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Senators Clinton, Chafee And Reid Introduce Bill to Expand Biomonitoring and Establish a Nationwide Health Tracking Network

Location: Washington, DC

Senators Clinton, Chafee And Reid Introduce Bill to Expand Biomonitoring and Establish a Nationwide Health Tracking Network

Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (NY), Lincoln Chafee (RI) and Harry Reid (NV), the Senate Minority Leader, today introduced the Coordinated Environmental Health Network Act of 2005 to expand the Centers for Disease Control biomonitoring work, establish a nationwide tracking network to help identify connections between disease and environment and develop a response system for addressing public health threats. "Today's release of the National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals by the Centers for Disease Control underscores the need to better understand which chemicals we are exposed to and what the effects are," said Senator Clinton. "Our legislation will expand on the CDC's biomonitoring work, and will give us new tools to draw links between disease and environmental causes. Establishing a comprehensive tracking network will enable us to unlock the mystery behind unexplained clusters of chronic disease, like the high rates of breast cancer on Long Island and similar examples in communities across the country."

"The coordination of our public health surveillance systems is long overdue," said Senator Chafee. "A coordinated environmental health tracking network will allow the critical linkage between environmental factors and chronic disease to be made so that outbreaks are responded to quickly, and future public health emergencies can be averted."

"In the small town of Fallon, Nevada 17 children out of a community of only a few thousand have been afflicted with leukemia. Three of those children have died. As a parent, I can think of nothing more heartbreaking than watching a child battle a life-threatening illness, and nothing more frustrating than not knowing the cause of that disease," said Reid, the Senate's Minority Leader. "Our legislation will help put in place a system to finding answers to these horrible questions. The bill is designed to track the outbreak of disease, locate potential environmental causes and start working on ways to prevent tragedies like cancer clusters from occurring in other communities." The legislation would increase authorized funding for the biomonitoring work that underpins the National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals released today by the CDC. This latest CDC report documents exposure levels to 148 chemicals, and includes exposure data on 32 new chemicals. In addition to increasing funding for biomonitoring, the legislation would create the infrastructure necessary to collect, analyze, and report data on the rate of disease and the presence of relevant environmental factors and exposures. The Network would also coordinate national, state, and local efforts to bolster our public health system's capacity to investigate and respond aggressively to environmental exposures that threaten health. In addition, the Coordinated Environmental Health Network will alert health officials when there is a sudden increase in any disease or condition, including those associated with a biological or chemical attack.

The nation's existing public health surveillance systems were developed when the major threats to health were infectious agents. Currently, over 50 infectious diseases are tracked on a national basis, but now chronic diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease are the nation's number one killers, and there is evidence that rates of some chronic diseases and conditions are rising. Survey data from the CDC suggests that endocrine and metabolic disorders such as diabetes and neurological conditions including migraines and multiple sclerosis have risen roughly 20 percent between 1986 and 1995, and some have cited an increase in autoimmune diseases, and learning disabilities. Yet our systems for tracking chronic disease are woefully underdeveloped.

Once fully operational, the network will coordinate national, state, and local efforts to inform communities, public health officials, researchers, and policymakers of potential environmental health risks, and to integrate this information with other parts of the public health system.

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