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Letter to The Honorable Stephen L. Johnson, Administrator, United States Environmental Protection Agency

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


Letter to The Honorable Stephen L. Johnson, Administrator, United States Environmental Protection Agency

Senator Clinton Calls on EPA to Better Protect the Health of Our Nation's Children

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton today called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take the necessary steps to better protect the health of our nation's children. In a letter to the EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, Senator Clinton urged the agency to examine the areas where it has failed to make improvements to protect children's health, identify the opportunities to make additional gains, and ensure that achievements are not lost due to complacency and lack of commitment. Senator Clinton's letter follows release by the EPA of a report outlining its efforts to address children's environmental health, including an overview of the agency's work in the ten years since the Clinton Administration implemented a landmark executive order to protect children from environmental health and safety risks.

"The EPA and this administration have failed to continue the progress made during the Clinton Administration in protecting the health of our nation's children. Despite efforts during the Clinton Administration to create a sustained framework for addressing children's environmental health issues, the EPA has not followed through on this commitment. It is critical for the agency to ensure our children's health is protected," said Senator Clinton.

In 1997, the Clinton Administration released Executive Order 13045: Protection of Children From Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks, which called for federal agencies to identify and assess environmental health risks and safety risks that may disproportionately affect children and carry out activities to address such risks. While gains have been made in the decade since this order was promulgated, the EPA 's actions have raised concerns about the commitment of the current Administration to children's health protection.

Senator Clinton has been active in working to improve children's environmental health. As Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Superfund and Environmental Health, she has worked to ensure that the EPA address the health impacts of those disproportionately burdened by environmental pollutants. Last month, she requested, along with Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigate the extent to which EPA incorporates and utilizes the recommendations of the Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee - the body of experts designed to help EPA ensure that the interests of children are represented in the agency's activities. Senator Clinton has also introduced the Family Asthma Act and the Home Lead Safety Tax Credit Act to help decrease exposures to the environmental pollutants linked to childhood illness.

[The letter sent to Administrator Johnson follows]

The Honorable Stephen L. Johnson
Administrator
United States Environmental Protection Agency
Ariel Rios Building - 1101A
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20460

Dear Administrator Johnson:

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report entitled, "Children's Environmental Health: 2007 Highlights." This report contained an overview of the work that the EPA has done to address children's health issues in the ten years since the release of Executive Order 13045, entitled "Protection of Children From Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks."

Yet in the decade since the release of that Executive Order, I believe that we have failed to continue our progress in protecting the health of our nation's children. The EPA has taken several actions that indicate a lack of concern for children's health, including the merging of the Children's Health Protection and Environmental Education offices and the approval of the Children's Environmental Exposure Research Study (CHEERS), which raised concerns about industry influence over the agency's scientific activities. In an April 2007 letter to you, the Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee (CHPAC) - the experts convened by the EPA to advise the agency - expressed concern that "the focus on children's environmental health at the EPA has diminished."

I am particularly concerned that some of the initiatives that you highlight in this report are not as strong as they could be in protecting children's health. For example, you highlight the work of the EPA in raising awareness about mercury in fish. Yet despite independent testing noting that additional risks may be present in fish labeled as lower risk, your agency has not updated the 2004 EPA/FDA Joint Advisory on mercury in fish and shellfish.

You cite the work of the Centers for Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention, yet fail to address concerns about the potential restructuring of the community-based participatory research components of these programs, despite the findings of a joint report from the EPA's Board of Scientific Counselors and CHPAC that found that "Centers that were most active in utilizing community members as research partners seemed better able to inform local policy makers…"

And while you praise the work of the America's Children and the Environment (ACE) reports, the EPA has not released one of these reports since 2003. Indeed, the data from the ACE website notes that the percentage of children that did not meet drinking water standards for lead, coliforms, and nitrates actually increased from 2003 to 2005, with reductions of health-based violations in drinking water made since 1997 virtually eradicated by 2005.

The tenth anniversary of Executive Order 13045 gives us the opportunity to reevaluate the EPA's activities and redouble our commitment to children's health protection. I would urge you to examine the areas where we have failed to make improvements, identify the opportunities to make additional gains, and ensure that our achievements are not lost due to complacency and lack of commitment. I would also ask that you provide me with a plan for concrete action in response to the April 10, 2007 letter from the CHPAC. I would also appreciate learning the timeline for the review of their recommendations from the relevant EPA offices, which you committed to carrying out in your June 13 response to the CHPAC letter.

Sincerely yours,

Hillary Rodham Clinton


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