What can I do to Protect Myself on an Ozone Action Day?

By Bob Kelly

Hot, muggy days can make living in the city feel unbearable. When going outside, you not only need to consider the temperature and humidity, but also the air quality.  Often when a hot day is coming up, our state environmental agencies will predict that ground-level ozone may exceed unhealthful levels for people who are sensitive to ozone, and they declare an Ozone Action Day.

You might wonder: who’s in the group that is sensitive for ozone? Would you believe, construction workers? Yes, people who are outside doing strenuous work inhale more air than the average person, so they get a higher dose of ozone. They should do activities that require less exertion and save the heaviest lifting for cleaner air quality days, if possible. Other people who are sensitive to ozone include people with lung disease, asthmatics, children and older adults. Higher ozone levels can have adverse health effects for everyone. You can read more about in our EPA brochure on Ozone and Your Health.

You can participate in Ozone Action Days by doing less lawn mowing, less driving, and staying cool! Hold off on exercise until mornings and late evenings when the ozone is less and the temperature is lower. Skip painting or using cleaners and solvents with high concentrations of hydrocarbons. Defer using your gas lawn mower or trimmer until the air is cleaner. Can you wait to refuel your car until the hot spell is over?  If not, try to do it after sunset, when the sun can’t form ozone.

For more information, check out EPA’s AIRNOW site, which displays real-time air quality data for different areas in the U.S., and for more information about what you can do to reduce ozone during Ozone Action Days.

About the author:  Bob is an air pollution meteorologist with the Air Programs Branch. He enjoys taking a few minutes from reviewing state air pollution clean-up plans to pass along the air quality forecasts to help keep people informed about what is happening in the air around them. Bob’s passion for watching the skies above us includes giving people a heads up about upcoming astronomical and meteorological events.

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.

Summer Tips: Get That Car Ready Before You Hit The Road

By Lina Younes

Summer is my favorite time of year. Days are longer. There are more opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors with family and friends. As some of you may be planning a family road trip this summer, there is one thing that you should consider as part of your travel preparations. If you’re driving, make sure the car is ready to hit the road.

Proper car maintenance will make your car more fuel efficient, save you money and protect the environment by producing fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Keeping tires properly inflated is a simple step that can go a long way to improve fuel efficiency and enhance your safety on the road as well. By following the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule you’ll also reduce the overall wear and tear of the vehicle.

Do you want another useful tip to increase your gas mileage without any additional cost? No, you won’t find it in a store. Simply obey the speed limit! Avoid sudden stops and hard accelerations. Aggressive driving only wastes gas, increases emissions, and makes you waste money at the pump.

So, simple steps can go a long way to have a great summer this year. Do you have any special plans? We will love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes is the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. Among her duties, she’s responsible for outreach to Hispanic organizations and media. She spearheaded the team that recently launched EPA’s new Spanish website, www.epa.gov/espanol . She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. She’s currently the editor of EPA’s new Spanish blog, Conversando acerca de nuestro medio ambiente. Prior to joining the agency, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and an international radio broadcaster. She has held other positions in and out of the Federal Government.

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.

Overheated NYC Apartments Can be Prevented!

By Juan G. Gutierrez

May 31st marks the end of the “Heat Season,” for building owners in New York City to provide heat to tenants until October 1st.  This should also mark the period to begin repairing, tuning up, or replacing boilers and radiators in the multifamily buildings throughout the city.  One of NYC tenants’ major complaint, beside very little heat in a city apartment, is an overheated apartment!  Some apartments are so hot that it kills house plants and tenants resort to desert plants! New Yorkers’ solution to overheated apartments for years has been to open up their windows, to release some of the heat trapped in their apartments.  Many of these buildings are overheated simply because they have a hard time ensuring that every apartment is heated.  So some apartments in the same building might be overheating while other apartments might just have enough heat to comply with the City Housing Maintenance Code and State Multiple Dwelling Law.

There are solutions for these old apartment buildings that have problems with overheating by their water or steam radiators.  One consideration could be the installation of thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) on every radiator in the building.  Most TRVs do not require electricity, are easy to install by almost any handy person, and can cost as little as $40 to $50 each.  TRVs have a built-in sensor that opens and closes the radiator according to the temperature in the room, providing an individualized comfort control to any room.

TRV is a proven technology that has been around since the mid 1940’s.  TRV has been put to test in a demonstration project in 1995 here in NYC, by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) Report No. 95-14, Titled: Thermostatic Radiator Valve (TRV) Demonstration Project Reference No. PB96-198163.  The report concluded that “overheated apartments achieved energy savings through the installation of TRVs.”    Since the report was written in 1995, the savings associated with fuel cost might be even greater today making the simple payback period even shorter.

Other maintenance tips that apartment building owners and management can do to their boiler heating systems are:

  • Clean boilers and radiators
  • Tune boilers
  • Replace leaking radiator vents and steam main vents
  • Insulate bare piping
  • Reduce domestic hot water at a constant minimum temperature of 120º degrees Fahrenheit to prevent scalds and save energy (check local codes for specific temperatures)
  • TRV temperature should be set at 70º degrees Fahrenheit

The best thing about TRVs is that the investment made to control radiator heat pays for itself in the long run through energy cost savings.  It also provides a comfortable apartment temperature.

About the Author:  Juan is an Environmental Protection Specialist with EPA Region 2.  He is currently the region’s ENERGY STAR coordinator.  He grew up in Corona Queens, NY, and is a former US Marine Corps Sergeant.  He graduated from SUNY Stony Brook with a Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Mathematics and Statistics and received a Masters in Public Administration from CUNY Baruch College.  Juan currently resides in Corona Queens where you can usually find him riding a bicycle.

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.

Don’t Let Your Child’s Summer Go To Waste

By Lina Younes

Summer is nearly here. Children are getting out of school. They are very happy to get away from tests, papers, and other school related tasks. However, we often see that over the summer months many students, especially in the lower grades, lose many of their academic skills during the extended time that they are away from school. So as parents, what are we to do?

Increasingly, there are many programs to encourage children to keep reading during the summer and camps to teach children special skills. Online you can also find a wealth of information, educational websites and games. However, there is another educational activity that might not readily come to mind, but is equally beneficial to a child’s well-being and learning experience. How about getting active and exploring the great outdoors? As children start exploring nature and outdoors activities, they awaken their innate curiosity and develop an interest in their surroundings and even in science. Those lessons stay with them throughout their life and may even lead to an interest in protecting the environment and pursing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers.

Just recently, as we were developing a Spanish webpage to highlight the contributions of Hispanic women scientists at EPA during Women in Science and Technology Month now in June, there was one thing that immediately stood out. Regardless of their background, these remarkable women all shared a love for the outdoors. They all described how as children they would explore nature and how they loved playing outside with their friends.

So, this summer, why don’t we take advantage of the opportunity now that we have more free time with our children to address the so called “nature deficit disorder” and pursue outdoor activities? I know we might hear some initial grumblings from our kids who may protest getting disconnected from all their electronic gadgets, but you’ll soon see how they embrace playing outside. Of course, we don’t all have a beautiful national park in our backyard, but I’m sure that there may be some hidden treasures in your local neighborhood that you can explore with your kids.

Any big plans for this summer? As always, we will love to hear from you.

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.

Protecting the Climate All Summer Long

By: Brittney Gordon

With the Memorial Day holiday already in our rearview mirror, the unofficial start to summer has begun. Summer is one of my favorite seasons, and like many people I already have visions of vacations and day trips dancing in my head. But, did you know that the average American spends almost 20 percent of her utility bill on cooling? That use of energy not only hurts your wallet, but also increases greenhouse gas emissions that harm our environment.

If you are looking to cut your energy bills this summer, you are in luck. Summer can be one of the easiest times of year to incorporate new energy-saving practices into your life. Check out these simple tips from ENERGY STAR, and use the money you save on utility bills to have a little summer fun.

· Change to More Efficient Light Bulbs. Change out standard light bulbs with more energy-efficient lighting choices. ENERGY STAR qualified lighting not only uses less energy, but also produces approximately 75 percent less heat than incandescent lighting, so cooling bills will be reduced, too.
· Find the Best Thermostat Settings. If you have a programmable thermostat, program it to work around your family’s summer schedule—set it a few degrees higher (such as 78 degrees) when no one is home, so your cooling system isn’t cooling an empty house.
· Use Ceiling Fans Optimally. Run your ceiling fan to create a cool breeze. If you raise your thermostat by only two degrees and use your ceiling fan, you can lower cooling costs by up to 14 percent. Remember that ceiling fans cool you, not the room, so when you leave the room make sure to turn off the fan.
· Maximize Shade. Pull the curtains and shades closed before you leave your home to keep the sun’s rays from overheating the interior of your home. If you can, move container trees and plants in front of sun-exposed windows to serve as shade.
· Check Air Conditioner Filters. Check your cooling system’s air filter every month. If the filter looks dirty, change it. A good rule is to change the filter at least every three months. A dirty filter will slow air flow and make the system work harder to keep you cool—wasting energy. Also, remember to have your system serviced annually to ensure it’s running at optimum efficiency for money and energy savings.
· Plug Duct System Leaks. As much as 20 percent of the air moving through your home’s duct system is lost due to leaks and poor connections. Seal duct work using mastic sealant or metal tape and insulate all the ducts that you can access (such as those in attics, crawlspaces, unfinished basements, and garages). Also, make sure that connections at vents and registers are well-sealed where they meet floors, walls, and ceilings. These are common locations to find leaks and disconnected ductwork.

Brittney Gordon is a communications team member for EPA’s ENERGY STAR program. Her favorite summer activities include mini trips to the beach and reading great books.

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.

Surviving on this Island

I’ve often walked around Chicago in the peak of summer, only to feel the pavement underneath my feet feel as if it sizzling in the beating sun.   It’s hot.  I literally feel like a piece of frying bacon on the sidewalk sometimes.   It’s a heat island. 

A heat island is a built-up area which is consistently hotter than its surroundings, particularly in the summer.  The heat island effect is caused mostly by the difference between the generally dark surfaces of a city like roads and sidewalks and the vegetation it’s replaced. These dark surfaces absorb sunlight, heat up, and retain more heat than open space areas.  Add hot air from vehicle exhausts and industry, the temperature rises even more.

There is one place that I know of that is high above the pavement of the city streets and it’s still cool.  It’s the green roof on top of City Hall.  In 2001, it was completed and took this large underutilized space in the thick urban Chicago jungle and created an oasis of green living.  The 20,300 square foot City Hall rooftop garden has over 20,000 native plants that were installed as plugs of more than 150 varieties.  Although rainwater is collected and saved, a supplemental irrigation system aids in establishing the plants as well as provide supplemental water during extreme periods of drought.  Pretty neat, huh? 

I wondered about the inside of the building and so I asked a few members of the staff about their thoughts on the green roof.  Did it make a difference?  All agreed that it insulates the building, making it warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.  They also noticed that when they walk out of the building, immediately there is a cool breeze surrounding the building before they step further out into the thick humidity of the day. 

If a green roof is helping change the heat island effects in one part of Chicago, think about what it could do if they were all over the country.  Communities can take a number of common-sense measures to reduce the effects of summertime heat islands.   You can help! 

To find out more, go to http://www.epa.gov/heatislands/index.htm

Yvonne Gonzalez is a SCEP intern with the Air and Radiation Division in Region 5. She is currently pursuing a dual graduate degree at DePaul 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.

Summer Solstice and Being Sunwise

By Kathy Sykes

I love summer, especially the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin and during our summers, my brother, sister and I spent the days at Vilas Park. Located on Lake Wingra, Vilas Park had a zoo, acres of green fields and baseball fields as well as a beach. Our days were spent in the sun, swimming, building sand castles, playing ball or just hanging out with friends. We would only leave our park because we had to be home in time for dinner.

My red-headed brother Sven, whom many said resembled Danny Partridge, had freckles, fair skin and burned easily. My sister Julie and I were brunettes and tanned with ease. We often spent as much time applying suntan lotion early in the day as we did Solarcaine before bedtime. On more than one occasion Sven got badly sunburned. Once burned, he was required to stay out of the sun (yeah, right) and because mom knew that was an impossible request, she applied a precautionary white layer of zinc oxide to protect his nose, face, neck and ears. We should have heeded mother’s plea to stay in the shade during the peak sunlight hours from 10:00am to 2pm. But we often did otherwise.

The good news is that it’s never too late to be sunwise. While you are probably aware of preventative steps to avoid the harmful effects of UV radiation on the skin, you may not be aware of its harmful effects on our eyes—leading to cataracts and macular degeneration. For more prevention tips

Summer is also the time to take care for preventing exposure to extreme heat. Did you know that more people die each year from extreme temperatures than from all other extreme weather events including hurricanes, tornadoes and floods combined? Fortunately we all can prevent extreme heat exposure. Air conditioning is one of the best defenses against excessive heat. If you lack air-conditioning in your home, there likely places in your community that have air conditioning. These “cooling centers” may include libraries, shopping malls, senior and centers. Ask your health care provider if the medications you take could increase your susceptibility to heat-related illness. Visit at-risk individuals at least twice a day such as those who live alone or are confined to a bed. For more tips on reducing your exposure to extreme heat

About the author: Kathy Sykes began working for the U.S. EPA in 1998. Since 2002, she has served as the Senior Advisor for the Aging Initiative.

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.