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G-8 Environment Ministerial Follow up Report from Miami Meeting EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner Leeds Castle, England

Remarks Prepared for Delivery to The G-8 Environment Ministerial Follow up Report from Miami Meeting
EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner
Leeds Castle, England

                         April 4, 1998

     Thank you, Mr. Prescott. I am delighted to have this opportunity to report to my colleagues here on the progress made since our last meeting in Miami.

     But first, let me start with a word of congratulations to all: Our countries worked hard -- through the nights -- to negotiate a climate change agreement in Kyoto last December -- and we can be proud of the part our discussions in Miami played in that process. I look forward to building on our work together and continuing our discussions later in this meeting -- and in the months to come.

     Indeed, we had a full agenda last year, with the UN Special Session about to take place in New York, preparations for Kyoto in full swing, and crimes against the environment a concern to us all.

     But we focused special attention on protecting our children by pledging to work together to create a world with a healthy environment as well as a thriving global economy -- the kind of world we all want our children, and their children, to inherit.

     In that spirit, we unanimously adopted our Declaration on Children's Environmental Health. And, most importantly, we put in place a plan of action to ensure we move toward our goal in a spirit of cooperation and partnership.

     Our leaders -- in Denver -- reaffirmed our work. They called for our countries to consider children in our science, in our assessments of the risk posed by environmental threats. They called on our governments to do a better job of exchanging information, providing safe drinking water, and working to reduce children's exposure to lead, environmental tobacco smoke, and other air pollutants.

     Now, a year later, we can point to strong progress on these fronts.  Let me take a minute to highlight the areas where we have taken strides together.

     Last year, we called for national policies to ensure environmental and public health protections take into account how children are exposed to -- and how they respond to -- environmental threats.  Since then, I am pleased to report that the OECD has taken action and distributed drafts of such policies to member countries for comments.

     In the U.S., President Clinton and Vice President Gore have made protecting children's health a top priority. They issued an Executive Order, calling on all federal agencies to ensure that our public health standards and regulations take into account children's special vulnerabilities. And we, at the Environmental Protection Agency, have committed to re-examine five existing standards to determine their impact on children's health.

     We're taking other measures in the U.S.: expanding research on children's unique responses to environmental threats, establishing five new federal research centers with the sole mission of protecting children's environmental health across the country -- and soon, we will start a pilot program that will help citizens and communities take action themselves so they can better protect their children.

     Our countries have worked this past year to fulfill another of our declaration's
recommendations to safeguard children: helping nations around the world protect their drinking water. At least four million children in less developed countries die every year from diarrheal diseases due to contaminated water.

     The Pan American Health Organization already has made progress, developing a regional plan for microbiologically safe drinking water in the Americas.  From scientists to international financing institutions, to governments -- many people had a hand in shaping this plan, which I consider a blueprint for regional cooperation on drinking water protection.

     The U.K., Canada, and the U.S. have worked together on studies of waterborne disease, and the U.S. and Russia are developing, in partnership, successful education programs and a financing plan to improve drinking water disinfection in Russia.

     Safe drinking water is of great concern to President Clinton. I am delighted to report that he has requested nearly $3 million for an initiative -- administered by EPA -- to provide technical assistance to help countries striving to provide their citizens safe, clean drinking water.

     I can also report strong progress on protecting children from lead. The OECD is assessing whether countries are implementing the OECD declaration on lead. And the U.S. and Russia have formed a partnership, to pool resources and develop a strategy to protect the Russian people -- especially the children -- from exposure to lead from gasoline and from paint.

     In the U.S. alone, more than 1 million children under the age of five suffer from lead poisoning. We have begun a country-wide education campaign, and we now require property owners to inform potential buyers and sellers of any lead paint hazards.

     We have similar concerns, in the U.S., about the health effects of environmental tobacco smoke. We estimate between 300,000 and 1 million children have asthma aggravated by tobacco smoke in their homes, which is also linked to lower a large number of respiratory tract infections in young people. As with lead, we are launching a nation-wide education campaign. And we have set a national goal to cut in half the number of households in which children under six are exposed to tobacco smoke by 2005.

     Last year in Miami, we all expressed concern over this issue and called for a scientific conference to better understand how environmental tobacco smoke effects our children. I am pleased to report that the World Health Organization is already organizing the conference -- and we have a target date: January of next year.

     Finally, our Declaration called on us to work together to learn more about endocrine disrupting chemicals. Right after our Miami meeting, representatives of EPA, the World Health Organization, and OECD met to explore the state of the science.  Since then, we're moving on a
number of fronts: a joint International Programme on Chemical Safety and OECD steering group to oversee this work, and a battery of OECD screening and testing guidelines for endocrine disrupting chemicals.

     Yes, we clearly have made impressive progress -- through our international organizations -- the World Health Organization, OECD, and others -- through cooperation with each other to share information, technology, research and programs -- and through our own initiatives.  

     But you and I know that our job is not done until we can ensure that the world we pass on to our children is safe, healthy, clean, and economically vibrant.  This is the task we set for ourselves last year, and we must not rest until the job is finished, until all our children and their children and the generations to come have the opportunity to grow up with water that is safe to drink, homes free from contamination, air that is pure, and an environment free from dangerous chemicals. The people of this world deserve no less.

     I look forward to hearing your perspectives, your updates on progress we've made -- and ideas on how we can continue to work together in the months and years to come.

     Thank you.