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Earth Day Every Day:  Make the Environment Part of your Daily GRIND(s)

2015 April 22

By Heather Barnhart

Disposable Cups

Disposable Cups

My mother always told me that it’s the little things that add up. Don’t get me wrong – BIG things matter too, big things add up to A LOT. But it seems that those big things – like improving air quality and lowering asthma rates around the city (I live next to the BQE, so I know this is a BIG thing) – take a long time, and I may not be able to do anything directly. So, what’s my job? How can I help the environment?

My job at EPA Region 2 – measuring our operational footprint and developing innovative projects to reduce those environmental impacts – is actually a big thing. Executive Orders – the latest being Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decadedefine the federal priorities and goals. The Environmental Management System program describes our local progress toward achieving national goals and reducing our operational footprint. To achieve those goals, I often ask our employees, contractors, interns, other on-site federal employees, and even visitors to do the little things. And, these little things add up. Case in point: our employees were able to reduce their printing by 55 percent last year, which offset a whopping 29 metric tons of CO2.

So, what little things am I asking from everyone working in our offices in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico? My ask is something so easy and so basic that I’m hoping it’s already done. I’m asking people to pledge to give up the disposable coffee cup (and water bottle!) for at least a week or a month or better yet, forever!

Why do I think this will make a difference here in our regional offices, and why do I care about coffee cups? Region 2 recently announced our Zero Waste Policy, which is driving us to divert more of our waste from disposal. To achieve “zero” waste, we rely on increases to recycling and reuse, but, most importantly, we want to stop generating waste (source reduction) because even recycling requires resources and has an impact.

Between contractors, employees, other federal employees and interns, we have about 1,050 people in our offices in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. If we estimate that each person is in the office 190 days per year, and they buy and throw out one disposable cup per day, then we generate about 6,250 pounds of coffee cup waste per year.

But doesn’t EPA recycle all of their trash? Recycling rules differ depending on municipal or local ordinances – those requirements differ for home owners versus businesses in Edison (Middlesex County), New York City, and Puerto Rico. While our regional offices do recycle more than required, coffee cups are not included.

But don’t I waste water when I wash my mug?  It’s true, you’ll use water to wash your mug. However, the benefits of giving up disposable cups outweigh the concerns over the amount of water used to wash reusable mugs. True that a full (and energy efficient) dishwasher conserves the most water per cup, but you can still efficiently hand wash your mug using much less water than the 8,095 gallons needed to create 10,000 disposable cups.

Still not convinced?  OK – here are more numbers for you (I love numbers!).

Annually Americans throw away 25 BILLION cups per year, which means:

  • 9.4 million trees were harvested just for cups;
  • 363 million pounds of waste were generated; and,
  • 3,125,000 tons of CO2 emissions were generated.

If even half of the EPA Region 2 employees give up their cup, then we offset 12.5 tons of CO2 every year. And, Green Apple – you’re 8.4 million people strong. Together, we can pledge a little thing and make a HUGE difference!

About the Author: Heather Barnhart is the NYC EMS coordinator. She got her start studying forestry at LSU, perfected her Hausa as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Niger, joined Region 2 as a water quality expert, and now works on reducing the office’s footprint. For her, every day really is Earth 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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Sustainable Things to do in NYC: Earth Day Special

2015 April 21

#NatureSelfie

Don’t let the wet weather wash out your Earth Day celebrations this week. Our list is by no means comprehensive, but it should give you some excellent ideas for getting out and about in New York City with others who want to honor our great Earth.

Earth Day Craft and Mini Garden Tour: Visit the Queens Botanic Garden after school for a botanically-themed craft. Wednesday, April 22, 3:30 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Earth Matters: Designing our Future: Join the New School’s Tishman Environment and Design Center for a day-long event featuring workshops and discussions on climate action and sustainability. Wednesday, April 22, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.

E-Waste Recycling Event: Bring your old, unwanted electronics to this Park Slope collection event. Sunday, April 26, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

5K Walk and Green Tour Event: Join Earth Day New York’s volunteering event and learn about green places around NYC. Wednesday, April 22.

Green Festival Expo: Head to the Javitz Center in Manhattan for this sustainability and green living event including workshops, exhibits, yoga classes and more! Friday, April 24 – Sunday, April 26.

Harlem Earth Day Celebration: This family friendly event includes live performances, environmental art, bike rides and yoga classes. Saturday, April 25.  Noon – 4 p.m.

#NatureSelfie Campaign: If you want to join the social media conversation, get out and take a #NatureSelfie this week and post to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Don’t forget to mention @eparegion2 in your posts.

Rockaway Beach Celebrates Earth Day: Keep the celebrations going into next month by heading out to Rockaway Beach for their annual beach themed Earth Day festival. Saturday, May 2, noon – 4 p.m.

Stargazing on the HighLine: Don’t let your celebrations stop when the sun goes down! Get out and view the stars from the High Line. After dusk, Tuesday, April 21.

The Canal, A Documentary:  Learn about the issue of microbeads and other plastic in our New York State waterways by attending this documentary film premiere. Friday, April 24, 8 p.m.

Tags: Earth Day, ecofriendly activities, New York City, sustainability, things to do, family-friendly 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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When it Rains, it Molds

2015 April 14

Part 1 of 2

By Marcia Anderson

Mold spores up close

Mold spores up close

When I went back home recently to visit my family, I noticed a number of mold spots on the ceiling in multiple rooms. A result of roof water damage from the winter ice and snow the northeast experienced this year. This prompted me to have an interview with Mark Berry, EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Coordinator for Region 6 (serving Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and 66 Tribes). Here are his responses to some common questions about mold and moisture.

  1. What is it that many people misunderstand about mold? It is important to view mold, not as a mold issue, but as a moisture issue. People think that mold is a hazardous material. Most people do not realize that mold and mold spores are all around us. Molds live in the soil, on plants, and on dead or decaying matter. Outdoors, molds play a key role in the breakdown of leaves, wood, and other plant debris. Molds produce tiny spores to reproduce, just as some plants produce seeds. These mold spores can be found in both indoor and outdoor air, and settled on indoor and outdoor surfaces. When mold spores land on a damp spot, they may begin growing. It is important not to provide the moist environment mold needs to grow.

    The solution to the problem is to find and eliminate the moisture source first, and not focus only on the mold. Removing the mold alone does not solve the problem. If the water remains, new mold will grow in the same area.

  1. Mold spreads in the damp area behind a sink

    Mold spreads in the damp area behind a sink

    Should I use bleach to clean up my mold? In most cases using bleach isn’t necessary. Soap and water will often do the trick. Using bleach or some other harsh chemical cleaners can create a breathing hazard for you. If you choose to use disinfectants or biocides, always follow manufacturer’s directions, ventilate the area and exhaust the air to the outdoors. Never mix chlorine bleach solution with other cleaning solutions or detergents that contain ammonia because toxic fumes could be produced.

  1. Can I just paint over the mold? Many people see mold, spray some chemical then paint over it, thinking that will solve the problem. Mold can grow between the paint and the wall in all directions. The paint merely acts as a temporary cover-up. The issue with the paint is that it traps moisture between the paint and the wall, further aiding and abetting the growth of mold. Fix the source of the moisture first, and then take the appropriate steps to clean the affected area or remove it altogether.
  1. What are your most compelling mold calls? Landlord /tenant disputes over mold are our most frequent calls. We attempt to educate and make suggestions for remediation that may be used or not used by the caller’s choice. Callers need to consider the problem as both a building water issue as opposed to a mold issue. This strategy addresses the cause of the mold infestation and not the symptom. We try to get to the root cause of the problem and ease the caller’s concerns. Mold is essentially the result of water damage.
  1. Is there more mold in different parts of the country? Yes, and No. We have more mold inquiries in humid areas because the mold continually gets fed more moisture which allows it to flourish. However, mold can grow everywhere and can exist in a broad range of temperatures and humidity levels. Although moisture is necessary for growth there are molds which prefer drier environments and would need much less than other types to survive.
  1. Mold can be a variety of colors

    Mold can be a variety of colors

    What are your most frequent calls? “I’ve got mold problems can you do something to help me?” EPA Region 6’s Indoor Air Quality program (IAQ) is a voluntary program primarily responsible for conducting outreach and educating the public about indoor environmental issues, including health risks and the means by which human exposures can be reduced. IAQ educates the public about indoor environmental pollutants and sources of pollution, including mold. However, EPA does not have any regulatory authority to control mold in private residences nor do we have the resources to inspect individual homes.

    The EPA does not conduct mold cleanups, but we do provide the education necessary to give people the strategy and empowerment needed to solve the problem. We recognize the health danger to schools, homes and places of work. The EPA is the technical lead in mold research from which many states and local agencies borrow.

  1. Is testing for mold necessary?
    In most cases, if visible mold is present, sampling is not necessary. Since no EPA or other federal limits have been set for mold or mold spores, sampling cannot be used to check a building’s compliance with federal mold standards. Remember that mold and mold spores are natural in the environment so any sampling will result in finding mold.

For more information on controlling mold and moisture, visit www.epa.gov/mold

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

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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Children’s Health: A link between Allergies, Asthma and School Attendance

2015 April 7

By Marcia Anderson

 Cockroach allergens are linked to children’s asthma

Cockroach allergens are linked to children’s asthma

Many schools have shown a high incidence of students missing valuable school days due to asthma and allergies. In many of the same schools that report a high incidence of absenteeism, we have also found cockroach infestations in cafeterias, storage closets and teacher break rooms.

Is there a relationship between cockroach exposure, allergies and asthma?

Most people with asthma have allergic responses in their bronchial tubes when they breathe in particles of the right size and shape and composed of materials recognized by their immune system. Exposure to things like mold, cat dander, ragweed, pollen, and rodent and cockroach droppings can elicit an allergic reaction.

The proteins in cockroach feces and their decomposing bodies are of just the right size to be lifted into the air, inhaled and recognized by the immune system as a signal to make an allergic reaction in some people. This is asthma. Airborne cockroach allergens will stick to particles, like dust, that quickly settle onto dust-trapping fabrics found on upholstered furniture, carpets and curtains. Activities like vacuuming, or even walking may stir up these allergens.

An asthma attack can happen when a student is exposed to “asthma triggers.” One child’s triggers can be very different from those of another child or an adult with asthma.

What Causes the Allergic Reaction?   The job of the immune system is to find foreign substances, such as viruses and bacteria, and get rid of them. This protects us from dangerous diseases. People with allergies have supersensitive immune systems that react when they inhale, swallow or touch certain substances such as pollen or dust that contain the allergens. Some people are born with allergies. Others seem to acquire these allergic sensitivities as they grow older.

Asthma Studies: A 2014 study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology showed marked geographic differences in allergen exposure and sensitivity in inner city children. Early exposure to cockroach allergens can actually cause asthma to develop in preschool aged children. Inhaling particles from cockroaches can cause coughing and wheezing in babies less than 12 months of age. A lack of understanding about asthma and its treatment may cause further risk of severe, undertreated asthma. In many low income communities, coughing and wheezing are accepted as part of normal growing up and medical care may not be sought because it isn’t considered necessary, or it is too difficult to access.

A National Institutes of Health research project demonstrated a definitive connection between income and the severity of asthma in the population (http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/sept98/niaid-21.htm). The study compared people hospitalized for asthma in six major U.S. cities. It found that the lower the average income, the more frequent the need for hospitalization for severe asthmatic attacks.

Exposure to the things that stimulate asthma like cockroaches, second hand smoke, mold, and air pollution are often greater in poor households. In dwellings where the amount of cockroach allergens are high, exposure is high and the rate of hospitalization for asthma goes up.

Keeping your home and family safe:  The EPA recommends that you use Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a smart, sensible and sustainable approach to pest control. Smart because IPM creates a safer and healthier environment by managing pests and reducing children’s exposure to pests and pesticides. Sensible since practical strategies are used to reduce sources of food, water and shelter for pests in buildings. Sustainable because the emphasis is on prevention that makes it an economically advantageous approach.

Actions you can takeFrom cracks to drain traps to groceries, cockroaches can find a way into your home in the oddest of places. Focus on sanitation to eliminate food sources, moisture sources, and harborage for the insects. At least every two to three days, vacuum or sweep areas that might attract cockroaches.

Allergen concentrations are generally highest in kitchens where there is plenty of food and water for cockroaches. Keep counters, sinks, tables and floors clean, dry and free of clutter. Clean dishes, crumbs and spills right away. Store food in airtight containers. Seal cracks or openings around or inside cabinets to keep cockroaches out.

Next are bedrooms where people inhale the allergens that have settled into bedding. Wash bedding regularly in hot water and remove any unnecessary fabrics like curtains and upholstered furniture. Replace carpeting with smooth flooring that can be damp-mopped.

Controlling Cockroaches. To prevent and treat cockroach infestations in your home use IPM methods first – sanitation followed by low-impact pesticides such as baits, or gels.

EPA offers more information about cockroaches and asthma along with a Citizen’s Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety. We also recommend reviewing EPA’s Asthma Checklist and exploring the EPA-sponsored Asthma Community Network website.  

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

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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Women and Climate Change Summit: Part Two

2015 March 26

By Aria Isberto

Panel Discussion

Panel Discussion

As we mentioned in the previous post, EPA’s Women and Climate Change Summit had three goals: to educate, energize, and elevate the voices of women on the important issue of climate change.

Biogeochemist Dr. Kathleen Weathers dove into the first goal with an inspiring talk entitled “What’s New in Climate Change?” She emphasized that human influence on climate change is indisputable. “We know this through experiments, observations, consensus reports and long term records,” she explained, providing hard-hitting and impossible to ignore data. In the face of such a concerning future, Dr. Weathers advised: “Emit less, prepare well for the effects, and understand what is going on. Communicate. Act.”

But we did not forget the victories made thus far. A six-person panel focused on local, successful endeavors was hopeful proof that our actions do make a difference:

  • Alliance for Clean Energy’s Executive Director Anne Reynolds gave the good news about New York’s progress, being one of the states at the forefront of renewable energy. We now have a 25 % Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). Hydropower provided 25% of the state’s energy in 2010, with an aim to increase that by 5% this year.
  • Jenny Briot of Iberdrola Renewables revealed that the Maple Ridge Wind Farm in upstate New York produces enough energy to power up to 160,000 homes and has increased the amount of wind power in the state by 600 percent. The land used remains available for farming, while the project benefits communities by powering school computers and providing jobs.
  • Green City Force is an AmeriCorps program, represented by Lisbeth Shepard, who explained the need to engage our city’s unemployed youth. The program “gives them a means to address climate action goals” while providing them with a stipend and metro card.
  • Tria Case, Director of Sustainable CUNY, gave an update on the NYC Solar Map project. While still in the midst of working towards a more streamlined solar power installation process, the NYC Solar Map is an informational source and useful tool for New Yorkers who want to contribute to the solar movement. Along with practical guides, the website allows visitors to calculate the solar potential of their building with the input of an address.
  • The Yonkers Streetlight Replacement Project will reduce the city’s carbon footprint by 10%, as detailed by Yonkers Director of Sustainability Brad Tito. The project works by replacing Yonker’s cobra-head streetlights with LED lights, with 11,300 replaced last year. It will save nearly $2 million in energy costs in the span of a decade.
  • The City of Kingston is making large strides as well. As a DEC Climate Smart Community, Kingston has been reducing emissions while adapting to a changing climate. Panelist Julie Noble from Kingston’s Parks and Recreation presented to the summit the city’s many forward thinking actions, one of them putting to use CANVIS, a type of resiliency planning tool that assesses site-specific potential damage caused by sea level rise. The city monitors sea levels with a mapper and develops adaptation strategies accordingly.

By lunchtime, the summit was buzzing with excitement. EPA’s Regional Administrator, Judith Enck, took the stage to thank all of the participants for being a part of the summit. She spoke about some of the women who have inspired her in her work, mentioning Rachel Carson, Lois Gibbs and Klara Sauer herself, who was sitting in front of the room. Enck also expressed how proud she was that four of the last six EPA Administrators have been women. Citing the fact that 2014 was the hottest year on record, she highlighted some of EPA’s work and urged all to support and follow the sustainable progress being made in the region and all over the world.

A conclusive discussion entitled “Where Do We Go From Here?” was moderated by Catherine McCabe, Deputy Regional Administrator of EPA Region 2, for the participants at the summit to discuss and come up with real solutions. The discussion was intent in its purpose to cultivate fresh ideas and for everyone to leave with a newly invigorated determination that carries long after the event has wrapped up. With thoughts such as: “How do we empower people to realize each can make a difference?” and “How can we make scientific data even more accessible to all?” It would be no surprise to anyone if new projects and collaborations are traced back this day.

Watch a video of the summit by the Poughkeepsie Journal here.

About the Author:
Aria Isberto is an intern at the EPA Region 2 Public Affairs Division. Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, she currently resides in Manhattan and is an undergraduate student at Baruch College. Her passions include music, writing and learning about protecting the 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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Women and Climate Change Summit: Part One

2015 March 25

By Aria Isberto

David Roosevelt (grandson of Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt), Uri Perrin (Executive Director of The Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Partnership), Judith Enck (EPA’s Regional Administrator) and Cara Lee (The Nature Conservancy) in a lighter moment during the Women and Climate Change Summit.

David Roosevelt (grandson of Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt), Uri Perrin (Executive Director of The Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Partnership), Judith Enck (EPA’s Regional Administrator) and Cara Lee (The Nature Conservancy) in a lighter moment during the Women and Climate Change Summit.

Earlier this month, an event hosted by EPA and The Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Partnership gathered a phenomenal group of people to the historic site in Hyde Park, New York, once home to the longest-serving First Lady of the United States.

On the morning of March 6th, two days before International Women’s Day, the 2015 Women & Climate Change Summit was held. Representatives from environmental organizations were present, including the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, The Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense Fund, and Sierra Club, to name a few. Among the crowd were also staff of Assembly and Senate members, students from various colleges in the region, and people from diverse walks of life sharing a commitment to a sustainable future.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s grandson David was an unexpected initial speaker that morning. As he took the stage and looked out into the sunlit room towards the sea of faces in the Henry A. Wallace Visitor and Education Center, he expressed his sincere hope: for all to draw inspiration from his grandmother’s life and her work and to continue carrying her message.

Of course, the awe-inspiring Eleanor Roosevelt was a focal point in the day’s proceedings as the summit converged on the beautiful snow-covered property. Val-Kill had been her home for years after Franklin Roosevelt’s death and was the place where she worked on some of her most important achievements. “Val-Kill is where I used to find myself and grow,” Eleanor once said. “At Val-Kill I emerged as an individual.”

Kevin Oldenburg, a Park Ranger at the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites introduced his presentation, saying, “not often is the mention of Eleanor’s passion for the environment. That is usually attributed to Franklin.” He went on to highlight Eleanor’s concern for land conservation, such as her worry about the harmful effects of strip mining, insisting on visiting affected sites despite being discouraged to do so. She also spoke strongly for the need to find alternatives for oil. So while she is known for her prevailing sense of social justice, it was Eleanor’s belief that “conservation of our land and conservation of the people go hand-in-hand.”

The Women & Climate Change summit had three goals in mind: Educate one another on policies for addressing climate change (including EPA’s regulatory actions), Energize our daily actions around climate work, and Elevate the voices of women on the historic issue. For many of the 130 attendees of the summit, there was no better way to celebrate March as Women’s History Month than by dedicating the day to their passion in addressing climate change, while at the same time honoring the environmental contributions of Eleanor Roosevelt and many other inspirational women over the years.

Read more details about this groundbreaking summit in Part Two.

About the Author:

Aria Isberto is an intern at the EPA Region 2 Public Affairs Division. Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, she currently resides in Manhattan and is an undergraduate student at Baruch College. Her passions include music, writing and learning about protecting the 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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A Mother and Her Son Deal with Bed Bugs.

2015 March 11

By Marcia Anderson

Bed bug up close - Photo Credit: Piotr Naskrecki

Bed bug up close – Photo Credit: Piotr Naskrecki

As a former EPA Regional bed bug consultant, I still occasionally receive calls to assist people with bed bug related issues. A few months ago, I answered several calls and emails from Mattie, a distraught mom who not only had a bed bug infestation, but had received questionable advice about bed bug control that affected her son’s health. Here is her story.

Mattie discovered she had a bed bug problem when her nine year old grandson went back home with his parents with bumps and swollen arms and legs. His parents took him to the emergency room, where he was diagnosed with having an allergic reaction to bites from some bugs. Mattie’s son, Peter, was also bitten and showed allergic symptoms. Peter suffers from chronic respiratory issues.

They soon discovered that the bites were likely from bed bugs that they found when looking around the apartment. The bed bugs were seen coming out of a crevice in the wall above Peter’s bed. That wall, unknown to Mattie’s family at the time, is adjacent to another apartment that was recently found to have bed bugs.

The landlord instructed Mattie to wash EVERYTHING and gave her just five days to clean out her entire apartment. “We had to wash over 35 loads of clothing, bedding and everything else that had fabric. Peter and I were exhausted,” Mattie wrote in one of her emails.

In the meantime, the landlord arranged for a well-known pest control service to treat the apartment. Mattie reminded the landlord about Peter’s and her health concerns. The landlord told her that they could return to the apartment after it was sprayed and not to worry – the pest control company was professional and would not apply anything that wasn’t safe. The landlord also informed her that the pest control company said there was a severe care of bed bugs in Peter’s room but that no other rooms were infested. Peter’s mattress and bed would need to be thrown out.

Mattie and Peter were given a temporary hotel stay by a local aid agency because of their asthma. She found that four different pesticides had been applied in the apartment and that the pest control company would be returning in five days to check and re-spray.

Mattie continued, “When Peter and I returned to the apartment after two days, we became ill. I could smell the spray. My son began to have tightness in his chest, and so did I. It was apparent that even with the windows open and the ceiling fan blowing that it was going to be impossible to stay in that apartment.” Mattie was concerned about the effect of these pesticides on their respiratory systems, and both had to have breathing treatments when they arrived at the respite house for the rest of the week.

I responded to Mattie: “I was surprised that the pest control company used all of those pesticides. There are other methods of treating bed bugs, such as radiant heat, steam and freezing that do not require the use of pesticides. These methods can easily be followed-up by the use of bed bug barriers and low toxicity pesticides placed strategically in walls and other areas that would not exacerbate your families’ medical conditions.

You do not need to throw out any mattresses, box springs or beds. Instead, purchase encasements for each. The encasements will trap any bed bugs and they will die. If this was a severe infestation, as the landlord reported, some of the bugs would have spread into surrounding rooms, so precautions should be taken throughout the apartment. Until your bed bug problem is gone, use clear plastic boxes to store your clothes and other items that you use on a regular basis. Bed bugs will have a difficult time climbing up the slick plastic sides of the boxes, eliminating yet another hiding place.

As you sleep, bed bugs will try to climb onto the bed for a blood meal. So, move your bed a few inches away from the wall and ensure no bedding is touching the floor. Then, place bed bug interceptors, available on the Internet, under the bed legs and under the legs of all other plush furniture in your apartment.

Be aware that in most cases, pesticides alone will not eliminate bed bugs. Effective bed bug control requires a diverse set of practices called Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM is an environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on knowledge of the pest and a combination of common sense practices, such as inspection, monitoring, reducing clutter, the use of physical barriers, and the judicious and careful use of pesticides, if needed.

An astute pest management professional would have used a less toxic approach to rid you of the bed bugs. I am sorry that you had such an awful experience and hope that others reading this article will learn from your painful lesson.”

Be a strong advocate for your family’s health and for an IPM approach. Find out the exact course of action that is planned for your dwelling BEFORE they treat. Insist on exploring preventative and non-pesticidal options first. For more information on bed bugs and their control go to: http://www.epa.gov/bedbugs.

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

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 Heavenly Trio

2015 March 2

By Jim Haklar

I took this picture on February 20th from the back of the Edison Environmental Center. The Moon was near Venus (the bright “star” to the Moon’s left) and Mars (just above Venus). Think about the range of distances represented in this picture:

The trees were about 0.04 mile away;

The Moon was about 240,000 miles away;

Venus was 130 million miles away; and

Mars was 205 million miles away.

It’s sobering when you consider the scale of the solar system.

 About the Author: Jim is an environmental engineer at EPA’s Edison, New Jersey Environmental Center.  In his nearly 30 years with the agency he has worked in a variety of programs including Superfund, Water Management, Public Affairs, and Toxic Substances. He has been an amateur astronomer since he was a teenager, and can often be found after work in the back of the Edison facility with his telescope.

 

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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Rediscovering the New York City Dinosaurs that Traveled Down the Hudson River.

2015 February 19

By Marcia Anderson

Photo by Bill Cotter

Photo by Bill Cotter

Back in 1964, my parents drove their pompano peach station wagon into NYC for my first memories of the Big Apple. They took me to the New York World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. I was nine years old.

For those who were not alive for the World’s Fair popular era (1791 through the 1960’s), they were huge expositions, where many countries sponsored exhibit buildings and companies showed off their latest technologies and upcoming products in futuristic exhibits. The New York World’s Fair featured 140 pavilions spread over 646 acres of land, and over 44 million people attended its exhibits in just one year.

Prior to the late 1930’s, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was a swamp and ash dump immortalized as “a valley of ashes” in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.  The fair site originally consisted of ashes from coal-burning furnaces, as well as horse manure and garbage, and was known as the “Corona Ash Dumps.”  It was converted into the fair site, which is now known as Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens. My mom and dad had visited the site almost 25 years prior to me, as children themselves, to the first NY World’s Fair in 1939-40.  That was the second largest American World’s Fair of all time. The 1964-65 exposition was the second World’s Fair in the same Queens location. Both World’s Fairs in New York (1939–40 and 1964–65) have the distinction of being the only two-year world expositions in history. World’s Fairs still exist, but not at the frequency and scale that they once were.

Photo by Bill Cotter

Photo by Bill Cotter

I still remember walking into the Sinclair Oil Corporation’s Dinoland exhibit. It featured life-size replicas of nine different dinosaurs, including an Apatosaurus (Brontosaurus) which took me back 65 million years and has remained with me ever since.The dinosaur exhibit was designed to point out the correlation between the petroleum deposits believed to have been formed at the time of the dinosaurs. The Brontosaurus is parodied in the Toy Story films as being the logo for the DinoCo gas station chain.  At the time of both NY World’s Fairs, the Sinclair Oil Corporation was a New York petroleum corporation.

How did the dinosaurs get to Queens? The Sinclair dinosaur statues were originally created for the 1939-40 World’s Fair and were later reused in the Primeval World diorama at Disneyland. The 1964-65 statues were created in Mahopac, New York and included a Tyrannosaurus rex, the horned Triceratops, the plated Stegosaurus and the lovable Apatosaurus. The dinosaurs took three years to build with a team of paleontologists, engineers and robotics experts who gave them life by integrating cutting edge animatronics.  Upon completion, the dinosaurs were barged 125 miles down the Hudson River to the site of New York’s World’s Fair. When the fair ended, their animatronics were removed and the dinosaurs were sent on a national tour which included the 1966 Macy’s Day Parade! A giant balloon of the Sinclair Dino appeared that year and continued to be a part of the parade until the late 1970’s.

I still have the brochure from the World’s Fair exhibit, Sinclair and the Exciting World of Dinosaurs, in a box in my attic, along with a replica ‘Dino.’  In hindsight, that exhibit had a tremendous impact on my life, so much so, that I eventually became a geology professor, teaching university students about the historical geology of our planet for 15 years. I still go fossil hunting whenever possible.

Photo by Bill Cotter

Photo by Bill Cotter

Where are the dinosaurs now? Is there really a Lost World? The dinosaurs were never lost, just relocated. The creatures were offered to the Smithsonian Institution, but were turned down. The dinosaurs were then retired and dispersed to different parks. While working for the EPA in Texas, I took a daytrip to Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, TX, about 100 miles southwest of Dallas, to view dinosaur footprints.  Much to my amazement, I was also able to revisit my childhood dinosaur friends, Apatosaurus and Tyrannosaurus rex. They were permanently put out to pasture in Texas, just like many of the nation’s racehorses. They are still around after over 65 million, plus four score years!

Photo by Marcia Anderson

Photo by Marcia Anderson

Where do the other New York World’s Fair dinosaurs reside? Triceratops is in the Museum of Science & Industry in Louisville, KY; Stegosaurus went to the Dinosaur National Monument in Jensen, UT; Corythosaurus is in Independence, KS; Ankylosaurus lives in the Houston, TX Museum of Natural Science; Struthiomimus went to the Milwaukee, WI Public Museum; and Trachodon lives in the Brookfield, IL Zoo. Sadly, Ornitholestes was stolen and never recovered.

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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Citizen Science is for the Birds?

2015 February 9

Every year since 1998, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society have teamed up in mid-February to sponsor the Great Backyard Bird Count.  It is recognized as “the first on-line citizen science project to collect data on wild birds.”  Since 1998, more than 100,000 people have participated and reported on the birds they see in their areas.  This year the bird count starts on Friday February 13th and continues through Monday February 16th.  The rules are simple – after you register on-line at gbbc.birdcount.org, you just count the numbers and types of birds you see for 15 minutes, on one or more of the 4 days!  There is a checklist on-line to use to report your results.  It’s also a great website to use to help identify birds you don’t recognize.

In 2014, people from 135 countries participated and reported almost 4,300 species of birds as more than 144,000 checklists were received. The results of last year’s bird count are really interesting and can be seen at gbbc.birdcount.org/news/top-10-lists/.

My wife and I have participated in the bird count for the last 7 years and some of the more colorful birds we have counted in our backyard are shown below (all photos courtesy of the Cornell Lab of Ornothology):

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee

Bluejay

Bluejay

Purple Finch

Purple Finch

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

Hope you can join us this weekend and if you can, Happy Birding!!!

About the Author: Kevin Kubik serves as the region’s Deputy Director for the Division of Environmental Science and Assessment out of EPA’s Edison Environmental Center.  He has worked as a chemist for the Region for more than 32 years in the laboratory and in the quality assurance program.

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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