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Children's Health Protection

Transcript of 2009 Children's Health Month Podcast

(Music with children laughing)

E: October may be a time for pumpkins, apple cider, and trick or treating but did you know that October is Children’s Health Month? At the EPA, this year’s theme is ‘Everyone can help to provide a safe environment for America’s children’. What can you do to help?

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I’m talking today with Dr. Peter Grevatt, director of the office of Children’s Health Protection and Environmental Education in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Grevatt, what has EPA done so far for Children’s Health Month?

P: Well we’ve had exciting things going on all throughout the month related to children’s health including first the launch of this podcast to help to educate and inform the public about important things they can do to help protect children’s environmental health. We also kicked off a blog we’re calling ‘Greenversations’ that’s highlighting children’s health issues and making sure the public understands the kinds of things that each of them can do to help protect the health of kids in their homes or in their neighborhoods. And then we also have had events like the Schools Chemical Cleanout webinar where we had 300 participants from school districts and state and local governments and the broad range of industry folks who were sharing best practices that have been gathered from several years working through the schools chemical cleanout campaign and that included a recent chemical cleanout in the Grandview school district in Grandview, Missouri where volunteers removed over 500 pounds of outdated and unknown and unneeded chemicals from the school to help provide a safer environment for the kids who were learning there in that school.

E: Wow, that sounds like a lot of activities. What measures do you personally take around your house to reduce environmental hazards?

P: From time to time in an older house I myself have to do some renovation activities and I know many others do as well and when we do those kinds of things we have to assume that that top layer of clean paint is gonna be removed and we might expose some lead paint that’s underneath. That can create lead dust in a household and so things that I do in my house is when I’m doing a renovation, making sure that I’m cleaning up very carefully immediately after any work I do and I use a HEPA vac, a high efficiency particulate vacuum, to make sure I’m gathering up any dust that I may have released that might contain lead to help protect my own kids from exposure to lead. And then in addition, in an older house sometimes, there can be issues with pests and so one of the things that I focus on in my house is what we call integrated pest management which is using a whole bunch of approaches to try and remove pests like bugs and such from the house and that includes things like closing entry ways for insects into the house, not just using pesticides, but also finding ways to put up physical barriers to prevent the bugs from coming in and that way we can help to reduce the use of chemicals in my house and others can do the same.

E: So now that you’ve talked about adults can do around the house, what can a kid do to be proactive about his or her environmental health?

P: Well there’s so many things that kids can do to help to protect their own health and that of others from contaminants in the environment. And the first thing is just really learning about, taking the time to learn about, the connections between environmental exposures and potential health outcomes for kids. And so we’ve been working extensively with school systems to help reduce the idling of school buses and kids all across the country can look and if they see school buses idling outside their schools they can talk to their schools administrators about putting a stop to that to help protect the air around their schools. Kids can learn about things like secondhand smoke and understand that smoking within the household is one of the most dangerous things, in terms of indoor air, that we can do. And so kids can make sure that they’re not in the vicinity of secondhand. In addition to those chemical sorts of things, kids can also spend more time playing outside and try to walk to school or ride a bike to school to get more exercise and that’s a really important thing to keep kids healthy as well.

E: And as October comes to a close, what’s coming up in the future for children’s health at EPA? What are you really excited about?

P: The first is making sure that the rules and the regulations that we develop are focused on protection of kids and making sure that they fully address kids’ environmental health issues. The second thing we’re gonna focus on is safe chemicals management, making sure that we’re implementing the laws in a way that’s gonna be protective of kids. The third thing is we’re gonna focus on science and making sure that the best science is used in protection of kids and also making sure that the science policies we use in EPA are focused on protection of kids. That we’re using the best information that we have in decision making to make sure that kids are protected. We’ll also be focusing on on-the-ground implementation of important programs to protect kids, things like making sure that kids have healthy school environments and healthy home environments. And then finally we’re gonna be taking steps to try and measure the impact of the actions we’re taking so we can understand that where we’re putting our dollars and our resources we’re getting the desired impact.

E: Thank you for talking with me today Dr. Grevatt, you have provided useful and important information. If you would like to learn more about Children’s Health Month or children’s health in general, you can visit www.epa.gov/children where you can find tips to protect children from environmental threats and many other resources.

(Background: music and children laughing)

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