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EPA Administrator says reducing kids' risks from enviro factors one of its "highest environmental priorities"


U. S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol M. Browner today announced results of the first-ever Agency assessment of trends in environmental factors that may affect the health and well-being of American children. The report shows that, while there have been improvements, formidable challenges exist in reducing risks from environmental factors. "The Clinton-Gore Administration has made the protection of children's health one of its highest environ-mental priorities," said Browner. "Children are among the most vulnerable groups to environmental threats. We especially are concerned about such issues as exposure to lead and pesticides and rising incidents of childhood asthma. This important report outlines the progress we have made by specifically targeting threats to children, and it underscores the challenges that still confront us."

The new report, "America's Children and the Environment: A First View of Available Measures" provides an improved way to monitor the Agency's progress in protecting children's health and identifying areas for further improvement.

Children are more susceptible to threats from toxics and pollution than are adults for a wide variety of reasons and they require greater public health protection.

The report, which includes, whenever possible, data for the 1990-99 decade, includes the following findings on improvements in that period: there was a decrease, from 28 percent (1990) to 23 percent (1998), in the percentage of children living in counties where one or more of the six "criteria air pollutants (ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, lead, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide)"exceeded national air quality standards;

there was a decrease, from 29 percent (1994) to 19 percent (1999) in the percentage of homes inhabited by children under age seven and a regular smoker; and,

there was a decrease, from 19 percent (1993) to eight percent (1998), in the percentage of children living in areas served by public water systems that had any violation of drinking water standards.

Continuing challenges are evident in other trends cited in the report:

environmentally-related health problems are found to be persistent among some groups of children, with race and poverty playing a disproportionate role; black children of families living below the poverty line have a higher rate of asthma than those of other racial groups andincome levels;

the prevalence of asthma among children in the U.S. increased from 5.8 percent in 1990 to 7.5 percent in 1995; and,

between 1992 and 1994, approximately 1.5 million children aged 17 and younger had elevated concentrations of lead in their blood, greater than 10 micrograms per deciliter.

The new study offers a basis for a better understanding of time trends for some of the key factors relevant to the environment and for further investigation of others. Finding ways to improve federal data will be a starting point of further deliberation. Long term, the goal is to identify or develop measures that could be used by policymakers and the public to track and understand the environmental experience of children and, ultimately, to identify and evaluate ways to improve that experience.

The report presents quantitative measures of trends in environ- mental contaminant levels in air, water, food and soil; concentra- tions of contaminants in children's bodies; and, childhood diseases that may be influenced by environmental factors.

The report on available measures was developed by EPA's National Center for Environmental Economics, which provides economic and health analysis of important environmental issues in the regulatory and policy process.

As part of the priority placed on children's health issues, Browner established an Office of Children's Health Protection, which collaborated on the report. She also was the co-chair of the federal Task Force on Environmental Health and Safety Risks to Children and was the host of the G-8 Summit on Children's Environmental Health.

The full report on environmental factors affecting children's health is available at:


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