School Flag program

Come Celebrate, Learn, and—Sit on the Village Green Project!

By Katie Lubinsky

Village Green graphic identifierMark your calendars, bring your kids and prepare to learn about some cool, new science! Open to the public, EPA will unveil a prototype air monitoring system on Saturday, June 22, from 10 a.m. to noon. The celebration will take place at the air monitoring system’s first home – Durham County South Regional Library, located at 4505 S. Alston Ave. in Durham, North Carolina.

It’s all part of the Village Green Project, a study to develop a self-powered, low-maintenance monitoring system to measure air quality. The system is built into a park bench made from recycled milk jugs. Testing in a community environment is being made possible through a partnership with Durham County.

EPA scientists and local officials will participate in the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which includes the raising of a flag as part of EPA’s School Flag program to increase awareness of air quality conditions.  Afterwards, booths and activities will be available for adults and children of all ages.

The Village Green park bench

The Village Green park bench

You will be able to connect with the real-time data collected from the system through your smartphone, or other internet devices, either right beside the air sensor or even at home! This nifty project will measure fine particles and ozone minute by minute, which are all known to impact human health.  It will also measure local weather stats such as wind speed and humidity.  The platform provides an opportunity to test new low maintenance air quality sensors.

Being a local resident myself, I am proud to see the Raleigh-Durham area hosting such innovative science projects and events.

With great efforts from EPA, Durham County government and Durham County Library officials, this research project will be a wonderful educational and informative experience. It will help to develop the next generation of air quality monitors for use by this and other communities interested in learning more about their air quality.

I visited the library numerous times during this collaboration and found out its theme is ‘Air,’ so Village Green will fit right in! Now after checking out books at the library, you can sit on the bench, read and check out the local air quality and weather trends with a simple scan of your smartphone!

  • What: Village Green Project Celebration
  • When:  Saturday, June 22, 2013, from 10 a.m. to noon
  • Where: Durham County South Regional Library, 4505 S. Alston Ave., Durham, N.C.

About the Author: Katie Lubinsky is a student contractor working with EPA’s Office of Research and Development on communicating new and engaging science and research topics.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Air Quality Awareness Week: Greener Hearts Result in a More Enjoyable Summer

By Dr. Wayne Cascio

I was pleased to see that the American Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air” report notes that the country’s air is getting cleaner—a perfect way to kick off Air Quality Awareness Week (April 29 through May 3). The report, based on EPA findings from 2009 through 2011, should not only indicate a healthier U.S. public, but also a savings of billions of dollars in reduced medical costs.

As an EPA environmental health researcher, cardiologist, and promoter of our Green Heart initiative to raise awareness of the links between air quality and cardiovascular health, it was rewarding to note the many Agency efforts that have contributed to the improved state of the country’s air quality.

EPA has lead many research efforts to examine the effects of environmental irritants—such as dust, smoke, and smog (which is most prevalent during the approaching summer months)—in the air. Our studies have resulted in recommendations on actions that people predisposed to asthma and heart-related diseases can take to protect their health.

One valuable tool is EPA’s color-coded Air Quality Index, which provides guidelines for at-risk individuals for

School Flag Program

being outdoors or exercising in relation to air quality. A similar program has been introduced at local schools called the School Flag Program. The colored flags displayed on school yard flagpoles alert students, teachers, coaches and the community to the air quality forecast for the day.

According to 2010 EPA data (the most recent year available), benefits from improved air quality helped to avoid 1.7 million asthma attacks and reduced hospital admissions and emergency room visits significantly. Such impacts also yield major savings of medical expenses across the country.

So, as we enter the summer season when air quality issues are common, remember to acquaint yourself with the Air Quality Index and other EPA tools, rely on their guidance to assist you in staying well, and enjoy your summer!

About the Author: Wayne E. Cascio, MD is the Director of EPA’s Environmental Public Health Division, a Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a Fellow of the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology. His research explores the effects of air pollution on the heart and blood vessels.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Raising the Flag for Air Quality Awareness

Last week, I joined security officer William Jones when he visited a group of students at the First Environments Day Care Center located on EPA’s Research Triangle Park campus. The purpose of our trip was to raise a yellow flag on the pole in front of the school.

When Officer Jones asked if the kids wanted to help him, they cheered in unison, “YES.”  They eagerly held the flag while Officer Jones hooked it to the chain, watched as he raised it – and promptly asked why the flag was yellow. Officer Jones explained that the yellow flag meant that the kids could play outside, “because the air quality was pretty good today– not the best like what a green flag means.”

Schools in a number of areas across the country are raising the colored flags to help their teachers and parents track EPA’s daily Air Quality Index (AQI). These flags help students and teachers know what the air quality forecast is for the day, and help them track whether students’ asthma symptoms get worse when the air is polluted and whether they need to take extra steps to protect their health.

Later this week, the Bethesda Elementary School in Durham, N.C. will launch its school flag program as part of Air Quality Awareness Week, marked every May to remind Americans to check the AQI forecast in planning outdoor activities. The school will fly an air quality flag along with the American flag each day.

When you see a green or yellow flag at school, it means that teachers and coaches will encourage students to get outside and get moving!  When the flag is orange or red, it is still OK to play outside, but kids are encouraged to cut back on activities that involve lots of running.  On those days, teachers and coaches will also make indoor exercise space available for children who need it.

The flags also help parents by reminding them of the day’s air quality forecast when they drop their children off at school, and assuring them that teachers will reduce their children’s exposure to air pollution, while ensuring they get important play and exercise time.

Don’t have a flag program at your school? It’s easy to start one.

About the author: Amy J. Gaskill, APR, works in the Innovative Programs and Outreach Group in EPA’s Office of Air Quality Planning & Standards

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.