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Daily News Archive

EPA Report Cites Better Health in Children as Environmental Quality Improves
(from March 3, 2003)

On February 24, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the second edition of America's Children and the Environment: Measures of Contaminants, Body Burdens, and Illnesses (http://www.epa.gov/envirohealth/children/ace_2003.pdf), the agency's second report on trends in environmental factors related to the health and well-being of children in the United States. The report concludes that children's health has improved in areas where the government has taken aim at environmental hazards. The report is a follow up to the 2000 America's Children and the Environment (http://yosemite.epa.gov/ochp/ochpweb.nsf/content/index.htm) report.

The report is not all good news though. The findings raise questions that point to the need for new areas of study such as the connection of mercury contamination and childhood development. This area draws from information collected in the recently released Center for Disease Control's Second National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals (http://www.cdc.gov/exposurereport/).

Another important area of further study addressed in the report is the rising trend of childhood asthma, despite improvements in air quality. In 2001, nine percent of all children in the United States had asthma (6.3 million children) and about six percent of all children had experienced an asthma attack in the previous 12 months. These figures are leading scientist to investigate indoor air quality and immunizations as possible causes of this trend.

Included in the report are the results of a Minnesota study of pesticides in schools. The study found that some pesticides have been detected at indoor concentrations potentially hazardous to children weeks and months after application. Forty percent of the responding custodians reported that their schools provided no notification of pesticide use, such as notices in fumigated areas or pre- and post-application letters to students and teachers. The indoor pesticides reported as the most commonly used were Saga WP, Demand CS, Tempo WP (all pyrethroids), and Borid.

On a brighter note, the study reports that lead levels in children have dropped significantly in the last 30 years. An estimated 300,000 to 400,000 children ages 1 to 5 have alarming levels of lead in their blood, compared with 890,000 in the last study by the disease centers. But even this news is not all good since these cases are the most difficult to eliminate as they occur disproportionately among poor and minority children.

More information on pesticides in schools including publications can be found on the Beyond Pesticides website.