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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



By Mrs. CLINTON (for herself, Mr. HATCH, and Mr. REID):

S. 2082. A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to establish a Coordinated Environmental Public Health Network, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Mrs. CLINTON. Mr. President, today, I am proud to join with my colleagues Senator HATCH and Senator REID to introduce the Coordinated Environmental Public Health Network Act.

More than 40 years ago, in her seminal work Silent Spring, Rachel Carson noted that ``For the first time in the history of the world every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals from the moment of conception until death.''

Her words remain true today. Not only are we subjected to chemicals, but we often don't have an understanding of the impact of these chemicals upon our health and the health of our children. I believe that it is past time for us to begin making the investments in research and technology that will allow us to understand the impact of the environmental exposures we face every day.

We know that chronic diseases like asthma, heart and lung disease--the chronic diseases that result in more than $750 billion in health care costs every year--are caused by three factors: genetics, behavior, and the environment.

Since the publication of Silent Spring in 1962, we have come a long way in understanding two of those three factors. Through initiatives like the Human Genome Project, we have been making incredible strides in our understanding of the science of genetics, so that we can better prevent and treat diseases. We have made strides in behavior change, with initiatives like smoking cessation campaigns resulting in a reduction of some of these behavioral threats to our health.

But we need to make more progress in our understanding of how the environment impacts our health. Far too often, these are silent health hazards that manifest themselves in unexpected cancers or other diseases. Yet we have no systematic way to collect and analyze the data that will allow us to make the linkages between environmental hazards and chronic illness clusters in various communities.

Take, for example, central Harlem, where one out of every four children has asthma. Or Fallon, Nevada--a small town with about 8,000 residents--where I attended an Environment and Public Works Committee hearing back in 2001 where we examined the high rates of leukemia among children in that community. There are examples like this from all over the country--often from minority or low-income communities that bear a disproportionate burden of environmental pollution--and we need to do more to protect the health of Americans who are daily living with environmental hazards. But if we don't have information to identify areas of high disease incidence and understand what environmental pollutants exist in those neighborhoods, we cannot adequately address the risks posed to our health.

The legislation I am introducing today will help us to understand those links. In establishing a coordinated environmental public health network, we can better track chronic diseases like cancer, asthma, and autism. We can establish critical information sharing between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency, so that those agencies can pool the information that can help researchers and the public identify and address risks. We can increase our resources for biomonitoring, so that we can measure levels of exposure to chemicals. And we can improve our environmental public health capacity, so that we have professionals who are trained to engage in rapid response to environmental health risks across our country.

The Coordinated Environmental Public Health Tracking Network will allow us to make enormous gains in our understanding of environmental health, and give us the data necessary to make improvements for the health of our communities.

I would like to thank Senators HATCH and REID for joining me to raise awareness about these issues, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to move this bill forward.

I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the RECORD a letter of support.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be placed in the RECORD, as follows:


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