Monthly Archives: October 2010

ACE Is The Place For Children’s Environmental Health Indicators

By Greg Miller

This is the report that drew me to EPA 10 years ago. I was a recent graduate from University of Michigan’s School of Public Health when I saw a job posting for work on environmental health policy. I had no idea what a unique opportunity I was being given.

On my first day at EPA I got to work on America’s Children and the Environment – fondly known as “ACE”. It is a report of children’s environmental health indicators. Like many people at the time, I had very little understanding of what indicators were. Since that day ten years ago, indicators of health and welfare have spread across the government as a means of providing summary information on status and trends. Our children’s environmental health indicators help us answer important questions, such as: how many children live in areas where air pollution levels are of concern? Are we continuing to make progress in reducing childhood blood lead levels? How has the prevalence of childhood asthma changed in recent years?

This year at EPA, we are preparing a new edition of America’s Children and the Environment. ACE, Third Edition will provide quantitative information from a variety of sources to show trends in environmental contaminants in air, drinking water, food, and soil; concentrations of contaminants measured in the bodies of mothers and children; and childhood health outcomes that may be influenced by environmental factors, such as asthma. New indicators will show the percentage of children in homes with lead dust hazards; biomonitoring data for phthalates and bisphenol A; and percentage of babies born preterm. We hope that people will use the report to better understand the environmental health challenges faced by children in the U.S. Furthermore, we hope the report will be a useful tool for policy makers to identify and address children’s health issues in their communities.

I doubt this blog post adequately conveys my excitement about this report. Working on children’s environmental health indicators is an absolute privilege, and I am endlessly thankful to the American public for allowing me this opportunity. If you share even one nanogram of my excitement, please visit the America’s Children and the Environment website to see our current indicators. You can also sign up to receive updates by email about any new information posted to the website and updates on the development of ACE3.

About the author: Greg Miller works on the ACE report in EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection.

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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Knowledge Is Power – Protect Kids From Potentially Dangerous Products Around Your Home

By Mona Casey

As a parent who lost a son at the tender age of 15 to the intentional inhalation of refrigerant, also known as huffing, I can attest that losing a child to something so senseless and preventable is extremely heartbreaking and difficult to accept. Access to the refrigerant is typically gained from your home’s air conditioning (AC) system.

My spouse and I knew nothing about huffing refrigerant. It never occurred to us to include refrigerants in our discussions with our son about drugs and other dangers. Since the untimely death of our son, I have made it my mission to raise awareness of this dangerous trend through education and other changes.

Every year, children die from huffing refrigerant and other chemical vapors. Such vapors can be found in a variety of common household products. By the time a student reaches the 8th grade, one in five will have used inhalants. Fifty-five percent of deaths associated with inhalant abuse are caused by cardiac arrest, which has become known as Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome (SSDS). Twenty-two percent of those who died from SSDS had no prior history of huffing. Other severe consequences include brain damage, loss of muscle control, and destruction of vital organs.

Because the effect of huffing is brief, it can be very difficult to detect if a child is abusing chemicals. However, there are a few tell-tale signs. They include, but are not limited to: slurred speech, disorientation, red or runny eyes or nose, sores around the mouth, nausea and/or loss of appetite, anxiety, excitability, irritability and/or restlessness, sore throat, headache, hoarse voice, chemical odor on breath and/or clothing, hiding plastic or trash bags in unusual places, loss of effectiveness of AC systems, loitering and footprints around AC units, and missing caps on AC units. Anyone handling your AC unit should be EPA-certified.

Refrigerants serve many useful purposes, but when misused, they are extremely dangerous and can be deadly, even in the first use. When speaking to your children about the dangers of drugs, it’s essential to include inhalants, such as refrigerant in your discussion. For other types of common inhalants, visit

About the author: Mona Casey is the mother of the late Charles Ian Gray and founder of the United Parents to Restrict Open Access to Refrigerant. Please contact your local Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning contractor or visit us online for more information.

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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Jardinería ecológica para todas las estaciones

Por Lina Younes

Las hojas en el área de Washington, DC pronto alcanzarán la plena gama del espectro otoñal. Como estamos teniendo unas temperaturas más calurosas que lo usual, todavía estamos viendo muchos arbustos florecidos en jardines y parques del área rodeados por el follaje otoñal multicolor. De hecho, estoy esperando que las temperaturas bajen considerablemente de manera consistente para así poder sembrar los bulbos que florecerán en la primavera. Creo que tengo que ser algo paciente.

Como estamos hablando de los cambios de temporada, debemos pensar en tomar pasos especiales para proteger los jardines. Si planificamos durante el otoño, podremos ser recompensados con flores coloridas y céspedes verdosos en la primavera. Podemos alcanzar esta meta sin recurrir a sustancias químicas. Podemos lograr prácticas sostenibles beneficiosas al medio ambiente mediante la jardinería ecológica.

¿Qué significa la jardinería ecológica?  Bueno, se trata básicamente de la conservación de recursos; reducir, reutilizar y reciclar. Las 3 R’s verdes. Al implementar estos principios usted puede ahorrar millones de galones de agua, evitar el uso plaguicidas mientras protege el medio ambiente. Primero, reduzca la producción de desechos en sus jardines. Selecciones plantas nativas y perennes. Segundo, el reutilizar productos prolonga la vida útil de estos materiales y aplaza su disposición final. Tercero, recicle los recortes de hierbas y otros desechos de jardinería para compostar. Esto le ayudará a alimentar el césped y minimizar el uso de sustancias químicas. Un poco de esfuerzo ahora rendirá frutos a la larga y resultará en un medio ambiente más saludable.

¿Tiene ideas al respecto? ¿Consejos? ¿Está planificando algo especial para su jardín este año? Nos encantaría recibir sus comentarios.

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

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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Concentrated Effort, Universal Need

Potomac River BasinNearly 6 million people live in the drainage area of the Potomac River which stretches 14,670 square miles across four states and the District of Columbia. 86% of these people get their drinking water from public water suppliers which use the Potomac River, its tributaries and surrounding ground water as their source water. And with an average flow before withdrawal of 7 billion gallons/day, it may be an understatement to say: it’s a big deal!

Luckily, this has not gone unnoticed. Organized in 2004, the Potomac River Basin Drinking Water Source Protection Partnership (DWSPP) has been working to better understand and address the risks that may negatively affect the quality of drinking water in the Potomac River basin. The Partnership is a voluntary association of 20 water suppliers and government agencies whose mission is the protection of their source water supplies in the basin. Some of the biggest interests of the Partnership are:

• Tracking research on low levels of emerging  contaminants to determine their persistence in the environment and their potential threats to human health and the environment

• Early warning/emergency response to events and conditions which may threaten the safety of the water supply

• Urban issues such as the impact of roadway salts on drinking water sources

• Agriculture issues such as the potential contribution of pathogens. One example of this is Cryptosporidium, which may cause water-borne disease

Broad source water programs like the Partnership’s are significant because they extend beyond the treatment element and provide an invaluable multi-barrier approach to drinking water protection. With concerns like those above (and more) in both urban and rural areas, this collaborative approach should open the eyes of residents in watersheds everywhere.

So what should you do? Educate yourself on the issues the Potomac DWSPP is working on by visiting their website and be sure to take a look at specific information about special topics or workgroup activities. You may also find information like how to properly dispose of pharmaceuticals, as well as other ways you too can ensure safe drinking water for your area.

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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Greenscaping For All Seasons

By Lina Younes

The leaves in the Washington, DC area will soon reach the full range of the fall spectrum. Since we have been having unseasonably warm weather, we still can see many flowering bushes in bloom in gardens and parks in the area surrounded by the multicolor autumn foliage. In fact, I’m actually looking forward for the temperatures to become steadily cooler so that I can plant bulbs that will blossom in the springtime. I guess I’ll have to be more patient.

As we’re talking about the changes in seasons, we should start to think about taking special steps to protect our gardens. With careful planning this autumn, we will be rewarded with colorful flowers and green lawns next year. We can achieve this goal without resorting to chemicals. We can go green in our yards through greenscaping!

How to greenscape?  Well it boils down to some basic resource conservation issues: reduce, reuse, and recycle. The green 3 R’s. By implementing these principles you can save millions of gallons of water, pesticides, while protecting the environment. First, reduce the production of waste in your gardens. Select native plants and perennials. Secondly, reuse products prolongs the useful life of these materials and delays their final disposal. Thirdly, recycle lawn trimmings and yard debris in a compost pile to be able to feed your lawn with minimal use of chemicals. Some work now will go a long way for a healthier environment.

What are your thoughts on the issue? Any tips? Planning anything special for your garden this year? We love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. 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 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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Science Wednesday: Verifying Test Kits That Help Get The Lead Out

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Julius Enriquez

How old is your house? If it’s older than 32, it probably contains some lead-based paint. This is a concern here in Cincinnati, where I live, since most of the houses here predate 1978.

EPA estimates there are 37.8 million housing units and child-occupied facilities built before 1978 still in use.
The ingestion of household dust containing lead from deteriorating paints is a common cause of lead poisoning in children. Lead may cause a range of health effects, such as behavioral problems and learning disabilities. High levels of exposure can even result in brain damage or death.

Simple and reliable tests and screening kits are needed.

EPA’s Environmental Technology Verification (ETV) Program, in collaboration with the Agency’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT), recently completed testing four portable test kits designed for use by paint contractors. The ETV program verifies the performance of innovative technologies that have the potential to improve protection of human health and the environment.
Four new technologies, each designed to provide paint contractors with portable test kits, were tested using an ETV approved test/quality assurance protocol.

Researchers evaluated the test kits on wood, metal, drywall and plaster surfaces coated with known lead paint concentrations. Kits were also evaluated for cost, speed of results, and ease of use.

What was learned? Based on the ETV testing, OPPT recognized one of the four kits, and added it to a list of two others currently recognized by EPA. Contractors know that they can rely on kits on the lists for safe practices under the Agency’s Lead, Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule, put in place in April to protect kids and adults from lead exposure resulting from home renovation projects.

This week is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. I’m happy to be contributing to projects that help me and my 3.7 million closest neighbors keep our kids lead free.

About the author: Julius Enriquez has been working for the EPA since 1999 and works with the Environmental Technology Verification Program (www.epa.gov/etv) of the National Risk Management Research Laboratory in Cincinnati, Ohio. Julius served as the work assignment manger for the ETV testing of the lead test kits.

Note: For more information regarding the recognized kits, please go to www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/testkit.htm.

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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Her Vision is Green … and Ongoing!

By Wendy Dew

It never ceases to amaze me what one person can do to change the world around them, especially when it is a young person. Sarah Jo Lambert, a 16-year-old from Lubbock, Texas, developed “The Vision is Green” project to fulfill her Girl Scout Gold Award requirements and help educate children about living green. Sarah’s goal was to help young children realize that living in a “green” friendly world is possible by creating an environmental education center made entirely out of green earth-friendly materials.

Sarah recruited help from Texas Tech University, the owners of EarthCo Building Systems, structural engineers, a landscape architect, and others in the community. To raise funding for the project, Sarah also solicited sponsorship from American Clay, Inc., Home Depot, Lowes, Stanley Tools, Grainger Company, as well as numerous individuals and volunteers. It was team effort of over 2200 people who believed in Sarah Jo’s vision and created Lorax Lodge

Lorax Lodge is located in an area known as the Caprock in West Texas, overlooking a Girl Scout camp. Sarah identified the local vegetation and planned a new nature trail to help visitors learn about native plants and wildlife surrounding the center. The “Rattler Trail” includes a map and a curriculum guide. Check out Sarah Jo’s Greenversations’ blog post to learn more about the center.

To date, approximately 1,300 people have visited Lorax Lodge, including visitors from 14 different states.

Sarah Jo was the 2010 President’s Environmental Youth Award winner for Region 6.
She recently received the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes which honors outstanding young leaders who have made a significant positive difference to people and our planet. The goal of the Barron Prize is to celebrate such heroic young people—and to inspire others to do their part.

In writing about amazing students and all they have accomplished, I have noticed how these successes are not one time efforts. As seen in Sarah’s case, the incredible work these kids perform is ongoing and lasting. We can all learn valuable lessons from the upcoming generations “can-do/must-do-attitude”.

About the author: Wendy Dew has been with EPA for 14 years and is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8.

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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"Preventing Lead Poisoning"

Picture this: You live in a gorgeous older row home in Washington D. C. Although it’s a “fixer upper”, you bought it for its unmatched Victorian charm and its unbeatable location (Who doesn’t want to live next to a cupcake shop?). You finally decide it’s time to remodel the kid’s room and update the kitchen, but your spidey-sense is going off because you know that renovating a pre-1978 homes with lead paint can have risks. What’s the next step?

  • Do a search on the internet about EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting rule
  • Look for a contractor, but make sure to ask them if they are EPA Lead-Safe Certified
  • Check with your pediatrician about testing your children for lead

The answer is: All of the above — And don’t forget to share what you learn on your neighborhood list serve!

Learning about Lead-Safe renovations is one of the many actions you can take to prevent lead poisoning during Lead Poisoning Prevention Week this October 24-30, 2010.

This year for Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, consider taking concrete steps to make a difference (or tell a neighbor):

  1. Get Your Home Tested. Ask for a lead inspection if you live in home built before 1978.
  2. Get Your Child Tested. Ask your doctor to test your young children for lead even if they seem healthy.
  3. Get the Facts. Read more information about preventing childhood lead poisoning

Tell us, what are you doing to spread the word or learn more about Lead Poisoning Prevention.

About the author: Christina Wadlington joined EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics in July 2008 and works in the National Program Chemicals 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.

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Why Is My Child Sick?

By Kara Belle

In 2002, we moved from Texas to Atlanta with my perfectly healthy 8-month old. Within a month, my daughter was in the hospital, face flush, lips blue, high fever and straining for every breath. The doctors would treat her, we would go home, and two to three weeks later we would be back to the emergency room for the same thing. It got so bad my daughter’s pediatrician requested that I remove my daughter from day care for six weeks so that her body would have time to heal and recover. My mom kept my daughter in her home during this time and miraculously she had no breathing problems, no fever, and looked great. I brought her home and within hours she was ill. This was my ah-ha moment. It was my apartment! Upon close inspection, I found mold underneath sinks and around windows in my apartment. I also recounted the numerous times her daycare would flood during heavy rains. In addition, we lived a stone’s throw from a major interstate. I later learned outdoor pollutants like emissions from cars, factories, and power plants can contribute to asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses.

My daughter was diagnosed with asthma but no one ever sent me home with tips on what environmental exposures may be triggering her asthma and respiratory infections. I can’t tell you how much I have learned since then. I bought books, searched the Internet, talked to other moms and found some really great information on asthma triggers and allergens both indoors and outdoors. I don’t want other parents or caregivers to go through an arduous and unnecessary learning curve as I did.

Most importantly, I’ve learned the importance of working with your child’s doctor to help create an Asthma Action Plan to prevent future asthma attacks. This is an essential preventative step toward managing asthma. Although, there is no cure for asthma yet, asthma can be controlled through medical treatment and management of environmental triggers. Had I known about the Asthma Action Plan earlier, my sweet baby girl would not have had to suffer needlessly as she did.

I always try to share my story with other parents who are becoming sadly aware of the asthma epidemic. Please join me and share your story. The more we talk about the importance of a healthy environment the better we can champion children’s health as parents, as a community, and as a nation.

About the author: Kara Belle works in the Office of Children’s Health Protection

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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Science Thursday: Come See EPA Research In Action!

By Maggie Sauerhage

When Fall blows in each year, it brings cooler temperatures, colorful leaves, and wonderful fall festivals. I find that festivals are a great way to spend the day outdoors with my family, enjoying one another’s company and whatever the festival has in store. This weekend, I will have the pleasure of attending the U.S. Science and Engineering Festival and working at EPA’s booth.

The festival, the culmination of a month-long celebration focused on inspiring the nation’s youth and people of all ages to rediscover science and engineering, will take place October 23 to 24, on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The EPA booth will have numerous activities and experiments waiting for willing participants.

I’m excited to help out with the various tables, such as the one highlighting chemical reactions. Here, EPA staffers will illustrate important scientific concepts by combining various products found in the average kitchen, creating reactions commonly used by chemists.

We will also have a lung capacity challenge where participants can measure their own lung capacity and compare it to national averages and other festival attendees. As an avid runner, I think I have pretty strong lungs. I’ll have to see how I measure up against the thousands of people we are expecting to host over the weekend.

When I first started at EPA, I thought of the agency as simply a regulatory body. I was amazed to learn of all the influential and groundbreaking research EPA scientists are performing. These same EPA scientists and engineers will be on hand both days of the festival using simple and complex activities to demonstrate the work they do and why it is so important to the environment and human health in our country and around the world.

Have you ever wondered how you can do a chemistry experiment in an environmentally friendly way or how your drinking water gets so clean? What does the number of bugs in a stream have to do with water quality? How do genes play a part in a population’s adaptation over time? Come by the EPA booth next weekend to find the answers to all these questions and many more!


About the Author: Maggie Sauerhage is a student at Indiana University majoring in Spanish. She is spending the fall working at EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Note: If you can’t make it to the festival, you can still follow us

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.