Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Full Committee Hearing entitled, "Hearing on the Government Accountability Office's Investigation of EPA's Efforts to Protect Children's Health."
Wednesday, March 17, 2010, 10:30 a.m.
I am a father and grandfather so, obviously, protecting the health of children, born and unborn, is a personal priority. The best way to protect children's health is to use the best available science to properly assess risk. In some cases, children can be more susceptible, in other cases less susceptible, and in many cases equally susceptible, to environmental exposures when compared to adults. On a body weight basis, children can have greater exposure than adults, but not always. EPA takes these susceptibility differentials into account when assessing potential risks to children.
This follow-up GAO investigation into efforts to protect children's health suggests to us, among other things, that the Agency has not fully used the Office of Children's Health Protection and has not prioritized children's health considerations in light of advisory recommendations.
However, what the report does not fully address is the fact that EPA must always balance recommendations on children's health with objective scientific standards, legal requirements, and practical realities. For instance, we have been told that EPA should incorporate more of the recommendations of children's health advisory groups into agency actions. But, advisory groups do not have to base their recommendations on risk: they can base their opinion on the use of precaution. They do not have to balance economic impacts and resource limitations: federal agencies do. And, advisory groups almost never address whether the federal government should be or actually is authorized to regulate all issues suggested by their recommendations.
So, while EPA always takes advisory recommendations very seriously, the Agency must independently review advisory findings and balance these opinions with the other factors that direct rulemaking and guide policy management.
Elements of GAO's report are instructive, and I look forward to hearing more. I especially agree with the report's favorable view of the National Children's Study. The National Children's Study will fortify the government's commitment to the health and well-being of children-bringing together the top experts on children's health and the environment. The Study is the largest long-term study of environmental and genetic influences on children's health ever conducted in the United States. It will follow 100,000 children from before birth to age 21. Researchers will better understand how children's interactions with their environments affect their health and development.
But, in contrast to what some of the witnesses will say today, I do not believe that EPA needs additional congressional authority to specifically protect children's health. Rather, I believe that EPA has the existing authority and processes in place to build upon ongoing federal efforts to properly protect children's health. That said, I look forward to hearing your perspectives and welcome you to the Committee.