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  • Allison Stalker

Children’s Health and the Environment

Updated: Aug 30, 2023

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report on January 25, 2013 entitled “America’s Children and the Environment, Third Edition”. This report has compiled information and data from a range of sources regarding the affects of the current environment on children’s health.

The report states three main objectives:

  • First, it compiles data from a variety of sources to present concrete, quantifiable indicators for key factors relevant to the environment and children’s health in the United States.

  • Second, it can inform discussions among policymakers and the public about how to improve data on children’s health and the environment.

  • Third, it includes indicators that can be used by policymakers and the public to track trends in children’s environmental health, and ultimately to help identify and evaluate ways to minimize environmental impacts on children.

“This latest report provides important information for protecting America’s most vulnerable – our children. It shows good progress on some issues, such as reducing children’s blood lead levels and exposure to tobacco smoke in the home, and points to the need for continued focus on other issues”, said Lisa P. Jackson, the EPA Administrator. “Although we are encouraged by these findings, there is still much work to be done. By monitoring trends, identifying successes, and shedding light on areas that need further evaluation, we can continue to improve the health of our children and all Americans.”

The report presents its findings in a number of categories including criteria air pollutants, hazardous air pollutants, indoor environments, drinking water contaminants, chemicals in food, contaminated lands, biomonitoring, respiratory diseases, childhood cancer, neurodevelopmental disorders, obesity, and adverse birth outcomes.

Some of the positive key findings include the following:

  • The median concentration of lead in the blood of children between the ages of 1 and 5 years was 92 percent lower in 2009-2010 compared to 1976-1980 levels. Although the majority of the decline occurred in the 1980s, consistent decreases have continued since 1999.

  • The median level of cotinine (a marker of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke) measured in blood of nonsmoking children ages 3 to 17 years was 88 percent lower in 2009-2010 than it was in 1988–1991. In 2010, 6 percent of children ages 0 to 6 years lived in homes where someone smoked regularly, compared with 27 percent in 1994.

  • The percentage of children living in counties where pollutant concentrations were above the levels of one or more national air quality standards declined from 75 percent to 59 percent from 1999 to 2009.

There were some negative findings as well. The percentage of children with asthma has increased from 8.7% in 2001 to 9.4% in 2010. Additionally, minority populations are specifically affected by asthma. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and preterm birth rates have also increased.

To read the full report, click here.



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