Tag Archives: environment

Hey you guys!

The Electric Company took me to lunch.

By the Electric Company I mean American Electric Power. And by me I mean to say myself, along with several other Ohio bloggers. And by lunch I mean the ever-outstanding Alana’s Food & Wine, which the powers that be specifically chose because of its locally-sourced menu.

I’m now looking forward to the day when, instead of tracking the number of power stars we’ve obtained on Super Mario Galaxy, my son and I can track a more important statistic – the exact amount of electricity we use on every circuit in the house.

Caveat: I am being compensated or blogging about this and my time.  The opinions expressed, like anything I write here, are exclusively mine.

Anyway… California’s ongoing struggles with power consumption have clearly given utility companies in large states like Ohio plenty of ideas about what it could face in the near future as its infrastructure ages and demand for a steady supply of juice keeps increasing.

If AEP is to avoid building another big fossil-fuel power plant and move toward greener energy sources, then a change in the way consumers use electricity is needed. The problem has been that most of us have little or no idea exactly how we use our electricity or which appliances suck up the most energy. Even if we have something like a programmable thermostat to control our air conditioning, we may or may not have any idea how to use it.

In partnership with Silver Spring Networks, AEP is getting ready to pilot a “Smart Grid” program in northeast Columbus called “gridSMART.”  In a nutshell, this technology gives consumers more power to see exactly where, when and how they are using electricity, and the option to save money by using that electricity differently.

In addition to a more itemized vision of our energy use, AEP plans to roll out optional pricing plans that give customers financial incentives to use less power at peak times in the summer (keeping a/c temps a little warmer in the afternoon, for example, doing laundry early in the morning or charging an electric car in the wee hours, for example).  You will even be able to sign up to get rebates in return for using a Programmable Communicating Thermostat that allows AEP to automatically bump up your air conditioning a couple of degrees during an “event” – a time period in which the power grid has become overly taxed. (We were told that customers will be able to override this if they need to.)

Another advantage of the technology is that it will alert AEP about outages without our having to pick up the phone, which should help the company restore power more swiftly.

Of course, most of the city won’t have access to this new technology for a few years, but if end up somewhere where I can take advantage of it, you can bet that I, and the young statistician I live with, will use it.

I wrote this post after attending an informational luncheon on behalf of Silver Spring Networks and Mom Central Consulting and received a gift bag and gift card as a thank you for taking the time to participate.

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This is me getting tweaked about lead paint and blog primary coverage

I just read this story over at Daily Kos, and I was really grateful that someone took the time to actually go through some of the legislative records of Clinton and Obama, particularly to see, in fact, whether Obama is the lightweight that he is made out to be. I am relieved to know more about what he’s gotten done. Especially since I still don’t know who I am voting for on Tuesday.

However, author Grassroots Mom might as well have pinched my sciatic nerve with tweezers as made her argument that Obama is more visionary because he initiated legislation against lead paint in toys, while Hillary introduced some to help give tax incentives to landlords to fund the clean-up of lead paint in older houses.

I’m not disputing or advocating for Obama’s visionary-ness, but this particular argument for it upset me, because it includes some dangerous assumptions. Plus, I just think it’s terribly important to broaden awareness about this issue, and this gives me an opportunity to do so.

Toxic toys are shocking by nature, and should absolutely be legislated out of our homes because of the dangers they pose. But they pose a fraction of the threat to children that lead paint in older homes (specifically any home built before 1978) does.

I know because I have had the unfortunate need to speak to more than one public health official in recent years about this. I can tell you that they are glad that the public is up in arms over toys with lead-based paint and that measures are being taken to do more safety screening of imported goods. But they wish that issue could be leveraged into greater awareness of the larger risks that exist all around us.

Of the children that they encounter who have elevated lead levels in their blood or lead poisoning, the overwhelming majority are still getting sick from older homes. And they aren’t just the homes in the inner city by any stretch of the imagination. Some of the worst cases exist in suburbs and historic neighborhoods with beautiful older houses where windows have never been upgraded, or proper clean-up has never been done. (Lead dust is much finer and heavier than other dust, and does not come up with an ordinary vacuum.)

Because I love you and I don’t want your, or anyone’s, children to get sick (and I don’t want to see other parents wracked with the guilt and fear the way I was because of the things I didn’t know), I wrote more about this important environmental issue here on Blog Action Day last fall. At some point, I will write more about our family’s experience.

Incidentally, like Clinton, Barack Obama does have a strong stance on lead paint and abatement standards in homes.

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Charming older homes: Make mine unleaded

The surface paint used on Thomas’ caboose, children’s jewelry or Baby Einstein color blocks for infants, has righteously given all mass-produced toys manufactured in China the stink eye lately. That’s because lead paint is dangerous stuff, especially to children under six.

It’s a substance that has the ability to kill when ingested in a high dose, but most often, it just does slow, sure, serious damage. For one thing, even low levels of lead impersonate iron in a child’s system, stubbornly blocking the nutrient, which is so necessary to their physical and mental development, from being absorbed. It can lower IQ, cause ADD or behavioral problems, stunt growth, cause hearing impairment, and more.

The fact is, we are all exposed to it constantly, in many places that aren’t as obvious or automatically alarming as Elmo’s friendly countenance. A pollutant that’s heavy, but able to reduce to very fine dust, it’s extremely difficult to get rid of. And it was extensively used to build and manufacture all kinds of things in America before (many would also say well after) its risks were understood. It’s embedded in soil close to major roadways where millions of cars and trucks cruised through, fueled by leaded gasoline, for decades. And if you live in a house built before 1978 (especially if it was built before 1960), there’s a good possibility it’s in your home, water or soil. If you’ve had your children tested for lead, you likely know that most of us have some amount of it in our blood because it’s everywhere in varying degrees. The danger lies in how much of it you are in contact with.

Since we faced a brief (and thankfully now past) situation with this, I’ve walked through the lovely older homes of many of my fellow parents and realized just how common this toxin is. It’s important to know what to look for. Risky houses exist in upscale suburbs of a town like mine as well as the inner city.

If you live in an old and charming place, as I do, and have a young child (or even one who visits you regularly), consider having a risk assessment or inspection done. Know that older doors and windows are a common source for lead chips or dust, because they can release it into he atmosphere every time they are opened and closed. Only wet dusting and/or using a vacuum with a HEPA filter can effectively eliminate the dust.

Other things I suggest for prevention at your home, or whenever visiting an older home, based on experience:

  • Make handwashing a regular routine for yourself, and your children, from the moment that they begin scooting around on the floor.
  • There’s a good reason that pediatricians want you to give your baby those awful-tasting vitamin drops for the first two years. It’s important that that infants, toddlers and kids have the right amount iron and calcium in their diet. A full store of iron in the body can help prevent the lead from being absorbed long-term.
  • Wash toys regularly, particularly during the early developmental phases when babies and toddlers constantly put things in their mouths.
  • If you can’t afford to replace windows and doors that may have coats of lead-based paint, they need to be repainted every couple of years. (Note: you risk poisoning yourself and everyone in your house if you try to scrape the paint yourself.)
  • Make lead safety a consideration in any home improvement project you do.
  • If you suspect old pipes in your wall, use filtered drinking water if you can, and let the tap run for 30 seconds before using water for cooking.
  • Don’t buy cheap ceramic and painted plastic items from discount and dollar stores (Walmart and Target included). Products marketed to adults seem to go through even less rigorous screening than those for children, even though many are going to homes with children in them.
  • I love antiques, but be careful with those that are painted/distressed. Consider having them tested.There are many more suggestions here.

Today’s post is in honor of Blog Action Day.

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