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History of Children's Environmental Health Protection at EPA

EPA Establishes Children's Environmental Health Agenda

In 1995, EPA released its Policy on Evaluating Risk to Children which directs the agency to explicitly and consistently take into account environmental health risks to infants and children in all risk characterizations and public health standards set for the United States. In October 2013, EPA reaffirmed its support of this important policy (PDF). Since the fall of the 1996, the Agency has followed a seven-step National Agenda to Protect Children's Health from Environmental Threats. In 2010, then-Administrator Lisa Jackson renewed EPA’s commitment to the Agenda and the importance of children’s health in a memo to staff (PDF). Most recently, in October 2018, EPA reaffirmed its support of this important policy.

This National Agenda calls for the Agency to:

  • Ensure that all standards set by EPA are protective of any heightened risks faced by children.
  • Develop a scientific research strategy focused on the gaps in knowledge regarding child-specific susceptibility and exposure to environmental pollutants.
  • Develop new, comprehensive policies to address cumulative and simultaneous exposures faced by children.
  • Expand community right-to-know allowing families to make informed choices concerning environmental exposures to their children.
  • Encourage parental responsibility for protecting their children from environmental health threats by providing them with basic information.
  • Encourage and expand educational efforts with health care providers and environmental professionals so they can identify, prevent, and reduce environmental health threats to children.
  • Provide the necessary funding to address children's environmental health as a top priority among relative health risks.

President Acts on Behalf of Children

On April 21, 1997, the president signed the Executive Order on the Protection of Children from Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks (PDF). This Executive Order requires all federal agencies to assign a high priority to addressing health and safety risks to children, coordinate research priorities on children's health, and ensure that their standards take into account special risks to children. The Executive Order created a President's Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children to implement the Executive Order.

International Attention to Children's Environmental Health

Later that same year, the environment leaders of the Group of Eight met in Miami, Florida and agreed to the Declaration on Children's Environmental HealthExit, affirming a commitment to continuously work for a safe and secure environment for children and highlighting seven areas for action, including climate change, risk assessment, air and water quality, and endocrine disrupting chemicals.

EPA Launches New Office

In May 1997, EPA established the Office of Children's Health Protection (OCHP) to support the Agency as it implements the president's Executive Order as well as the national Agenda to Protect Children's Health from Environmental Threats. The mission of OCHP is to make the environmental health protection of children a fundamental goal of public health and environmental protection in the United States and around the world. OCHP supports and facilitates Agency efforts to protect children's health from environmental threats.

EPA Takes Action

EPA has taken steps to fulfill the requirements of the National Agenda and Executive Order. Some of the more visible examples include certain updated air quality standards which will provide additional health protection for 35 million children, implementation of the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments, and the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act Amendments of the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act.