My Dog Has Fleas: Why Flea Control can be More Difficult in the City

By Marcia Anderson

The author’s little Shetland Sheepdog , Delilah.

The author’s little Shetland Sheepdog , Delilah.

I never had a problem with fleas in the suburbs. But after a few months of living in a city apartment, the little pests plagued both myself and my dog with a vengeance. Why? What was the difference?

Outdoors in the suburbs, flea prevention was always the key. This generally involved eliminating the habitat in the yard where fleas were most likely to occur. I made my yard unwelcoming to fleas and ticks by keeping the lawn mowed, shrubs trimmed, and leaves raked. Wild animals such as opossums, raccoons, and small rodents can carry fleas so we tried to discourage all animals from entering our yard. We fenced the yard to keep other dogs out, and kept garbage covered so it wouldn’t attract rodents or other pests.

Inside both my home and apartment, we vacuumed carpets often, mopped bare floors weekly and washed the dog bed regularly.

Delilah visits the pumpkin patch.

Delilah visits the pumpkin patch.

When I moved to the city, I found only a few nearby places to walk the dog before I headed for work. Although I still kept my home clean, I was no longer able to control the outside areas where my dog was allowed to go. Being accustomed to going under trees and shrubs, our dog visited the same places visited by hundreds of other dogs. Fleas tended to like those places also because they were moist, warm, shady, and there was organic debris. Although fleas cannot fly, they do have powerful back legs and can jump great distances. I soon found out that what jumps off one dog eventually jumped onto our dog.

I was faced with having to come up with a new plan for controlling these fleas. I ruled out flea collars because my dog regularly comes into close contact with the neighbor’s little girls. Sometimes they dog sit, which leads to hugging, brushing, and sleeping together.

Next, I considered flea shampoos. Every weekend our dog would get a bath. The flea shampoos worked well and killed about 95% of the fleas and made her fur ever-so-soft for my neighbor’s little girls. However, I soon realized that the shampoos don’t work to prevent new fleas. The city fleas were just too persistent and hardy.

Embarrassed, I discussed the issue with other city apartment dog owners, whom, I found, had the same problem. I requested that the landlord treat my apartment with an insect growth regulator, a type of pesticide that prevents the flea eggs and larvae from growing and hatching. Because they mimic insect hormones, it would only affect the fleas. This leads to a steady drop in the number of new fleas indoors. However, mature fleas are not affected so it can take 30 to 60 days for the adult fleas to die of old age before you’ll notice the dog scratching less.

What else could I do? There is a lot of talk about an integrated pest management (IPM) approach to other pest problems. What is IPM? An approach to pest control that creates a safer and healthier environment by reducing exposure to pests and pesticides. An effective IPM program uses common sense strategies to reduce sources of food, water, and shelter for pests in buildings and grounds. But will it work for fleas?

I realized that I already was using an IPM approach for my flea problem. Sanitation and maintenance first, including cleaning, combing, bathing, outdoor barriers, followed by least toxic means, such as the insect growth regulator. But because I was unable to fully control the problem I knew that the judicious use of another pesticide was next step. So off we went to the vet.

Close-up view of the common flea.

Close-up view of the common flea.

I found that my dog had ordinary cat fleas, the leading cause of itching in dogs and cats. Itching was most pronounced on her back, groin, tail, and hindquarters. This is where we found black, pepper-like grains in her coat. These were flea feces made up of digested blood. Now we only found a few fleas because they moved so rapidly through her hair and were difficult to catch.

We settled a monthly application of a topical product that not only controls fleas by direct contact, but also protects against heartworms and other worms. Fleas don’t have to bite the dog for the pesticide to work. Like other topical treatments, it came in a tube and was applied to the dog’s back.

Are topical flea treatments safe? Yes, if they are used correctly. The EPA says that using the wrong dosage or product is a major cause of negative reactions. Common mistakes include treating a cat with a product meant for dogs, or using a large dog dose on a small dog. Check with your vet first. More is not always better, more can be dangerous.

Keep in mind that you will probably still see some fleas, even on a treated pet, until all of the fleas in your home have died. Persistence is the key. Keep following your flea control program to get rid of all life stages of the fleas, which may take up to six months.

Prevention is the best method of flea control. After prevention, the other IPM steps may ultimately lead you to use an EPA-registered insecticide products to help keep those pesky fleas away.

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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Cruise Reveals Impressive Work for a Healthier Harbor

By Maureen Krudner

The Bayonne Golf Club is an example of beneficial reuse. Silt from recent port-dredging projects has helped to reshape the site.

The Bayonne Golf Club is an example of beneficial reuse. Silt from recent port-dredging projects has helped to reshape the site.

Over 50 friends and supporters of the Hudson River Foundation gathered in Battery Park on a stormy October morning to take an interesting and informative NY Waterway Taxi ride through the NY/NJ Harbor and Raritan Bay. Representatives from government agencies, environmental groups and academia gave presentations on their work to improve the health of the waterways surrounding our city.

The body of work shared with the group was impressive. Starting out north on the Hudson, we viewed Hudson River Park, where we learned that researchers from Rutgers University actually have paddled under the piers to conduct fish surveys. Yes, I’m impressed. Turning south and heading back into the Harbor brought a few presentations by the Army Corps of Engineers. We heard about the 50 foot deepening of several channels throughout the Harbor and stopped by the Bayonne Golf Club, located on a Brownfields site and made possible, in part, from the beneficial use of silt from these recent port-dredging projects.

EPA and NY/NJ Baykeeper provided an update on the Passaic River Superfund Project, one of the largest Superfund cleanups ever proposed. Bank-to-bank dredging of the Passaic River would remove more than 4 million cubic yards of toxic sediment from the river bottom and has a $1.7 billion price tag. Yes, I’m still impressed.

Shooters Island, at the end of Newark Bay, is home to a bird sanctuary.

Shooters Island, at the end of Newark Bay, is home to a bird sanctuary.

Many of our remaining stops were focused along the shores of Staten Island. NYC Parks discussed the Saw Mill Creek Wetlands Mitigation Bank and waterfront access at the Conference House Park. We heard presentations about resiliency measures being taken on both the north and south shores of Staten Island and interesting research projects that looked at coastal flooding and historic sedimentation. Staten Island was also the backdrop for a presentation on the restoration of Prall’s and Shooters Islands, two bird sanctuaries providing a sharp contrast to the nearby ship graveyard.

And what would a tour of the Harbor be without mention of combined sewer overflows? We heard about the good work of the City of Perth Amboy, New Jersey is doing to address these discharges by installing green infrastructure to manage its stormwater.

Lastly, we heard some great stories about Raritan Bay and the interesting fisheries in the area. Despite the excellent quality of all the presentations, the most impressive aspect of the trip was the dedication and commitment these organizations have to sharing knowledge for a healthier Harbor. Thank you to the Hudson River Foundation for hosting us.

About the Author: Maureen Krudner works in Region 2’s Clean Water Division and is the Region’s Green Infrastructure Coordinator. 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

A Wildlife Weekend: Raptors, Roadrunners, Vultures and Bed Bugs

By Marcia Anderson

Bed Bug Travel Card

Bed Bug Travel Card

A few weeks ago I visited a popular state park to view wildlife in its natural setting. The park had a beautiful rustic lodge and conference center with antique, rough-sawn beams that gave a real western ambiance. The chairs, benches, tables, and bed headboards were made of peeled tree branches that were roughly fitted together.

After checking in, I conducted a precursory search for pests in the room, as I do whenever I enter any overnight lodging. No bugs showed up on my radar. It was not until about 9 pm, when I was about to prop up some pillows, that I saw a little brown spot on one of the white pillowcases. Then, the spot moved! OH, it couldn’t be… but it was.

I caught and placed it in a clear plastic bag for a better look. It was a healthy bed bug. I caught two more on other pillows. Two more on the wall near the headboard scurried down into the crack behind the floor molding before I could grab them.

I then decided to check out the box spring where I noticed two more near the plastic corner guard. I caught one, but the other got away, deep into the box spring innards. I noticed another coming out a joint in the headboard. Missed him also. He crawled in so deep it was impossible to get ahold of him. At this point, I had captured four of the eight bed bugs sighted. All were very healthy. I took lots of photos then called the front desk.

The receptionist alerted the staff and sent one to investigate. The person who came insisted that she had never seen a bed bug before. She asked if she could keep the four I had caught. No problem, but I warned her not to open the bag — don’t want any escapees.

When she returned to help me move to another room, I explained the importance of Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, when confronted with a bed bug infestation. I talked about exclusion and monitoring being two key IPM practices for managing bed bugs. I described how sealing cracks, such as in the head board and behind the floor moldings, and eliminating hiding places for the bed bugs were essential.

Placing encasements on the mattress and box springs would prevent having to replace these expensive items. They would block access for new bed bugs and, in time, kill the any trapped inside. Bed bug inspection dogs might be cost effective in checking the entire lodge and guest cabins for other infestations. Bed bug dogs are trained to sniff out bed bugs, even just one, in the same way that drug-sniffing dogs identify drugs and alert customs agents at border crossings of positive findings.

Specimens from the lodge

Specimens from the lodge

I explained that they should enlist a pest management professional with experience in dealing with bed bugs. Heat treatment for spaces is effective when conducted properly. Spraying pesticides is not the silver bullet that it was many years ago for multiple reasons. Some bed bugs have become resistant to some pesticides, rendering them ineffective. Another reason is bed bug behavior.

Bed bugs hide in all sorts of tiny cracks and crevices for at least four days between meals. Therefore, they may not be out to be exposed to a pesticide being applied. Remember that they were nowhere to be seen when I conducted a precursory check the afternoon I arrived. If the bugs are hidden in the moldings, furniture or box spring crevices, the pesticide may never reach them.

This was my first personal bed bug encounter and hopefully the last. My husband asked me to please not bring home any souvenirs. No problem. However, I do hope the lodge took my advice on IPM and checked out the bed bug prevention, detection and control flier on EPA’s bed bug website. The site provides numerous bed bug control resources, one of which is the bed bug traveler card, pictured here. They are the size of a credit card, so print one and take it with you the next time you travel.

 

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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

A Halloween Nightmare

By Vickie Pane

Lead Pain PosterHalloween is right around the corner and many people will celebrate by visiting haunted houses or trails, telling scary stories, watching horror films and such. What a lot of people don’t realize is that they may be unwittingly living in a horror story of their own…

There are many abandoned houses throughout New York and New Jersey. You pass by them every day. Do you ever take notice of one and wonder about its story? I know I do. When I was a child I romanticized stories about the former occupants of those boarded up homes and wondered what had gone so wrong. I wondered if spirits walked the halls. What was behind those boarded up windows?  Would it be too dangerous to explore? Today, I know that they are very dangerous places – but not just for the obvious structural integrity concerns. There are evil demons dwelling inside. Quietly waiting for the innocent to enter…

Do you live with your family in an older home, one filled with the charm of days gone by? Some of those beauties have high ceilings, pocket doors, intricate molding, fireplace mantels, built-in shelving, elaborate front porches and more. True architectural masterpieces! But those surfaces also have a sinister secret, and you and your family could be in grave danger…

Although old homes may (or may not be) haunted by ghosts, they are haunted by a toxic presence oozing creepily from their walls. An invisible menace: lead. Most frightening is that this demon silently poisons its trespassers. Its victims are naively unaware of what’s happening to them, and the children (like in any truly horrific story) are attacked most vehemently. Lead slaughters their future. While they innocently crawl upon the floors and creep along the walls, steady themselves in doorways and on window sills, our most vulnerable unknowingly ingest the very smallest amounts of lead on minuscule dust particles. Their little bodies and brains are invaded by a devastating ghoul that will continue to wreak havoc in their bodies for many years, even decades. AND THE DAMAGE LEAD HAS WROUGHT CAN GO UNNOTICED. A true life horror story if there ever was one!

October is Children’s Health Month and during this final week in October, we also observe Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. Lead poisoning is an insidious foe, a true demon of monstrous proportions and worthy of Halloween nightmares. Lead poisoning affects every organ in the human body, and it does so silently, unassumingly, stealthily. The culprit could be lurking in your own home, on your very own walls. If your home was built before 1978, somewhere beneath the surface of all those many layers of paint, there are very likely layers of paint that contain lead. Lead does not disappear. If you renovate your home and this paint is disturbed, lead will be released into your home. It will silently fall to rest on every surface of your home. It will get into your ventilation system. There is no safe place to hide. Lead dust will find you. There are other ways lead can creep into your safe home: lead in soil, lead in water pipes, glazed bath tubs, stained glass, ceramics, and more. But lead in dust caused by renovations where lead-safe work practices are not followed is the most prevalent route.

Please take a few moments to visit www.epa.gov/lead to find out how to protect yourself from lead poisoning. Encourage your children to wash their hands before eating – especially after handling those packaged Halloween treats from unassuming older homes.

Have a lead-safe Halloween!

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Newburgh, NY Takes Action to Reduce Lead Poisoning of Children

By Judith A. Enck

Staff from the EPA and the New York State Department of Health worked with the public through a SoilSHOP to address lead in soil.

Staff from the EPA and the New York State Department of Health worked with the public through a SoilSHOP to address lead in soil.

October is Children’s Health Month, but we should prioritize our children’s health every month of the year. As a mom, my son’s health isn’t something I consider annually or monthly, but daily. Even now that my son is grown, his health is still my main concern.

One of the greatest environmental threats impacting kids today is lead. Lead is a neurotoxin. Even at low levels, exposure to lead paint impairs a child’s ability to learn. It reduces IQ and can cause hearing problems. It can also cause a range of learning disabilities.

EPA Region decided to take action to work with the City of Newburgh to address the exposure to lead from different sources. In January 2014, Congressmember Sean Maloney and I hosted a round-table discussion with the “Lead Safe Newburgh Coalition,” an organization of people from different sectors involved in the effort to solve Newburgh’s lead problem.

This group has already achieved some of its major milestones. A major source of exposure to lead for children is from paint. The Coalition has taken steps to test and address these sources.

Additionally, we’ve tested blood lead levels in children in Newburgh. In April and October 2014, EPA worked with the Greater Hudson Valley Family Health Center to provide free blood lead screening in a mobile health unit.

The Coalition took a page from the EPA handbook, establishing programs to test soil and water for elevated lead levels. SoilSHOPs, a community-based soil sampling program, has provided free soil sampling for schools and residences.

The Coalition also launched the EPA program, 3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water in Schools Guidelines, which provides three services: (1) education on the sources and health effects of lead, (2) testing water samples, and (3) sharing the results with the public. Through this program, EPA tested water sources at the Head Start of Eastern Orange and taps at Newburgh Enlarged City School District. More than 500 drinking water outlets were sampled for lead in the drinking water. Based on assessed need, taps were flushed, filtered, and upgraded with new plumbing. Because children spend the majority of their time in school, it is vital that we test these locations. By providing this service, we help schools take charge to create safe environments for children to learn.

Effective collaboration among many has revitalized the community. As EPA Regional Administrator, I am proud that EPA has worked hard to make Newburgh a healthier place to live.

During Children’s Health Month, we have the opportunity to ensure the health and safety of our children by working hard to provide a clean environment where they can learn and play.

About the Author: Judith Enck is Regional Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2, which covers New York, Eight federally-recognized Indian Nations, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Long Island Sound Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan – 2015

 

By Mark Tedesco

Long Island Sound has a long history, intertwined with that of our nation. In the 400 years since Adriaen Block’s exploration of its shores, the lands and communities around Long Island Sound have changed from forest to field, from agriculture to town and city, and from a manufacturing-based to service-dominated economy. The waters also changed with development, but too often the story was of loss and degradation. No longer. Long Island Sound, called the “American Mediterranean” by statesman Daniel Webster in the 1800s, and more recently nicknamed the “Urban Sea,” has proved resilient. Active efforts to protect and restore the Sound are succeeding. Over the past 20 years, using a 1994 plan as a template, federal, state, and local partners have worked together to reduce nitrogen pollution by 40 million pounds, restore 1,625 acres of habitat, reopen 317 miles of fish passage, and involve hundreds of thousands of people in education and volunteer projects to help bring Long Island Sound back to health and abundance.

Now, EPA has joined with the states of Connecticut and New York, along with many other partners, to release a new Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for Long Island Sound. The plan sets ambitious, but achievable, targets for restoring the ecosystem over the next 20 years. It includes 139 actions to support clean water, healthy and diverse habitats, and sustainable and resilient communities through strong science and partnerships. Throughout, the plan integrates the principles of climate change resiliency, long-term sustainability, and environmental justice.

The health of the Sound and the waters that drain into it is inextricably tied to the health of an economy that directly supports the people living in the watershed. A healthy Long Island Sound along with its coastal habitats provide a variety of goods and services such as flood and storm protection, water filtration, recreation, commercially and recreationally-important fish and bird populations, carbon sequestration, and other functions. Investing in Long Island Sound can bring real returns—beaches open for summer fun, increased opportunities for recreational boating and fishing, increased areas for shellfish harvesting, rivers open for ocean-going fish to return to spawn, and wetlands and eelgrass that nurse living resources and protect coastal communities from storms. What’s needed is not just a sustained and cooperative effort by government, but the will and support of the people of the region.

About the Author: Mark Tedesco is director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Long Island Sound Office. The office coordinates the Long Island Sound Study. Mr. Tedesco is responsible for supporting implementation of a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for Long Island Sound in cooperation with federal, state, and local government, private organizations, and the public.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

A Child’s Health Scare during Children’s Health Month

By Elias Rodriguez

EPA Asthma An alarming text came in over a recent weekend, my young niece was being taken to the emergency room by her parents due to a serious episode of asthma. She was treated and released, but was distressingly back in the hospital the next day when the health situation became exacerbated. Asthma can be fatal.

Asthma triggers include pets, pesticides, dust mites, mold and secondhand smoke. Pollutants in the outdoor air, including particulates (soot) and ozone (smog) are major asthma triggers. Ozone can irritate the respiratory system, causing coughing, throat irritation, and aggravating asthma. When ozone levels are high, more people with asthma have attacks that require a doctor’s attention or medication.

When she had fully recovered, I asked my niece for any tips she would like to offer other kids. She noted the changing weather. “Take care of yourself,” she offered while acknowledging that having an Asthma Action Plan was an important message for everyone.

EPA highly recommends that folks create an Asthma Action Plan. You can help avoid the emergency room by managing your asthma daily. With a doctor’s help, you should create an asthma action plan to help you effectively manage your asthma and reduce exposure to triggers.

We hope you heed the tips from Children’s Health Month  this October.

About the Author: Elias serves as EPA Region 2’s bilingual public information officer. Prior to joining EPA, the proud Nuyorican worked at Time Inc. conducting research for TIME, LIFE, FORTUNE and PEOPLE magazines. He is a graduate of Hunter College, Baruch College and the Theological Institute of the Assembly of Christian Churches in NYC.

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Head Lice and Bike Helmets

By Marcia Anderson

Head lice have specialized feet for holding onto hair.

Head lice have specialized feet for holding onto hair.

When I visited a local school, I was asked by the nurse about strategies for dealing with head lice – tiny parasites that attach to human head hair and feed on blood through the skin. She said there was a problem in preschool and kindergarten classes where she suspected the children were passing lice through the school’s common bike helmets. The children shared the helmets when taking turns riding tricycles.

The nurse asked three important questions. How should they treat the helmets? Is there something they could spray in the helmets between uses? How should they deal with head lice in the school?

Head lice are very contagious and are transferred by sharing clothes, hairbrushes, combs, pillows, hair decorations, and hats with somebody who has lice. Applying a pesticide to the helmets, in the classrooms, on children’s hats or their clothes isn’t recommended.

To control lice in helmets, the National Pediculosis Association recommends vacuuming and wiping out the helmets between uses. They note that a louse can survive less than 24 hours away from a human host, but the nits (eggs) on a hair left in the helmet could survive up to 10 days. Detachable foam fitting pads and the nylon straps can also be washed.

Courtesy of the Center for Disease Control.

Courtesy of the Center for Disease Control.

The Centers for Disease Control’s head lice guidance states that lice are spread most commonly by direct contact with the hair of an infected person. Spread by contact with inanimate objects and personal belongings may occur but is very uncommon. The feet of lice are specially adapted for holding onto human hair. They would have difficulty attaching to smooth or slippery surfaces like plastic, metal, polished synthetic leathers, and other similar materials. However, hairs left in sports helmets may have lice attached to them so they must be cleaned between uses. It is best to have helmets specific to each child to avoid sharing.

Treatment on clothes, hats and other head gear. There are many ways to treat head lice. The EPA provides information on lice and their control and recommends an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach, especially in schools and childcare centers. IPM is a smart, sensible, and sustainable approach to pest control that focuses on prevention.

Once a louse has been identified, the first step is to begin sanitation efforts by washing and heat drying all of the belongings that may have been exposed. This will kill all the head lice and eggs that may be on hairs that are attached to the clothing, pillow cases or other items. Next monitor – check the hair and scalp frequently by combing with a nit comb to see if there are any other lice or eggs.

Prevention. There are different ways to prevent exposure to head lice. Tell your children not to share combs, brushes, hats or clothing with anyone. Vacuum frequently and wash and heat dry anything they may have shared.

School Head Lice Policies. When children return to school in the fall, who is responsible when it comes to head lice? According to Dr. Richard Pollack of the Harvard School of Public Health, “School policies are outdated and written during a time when body lice was a growing concern among residents….However, times have changed and head lice is not the epidemic that it is thought to be. Common misconception of head lice can lead to over diagnosis and unnecessary action.” An effective head lice policy should be included in each school district’s IPM plan. The American Association of Pediatrics guidance on treating head lice states that “No healthy child should be excluded from, or miss school because of head lice and no-nit policies should be abandoned.”

IdentifyUS, LLC, provides a helpful flow chart on managing presumed head lice infestations in schools and a similar chart for home use. Harvard University also provides an informative head lice question and answer page. For even more information on head lice read the Spokane (WA) Regional Health District’s Guidelines for Controlling Head Lice. To learn why lice may be harder to control today than 20 years ago read the 2012 EPA blog Persistent and Possibly Resistant Head Lice.

Having a well-conceived head lice policy, a current IPM-based plan for dealing with head lice, and useful reference materials will enable schools everywhere to deal with the problem if it pops up.

About the Author: 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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

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Urban Composting: It’s Always Worth It

By Barbara Pualani

Any household organic material can be composted (and used again!).

Any household organic material can be composted (and used again!).

Earth-friendly urban dwellers know just how precarious composting in the city can be. Storage bags of frozen food waste in the freezer, the subway ride overloaded with multiple bags, sometimes difficult-to-find drop-off sites. I have shared countless stories with friends about urban composting. Shenanigans abound, but we always agree that in the end it’s worth it.

Take a friend of mine that I met as a student at Columbia University. Every week she would bring her compost from New Jersey to the campus farmer’s market. She would carry a week’s worth of food waste one train ride and two subway rides every Thursday. But one day, running late, the farmer’s market closed before she could get there, leaving her stuck with the compost. She wasn’t too worried–until a student meeting ended up lasting four hours. By that time, the forgotten compost was stinking up the room and annoying her fellow students. Luckily, she eventually found a fridge to store it in. Her friends laughed it off.

Composting can sometimes seem pretty inconvenient, so why do it at all? Because food waste is actually a really big problem.

Rotting food in landfills is a substantial source of methane—a greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. In the U.S., landfills account for more than 20 percent of all methane emissions. Organic materials make up the largest portion of this waste. Paper materials comprise 27 percent while yard trimmings and food comprise 28 percent. This means that 55 percent of all waste in this country can potentially be composted rather than rotting in our landfills.

The story sounds dire, but it’s not all doom and gloom. Composting has made substantial headway in recent years.

According to EPA’s Advancing Sustainable Materials Management study released this year, Americans recycled and composted over 87 million tons of waste in 2013, which in carbon dioxide equivalent terms is equal to removing emissions for over 39 million passenger vehicles from the road in one year. The most recent numbers show that 5 percent of food is now composted annually. Over 2.7 million households are served by food composting collection programs nationwide. Even in the city, composting is becoming more convenient. New York City recently mandated composting for all hotel restaurants, arenas and wholesalers, and there are various organics collection services & drop off points for residents in all five boroughs.

On a different Thursday, my friend was again dropping off her compost. She mentioned to the man running the booth that she brought it all the way from New Jersey. Upon hearing this, he bowed his head with his hands folded in prayer and said, “You are an inspiration to us all.” Although we giggled about this later, he’s absolutely right.

This is why we compost—to inspire, to reduce our carbon footprint, and to do our fair share in taking care of this planet.

The biggest lesson we can learn is it’s not just for green-thumbed hippies. One of my favorite stories comes from a former colleague who told me (facetiously, of course) that composting had taken a toll on her marriage. After a year of picking his organics out of the garbage, she finally confronted her husband about his incorrect trash disposal methods. He explained how he didn’t really care about it, and even though he knew she had already explained how to do it, he was still unsure. Because her husband is very Catholic, she resorted to quoting the Pope who believes “everyone has a moral obligation to care for the planet.” Now her husband puts his organics in the compost bags; if he is unsure if the item is compostable, he asks. My colleague ended this story with an assurance and a wink: “I am happily married.”

I like to collect these anecdotes—laughter is the best medicine after all—but they serve to amplify the real problem: organic waste is a serious contributor to climate change, and we all need to do our part to address it. If you’re confused about what’s compostable and what’s not, check out your city’s local web page.  Or, like my friend’s husband, if you’re confused, just ask. It never hurts to research or ask around until you do find someone who knows. And it’s always worth it.

About the author: Barbara Pualani serves as a speechwriter for EPA Region 2. Prior to joining EPA, she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic. She resides in Brooklyn and is a graduate of University of Northern Colorado and Columbia University.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Climate Week NYC 2015

By Melissa Dimas

NYC residents affected by Superstorm Sandy call for action at last year’s People’s Climate March.

NYC residents affected by Superstorm Sandy call for action at last year’s People’s Climate March.

It is climate week in the U.S. and here in New York City, we are coming up on the first anniversary of the People’s Climate March. Along with 400,000 other concerned citizens from around the world, I lined up along Central Park to show support for lawmakers working to create effective climate change policy, and dismay that all across the globe we have not done enough to combat and adapt to climate change. We need an international agreement; and, we needed about 20 years ago.

People’s Climate March in New York City, September 21, 2014.

People’s Climate March in New York City, September 21, 2014.

For the past decade, and many years before that, climate experts and country negotiators have met for the Conference of Parties (COP) to attempt to come to an agreement, on how as a society, we can collectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Every year, it is two steps forward, one step back, but it is important to remember that we are still moving forward. We have come a long way from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, but here we are, almost 20 years later and no solid agreement.

This year, at the end of November the 21st conference of parties is in Paris. World leaders are attending the COP 21 and there is hope, and momentum, that the world will finally agree to legally binding greenhouse gas emission targets. There are many other critical climate change issues that will be negotiated at the COP 21, and hopefully by the end of the two-week long meeting the world will move three steps forward and never look back.

About the Author: Melissa Dimas works in Region 2 as International Affairs Program Manager. 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.