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Working for Children’s Health and Environmental Justice

2010 July 12

I started my career at EPA as one of the first health scientists in the Superfund program in EPA’s Region 2 office in New York. In the regional Superfund program, we often met with communities impacted by Superfund sites. One of the questions that was most often asked was “Are my children safe?”

There are many things in everyday life that are important for protecting children’s environmental health. The air they breathe, the water they drink, the food they eat, and the places where they live, learn and play, all affect the health of children. Over the past two decades research has demonstrated many ways that children are different from adults in how they are affected by their environment. For EPA, this means that all of the actions we take to protect human health must be informed by the fact that children are not just little adults; we need to consider that early life exposures can cause lifelong disease and disability.

Often, the children that are most at risk are those that live in low income communities and communities of color that are overburdened by environmental pollution. These communities face a larger proportion of environmental hazards and, often, do not have the resources or capacity to ensure that community members, especially the most vulnerable members like children, are protected from these hazards (see Lisa Garcia’s post, Becoming an Environmental Justice Advocate). We know that there are disparities in exposures and health outcomes, such as elevated blood lead levels and respiratory diseases, in low-income and minority children. These issues cannot be addressed by one or two offices in the Agency. They must be central in all the work that we do to protect human health.

By creating the cross-cutting strategy, “Working for Environmental Justice and Children’s Health,” we are not just highlighting the fact that children are uniquely vulnerable because of the stage of life that they’re in or that some communities are uniquely vulnerable because of the multiple environmental hazards they experience. We are incorporating these facts, and the data and research that support them, into the everyday business of EPA.

Tell us how you think EPA can best institutionalize working for Environmental Justice and Children’s Health? If we are successful, what do you think that success would look like?

About the author: Peter Grevatt is the Director of EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection and Environmental Education and the Senior Advisor to the Administrator on children’s environmental health.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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8 Responses leave one →
  1. ken beets permalink
    July 12, 2010

    Dear Peter: Most of what I have said falls on deaf ears, however I will not give up. The chlorine that is added to our drinking water is a killer! We have a system that we have offered for free to anyone who would like to try. We use no Chemicals and can purify all the water that passes through our system (at a much lower cost) and remove all impurities and de-scale at the same time up to 233 gpm at 1/2 the cost of our competition. Would you be that one person to try? Best of a future in your chosen field. Thanks Ken

  2. La Donna permalink
    July 12, 2010

    I think EPA can best institutionalize working for Environmental Justice and Children’s health by during community outreach and education in low-income. Teach the children and their parents how to be their own best advocates which will inspire the change that is needed in the communities of color. Partner with the schools to change the foods the children eat. Partner with the schools to include environmental education in the schools. Change can be effective and inspired by the people mose effected.

  3. armansyahardanis permalink
    July 12, 2010

    Excuse me, Mr. Grevatt. You just only to see American Children, and, OMG, your feeling is skeptics depend reality. Compared, please…, with our children here, thousands kilometers from your home. Different….
    In our city maybe not seeing, because The Health City Administration activating to build and to maintain the children, but different by in the village. Beside skills, performances, we need fun and infrastructures. I hope a hundred years later our children from the villages could play in NBA, meanwhile your children as a healthy consultants in our country.

  4. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    July 18, 2010

    The CDC has just wrapped up a project that covered several months of local community conversations on toxic chemical exposures. The results of these local meetings will go up to a federal CDC Panel on Toxic Chemical Exposures for a federal program that aims to limit people to exposures. A tool kit was created to aid the local discussions. Any group or organization could participate including informal groups of neighbogrs who just came together. A similar program would be one way EPA could reach out to disadvantaged communities. Outreach materials also need to be in the predominmant language used in each communihty as well as English, and be in alternate formats–large print, braile, American Sign Language, and websites need to be accessible to card readers. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  5. linda permalink
    July 23, 2010

    I can’t help but agree to your post. It is really the children who are essentially made to suffer the after-effects. It is through your this types of posts that we are made aware of the effects of waste to our community.

    Regards and I hope you succeed in your campaign.

  6. Alyssa Taylor permalink
    October 16, 2010

    Poor regions, where kids are the most at risk for these types of environmental hazards, tend to also have high rate of people moving in and out. This movement can lead to a lack of community and potentially a lack of respect for the environment in which they live. Therefore, developing programs where kids can participate and lead environmental initiatives may help create a sense of pride in their community.By doing this, not only will environmental issues within the area be addressed, but the youth involved in creating the changes will have a stronger desire to maintain these changes. Youth involvment may be the most sustainable way to address these issues.

  7. Justin permalink
    December 14, 2010

    I think Alyssa makes a very good point. Kids programs in lower income areas that would make them, not only educated in the environment, but participate in their own community can bring out adult leaders in that community to improve it as a whole. Not to mention, the youth are going to be the adults before we know it and it is essential to educate them on the importance of maintaining our environment and making it safe for their own children one day.

  8. Fadi permalink
    December 21, 2010

    I totally agree with your point. Let us raise our children into critical thinkers. They will be our future leaders.

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