uv index

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.

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.

Four Things to Remember on the Fourth

By Maddie Dwyer

 Maddie, last Fourth of July, at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Cambridge, Maryland.


Maddie, last Fourth of July, at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Cambridge, Maryland.

During the summer, it’s hard to think of anything other than vacations, cookouts, family, and friends. I find this to be especially true during the excitement of the Fourth of July. The Fourth is one of my favorite holidays; I love the parties, the fireworks, and the awesome outfits! During this time of patriotism and national pride, it’s easy to forget about some important summer environmental issues, and this leads to people like myself to get horribly sunburned and exposed to other significant health risks.

Here at EPA, there are four things we recommend you keep in mind while enjoying the summer fun.

  • Air quality: The increased temperatures, humidity, and pollen of summer can translate to poor air quality. It’s important to keep in mind when you go outside. You can check the air quality in your area, or the area you are vacationing in, using our AirNow website or mobile app.
  • Beach safety and protection: Beaches are a top summer vacation destination. If you find yourself at one this summer, be aware of the issues that can affect your health and safety. From marine sanitation to dune protection, EPA has lots of great resources to help you plan a fun and safe trip to the beach.
  • UV index: It’s a no-brainer that sunburns and UV over exposure are more common in the summer. EPA’s UV Index, which can give you a UV risk forecast for your zip code, is a great resource to use when you are planning a day in the sun.
  • Going green at home: The fourth and final thing to keep in mind this Fourth of July (and beyond) is what you can do at home to protect the environment. A lot of people want to be greener at home, but are unsure of where to start. Check out EPA’s Resources for Concerned Citizens for some ideas on saving energy, conserving water, and much more.

So this Fourth of July, break out your coolest red, white and blue clothes, watch some fireworks, and protect yourself and the environment.

 

Fireworks display in Washington DC

Fireworks display in Washington DC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the author:  Maddie Dwyer studies environmental science and policy at the University of Maryland. She works as an intern for EPA’s Office of Web Communications.

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Three Quick Tips to a More Enjoyable Summer

By Ashley McAvoy

We all have our favorite season of the year but I think that summer is mine. During the summer you can enjoy barbeques, going to the beach, and even camping. I absolutely love summer! But, I have to admit while it’s all fun in the sun, we need to be aware of environmental and health problems that occur during these hot summer months. Here are some tips for you to enjoy this season.

Here comes the sun…

Did you know that the sun’s rays are the strongest during the summer? This means we need to use plenty of sunscreen and wear a hat when doing activities outside. Also, planning your outdoor activities in the morning or evening when the sun is not as strong will help too. I like to run. So when I go running in the summer, I try to run in the evening when it’s a little cooler. You can also check the UV Index to find out how strong the sun’s rays are in your area so you can plan accordingly for that day.

Them pesky skeeters…

If there is one thing I can’t stand its getting attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes when I’m trying to enjoy a nice summer evening outside. That’s why it’s important to make it harder for mosquitoes to breed in your backyard. If you have any standing water in your yard from birdbaths, wading pools, or even garden fountains, these are the perfect breeding environments for mosquitoes. Remove all standing water or replace it weekly to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in your yard. Check out the EPA website for more tips on repelling mosquitoes.

Fill ‘er up…

You know when you fill up the tank of your car or truck there’s always a gasoline smell? Did you know that those gasoline vapors are actually bad for you and the environment? What’s worse is that gasoline vapors increase in the summertime because of the hot and humid conditions. The next time that you refuel your car or truck, make sure that the gas cap is secure so you don’t let excess vapors into the air. Also, try not to refuel on ozone action days. If you must refuel on an ozone action day, do it in the morning or evening when the sun’s rays are not as strong.

Enjoy your summer!

About the author: Ashley McAvoy is an Intern with the Office of Web Communications for spring 2013. She is a double major in Environmental Studies and Hispanic Studies at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland.

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.

How Green Is Your Picnic?

By Kimberly Williams

Eating is one of my favorite activities. I’m a firm believer that food is exceptionally effective in building relationships, easing troubles, and celebrating triumphs. I also think that food can be one of the best areas for embracing green ideas. There are many ways to make feasting more friendly to the environment, particularly during the summer months. My favorite way to enjoy sunshine, nature, and a tasty snack is with a fun outdoor picnic.

I like to get out to Great Falls Park in Virginia because the view of the Potomac River is simply stunning. I enjoy lounging on a blanket in the sun, within close range of my picnic basket. Now is a great time to enjoy your picnic in a park because July is National Parks Month. The National Recreation and Park Service has lots of cool ideas for getting outdoors and enjoying parks.

When I pack my picnic basket, I keep a few rules in mind. Limiting the amount of disposable items that I bring to reduce my waste is a priority. (Also, that makes clean up a breeze.) This means cloth napkins, reusable dishes and cutlery, and washable food storage containers instead of Styrofoam. If you can’t avoid using paper or plastic products, make sure you recycle what you can. EPA’s Recycle on the Go initiative provides information about recycling in public places like parks.

For the bright summer sun it’s also important to remember to throw in your basket some sunscreen, a hat, and shades.  A few painful experiences with sunburn have taught me to be more careful about always using a  sunscreen with a high enough SPF.  I recently downloaded onto my Smartphone this neat app for checking the UV Index.  It’s an easy way to help me remember to keep my fair skin protected whenever I go.

Although all this stuff about picnics is important, let’s be honest—it’s really all about the food. I’m often shopping at my local farmer’s market for fresh produce that helps reduce my carbon footprint.  You can learn more about locally grown foods in your area, or even grow your own vegetables and herbs in an environmentally friendly garden. Then you’ll be able to fill your picnic basket with all kinds of yummy foods that make for a delicious meal, a fun afternoon, and a healthier environment.

About the author: Kimberly Williams is a summer intern in the Office of Public Engagement. She attends Lehigh University where she is double majoring in Political Science and Environmental Studies.

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.

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.

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.

Sunglasses: Good For Your Appearance And Better For Your Eyes

By Lina Younes

As the summer season fast approaches, we’re seeing more colorful summer fashion items for sale in stores. However, there is one popular item that is valuable not only as a fashion statement, but for its health benefits as well. What item might that be? Sunglasses.

We know that exposure to powerful ultraviolet (UV) rays causes skin cancer. Yet, exposure to natural sunlight or artificial UV rays can also damage your eyes. Long-term exposure to UV radiation can lead to numerous eye disorders including cataracts, skin cancer around the eyelids and other health issues issues. Cataract is the clouding of the eye’s natural lens. It is a condition that tends to appear in people as they grow older, especially after 40. Currently, over 22 million people in the US have cataracts. An EPA report indicates that cataract incidence is on the rise.

Even though we think of common eye conditions linked to the aging process, we should take steps to ensure a healthy vision as early as possible. Everyone is susceptible to eye damage from UV radiation regardless of age or ethnic origin. So an easy way to start protecting your eyes is by getting sunglasses. Read the labels to ensure that the sunglasses block 99-100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays. Also choose sunglasses for your children, too. For further protection, you can also use a wide-brimmed hat with your sunglasses.

So, whether you’re headed to the beach, engaging in sports, gardening, or simply enjoying the great outdoors, remember to use sunglasses to protect your eyes. Just because the day is overcast, don’t assume that you don’t need to protect yourself from the sun. Those powerful UV rays can easily shine through the clouds damaging your eyes and skin. So protect yourself and be SunWise all year round. Good sun protection habits should be observed every day and all seasons of the year.

Spanish link

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.

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.

EPA's Mobile Website Preview

By Brett Graham

“Have you ever wondered…?” was a beginning line for Andy Rooney’s monolog on the “60 Minutes” show. But, have you ever wondered what the UV index was while out in the sun? I have often asked myself that exact question during my weekend tennis activities. I can be a bit lazy when it comes to sun protection but when I know the UV index is high (6 or above), I just do it.

How can you find the UV index while you’re stretching at the tennis courts? EPA’s mobile website! Yes, I said MOBILE. The website has actually been around for a while and can be accessed at http://m.epa.gov from your mobile device. If you think that’s great… and I’m sure you do… . I’m here to tell you that EPA is completing its modernization of the mobile website and will soon be available at the above URL. For now, check out our prototype at http://www.epa.gov/webmast1/m . Feedback is always welcome.

You can get the latest environmental news releases, videos of Administrator Jackson on YouTube, and even photos posted on Flickr with your mobile device through our website. The website Apps menu includes links to “My Right to Know” and “Learn about your environment.” The latter includes information on UV Index, AirData, Energy Star Rebates, and My Environment.

Another useful item that I’d like to share is the Contact link at the bottom of the menu. It provides clickable phone numbers for an environmental emergency or any other threats to public health. For those of us who haven’t included the phone number of everyone we know working at the EPA, there’s an Employee Directory under the Contact link as well. I find that very useful.

I almost forgot to mention two of the most popular websites among mobile users: Facebook and Twitter. The new mobile website’s “Connect” page has links to EPA on Facebook and Twitter in the mobile format. Users can follow Administrator Lisa Jackson on Twitter or stay connected with environmental issues and events on EPA Facebook. Visitors to the “Connect” page can also join the Greenversations on EPA’s blog, where guest writers blog about current environmental issues. Or, they can just browse the “Environmental Tips” page to get information on how to conserve energy and other action-oriented tips.

As you can tell, I’m really excited about the new website and all the mobile content that’s available to you. Our team has worked hard to redesign EPA’s mobile website and we welcome your feedback. So, if you haven’t turned on your mobile device and browsed to the new prototype while reading this blog, now’s the time. And, don’t forget the sunblock!

About the author: Brett Graham is an IT Specialist and has been working at EPA since 2000. He’s located at the Office of Environmental Information’s National Computer Center in RTP, NC and is currently on detail to OEI’s Information Access Division.

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.

Got a Smartphone? EPA Has Launched an App to Keep You Safe in the Sun

Growing up outside of Baltimore in the late 70s, I spent the summers at the pool, cutting lawns in the neighborhood without a shirt, and riding my bike for hours. I’m paying for it now. I’ve had seven basal cell carcinomas (the least dangerous skin cancer) removed in the past five years, including three from my forehead. I’ll be going to a dermatologist twice a year for the rest of my life. You know that young men like to compare scars – well, add my childhood scars to my skin cancer scars, and I can top anyone.

After spending many years working on waste reduction issues, I came over to a part of EPA that works on healing the ozone layer and teaching kids how to be SunWise. The ozone layer acts as a kind of sunscreen for the Earth, so while it’s healing, we want to prevent skin cancer by teaching kids, their teachers and parents how to be safe in the sun.

We’ve been using the UV Index for years to forecast the strength of the sun’s UV rays—the higher the Index, the more important it is to be sun safe. Just this year, we developed a UV Index widget and put the Index on Facebook. So, you can check your friends’ status and the sun’s, and plan for a SunWise day.

Now we’re making it even easier for you to check the UV Index when you’re on the go with EPA’s smartphone applications. Of course, we’re hoping people download these free applications on their mobile phones.

I still enjoy the outdoor activities I did as a kid – especially biking – and am proud of my small collection of really nice Italian bikes. What has changed is that I am now SunWise and take better care of my skin. A lot of people are SunWise nowadays, too – including my kids. With tools like the smartphone applications, we are making it easier for folks to be smart in the sun.

About the author: Robert Burchard is a program analyst for EPA’s Stratospheric Protection Division in the Office of Air and Radiation. Robert is known for wearing his bike jerseys around the office and for speeding full-force ahead with anything technology-related, particularly when it’s about sun safety.

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.