EPA Failed to Consult Children’s Health Taskforce

January 12, 2009

By Rochelle Davis, Founding Executive Director

Recently I was honored to be appointed to a taskforce created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) called the Children's Environmental Health Protection Advisory Committee.  Regrettably, I have not been able to attend the meetings, but have been ably represented by Dr. Martha Bergren, a staff member of the National Association of Schools Nurses and HSC board member.  I have, however, followed the extensive memos and background information sent to committee members. 

This is my first appointment to this type of committee and, while honored, I was not sure how much impact we would really have.  I certainly did not want to participate on a committee that served to rubber stamp or give credibility to an administration that has done little to protect the environment and little to recognize that regulations need to take into account the fact that children are more vulnerable to environmental exposures.
 
I was very disappointed to read the recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that found the “EPA has not proactively used the Advisory Committee to ensure that the agency’s regulations, guidance and policies address the disproportionate risks that environmental contaminants pose to children.”  
 
The report goes on to document the fact that since EPA officials only asked the Committee for their input three times, the Committee took the initiative to write more than 70 letters to the Administration. It was disappointing to learn that the EPA has “largely disregarded the key recommendations from” the committee.   
 
The role of the Advisory Committee is critical because the Bush administration let the President’s Task Force on Children’s Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks expire in 2005, eliminating any high-level infrastructure or mandate to coordinate federal strategies for children’s environmental health and safety.

As a new president takes office this month, I am hopeful that Obama's administration and the EPA will make it a priority to protect children from environmental health risks.

If you are interested in learning more, you can read the full GAO report [pdf].