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EPA Issues Second Report on Treds in Protecting Children's Health --Shows Good News in Blood Lead Levels and Secondhand Smoke Exposure

Release Date: 02/24/2003
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CONTACT: 202-564-9828

(02/24/03) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christie Whitman today announced the release of “America’s Children and the Environment: Measures of Contaminants, Body Burdens, and Illnesses,” the Agency’s second report on trends in environmental factors related to the health and well-being of children in the United States.
Drawing on information from various sources, the report shows trends in environmental contaminant levels in air, water, food, and soil; concentrations of contaminants measured in the bodies of children and women; and childhood illnesses which may be influenced by exposure to environmental contaminants.

“Protecting children’s health is an integral part of EPA’s mission, and the Agency has taken great strides to improve the environment for children where they live, learn, and play,” said Whitman. “As we move forward, EPA is committed to monitoring the success of our children’s health efforts. The “America’s Children and the Environment” report, is based on the best available data and will help guide our future actions and measure progress. As our data and methods improve, we will work to develop increasingly reliable children’s environmental health indicators that help us reach our children’s health goals.”

EPA’s report data help identify, track and evaluate potential environmental impacts on children’s health. Ultimately these measurements will help guide our efforts to minimize environmental impacts on the nation’s children and also will inform discussions among policymakers and the public about how to improve federal data.

The “America’s Children and the Environment” report contains good news for children including the continued decline in the number of children with elevated blood lead levels and a reduction in children’s exposure to secondhand smoke. Despite these findings, issues of concern remain. The report includes the following highlights:
    • Removing lead from gasoline proved to be one of the more important public health interventions for children since EPA’s creation. Through the late 1990s, EPA continued to see a decrease in the blood lead concentrations of children primarily due to the phase-out of lead in paint.
    • There has been a decrease in the children’s exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, as indicated through
    direct measurements of markers for exposure in children’s blood and through surveys of smoking habits in
    children’s homes.
    • There have been modest decreases in children’s exposures to excessive levels of air pollution and contaminants
    in drinking water.
    • EPA remains concerned about children potentially exposed to mercury in the womb. About 8 percent of
    women of childbearing age in the United States have concentrations of mercury in their body at levels of
    potential concern. This is the first time that CDC reported information about mercury in women of
    child-bearing age, thus providing a snapshot of information about blood mercury levels for this report. As a
    result, it is not known if the levels have gone up or down from the past and the Agency plans to report trends in
    future reports. To reduce mercury releases, EPA has adopted a multi-media integrated approach. This
    includes reducing air emissions, limiting discharges to water, removing mercury from batteries and paint, and
    developing mercury emission control technologies. These efforts also include, under the Clean Air Act, cutting
    emissions by over 90 percent from two of the three largest categories of sources, municipal waste combustion
    and medical waste incineration. EPA is also very active internationally in efforts to reduce emissions and use of
    mercury. To do so, the United States is working with Mexico and Canada, as well as the United Nations
    Environmental Program.
    • In 2001, 9 percent of all children in the United States had asthma (6.3 million children) and about 6 percent of
    all children had experienced an asthma attack in the previous 12 months.

EPA continues its efforts to reduce emissions of diesel pollutants from trucks and buses, which helps prevent hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks in children each year. EPA also continues to take preventive action, such as our work with the industry to ensure playground equipment is no longer made with arsenic-containing preservative wood. Under the President’s Clear Skies proposal, EPA also will work to reduce asthma attacks and respiratory infections. Clear Skies would dramatically reduce power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury emissions.

The full report on “America’s Children and the Environment” is available at: