Join EPA in Observing Children’s Health Month
By Jeanne Briskin
Director of the Office of Children’s Health Protection
October is Children’s Health Month, a good reminder that children are often more vulnerable to pollutants than adults due to their differences in behavior and biology, which can lead to greater exposure and unique windows of susceptibility during development.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Children’s Health Protection (OCHP) leads the agency’s work regarding children’s environmental health and aims to ensure that all EPA actions and programs address the unique vulnerabilities of children.
OCHP works in a few key ways. OCHP scientists are in regular conversations with EPA’s other program offices to ensure that children’s unique vulnerabilities are considered and negative impacts to children are reduced in EPA’s policies, regulations, risk assessments, research and more. This coordination helps EPA meet the requirements of the 1997 Executive Order on the Protection of Children from Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks (PDF) (EO 13045) and EPA’s 1995 Policy on Evaluating Risks to Children, which requires the agency to take into account environmental health risks to children. These policies are complemented by specific requirements in several EPA regulations that direct the agency to further evaluate and protect children’s environmental health. Examples of these additional statutory requirements include:
- the Food Quality Protection Act
- the Safe Drinking Water Act,
- the Clean Air Act, and
- the Toxic Substances Control Act
OCHP also convenes stakeholders. The Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee (CHPAC), a body of external researchers, academics, and healthcare providers, provides advice related to children’s environmental health to EPA’s administrator. OCHP, along with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, co-chairs the President’s Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children, established by the 1997 EO to coordinate efforts across the federal government to understand and consider environmental risks to children’s health.
Along with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), EPA provides funding for Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSUs), a national network of specialists that provides training and resources for health professionals and the public in each of EPA’s 10 regions.
Over the last year, OCHP has established memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with two wide-reaching organizations – Zero to Three (ZTT) and the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA).
Did you know that an average newborn drinks 2.7 oz of breastmilk or formula per pound of body weight each day? For an average adult male, this is equivalent to a whopping 35 12-oz beverages daily! This means that a baby drinks a much larger amount of water (though formula) by body weight compared to an adult, so clean and safe drinking water is even more critical to their healthy development.1 ZTT will help OCHP reach their network of parents and care providers of young children to share information on early exposure to environmental hazards – many of which can have lifelong health effects.
Through EPA’s MOU with FCCLA, high school students will be able to learn about environmental health. Students will be challenged to create a project that implements practical strategies to reduce exposures and protect children’s environmental health in their communities.
These are just some of the ways OCHP helps to ensure that children’s environmental health is protected, all year long. Do you want to know more? Check out www.epa.gov/children or www.epa.gov/schools, leave a question on for OCHP here, or reach us on our Twitter account @EPA!
About the author: Jeanne Briskin is the Director of EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection (OCHP). Prior to joining OCHP, Jeanne served as the director of the Conflict Prevention and Resolution Center in the Office of General Counsel and has worked in many offices across EPA including Office of Air and Radiation, Office of Policy, Office of Research and Development, and Office of Water. Read more.
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