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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Location: Washington DC

Oct. 8, 2004


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

S. 2953. A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to establish a Coordinated Environmental Health Network, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Mrs. CLINTON. Mr. President, I rise to introduce today a bill to authorize the development of the Coordinated Environmental Health Network. I am pleased to have Senators CHAFEE and REID as cosponsors.

Environmental public health tracking of chronic diseases began in FY 2002 when the CDC awarded $17 million to 17 states and 3 local health departments to develop the Program and establish 3 Centers of Excellence. These funds were for capacity building and demonstration projects over 3 years. Efforts included correlation of asthma in young adults to air pollution from traffic exhaust or indoor air quality in schools, correlation of adverse pregnancy outcomes and air pollution measurements, PCBs in water supplies, etc and biomonitoring for blood lead and hair mercury with exposure databases. In FY 2003, CDC awarded $18.5 million to continue this program and expand to three additional states as in Florida to link statewide surveillance systems for asthma, autism, mental retardation, cancers, and birth defects with EPA's Toxic Release Inventory, statewide air monitoring data, and data from the statewide well water surveillance program. 24 states now have efforts to track asthma. FY 2004 funding reached $27 million, and an additional $28 million pending in the Fiscal Year 2005 Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Appropriations bill.

Our bill would build on these efforts, and would eventually cover all priority chronic conditions including birth defects, developmental disabilities (such as cerebral palsy, autism, and mental retardation), asthma and chronic respiratory diseases, neurological diseases, such as Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer's disease, and autoimmune diseases such as Lupus. It would also eventually reach as many of the States as possible; already the EPA and DHHS (CDC) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to coordinate exposure databases with the CDC's nationwide chronic disease tracking network and the State grantees.

Our current public health surveillance systems were developed when the major threats to health were infectious agents. Currently, 50 infectious diseases are tracked on a national basis. However, chronic diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease are now the nation's number one killers, and there is evidence that rates of some chronic diseases and conditions are rising. More than 1.3 million new cancer cases were diagnosed in 2003. One in 33 U.S. babies born has a birth defect, and about 17 percent of children under 18 years of age have a developmental disability. In 2001, an estimated 31.3 million Americans reported having been diagnosed with asthma during their lifetime, and 14 million adults reported physician-diagnosed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Chronic diseases cost Americans $750,000,000,000 in health care expenses and lost productivity and affect 100 million Americans. Yet our systems for tracking chronic diseases are woefully underdeveloped.

All across our nation are communities where disease clusters such as birth defects, cancers and asthma raise questions about the role of environmental factors in chronic diseases. In order to improve the health of our nation and lower health care costs, we need to develop the infrastructure to study the relationship between environment and chronic disease.

The Coordinated Environmental Health Network Act 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.

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.

The Coordinated Environmental Health Network Act is supported by the Trust for America's Health, American Public Health Association, Citizens for a Cleaner Environment, March of Dimes, American Lung Association, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, The Breast Cancer Fund, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and many others.

I ask unanimous consent that the text of the legislation be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the bill was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

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