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1997 News Releases



Release Date: 10/09/97
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FOR RELEASE: Thursday, October 9,1997


The Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children, established under Executive Order by President Clinton, today launched plans--at its initial meeting--for a federal research strategy on the disproportionate environmental health and safety risks faced by children. The Task Force also created three workgroups to better coordinate policies, programs and standards by all federal agencies to protect children.

Donna E. Shalala, Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and Carol M. Browner, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), co-chair the Task Force. Membership includes representatives of seven other Cabinet members, the Secretaries of Education, Labor, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, Transportation and the Attorney General, a representative of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and other Administration officials.

“We need to look at the child’s total environment, instead of merely pursuing substance-by-substance reviews,” Secretary Shalala said. “Our efforts need to have a strong science base and an appreciation of our children’s real-life surroundings.”

“At the end of the day, our challenge is to ensure that, in every significant action we take, children are protected from environmental health and safety risks,” Administrator Browner said. “The President, for the first time, obligated all federal agencies to meet that challenge.”

Today, the Task Force agreed on an agenda to implement the charges in the Executive Order, including:
•Coordination of policies, priorities and research affecting children’s environmental health and safety risks;
•Recommendations for Federal, state, local and Indian Nation partnerships, and partnerships with the private, academic, and non-profit sectors; and,
•Recommendations to enhance public outreach and communications to assist families in evaluating risks to children and in making informed consumer choices.
Three workgroups will prepare recommendations for review by the Task Force as a whole.

The Task Force builds on the Clinton Administration’s actions to protect children’s health. In 1995, the first-ever national policy was initiated to consistently and explicitly take into account national health risks to children and infants from environmental hazards when conducting assessments of environmental risks. In February 1997, HHS and EPA announced plans for the first federal research centers dedicated to the protection of the health of children from environmental threats. The EPA Office of Children’s Health Protection was established in May 1997 to address a wide array of complex threats to children’s health, including the preventable causes of cancer in children. In July 1997. EPA strengthened the air quality standards for smog and soot to a level that will increase protection of children from the harmful effects of these pollutants. Last month, EPA called for the first-ever federal research strategy to identify possible links between childhood cancer and environmental hazards.

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