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1996 News Releases



Release Date: 09/11/96
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Luke C. Hester 202-260-1383

EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner today released a major new report that details 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. Browner said, "We've learned that children face significant, long-term and unique threats from environmental toxics. For the first time, this report looks comprehensively at the impact of environmental pollution on children, and we believe that we must take a comprehensive approach to providing children with stronger health protection. Only when we have protected our children from toxic threats can we be sure that we are providing adequate public health protection for all Americans."

Browner said the report, Environmental Health Risks to Children, was prompted by the wide array of children's health problems that can be brought on by environmental risks. Among the report's findings are that:

Asthma deaths among children and young people increased by 118 percent between 1980 and 1993, and 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 children age five and under; Ten million children under the age of 12 live within four miles of a toxic waste dump; Polluted waters can affect children when they swim in rivers or lakes, and when they eat certain freshwater fish;
Children may face developmental effects from emerging problems, such as the potential effects on endocrine systems from pesticides and industrial chemicals; 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 do; and Children's unique behavior -- crawling on the ground or playing outside -- exposes them more to pollutants and related health risks.

"We must meet the challenge of protecting our children from toxics in our environment," said Browner. "An awareness of children's unique susceptibility and exposure to toxic threats must guide every action we take to protect public health and the environment." She noted that the Agency will embark on implementing a comprehensive National Agenda to Protect Children's Health from Environmental Threats.

The Agenda, described in the report, will be undertaken by EPA, other governmental agencies, industry and health professionals, parents, teachers, and other stakeholder groups. The Agenda includes several specific actions to provide better protection of children's environmental health in such key areas as setting protective public health standards, expanding scientific research, and providing families with expanded right-to-know information. Among the actions outlined in the Agenda are:

    1. EPA will set public health and environmental standards to ensure that they protect children, under a new national policy, and review the most significant current standards to ensure that they protect children. New standards will reflect prevention of threats to children where possible, and existing standards will be re-evaluated as new scientific knowledge emerges. Five of the Agency's most significant current standards will be re-evaluated on an expedited basis; they will be selected with public input and scientific peer review.
    2. To ensure that EPA applies the best science to its efforts to protect children, the Agency will identify and expand research on their unique susceptibility and exposure to environmental pollutants, so that new protections can be established that meet their unique needs. The Agency will seek to establish and fund two National Centers of Excellence on Children's Environmental Health at established medical institutions to provide a focus for such research.
    3. To ensure that children's health is approached comprehensively, EPA will address children's total exposure to toxic chemicals, moving beyond chemical-by-chemical approaches of the past. The new policies will be implemented Agency-wide to better reflect cumulative and simultaneous exposures.
    4. EPA will greatly expand its right-to-know and education efforts about children's environmental health threats, to provide better consumer information to families about children's risks; educate parents, teachers and community leaders about those risks and steps they can take to identify and address them; and educate health professionals to identify, prevent and reduce toxic threats to children. The agenda builds on a series of actions taken by EPA to protect children, including: unprecedented steps to protect children from the risks posed by pesticides in their food; a national policy to take into account children's health risks when assessing environmental risks on which standards are based; and safety controls and widespread public information on toxic hazards in the home, including lead-based paint.

    R-131 # # #