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Letter to Stephen Johnson, Administrator of the EPA, Re: Heed Recommendations of Expert Panel on Children's Health

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Boxer and Clinton Call on EPA to Heed Recommendations of Expert Panel on Children's Health

Senator Barbara Boxer, Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Chair of the EPW Subcommittee on Superfund and Environmental Health, called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to respond to concerns and recommendations from the agency's Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee (CHPAC) regarding EPA's activities concerning children's health. CHPAC is a federal advisory committee made up children's health experts from industry, government, scientific institutions, public health facilities, and environmental organizations. In a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, Senators Clinton and Boxer expressed concern that EPA is failing to take into account CHPAC's recommendations or to adequately incorporate children's health into important public health initiatives undertaken by the agency.

Senator Boxer said, "Keeping our children safe from pollution should be the number one priority for the Environmental Protection Agency. EPA's own scientists have told the Agency what needs to be done to protect children's health, but they have turned a deaf ear. It is long past time for EPA to start putting children first."

"Our children are more vulnerable to toxins and pollutants in our water and air, and the EPA has been instructed by Executive Order to take this increased vulnerability into account," said Senator Clinton. "I have repeatedly expressed concerns over the lack of action by the EPA on this issue, and I'm proud to join Senator Boxer in asking the EPA to show us exactly what they're doing in response to these concerns."

Senators Boxer and Clinton have been active in working to improve children's environmental health. Last year, they requested 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 directed to help EPA ensure that the interests of children are represented in the agency's activities.

The text of the letter follows:

February 21, 2008

The Honorable Stephen Johnson
Administrator
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC

Dear Administrator Johnson,

We are writing to follow up on previous inquiries and gain a better understanding of how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responding to concerns and recommendations from the agency's Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee (CHPAC) regarding EPA's activities concerning children's health.

Children are not little adults, and pediatric populations are more vulnerable to harm from toxic chemicals. Compared to adults, children are proportionally exposed to higher levels of many pollutants in water and air. Children also process certain substances differently than adults. These and other factors make them especially sensitive to health threats.

The Executive Order on Protection of Children from Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks requires EPA to "ensure that its policies, programs, activities, and standards address disproportionate risks to children that result form environmental health risks or safety risks." CHPAC was created to help EPA meet this requirement to protect children's health. However, we are concerned that your agency is not following this Executive Order, and is failing to take into account the recommendations of CHPAC or incorporate children's health into the agency's daily activities.

On April 10, 2007, CHPAC wrote to you to express their views on key elements of a comprehensive vision for protecting children's health and to make recommendations for action. On June 13, 2007, you directed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Children's Health Protection and Environmental Education (Office of Children's Health) to "work collaboratively with program offices across the Agency, as well as with CHPAC, to review the recommendations in [CHPAC's] letter." Following your commitment to CHPAC, press reports indicate that Office of Children's Health staff asked workgroup members of EPA's Children's Health Advisory Management Partners to address each of the seven priority areas in CHPAC's letter.

In an October 10, 2007 letter, Senator Clinton urged EPA to examine areas where the agency has failed to make improvements to protect children's health, identify opportunities to make additional gains, and maintain current protections. On December 6, 2007, the Acting Director of Office of Children's Health wrote to Senator Clinton, saying that you and she had talked with CHPAC and expected to have further discussions with EPA personnel. After this letter--and more than six months after your first commitment to address CHPAC's recommendations--news reports indicate that EPA halted workgroup activities and began instead to work with senior-level political appointees, rather than the career civil servants who will carry out such activities.

We are very interested in learning more about EPA's current plans and activities to address CHPAC's concerns and recommendations. Please work with our staff to provide a written response to the questions on the following page by February 26, 2008.

Sincerely,

Senator Barbara Boxer
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton


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