I Need Some Help Learning to Count from Boston to Seattle

By Larry Teller

For many years while lap swimming, and more recently raking leaves and shlepping the tarp to the curb, I’ve kept track of laps and tarps by counting—not from 1 to 10, which for me seems too easy to lose track of as the mind wanders—but from the home of EPA’s Region 1 office in Boston through our other nine regional cities, ending, tired, at our Region 10 office in Seattle (and then back to Boston, etc.). So, for instance, as I’m raking my second load I imagine that I’m biking down I-95 from Boston to EPA’s Region 2 office in New York. To further help me keep track of progress, whether swimming or raking, I try to sing a song about the next city.

That’s where this request for your help comes in. Some of the ten songs are obvious, while others are unknown.
Obvious:
·    Region 2 (NYC): “We’ll take Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, too…” (Thank you, Ella.)
·    Region 3 (Philadelphia): “Where do all the hippies meet? South Street, South Street”
·    Region 5 (Chicago): “My kind of town, Chicago is…” (Go, Frank.)
·    Region 7 (KC):  “I might take a train, I might take a plane…”
·    Region 8 (Denver):  “Whistle while you work” (Maynard G. Krebs, the beatnik on the Dobie Gillis show who reacted to the ugly thought of working by shouting “Work!”, was played by Bob Denver.)
·    Region 9 (San Francisco):  “San Francisco, open your golden gate…”
Unknown:
·    Region 1 (Boston), AKA “EPA New England”:  Can Manny Ramirez and baked beans be worked into a catchy song?
·    Region 4 (Atlanta): Please, nothing to remind us of Jane Fonda doing the tomahawk chop.
·    Region 6 (Dallas): An engaging reference to lovely downtown Plano will do.
·     Region 10 (Seattle): Can a favorite Washington DC song be adapted to greater Seattle-Bellingham?

While ideas for these four songs are sincerely needed, may I ask our readers to think, for a moment, about the important work being done at EPA’s quite distinct kinds of offices: headquartersregions and research labs.  Happy and good 2012, all.

About the author: Larry Teller joined EPA’s Philadelphia office in its early months and has worked in environmental assessment, state and congressional liaison, enforcement, and communications. His 28 years with the U.S. Air Force, most as a reservist, give him a different look at government service.

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 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.

Rediscovering Paradise Lost in your Backyard . . .

By Maryann Helferty

Question: Where are EPA volunteers acting as explorers to rediscover the Paradise Lost in the backyards and woodlands of the Mid-Atlantic? Answer: The 2012 Philadelphia International Flower Show,   where EPA staff have constructed an educational showcase of environmental gardening techniques since 1993. This year’s exhibit is titled “Palekaiko Nalowale,” roughly translated from Hawaiian into “Paradise Lost.”

Thousands of gardening guests venture into the lost world of plants indigenous to this region. I spoke with one team member who shares his knowledge of botany and vegetable gardening by working on the exhibit. Todd Lutte, a wetlands biologist, often encounters native plants in swampy bogs or steep cliffs. He has a deep appreciation for interconnections between native plants and the web of life. For example, local insects evolved in tandem with native plants so they depend on each other for survival. So when gardeners plant native species such as the highbush blueberry, they also invite bumblebees as pollinators. These delicious berries nourish humans, birds and mammals and the leaves feed a host of butterfly and moth larvae.

Each exhibit visit is a teachable moment. Visitors peer into the pinky bell flowers of a sheep laurel,  or dwarf azalea and are touched by their spring beauty. Factsheets suggest how to select native plants at nurseries. Curious greenthumbs learn to pick plants adapted to local climate and soil, while controlling pests more easily and using less water and fertilizer.

Agency volunteers share experience with using integrated pest control on roses and tomatoes. So, Todd recommends knowing insects to remove aphids and beetles by hand and leave the beneficial insects to help your garden. Video loops help visitors learn about low-impact techniques like companion planting or using bait and traps to control pests. We’re delighted this year to share our thousands of teachable moments with the EPA pesticide program.

It takes a cadre of volunteers to create the magic of a blooming lesson on “green” gardening. Some care for herbaceous plants in personal greenhouses; others force mountain laurels and honeysuckle to flower in winter. Volunteer carpenters create the sturdy flooring and beautiful fencing. With the help of many, EPA spends only one-eighth of the budget of comparable educational exhibitors. Thanks to two decades of team effort, creativity and green thumbs, there have been many awards earned throughout the years. Ah, spring!

About the author: Maryann Helferty is an Environmental Scientist with the Office of Environmental Innovation for EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region. In her work on drinking water protection and sustainability, she blends science and education tools to promote the Environment, Social Equity and a Sustainable Economy.

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 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.

How Does Healthy Sound to You?

By Maryann Helferty

When one visits a place, often one hears a language unique to that location. On a warm day last May, I listened to a team of interpreters in a Philadelphia park. We were not learning a spoken language but rather the language of healthy streams, diverse forest and plant communities, even the complex signals of birds.

Here in the mid-Atlantic, many families live in cities and suburbs. Land use patterns distance people from the natural world, making it too easy for youth to adopt sedentary lives, missing out on unstructured outdoor play. Among the many benefits of being outdoors is physical exercise. According to the White House “Let’s Move” Initiative, doctors, teachers, and other professionals agree that outdoor activity is one of the easiest and most fun ways to get–and stay– fit.

Federal agencies in the mid-Atlantic region are promoting new ways to connect youth with healthier lifestyles and with the environment. Environmental education can serve two purposes: training the next generation of environmental stewards and creating active learning opportunities. For example, the Pennsylvania Master Naturalist program trains people with a passion for the natural world. They participate in an intensive training program and use their knowledge to give back to the community through volunteer service. Click on the link below to JUMP into the stream with them!

Since 2010, high school students from Philadelphia, Pa. and Camden NJ have joined an apprentice program to prepare for green jobs in museum education. Trainings for Master Naturalists are held in the field where students experience the value of teamwork and the commitment of learning – in all kinds of weather. The program builds ties between generations as members of the Senior Environment Corps also get involved in service learning. In partnership with a number of federal and state agencies, the Master Naturalist program is coordinated by the Pennsylvania Institute for Conservation Education.  Note the 2012 application deadline is February 17th for the 2012 Philadelphia County sessions. Help spread the word!

When you think of your special place in the Mid-Atlantic, who taught you what made it special? How do you pass on your sense of place to others?

About the author: Maryann Helferty is an Environmental Scientist with the Office of Environmental Innovation for EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region. In her work on drinking water protection and sustainability, she blends science and education tools to promote the Environment, Social Equity and a Sustainable Economy.

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 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.

The Mullen Monument – Not What It Used To Be

By Nancy Grundahl

I won’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of the Philadelphia sculptor, Daniel Kornbau. I hadn’t either until I began researching my ancestry. I learned that Daniel was the brother of my great grandmother Emma. His most famous work is the Mullen Monument, which was commissioned by the millionaire William James Mullen. It was, in fact, on display at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia’s Fairmont Park. You can see it today in Laurel Hill Cemetery, where its location is marked on the visitors’ map. For Rocky fans, Laurel Hill is the cemetery where Adrian Balboa was buried.

After seeing many photos of the Mullen Monument on the web, I was surprised to see how weathered it was “in person.” Sharp edges were rounded. You can barely read Daniel’s name and address under the seated woman. Years of acid rain have not been kind to my great uncle’s work of art.

Philadelphia is downwind of many industrial sources of sulfur dioxides (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions, particularly power plants that burn fossil fuels. These pollutants combine with moisture in the air to form the acid rain that reacts with the calcite in marble and limestone, causing the calcite to dissolve, destroying the fine details that Daniel worked so well to create.

The good news is that in the last few years, pollutants causing acid rain in the Philadelphia area have been reduced by actions including installing additional controls on power plants and burning cleaner coal. And, it was a pleasure to see Administrator Jackson’s recent announcement about requiring significant new reductions in power plant mercury and toxic emissions.

What can we do to help? Conserve energy, since energy production causes the largest portion of the acid rain problem. In this way we can help preserve fine works of art for future generations.

About the author: Nancy Grundahl has worked for the Philadelphia office of EPA since the mid-80’s. She currently works in Program Support for the Water Protection Division. Nancy believes in looking at environmental problems in a holistic, multi-media way and is a strong advocate of preventing pollution instead of dealing with it after it has been created.

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 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.

78 Degrees?

By Larry Teller

What temperature do you set on your house thermostat during these sultry summer days? (To clarify, I’m asking about the times of the day and week when you’re home but don’t have guests.)

I believe in 78 degree, and here’s why:

  • It feels fine to me, especially when coming into the house on a hot, muggy day (Contrast is often what counts in life),
  • The other day, when the air conditioner maintenance guy was leaving, and resetting the thermostat, he asked, simply, “78 degree?” He has no incentive to make me sweat, right?
  • My own agency offers energy-saving/pollution reduction tips for the cooling season, including
  1. Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs
  2. Use ceiling fans instead of, or when needed, to supplement air conditioning,
  3. Close shade and blinds when you can,
  4. Check and replace air conditioner filters,
  5. Plug duct leaks, and (here comes my favorite),
  6. Set your thermostat higher when no one is home, and program it around your schedule

Unfortunately, I’m often the only one in the house who agrees that 78 degree is about right. (Could it be because I pay the bills each month, and $400+ gas and electric bills in the summer make me cry?) You can imagine how righteous-but-weird I feel when I’m moved to sneak a hand around a living room wall corner, or do a tip-toe walk down the stairs at night, to raise the thermostat a degree or two. Logic and charm haven’t (yet?)helped in my house and, so, stealth is often the only approach available.

How do you handle this in your house? Advice is welcome.

About the author: Larry Teller joined EPA’s Philadelphia office in its early months and has worked in environmental assessment, state and congressional liaison, enforcement, and communications. His 28 years with the U.S. Air Force, most as a reservist, give him a different look at government service.

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 post.

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.

I Was a Frustrated Customer at Car Showrooms, but Made the Obvious Decision

By Larry Teller

Being a patriot who wants to do right by our still-struggling economy, I recently started looking for a new car. Well, to be honest, approaching another summer without car air conditioning didn’t delight.

The car I was replacing was 17 years old and, beside no A/C, had gradually lost other non-essential but nice-to-have features: FM and eventually AM radio, keyless door locks, two door locks (but, shucks, no one would steal the car), speed control and intermittent wipers. I’d figured in recent years, what’s the difference? I’m only driving six miles roundtrip to a commuter train. And, besides, the huge trunk provided a handy way to take my bike for repairs; the car was paid for; the insurance was cheap; it reminded me of the sweet day we drove our baby daughter home from the hospital; my friend the mechanic was always eager to fix things; I’m not wild about car salesmen……

It’s been, thankfully, years since I walked into a showroom. Do you, too, dread the experience, beginning with the sweet greeting, followed inexorably by the required question “What do I have to do to sell you a car TODAY?” My specs were simple at the three places I visited: compact car, four cylinders with good gas mileage, comfortable seats, several safety gizmos, any color but black or white, and—here’s the feature that, I learned at all three places, was the root cause of conflict—but I just felt I deserved: heated seats.

Here’s what I learned, unhappily: in order to buy heated seats, you must buy a “weather package,” which is available only on higher “trim” versions, which only come with a larger engine (and also requires, in the fancier trim package, a moon roof which I can happily live without), which has lower gas mileage, which was one of my most important criteria.

So, the frustrating choice the car companies shrewdly force us to confront is whether keeping our tushes toasty on those freezing Monday mornings is worth spending an extra $3,000 (the weather package and higher trim line) and losing, at least in the three compact cars I considered, 2-3 miles per gallon (“EPA estimated—your actual gas mileage may vary.”).

I hope it’s obvious from this tale how I resolved this showroom conflict. How would you?

About the author: Larry Teller joined EPA’s Philadelphia office in its early months and has worked in environmental assessment, state and congressional liaison, enforcement, and communications. His 28 years with the U.S. Air Force, most as a reservist, give him a different look at government service.

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 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.

The Sights and Scents of Spring – – The 2011 Philadelphia International Flower Show

By Bonnie Turner-Lomax

During these last weeks of winter, many of us in the Mid-Atlantic region are starting to think about warmer weather, spring and gardening. In an area recuperating from record snowstorms, cold temperatures, and icy highways, the Philadelphia International Flower Show is a much-anticipated reminder that Spring is just a few weeks away.

Each year in early March, garden exhibitors from all over the world gather in Philadelphia for the Flower Show, transforming the floor of the Pennsylvania Convention Center into a wonderland of gardens, plants, and floral designs. The spectacular display annually attracts more than 250,000 visitors from all over the world, making the Philadelphia International Flower Show the largest indoor flower exhibit in the world. With its international appeal and audience, it is very fitting that the theme of the 2011 show is “Springtime in Paris.”

Since 1993, EPA has used this wonderful venue, which is only a few blocks from our Mid-Atlantic regional office, to educate gardeners on techniques that protect the environment and at the same time create beautiful gardens. Using native plants and recycled materials, our flower show team of volunteers designs, constructs, and creates an exhibit that vividly demonstrates the beauty and practicality of native plants, sustainable water usage, and beneficial landscaping techniques. While our exhibits always carry messages of sustainability, it is amazing to see a new and unique display each year conveying environmental messages in a special and beautiful way. And judging by the thousands of people who view our exhibit and speak with our volunteers, the environmental values and practices we display are growing in popularity.

In keeping with the show’s Parisian theme, the 2011 EPA exhibit is titled “Botanique Naturale,” which loosely translates to “Natural Garden” and focuses on the importance of native plants, wetlands, and watersheds. Visitors will see an exhibit which showcases the rich diversity of the native flora of wetlands and woodlands and depicts how people can use these plants to create a sustainable home garden. Here’s a sneak preview of the plants we’ll be using in our exhibition!

If you’re in the area, stop by and see for yourself the beauty and environmental benefits of sustainable gardening. The 2011 Philadelphia International Flower Show runs from Sunday, March 6th through March 13th at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in downtown Philadelphia. Whether you are an experienced gardener, an aspiring gardener, or just starting to get your hands dirty, there will be plenty to see, learn, and enjoy. See you at the Flower Show!

About the Author – – -Bonnie Turner-Lomax came to EPA Region’s mid-Atlantic Region in 1987 and has held several positions throughout the Region. She is currently the Communications Coordinator for the Environmental Assessment & Innovation 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 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.

My Attempt To Be Greener For The Holidays

xmas.1By Larry Teller

Although changes in public taste have made it somewhat less courageous in recent years, it’s still tough to minimize wasteful gift-giving during the holidays. And as an EPA public affairs veteran, I’ve even had a hand in promoting best green practices—whether for the holidays or back-to-school —but haven’t always done as well as I’d like by what we’ve sensibly preached.

I resolved a few weeks ago to try to be greener this year for one, very noticeable, aspect of gift-giving: wrapping. I was especially interested to see how family and friends would react to, for instance, a book placed simply in a bookstore bag, a box of cookies adorned with nothing but a snippet of ribbon, or a bottle of wine in recycled 2009-vintage wrapping.

I anxiously readied myself for smirks, remarks and looks, hoping that the sweet thought behind each gift wouldn’t be negated by people thinking I was either not thoughtful or cheap. This being an EPA-sponsored blog, here’s the peer-reviewed data: for 20 gifts, 1 smirk, 3 good-natured comments—one truly complimentary—and 16 (but it’s hard to know for sure, right?) apparent nothings.

Relief, and success worth, I think, building on next year. Please share how you try to balance holiday gift-giving with waste reduction.

May I add that I especially like one of my co-worker’s green gifting: donations for us to a worthy charitable organization.

About the author: Larry Teller joined EPA’s Philadelphia office in its early months and has worked in environmental assessment, state and congressional liaison, enforcement, and communications. His 28 years with the U.S. Air Force, most as a reservist, give him a different look at government service.

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 Special Place to Sit 8 Days Each Fall

Historically related, but less well known than the Spring festival of Passover’s retelling of the Exodus, is the Fall festival of Sukkot (pronounced sooKOTE). Eight days long, it traditionally requires “dwelling” in small, crude, temporary huts, with roofs open to the elements and sky. (Because the roof of a sukkah is often made of wooden slats and greenery—for me, ivy and hemlock from my yard–it must have been the original green roof technology without, of course, the stormwater mitigation and energy conservation benefits we value today.) I typed dwelling in quotes because it’s become common, at least among many of my friends, to fulfill our dwelling obligation by having meals in a sukkah but not spending the nights.

There is, for me, an especially important environmental aspect of Sukkot, which is more than a commemoration of the biblical 40 years of wandering through the wilderness; it’s also a celebration of the fall harvest and, so, nature’s bounty, our impact on the environment (and on farm workers), and our sacred obligation (tikkun olam) to help fix what’s ailing the environment.

As I took about three hours last week to construct and decorate my sukkah—using wood originally cut many years ago and often replaced and reinforced following occasional storms that have blown it down—I thought about the eight days of moments I’d soon enjoy, whether alone or, better, with family and friends, looking through the roof and pondering the cosmos and our earthly place within it. What with the great weather this time of year, and a glass of wine, what could be better—more serene, more contemplative, more appreciative of nature, more challenging, more enjoyable?

How does your religion interacts with your thoughts about the environment and nature?

About the author: Larry Teller joined EPA’s Philadelphia office in its early months and has worked in environmental assessment, state and congressional liaison, enforcement, and communications. His 28 years with the U.S. Air Force, many as a reservist, gave him a different look at government service.

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 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.

Risk Assessment, or Not, by Juror 6

By Larry Teller

It’s fascinating if sometimes confounding to see how people perceive health risks and then act on their beliefs, especially when there’s a big disparity in how rationally they deal with, or manage, varying risks. Take, for example, my experience these past few weeks while on jury duty, which I wouldn’t report to you if it weren’t so common.

Juries spend many hours together both in the courtroom and, unfortunately at least as long, in a jury room. With the way we’ve been more aware of contagious infections lately, I wasn’t surprised to see a fellow juror whip out, on day 1 (of 8 days—it was a murder trial) a bottle of spray disinfectant and shpritz the crowded jury room pretty thoroughly. “But why not?” I thought, “It wouldn’t hurt.” — until Juror 6 (real names weren’t used much for the duration) sprayed us for the third time that first day.

My amazement came three days and eight shpritzes later, when the judge was scheduling a recess. To accommodate them, she asked if there were any smokers among us—who would need a longer break to go outside, light up and return. Whose hand went up? Yes, Juror 6, our repeat germophobe. As my dear, generous mother would say, we’ve all got our mishigoss (nuttiness, nonsense).

On a much grander scale, EPA assesses and manages risk in setting standards, writing regulations and cleaning contamination. I’d like to hear from some remediation managers and on-scene coordinators about how they deal with the less rational among us who understand risk about as clearly as Juror 6.

About the author: Larry Teller joined EPA’s Philadelphia office in its early months and has worked in environmental assessment, state and congressional liaison, enforcement, and communications. His 28 years with the U.S. Air Force, many as a reservist, gave him a different look at government service.

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 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.