Children's Health Protection
2008 Regional Children’s Environmental Health Champions
USEPA Region 1 Naomi Mermin
Mrs. Mermin has dedicated her career to finding innovative solutions to children’s health problems, most notably childhood lead poisoning, asthma and creating healthy home environments in New England. She is a nationally recognized expert in the connections between health and housing and has been dedicated to children's environmental health issues throughout her professional career. Since 1990, Mrs. Mermin has played a leadership role in the formation and operation of three major environmental health collaborative partnerships to benefit children: the New England Lead Coordinating Committee; the Asthma Regional Council; and the Lead Action Collaborative. Mrs. Mermin has continued to expand her reach on children’s environmental health issues and has grown her vision and expertise throughout her career to expand beyond lead poisoning and asthma to now include healthy housing, green building, transportation, and energy efficiency to create healthy and sustainable environments for children to live and play. She currently serves as the Project Director for the Maine Lead Poisoning Prevention Fund and as the principal of Naomi Mermin Consulting, an environmental consulting firm in Portland, ME providing expertise on strategic planning, healthy housing, smart growth, and environmental policy.USEPA Region 2 Bureau of Environmental Surveillance & Policy at the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene
Assistant Commissioner Dan Kass, Epidemiologist Wendy McKelvey, Research Scientists Nancy Loder Jeffery and Caroline Bragdon of the Bureau of Environmental Surveillance & Policy at the New York City (NYC) Department of Health & Mental Hygiene did ground breaking work in identifying high levels of mercury in the blood of adult New Yorkers. They found that New Yorkers have over three times the national average blood mercury levels. The information that the health department collected was used to reach out to women of child-bearing age and children with balanced fish consumption advice emphasizing the value of consuming fish low in mercury. Fish sampling in Chinese retail stores was undertaken to serve as a basis for providing advice to this community, since two-thirds of the NYC Chinese have mercury levels exceeding the NY State reportable level. New York City's work has influenced a national focus on fish consumption by women of child-bearing age and their children, especially among certain ethnic groups.
Alerts have gone out to health care professionals with the results from the health department study that emphasize the need to screen and educate patients. Grand Rounds are being developed for hospitals to update physicians. An Environmental Health Perspectives peer-reviewed article, press releases, web site, and a public outreach brochure explain this important work in greater detail.USEPA Region 3 Migrant Clinicians Network (MCN)
The Migrant Clinicians Network is an international nonprofit organization with over 5,000 health professional constituents whose mission is justice in healthcare. MCN works to eliminate health disparities among migrant and seasonal farm workers and other mobile underserved populations. A cornerstone of their work has been their occupational and environmental health efforts, with a particular focus on children. Since 2004, MCN has partnered with Region 3 to build capacity to address children’s environmental health for migrant farm workers in Virginia by providing education to health care providers, outreach workers, migrant farm workers and the community about children’s environmental health and how to minimize potential environmental exposures. In two years, MCN reached more than 600 migrant farm workers and their family members on Virginia’ s Eastern Shore. This project provided the first baseline information on some of the environmental health issues facing children in the migrant community. MCN's efforts resulted in significant gains in knowledge and behavioral changes on the part of migrant farm worker families. MCN's work is minimizing the number of migrant workers and their children that are exposed to environmental hazards, increasing the knowledge of migrant workers and their families of environmental hazards, increasing knowledge of migrant clinicians, Head Start personnel, and outreach workers of various environmental hazards, while creating sustainability in Virginia by developing relationships and products to continue educating the migrant community in the Eastern Shore and throughout the Region.USEPA Region 4 Dr. Luanne Williams
Dr. Luanne Williams, a former Public Health Toxicologist for the North Carolina Division of Public Health, has been a pioneer and leader in the prevention of exposure of children to hazardous environmental chemicals. In her 17 years of working with the State of North Carolina, she championed initiatives that protected children from several environmental hazards, including arsenic in treated wood, PCB's and mercury in fish, and contaminants in drinking water. Dr. Williams has provided excellence in leadership in the State and has conducted extensive training about these hazards for environmental health professionals. Although Dr. Williams left the Occupational and Epidemiology Branch in 2008, her contributions to safeguard our children from toxic substances and hazardous materials left the legacy of a protected environment for children in North Carolina. Dr. Williams developed and supported the enactment of the state rule to protect children from exposure to arsenic-treated wood products in the child care setting. She created and implemented an educational program to help teach consumers of the effects and danger of mercury and PCB’s in fish in pregnant women and their developing infants. Dr. Williams tested fish in potentially contaminated water for the presence of these chemicals, and the signs she designed and posted warn people about the dangers of eating fish caught from the affected areas. She was a primary force behind the development of the "North Carolina Public Health Goals," a set of health-based guidelines for setting safe drinking water levels for many chemicals. These guidelines were used for guidance to homeowners about their well water protecting the health of children in many homes. Still more guidelines helped direct proper clean up mercury spills in schools which are being used today to help schools understand how to do a proper cleanup.USEPA Region 5 Ohio Department of Health
The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) has long been a leader in improving school environments in Ohio. Since the inception of EPA's IAQ Tools for Schools program, ODH has worked with its partners to train sanitarians, school facilities managers, other school representatives, parents and health care providers about the importance of providing a healthy school environment and has worked with numerous schools to apply the principles of the program in real world settings. It has worked across agencies (including state-level labor and environmental agencies) to identify various resources available for schools interested in improving their environmental quality. Ohio's State Asthma Coalition, also based in ODH, recognized the importance of good environments for its students with asthma and identified many aspects of school environmental health as a key part of its environmental recommendations in their State Asthma Plan. Their ability to recognize this importance provided the early connections in order to formulate the framework when the adoption of Jarod's Law came to fruition within the state. Jarod's Law, named for Jarod Bennett, a student who died in a school accident, is designed to protect and improve the environmental health and safety of Ohio's primary and secondary school students and the staff working in school buildings. ODH has worked tirelessly and aggressively to continue to gather resources and educate the appropriate stakeholders (e.g. health departments, school district representatives, interested school partners) about environmental health and safety concerns and mandates as a part of the regulations supporting Jarod's Law. ODH created an Ohio-specific version of EPA's Healthy School Environments Assessment Tool (Healthy SEAT) for use throughout the state. This Ohio Healthy SEAT will be utilized by local health departments (LDHs) as they carry out annual inspections of all public and private schools in their counties, as required by the Ohio School Environmental Health and Safety Inspection Rules. While Ohio is not the first state to customize EPA's Healthy SEAT, OH Healthy SEAT represents the most significant state adaptation as ODH is recommending its use by sanitarians at the LDHs in order to meet their state regulations under Jarod's Law.USEPA Region 6 Dr. Winifred J. Hamilton PhD, SM.
Dr. Hamilton is assistant professor in the Departments of Medicine and Neurosurgery at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) and director of Baylor’s Environmental Health Section of the Chronic Disease Prevention and Control Research Center, which she launched in 2002. She is also on the faculty of Rice University, where she teaches environmental health. She has served on the board of directors of the Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention and is a founding member of Mothers for Clean Air (MfCA). Within EPA Region 6, MfCA is currently implementing EPA's Tools for Schools program in 30 Houston schools, as well as partnering with the American Lung Association of Texas to implement the Open Airways for Schools program on 16 campuses. Dr. Hamilton has organized regional children's environmental health symposia and town meetings, reaching thousands of healthcare professionals and community members. She is principal investigator of the geospatial study, "Childhood Lead Poisoning in Galveston, Texas," which stimulated national media attention and led to the creation a highly effective Galveston task force. The study also triggered efforts elsewhere to address pockets of lead poisoning. Dr. Hamilton is currently heading an effort to require all daycare centers to be certified as lead-safe. She also hosts bus tours each year for Baylor College of Medicine and Rice University students that visit area environmental "hot spots" of concern, as well as community-based efforts to make Houston greener and healthier. Dr. Hamilton is founder and co-chair of the Medical Center Recycling Collaborative. In addition, Dr. Hamilton chairs a task force that is building support for a BCM-TCH Pediatric Environmental Health Clinic. She is principal investigator of an effort to integrate environmental health into the BCM medical school curricula and electronic medical records system, as well as to establish a virtual clinic to link patients and physicians with area environmental resources. She also works with researchers from the University of Texas School of Public Health, University of Houston and EPA's National Exposure Research Laboratory to study multi-pollutant exposure and health effects in Harris County using advanced atmospheric modeling, geospatial mapping and biostatistical methods.USEPA Region 7 Allen Grell
Allen Grell is the Schools Chemical Cleanout Program Manager for Keep Nebraska Beautiful (KNB). With the strong support of Jane Polson, Director of KNB, Allen assembled a broad team of people to address the threat of legacy chemicals in Nebraska schools. The team included many branches of Nebraska government including the Governor's office, fire marshal, state patrol, labor, environmental quality, emergency management and education. The team also included universities, insurance companies, NGOs and EPA. Allen tirelessly worked with his team to develop a plan to clean out schools and educate staff and faculty about chemical hygiene. Later, when the opportunity came, Allen doggedly pursued an EPA grant that is allowing his team to fund school cleanouts and environmental management planning in Nebraska schools. Because of Allen's determination and passion for the safety of children in Nebraska, the state is seeing a dramatic change in high school lab safety.USEPA Region 8 Allyson Kelley
Allyson Kelley, has demonstrated outstanding leadership in Tribal children's environmental health as Project Director of Native American Studies in the American Indian Affairs Division at Rocky Mountain College. She is the Director of the Montana Indian Country Community Action for A Renewed Environment (CARE) Project and the Montana Environmental Justice Workgroup Coordinator. Through her outstanding work, Allyson is helping reduce Tribal children's environmental health hazards. She has been instrumental in educating and training others in the Tribal community to increase capacity to protect kids from environmental hazards. She has launched and manages a number of successful programs that are resulting in improving environmental health conditions where Tribal children live, learn and play. For example, Allyson has been directly responsible for locating, conducting inventories, obtaining cost estimates, and arranging for cleanout out of dangerous and hazardous chemicals from 16 schools in Indian Country. Her actions have resulted in making schools safer for 3,590 students, 90% of whom are Native American. A total of 7,736 pounds of hazardous and dangerous chemicals were removed for proper disposal from these 16 schools. Allyson consistently goes above and beyond all expectations to create networks to foster collaboration among agencies and organizations to promote initiatives to protect Tribal children's health and disseminate information that will better inform the public about environmental factors that affect children.USEPA Region 9 Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSU) at University of California, Irvine and University of California, San Francisco
The Pediatric Environmental Specialty Units (PEHSU) at University of California, Irvine (UCI) and University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) are important members of a network of federally funded clinical and educational centers. They provide expert clinical and public health evaluations of children and communities with suspected environmental health problems serving a geographic area that encompasses Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, the Pacific Islands and Tribal Nations. In 2007 wildfires of unprecedented severity raged in Southern California. The PEHSUs at UCI and UCSF knew the environmental hazards associated with wildfires and the special concerns for children's health under these conditions. They also recognized that there were few sources specific to wildfires to provide basic environmental health advice for pediatric health care providers and child oriented information for the community. Within a few weeks, the UCI and UCSF PEHSUs developed two Fact Sheets to fill this need for both the English and Spanish-speaking communities. "Health Risks of Wildfires for Children" and "Environmental Hazards for Children in the Aftermath" are Fact Sheets for the general public that are also useful to pediatricians, other clinicians, and community leaders in answering questions that parents might have. The PEHSUs utilized available authoritative materials from local, state, and federal government as well as academic sources to develop two handouts. One Fact Sheet addresses environmental hazards to children during the acute phase of wildfires and the second focuses on the environmental issues faced by children during the recovery phase. Materials were peer reviewed within the PEHSU network and the American Academy of Pediatrics, as well as by some authorities from government. The AAP has endorsed the two Fact Sheets written in English; the Spanish translations are awaiting their review. There was an immediate demand for the materials which rapidly were added to the websites of the PEHSUs, the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics, California State, US EPA and other federal agencies. 2008 has been an even more fire prone year with more than 1,800 wildfires engulfing much of the State of California, with other states affected to a lesser degree. The materials have been widely used by schools, public health officials, health care providers, and others.USEPA Region 10 Elise Miller
Elise Miller is a leader in children's environmental health whose work at both the national and local level has a direct effect on reducing children’s health hazards. Through tireless dedication she has promoted awareness about the link between toxicants and children's health and has spurred partnerships and collaborative efforts that address potential harmful exposures to children. Elise is the Founder and Executive Director of the Institute for Children's Environmental Health (ICEH), a nonprofit educational organization whose mission is to ensure a healthy, just and sustainable future for all children by fostering collaborative initiatives to reduce and ultimately eliminate environmental exposures that can undermine the health of current and future generations. Ms. Miller is also the Founder and National Coordinator of the Collaborative on Health and the Environment’s Learning and Developmental Disabilities Initiative, a national program with two primary objectives: a) to educate learning and developmental disabilities organizations about children’s environmental health risks; and b) to support collective efforts to reduce exposures to neurotoxicants that may impact brain development and contribute to the rising rates of these disabilities. She serves as a Member of the Environmental Protection Agency's Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee (CHPAC). Ms. Miller is also the Founder of the Washington State Regional working group of the Collaborative on Health and the Environment, the state network of over 350 researchers, healthcare providers, members of health-affected groups, environmental health and justice advocates and other concerned citizens committed to addressing environmental health issues linked to chronic health concerns in Washington State. Whether through the Practice Prevention articles or the Environmental Health Lecture series – Our Health, Our Environment: Making the Link, Elise with ICEH translates for nonscientific audiences the recent scientific research on the effects of neurotoxicants and environmental hazards on the developing human brain. Elise Miller strengthens the voice of all scientists and health professionals working to address the environmental contaminants associated with neurodevelopment disorders, such as learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), intellectual disabilities and developmental delays.