“Hearing on Promoting and Improving Children’s Health Protections."
Tuesday, September 29, 2009, 9:30 a.m.
As a father and grandfather, protecting the health of children, born and unborn, is a personal priority. I believe the best way to protect children’s health is to use the best available science to properly assess risk. Moreover, in addition to valuing and protecting pregnant women, the science should specifically value and protect the well-being of unborn children.
Current science reflects that, in some cases, children can be more susceptible, in other cases less susceptible, and in some cases equally susceptible, to environmental exposures when compared to adults. On a body weight basis, children can have greater exposure than adults. EPA takes this susceptibility to exposure differential into account when EPA assesses potential risks to children.
Despite what some allege, children are not always at greater risk from carcinogenic compounds than adults. In some instances, children can have a greater susceptibility, but, in other instances, they are much more resistant. EPA's current risk assessment methods are highly protective and are designed to protect all individuals, including children and other subpopulations, over their entire lifespan.
As we hear from the witnesses today, it is also important to understand that the major threats to children are not based on environmental exposures. Rather, most threats to children are a function of behavior and lifestyle, and are largely preventable:
- Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control show that unintentional injuries - nearly half of which are motor vehicle accidents - continue to be the leading cause of death for children aged 1-14. Nearly all of these accidents are preventable.
- CDC statistics show that, for children under 1 year of age, the number of deaths has decreased by nearly 40% since 1980. The leading cause of death in children under 1 year continues to be congenital abnormalities, and the proportion of deaths attributable to such conditions has remained constant at about 20% despite changes in environmental exposures. Other major factors in mortality of children under 1 year of age include disorders related to short gestation and low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome, and maternal factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and injury.
- In 2004, the National Institute of Medicine’s Board on Children, Youth, and Families noted that issues related to metabolic syndromes are increasing rapidly. For example, the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics recently noted that the proportion of children ages 6–17 who were overweight or obese tripled from 1976 to 2004.
I look forward to hearing perspectives on how the federal government can strengthen protections for children from environmental exposures. I also hope to hear from EPA and the researchers on what efforts are being made to specifically value and protect the health and well-being of unborn children.