On Friday, the EPA released the America’s Children and the Environment (ACE) Report. This is the third edition of the report. The first was released in 2000, and reported increasing numbers of children directly impacted by indoor environmental hazards such as lead, second hand smoke, and other pollutants. The second report came out just a few short years later and showed some improvements. This third edition shows significant improvements on those original numbers.
Lisa Jackson, Administrator of the EPA stated in the release of the ACE report “The report contains good news for children and families including significant improvements in the quality of the air we breathe, substantial decreases in childhood blood lead levels, and a steady reduction in children’s exposure to secondhand smoke. We are encouraged by these findings. We also know that there is still much work to be done, including further research on the causes of increases in asthma rates, the potential impacts of early life exposures to chemicals, and disease disparities in minority children and children in low-income families. America’s Children and the Environment will help focus our efforts in addressing these challenges and others.”
The EPA listed among the contaminants clearly linked to health conditions in children, key findings include:
• 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.
Lisa Jackson reviewed also some of the key elements of the EPA’s efforts to continue to keep the health and well being of children high on the priority list, including
“Finalizing the Mercury and Air-Toxics Standards Rule to limit mercury and other air toxics emissions from electric generating utilities. These new standards address the largest remaining domestic source of mercury emissions to the environment—a well known neurotoxin in children. The controls put in place by these standards will also avoid 130,000 asthma attacks every year—which disproportionately impact children especially in underserved communities.
Updating the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for fine-particle pollution (PM2.5) to improve public health protection. Exposure to PM2.5 can aggravate asthma and lead to other respiratory symptoms in children.
Establishment of new National Ambient Air-Quality Standards for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2), and a network of monitors to limit near roadway exposures to NO2. These new standards will limit respiratory-related emergency room visits and hospital admissions and will improve public health protection, especially for children, the elderly, and people with asthma.
Supporting cutting-edge research through the Centers for Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research, in partnership with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, to enhance scientific understanding of the relationships between environmental contaminants and children’s health.
Launching new voluntary guidelines that promote environmentally safe siting of schools and the establishment of school environmental health programs by states.
Working with other federal agencies to develop and implement the Coordinated Federal Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Asthma Disparities to reduce the disproportionate impact of asthma on minority and low-income children.”
The report with its positive results also highlights other key areas where improvement still needs to be made. The entire report is available for download on the EPA website, ACE Report. As the EPA moves forward on their expansion efforts of the lead program, and other indoor air quality standards, this report will be used as a guide in helping them make key decisions on environmental guidelines.