Monthly Archives: September 2011

A Healthy Family, A Healthy Community

by Jose Lozano

“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors: we borrow it from our children.” Native American proverb…

My position at the Environmental Protection Agency allows me to observe first-hand environmental hazards and their impact on public health. I love the fact that what I do every day plays a small part in protecting children like my one year old daughter Brooke. We must not forget the environment affects every aspect of our life and influences who we are. I want to do everything I can to ensure that the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat are all clean, healthy and uncompromised. My generation was brought up expecting nothing less and is what I hope to pass along to Brooke and future generations.

There are a dizzying number of topics for parents to worry over when it comes to protecting their families, and new warnings seem to cross my desk daily, enough to make any parent frantic. We all know that young children are especially susceptible to health problems caused by environmental hazards and sometimes result in a lifetime of health conditions. Naturally, there is a desire to ensure we nurture our children with healthy and safe communities to grow up in. It’s the foundation that we as parents build on and I’m certain that parents of all races, faiths, cultures and income levels would agree. Thus, as a society, we must strive to create an environment that is not only in the best interest of our families, but one that benefits our community.

Healthy families and healthy communities are the main focus this week for Hispanic Heritage Month. Our work under the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act protects the air we breathe and the water we drink, swim and shower for all communities. Although I’m not directly involved with our regulatory process, every night, when I look at my little girl resting peacefully, I’m reminded of the importance of our work and how it impacts Brooke and generations to come.

About the author: Jose Lozano, a first generation American and New Jersey native, currently serves as Director of Operations at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. Jose served New Jersey Governor Jon S. Corzine in a variety of capacities beginning in 2005 as most recently served as Director for External Affairs at the NJ Office of Homeland Security.

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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Purchasing Tires for My Old Faithful

By Denise Owens

Normally when I go to purchase tires for my vehicle it’s usually because they are worn. But in this case they were dry rotted. It’s an old little SUV that isn’t driven much.

So I started my search online for the best deals. After finding the best deal I made an appointment to have the tires installed. After arriving at the service center, the serviceman informed me that along with having my tires installed and balanced. I needed more work to my vehicle.

After spending my entire Saturday getting my old faithful truck serviced, I received my bill. I was ok with all the charges until I noticed a fee for tire disposal. So I asked the serviceman where do you dispose the old tires? He said “oh, we put them in the dumpster.” So I told him, I’d take them with me instead. He looked at me as if I was crazy.

I left the service center with all of my old tires. On my way home, I stopped at my area recycling center. At the recycling center, there is an area to dispose of tires. So I removed the tires from my truck and disposed of them in the proper area.

I feel so good knowing that I disposed of my own tires and saved money by disposing of them the correct way.

What do you do when you purchase new tires?

About the author: Denise Owens has worked with the Environmental Protection Agency for over 20 years

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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Upcoming Weekend Activities

Fall is definitely upon us, so why not get out and enjoy the crisp air during a hike, garden tour or bird watching outing? All the events below are free, though some may require registration.

Bird watching in Brooklyn: Look, up in the sky, it’s a bird! But what kind? Learn about the 250 species of birds that call Prospect Park home. Saturday, Oct. 1, 12:00 – 1:30 p.m.

Bird watching in Van Cortland Park: The park’s bird walks celebrate the tradition set forth by great ornithologists. Participants will look for various species of migrants and discuss a wide range of avian topics.  Saturday, Oct. 1, 8:00 a.m.

Compost in the City: Learn how to nourish your plants and cut down on household waste with urban composting. Saturday, Oct. 1, 10 to 11:30 a.m.

Fresh Kills Park Sneak Peak: The hills and creeks of the closed 2,200-acre Fresh Kills Landfill are beginning their transformation into the city’s biggest and most fascinating new park, on Staten Island’s west shore. Sunday, Oct. 2, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Garden tour of Conservatory Garden in Central Park: See 2,000 Korean chrysanthemums in full, multi-colored bloom and more with the Garden staff. Saturday, Oct. 1, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Garden tour in Fort Tyron Park: Take a tour of the “Park for All Seasons.”  Discover which plants are in bloom in each of the seasons, even in the dead of winter. Sunday, Oct. 1, 1:00 to 2:00 p.m.

Hike in Van Cortland Park: Join the New York City Parks Department’s Urban Park Rangers for a light hike in Van Cortland Park. Saturday, Oct. 1, 1:00 p.m.

Kayaking on the Hudson River: Explore the Hudson River firsthand during a free instructional kayaking lesson at Riverside Park in Manhattan. Saturday, Oct. 1, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Raptor Fest in Prospect Park: Learn all about the majestic birds that are raptors. Hawks, falcons, owls and other birds of prey will be on hand for flight demonstrations and more! Sunday, Oct. 2, 12:00 to 3 p.m.

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: EPA Risk Assessments, the Best Possible Science

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

By Paul T. Anastas, Ph.D.

A dedicated team of scientists in EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program works to assess the hazards that chemicals pose to human health. The assessments they produce, known as IRIS assessments, are not regulations. However, the information they contain is an important basis for regulatory decisions that impact the health of all Americans.

The importance of this hazard information—such as whether or not a chemical is likely carcinogenic—cannot be overstated.
Because some assessments focus on chemicals that are widely used in industry, members of the regulated community, environmental groups, the media, and the public have shown keen interest in the IRIS program. Their interest is legitimate. All Americans should be armed with the best possible scientific information on chemical hazards and feel confident that EPA is striving for continuous improvement.

EPA also solicits feedback on draft IRIS assessments from independent scientific experts. While their feedback has been largely positive, when issues are identified, we act to address them. This is precisely the reason EPA submits draft assessments for independent review. This means the scientific process is working.

This summer, EPA announced a set of improvements to the IRIS program in direct response to recommendations from the National Academies of Science and other independent experts. These changes make IRIS assessments clearer, more concise, and make our methods and scientific assumptions more transparent to readers. We have already begun to phase-in these changes to assessments in the IRIS pipeline.

Of the 50 chemicals currently in the IRIS pipeline, several are exceedingly complex. For example, the IRIS assessment of trichloroethylene (TCE), a widely used industrial solvent, has been under development for more than a decade. The assessment is of high interest because of its potential implications for industry and public health. After extensive independent review, it has been determined that any issues have been adequately addressed.

The TCE IRIS assessment is being released today. It concludes that TCE is carcinogenic to people and poses a human health hazard to the central nervous system, kidney, liver, immune system, male reproductive system, and the developing fetus. This information will be useful to communities, businesses, and government leaders across the country as they make important decisions that impact human health and the environment.

While we know that the goal of perfection is impossible, we will continue to strive for it. We will continue to release IRIS assessments that are scientifically strong. We will continue to pursue the best science with integrity and a mission to protect the health of the American people.

About the author: Paul T. Anastas, Ph.D. is the assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development and the science advisor to the Agency.

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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Taking Drinking Water to the Streets

By Christina Catanese

How many gallons of water do you think you use each day?

Do you think your water supply is safe?

Do you think there is enough water?

How might climate change impact water resources?

What could you do to influence your public water supply?

MOSdrinkingwater

These are the questions that we asked the public one day on the Independence Mall in Philadelphia!  A group of EPA employees including myself took to the streets to get your views on drinking water – and we found some interesting stuff.  Most people were surprised by how high the average amount of water use per person per day is.  I was somewhat taken aback by some of the responses  but I was given hope by the responses to others.

Watch this 3 minute video to see what our participants said, then tell us your answers in the comments section!

About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, and her work focuses on data analysis and management, GIS mapping and tools, communications, and other tasks that support the work of Regional water programs. Originally from Pittsburgh, Christina has lived in Philadelphia since attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Political Science and an M.S. in Applied Geosciences with a Hydrogeology concentration. Trained in dance (ballet, modern, and other styles) from a young age, Christina continues to perform, choreograph and teach in the Philadelphia 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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Science Wednesday: Working With the Best of the Best

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

By Katie Lubinsky

Two of our very own EPA scientists, Dr. Gayle Hagler and Dr. David Reif, received the 2010 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The award is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers … and I am working with one of them on various communications projects!

Dr. Gayle Hagler—the award-winning scientist I’m working with—was nominated for leading research in the development and use of new technologies (electric vehicles and GPS) to measure and map air pollutant emissions near roadside locations. Such research also looks at how barriers, like sound walls and vegetation, reduce the distance air pollutants travel from highways to nearby communities.

My work with Dr. Hagler involves developing a video about her near-roadway mobile emission research, interviewing her and her colleagues. As part of that work, I will get to take a ride in the mobile measuring vehicle—a converted, electric-powered PT Cruiser with the air measuring instruments conveniently placed in the back. Along with the video project, Dr. Haglar has worked with me on a writing assignment involving EPA black carbon research.

I can easily say how excited I am about working with such a gifted and well-known scientist. To be around and work with a recipient of such a prestigious award makes me realize the unique experience I am having at the EPA where such innovative and intelligent people work. I believe this is a story I will share with others both now and in the future, and one that will open my eyes to her research and how I’m contributing through public outreach.

Dr. Hagler’s co-honoree is EPA’s Dr. David Reif, who was nominated for his work developing tools for organizing and profiling chemicals for potential toxicity to human health and the environment, as well as studying childhood asthma in order to develop more personalized diagnoses, management and treatments. He is also an active member in the community, teaching at a local university and speaking publically to others about science. Dr. Reif has even blogged here on Science Wednesday!

About the Author: Katie Lubinsky is a student contractor in communications at the Office of Research and Development in Research Triangle Park.

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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E-Reading for the E-nvironment

By John Martin

A recent, unscientific survey (by yours truly) estimated that between 20-50 percent of subway riders have their noses stuck in some book, newspaper or electronic reading device at any one time. Until roughly a year ago, paper reading was the clear favorite among the straphanger crowd, but more recently, Kindles, Nooks, iPads and even smart phones have established themselves as the go-to options of choice.

Aside from their convenient size and ability to keep thousands of titles at your fingertips, these devices can also offer a good alternative for those interested in being environmentally friendly. The average printed book has a carbon footprint of almost nine pounds of CO2. Assuming you read at least 23 books a year, the CO2 from the manufacture and use of your Kindle or Nook gets completely offset. The more books you happen to read, the more you’ll be fighting global warming once you switch over to e-books.

If shelling out over $100 for an e-reader isn’t your thing, or you don’t feel right about reading books from a screen, don’t fret. You could always borrow books from the library or from friends, which is still the greenest option of them all — in terms of both money and carbon saved. More

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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Fairview Net Zero Club: Planting a Legacy

By Shannon Burke

The Fairview Net Zero Club discovered that you have to act quickly to take advantage of opportunities. It’s the key to our success.

In 2009, Boulder County announced it would give away trees from a bankrupt tree farm to local non-profits for the cost of digging and transporting. We figured it would cost about $100 per tree to hire professionals, but only $60 if we used Fairview students. We had to accomplish two things: get permission from the red-tape plagued Boulder Valley School District and Boulder County and raise money to plant the trees.

We discovered that if you push through red-tape successfully, the next time you need to get through it, it won’t be there. People want to be part of your success. We learned that thanking people who help you get through that red tape is important to make change happen.

We also learned that to get a big project done, you form alliances. Chances are, someone else wants to accomplish the same thing. In our case, the Fairview Parents Organization was a strong ally. Together, we created the “Adopt a Tree, Leave a Legacy” program. Parents would donate $60 for a tree and their student’s name would be on a plaque. We initially planned on planting 25 trees. But the program was so successful, we planted 59: 4 Apple, 6 Ash, and 49 Spruce and Austrian Pine. Because we raised $3,440, the parents did not have to spend the money they allotted for tree planting. We saved the FPO money AND were able to plant more trees! With other partners, we transported the trees and obtained other necessary supplies to plant them.

During the planting, we tried to include as many people as possible. There were about 150 students involved of whom 11 were Net Zero supervisors. The whole day was a lot of fun and it was cool being able to include people that we didn’t usually interact with.

Those trees are a legacy. We hope that the apples will be used for the Farm-to-Table Program. When the trees grow a lot taller, they will also make a wind shield so that freshman do not get blown away while walking to school in the intense South Boulder winds.

Besides planting 59 trees and involving 150 kids, we also, most importantly, proved that kids can do great things when given the opportunity.

About the author: After spending her summer working as a Senate page, Shannon Burke is a senior and AP Scholar at Fairview High School in Boulder, Colorado where she is active in the school’s environmental student group, The Net Zero Club. Shannon’s many accomplishments revolve around her interests in science, the environment, volunteering and public outreach.

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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Portal to the Past

EPA Photo/Kasia Broussalian

By Elias Rodriguez

New York City is the nexus of a million stories or 8,391,881 stories, if you go by the latest U.S. Census Bureau estimates. Some tales are told by the old buildings that haunt the landscape like subtle seers lingering among the City’s trendy eateries and slick new condos. One place in the City that has endeavored to preserve the timeless stories of immigrants is the Lower East Side Tenement Museum

Apartments and living spaces within 97 Orchard Street, a tenement building built in 1863, make up the actual museum. By taking guided tours visitors can experience the poignant struggles and rich cultures of people from all over the world as they strived in the cosmopolitan cacophony. For over two centuries generations of Americans have made the Lower East Side (or Loisaida as the Latino section of the neighborhood is formally named) their gateway to The U.S.A. and urban assimilation.

The building that houses and actually is the Tenement Museum was occupied by approximately 7,000 individuals from over 20 countries circa 1863 to 1935. My father, may he rest in peace, once told me how he got lost trying to find his way back to the tenement where he was staying shortly after arriving from Puerto Rico. More

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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Upstate Farms Still Suffering

(EPA Photo/Kasia Broussalian)

By Sophia Kelley

Hurricane Irene quickly became a topic for light-hearted banter in the city, but our New Jersey and upstate neighbors haven’t been so fortunate. It’s easy to discount the severity of the flooding when our only inconvenience seemed to be a closed subway system, but the dire circumstances portrayed in the news became evident for many residents of Manhattan and Brooklyn when they visited their local farmers’ markets. Many upstate farms were devastated by flooding and some estimates indicate that 80 percent of Greenmarket participants have been impacted. Crops have been lost and farmland destroyed. Homes have been flooded and precious possessions lost forever. EPA is involved in disaster relief focused on household hazardous waste collection at sites throughout the region. But individual citizens can help out too. Local chefs and restaurants have come up with creative fundraising campaigns including last night’s “Dine Out Irene” where participating restaurants donated 10 percent of their sales to local farmers struggling to recover from the recent storms. In addition, this week kicks off “Dine In Irene,” a way for home cooks to organize potlucks and supper clubs to raise money for disaster relief. Get involved or check out other upcoming benefits. Please let us know in the comments section below if you hear of any other ways to help.

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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