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Report on Environmental Health Risks to Children National Agenda to Protect Children from Environmental Threats

09/11/1996
                         Carol M. Browner



Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Report on Environmental Health Risks to Children National Agenda to Protect Children from Environmental Threats


                      Prepared for Delivery
                       September 11, 1996




Today I am pleased to release a major EPA report on environmental health threats faced by children. Today's report details the health threats faced by children from toxics in the environment and sets forth a new national agenda to protect children from those risks more comprehensively than ever before.

As you know, protecting children from environmental harm has been a goal of mine and a goal of the Clinton Administration from the very beginning. Today's report brings together in one place the information we have about environmental threats to children's health and outlines how we as an Agency can address those threats.

Children face significant, long-term, and unique threats from environmental toxics. We must take a comprehensive approach to providing children with stronger health protection against those threats. Only when we have protected our children can we be sure that we are providing adequate public health protection for all Americans.

Among the findings about children's special vulnerabilities and exposure to environmental threats are these:

Asthma deaths among children and young people increased by 118 percent between 1980 and 1993. Asthma is now the leading cause of hospital admissions for children.

Children exposed to tobacco smoke at home have 16 million more days of restricted activity, 10 million more days of bed confinement, and miss 7 million more school days each year than other children.

Lead poisoning affects as many as 1.7 million young children.

Ten million children under the age of 12 live within four miles of a toxic waste dump.

Children are more at risk from toxics because their systems are still developing and because they consume more food and fluids, relative to their body size, than adults.

Children's unique behavior -- crawling on the floor or playing outside -- exposes them more to pollution and related health threats.

We must meet the challenge of protecting our children from toxics in our environment. An awareness of children's unique susceptibility, their unique exposure to toxic threats, must guide every action we take to protect public health and our environment.

Our National Agenda to Protect Children's Health from Environmental Threats is to be undertaken by EPA, other government agencies, health professionals, parents, teachers, and other groups. Among the actions outlined in the Agenda are these:

1.In setting public health and environmental standards, EPA will take into account the unique vulnerabilities of children, to ensure that all standards protect children. This new policy will apply to standards we set in the future -- but in addition, we will review our most significant current standards to ensure that they protect children. We will select five of our most significant current standards to be re-evaluated on an expedited basis. 2.To ensure that EPA applies the best science to our efforts to protect children, we will expand research on environmental health threats to children. We will seek to establish and fund two National Centers of Excellence on Children's Environmental Health at established medical institutions. 3.To ensure that children's health is approached comprehensively, EPA will address children's total exposure to toxic chemicals, moving beyond the chemical-by-chemical approaches of the past, so that we can address cumulative and simultaneous exposures. 4.EPA will expand our right-to
-know program. We will seek to provide better consumer information to families about children's health risks; to educate parents, teachers, and community leaders about those risks and what they can do to address them; and to educate health professionals to identify, prevent, and reduce toxic threats to children. The Agenda we outline today builds on a series of aggressive actions taken by this Agency and this Administration over the past three-and-a-half years to protect children -- unprecedented actions to protect children from pesticide risks in their food -- tough new standards for industrial air pollution -- accelerating the pace of toxic waste cleanup -- expanding the right to know about toxic pollution -- new safety controls and public information on toxic hazards in the home.

All of these actions will help to ensure for our children a healthy environment and a healthy future. By protecting children, the most vulnerable among us, we protect all of us.