier now that I can check real-time air quality. Luckily for those that suffer from asthma as well, this app allows us to quickly see location-specific reports on current and forecasted air quality conditions for both ozone and fine particle pollution. Now I can better plan my day so that I know I will be able to breathe easy.
Get the app: http://m.epa.gov/apps/airnow.html
Learn more about AIRNow: http://www.airnow.gov/

iWARM

EPA iWARM

Available for iOS
If you’re like me, recycling is a habit. Sometimes, I wonder just how much energy I am saving through my actions. The iWARM app helps paint that picture by calculating the energy saved from recycling common household items. The savings are then converted into the equivalent amount of electricity, estimating how long that energy will operate household appliances. I did a quick calculation of what I recycled this week, and I saved enough energy to power my laptop for 3.4 hours! Even small actions like recycling a plastic bottle save energy and can help combat climate change.
Get the app: http://m.epa.gov/apps/warm.html
Learn more about iWARM: http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/conserve/tools/iwarm/index.htm
These three green apps are great tools to use every day, especially for someone like me who likes to eat yummy food on sunny restaurant patios and catch up with friends.

About the author: Athena Motavvef is an intern in EPA’s Office of Public Engagement in Washington DC. She is currently obtaining her bachelor’s degree in Public Policy with an emphasis in urban/environmental policy at the University of California, Riverside. She has interests in environmental education and public engagement.

 

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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The Shade Is Not Enough

By Lina Younes

Millions of people in the U.S. head to the beach for some relaxation and fun activities every summer. As many of you may be planning your trip, I wanted to share my family’s recent experience. Hopefully you will not repeat our mistakes.
A couple of weeks ago, my family and I enjoyed some days at the beach. The setting was perfect. The turquoise waters, cloudless sky, nearly deserted beach, and warm sea breeze were all the key elements for a perfect vacation. I had packed plenty of sunscreen and made sure that everyone had sunglasses to protect themselves from the powerful sun rays. However, not all of us decided to be SunWise  during our trip.

While I was acting like the sunscreen police making sure that everyone applied sunscreen regularly especially after they came got out of the water, my husband had decided that “he didn’t need it.” “I don’t use sunscreen, I’ll just stay in the shade.” “OK,” I thought, “let’s wait and see.”

So after a whole day at the beach, it was obvious that the ultraviolet rays had been relentless. My husband had a serious sunburn! Even he was surprised by the results. He lamented: “This has never happened to me. It must be the depletion of the ozone layer!”  Well, I wasn’t sure about the status of the ozone layer, but I did check the UV Index  later that day and realized that it was in the “extreme” category. Yikes! We should have known better.

So, my piece of advice,  next time you go to the beach or decide to spend some time outdoors, don’t let those powerful UV rays spoil your day.

  • Use plenty of sunscreen with SPF 15 at the minimum. Apply it generously and reapply it often.
  • Use protective clothing like a long-sleeved shirt and wide-brimmed hat, when possible.
  • Use sunglasses.
  • Seek the shade and if possible avoid the sun’s UV rays between 10 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon when the sun is the strongest.
  • Check the UV Index before you go outdoors to prevent overexposure.

And another piece of advice, don’t be fooled when it’s cloudy. Consider using all our sun safety tips because staying under the shade is not enough.

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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A Window into Sun Protection

Check out the collaborative window display at 10 Rockefeller Plaza or in the background of The Today Show during the month of June.

By Monica Shimamura

As a child, I spent my summers in Japan where parasols, hats, and foundations with UV protection are a cultural norm.  In the sweltering heat, you see many Japanese women with loose-fitting, long-sleeve shirts and a parasol. Stores in Japan sell all sorts of UV-protective clothing, hats, parasols, and skin care products.  I asked a friend of mine why everyone was so concerned about the sun, and her simple response was, “No one wants wrinkles or sun spots when they’re older.” This is in stark contrast to the American culture where I grew up, where we are more likely to worship the sun or lay out to get the “perfect tan.”

Many Americans believe the golden brown look signals a healthy and active lifestyle. Through my work alongside colleagues in EPA’s SunWise program and visits to the dermatologist, I know this is not true. While working for EPA’s New York City regional office, I found an amazing dermatologist at Mount Sinai.  If you have ever spent any time in a dermatologist’s office, as I have, you know that no one is immune to skin cancer or any other skin condition—regardless of age or ethnicity. Skin cancer is the most common cancer, even among 20 to 30-year-olds, and one American dies every hour from the disease.

My mom, who was born in Asia, sometimes gets the evil eye in the U.S. when she asks for a senior discount. Many can’t believe she is 72 years old – she looks like she’s in her early 50’s. You can see her strolling through the streets of DC with a parasol most summer days.  I too want to be wrinkle free, but more importantly skin cancer free. That is why I am so excited about the SHADE Foundation’s, EPA’s and the National Park Service’s collaborative window display in Rockefeller Plaza.  During the month of June, if you watch the Today Show, look for the giant display when the crew is outside that says, “Get Outdoors. Be SunWise!” We can all use a little more sun protection in our lives!

About the author: Monica is the Co-Director for the Global Methane Initiative (GMI) Secretariat, an international voluntary program based at the U.S. EPA, which works with partner countries to reduce methane emissions while developing clean energy and stronger economies. Monica also worked with the Stratospheric Protection Division where she helped implement the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, and in Region 2, she worked at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.  Monica has an M.S. and B.S. in environmental science from John’s Hopkins University and University of Massachusetts Amherst. She has lived in the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, Belize, and now resides 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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When Will I Learn?

By Jeanethe Falvey

Years ago, my best friend called me while leaving the movie theater specifically to say, “my mom says you’re exactly like Dory!”

I replied, “I really want to take that as a compliment, but I’m not so sure that I can.”

You see, I had already seen this movie. Images of the permanently optimistic, exuberantly playful, but ever-forgetful blue fish bouncing on the jellyfish in Finding Nemo came to mind and I was pondering at the time how to feel about this conclusion.

As if I had a choice.

Though I haven’t mastered my whale communication skills as much as I yearn to, I have long since accepted that it’s a fairly accurate representation. There are worse cartoon characters to resemble.

This past weekend is a prime example. For the 20-somethingth time (this seems to happen once a year ever since I’ve been in control of it) I managed to completely forget that I was in fact, soaking up rays of sunshine while out enjoying myself soaking up rays of sunshine. I roasted my exposed body parts in the process.

I EVEN went to the dermatologists for the first time in my adulthood to get a checkup two weeks prior. I EVEN remarked that fact to a friend I was sitting with at the time, and we began to compare sun spots.

Sometimes I wonder about myself. Both of us in this case.

So now, a few days later with shoulders that are STILL hot to the touch, I’ve applied my fill of pure, all natural aloe – none of that diluted fake stuff – and I’m once again vowing to never step out of doors without anything less than SPF 30 on. SPF 5,000 where I’m already fried.

As EPA spreads the word about safely enjoying the rays for Don’t Fry Day today (but really every day, HEY just like Earth Day!) I thought I might add my lack of cents to the mix. We all forget. Especially if you live somewhere that’s gray, rainy and you deal with snowfall (usually) at some point during the year. If you’re anything like me you migrate like a sunflower to the brightly lit side of the street and if you could physically hug the rays you would, just because you’re so grateful they exist.

Just do so safely. It’s not worth the burn (again).

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 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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Melanoma is Most Common Cancer for Young Adults Ages 20-30

By Maribeth Bambino Chitkara, MD

It was almost a year after her initial diagnosis at the age of 26, just around Thanksgiving, when we found out that my younger sister Melissa’s melanoma had spread. From that point on, Melissa’s battle with melanoma was a blur of surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy. I came home to be with her as often as I could, and would stay with her in the hospital each time she was admitted. I’d try to sleep in the chair next to her bed, but would oftentimes push her over in the middle of the night and make her share the bed with me the way we did when we were kids. I was so amazed by her resilience. She’d go into the hospital for surgery, and be on the phone two days later talking to her clients from her hospital bed. I don’t think many of her friends and co-workers even knew how serious her condition was because she was so incredible at bouncing back.

Feeling so far away, my husband and I decided to move to New York to be closer to our families. I was pregnant with my son when we moved. Melissa embraced my pregnancy and could not wait until the baby was born. She stayed with me in the delivery room while I was in labor, wiping my forehead, cheering me on and encouraging me to be strong. Always the inspiration to me, we decided to ask her to be my son’s Godmother and of course, she accepted.

It was shortly after my son’s christening in the fall of 2003 that we learned that Melissa’s cancer had not only spread to her brain, but to more lymph nodes, her liver, and her spine. Her doctors started her on more chemotherapy, but we knew it was only a matter of time. Three days before Christmas, she was admitted to the hospital because she was very weak. On Christmas Eve, she slipped into a coma and died two days later. My family was with her when she passed, each holding her hands and hugging her. It was very peaceful and full of love. I feel blessed to have been with her.

I know now that as a pediatrician, I have to make a difference. I cannot let my sister’s death be in vain. Parents need to know how to protect their kids against the sun and its harms. Since Melissa has died, I’ve decided to change my career path to try to be a louder voice for melanoma. I figure that by telling people her story and making them understand how awful a disease melanoma is, maybe more deaths can be prevented. This is the best way I can think of to honor her memory. Please learn more about how to be SunWise this Don’t Fry Day.

About the author: Maribeth Bambino Chitkara, MD, lost her younger sister to melanoma at the tender age of 29, and wants to remind you to be SunWise on “Don’t Fry Day” and every day.

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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Hot Times, Summer in the City – Be Sun Smart

A man bathes in the sun in Washington Square Park. (EPA Photo/Kasia Broussalian)

By Bonnie Bellow

The warm weather and the official approach of summer have pulled New Yorkers out of their apartments and into the streets. Everywhere you look, people are soaking up the sun – stretched out on park lawns, grabbing lunch on city benches, perched on stoops or just walking. The sun brings warmth and feelings of well being, but it can also bring skin cancer. How many of the millions of people out and about in New York every day think to apply sunscreen or grab a hat before going out? City dwellers need to be aware that just taking precautions when they go to the beach is not enough to prevent what can be a deadly disease. Eighty percent of the sun’s UV rays can pass through light clouds, mist and fog, and snow can reflect more than 80 percent of the sun’s damaging ultraviolet radiation. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States and, according to the Centers for Disease Control, is on the rise among young adults. Everyone needs to be concerned about skin cancer and act to prevent it, no matter who they are or where they live.

I first learned about skin cancer in my 20’s, when to my surprise, an irritation on my forehead turned out to be a basal cell skin cancer. Light skinned and freckled, I roasted as a small child on Long Island beaches and spent my teen years cultivating a lovely tan by smearing myself with baby oil and using a reflector to increase the glow. I paid the price. Luckily for me, the skin cancers that have appeared on my face and chest periodically throughout my adult life have been non-invasive. But, they caused discomfort, anxiety and scars and cost thousands over the years in medical bills. And all that sun increased my risk of developing the more serious type of skin cancer, melanoma.

The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention has designated the Friday before Memorial Day weekend as Don’t Fry Day to remind everyone to protect their skin while enjoying the outdoors. Check out their website and learn about SunWise, the EPA program that teaches children and their caregivers about how to protect against overexposure to the sun.

I still enjoy the sun, but I take a few minutes each morning, winter and summer, to apply cream containing sunscreen to my face and slather some sunscreen on my hands and arms if they will be exposed. I wear sunglasses and add a hat when I am going to be outdoors for a stretch or at the beach. We all need the sun for our emotional and physical health, but we need to wear it well!

About the author: Bonnie Bellow has been the Region 2 Director of Public Affairs since 1995, responsible for intergovernmental, media and international relations; community engagement; environmental education; Freedom of Information Act requests; social media and public information. She previously served as Public Affairs Director at the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, ran her own media production business and worked as a radio reporter. Bonnie received her Bachelor of Science degree at Northwestern University in Chicago, but is a born and bred New Yorker who lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

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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Just in Time for Don’t Fry Day

posterEleven-year-old Sueda has recess with her classmates on a playground without any trees. This sixth grader from New Mexico knows how important it is to be safe in the sun. She recently earned her school a shade structure from the SHADE Foundation by winning the national 2012 SunWise with SHADE Poster Contest www.epa.gov/sunwise/postercontest.html. Now Sueda and her classmates at the Albuquerque School of Excellence can stay shaded when they play outside.

In Sueda’s winning poster, two cactus characters offer their sunburned cactus friend some sun protection advice in the form of hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Meanwhile, a chameleon seeks shade under a leaf. Sueda was one of 12,000 participating students from 48 states, the District of Columbia, and the Northern Mariana Islands.  The poster contest is an annual event; submissions are due every year by April 1. The poster contest educates thousands of students each year about how to be SunWise.

May 25th is Don’t Fry Day www.epa.gov/sunwise/dfd.html, and Sueda’s cactus characters are the perfect reminder of what this day is all about: when outdoors, you need to Slip, Slop, Slap, Wrap, and Seek Shade to protect yourself from too much sun exposure. Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat, wrap on sunglasses, and seek shade between 10am and 4pm. School may be over soon but the need to stay safe under the sun continues. How can you be safe in the sun this summer?

About the author: Julie Kunrath is an ASPH Fellow hosted by the SunWise program in the Office of Air and Radiation in 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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Ready For Your Science Fair Project?

By Shanshan Lin

This month, students across the country are busily preparing for their annual science fair projects. If you are a student still pondering ideas for your investigation, a teacher looking for classroom resources, or a parent interested in helping your child find the perfect science fair project, EPA has free resources and tools for you.

Interested in climate change? Use the Greenhouse Gas Data Publication Tool to investigate local sources of carbon pollution. Are you wondering about your home’s impact on the climate? Check out the Household Emissions Calculator to explore the impacts of taking various actions to reduce your family’s greenhouse gas emissions. Want to learn first-hand about the effects of climate change on the natural world? Take a look at the student scientist guide to learn how to observe the impacts of climate change in your backyard.

Concerned about air quality? The Air Pollution: What is the Solution website uses real time data to help you understand about the science behind the causes and effects of outdoor air pollution.

Looking for information on acid rain or how to use pH paper? Check out EPA’s guide on the causes and effects of acid rain on ecosystems. The “Learning about Acid Rain: A Teacher’s Guide for Grades 6 through 8” provides detailed instructions for nine science experiments related to acidity and acid rain, including how to measure the pH of different substances.

Want to learn more about ozone layer? Sign up to receive the free SunWise tool kit, with over 50 activities about stratospheric ozone, ultraviolet radiation and how to stay safe in the sun.

So, get creative and check out these resources and see where they take your science fair project!

About the author: Shanshan Lin is an intern for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation communications team. She is also a graduate student at George Washington University.

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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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.