Presidential Task Force on Environmental Health and Safety Risks to Children

In April 1997, President Clinton issued Executive Oder 13045, establishing the President’s Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children. In 2010, the Obama Administration charged the Task Force with:

  • Identifying priority issues of environmental health and safety risks to children that are best addressed through interagency efforts
  • Developing strategies to protect children’s environmental health and safety
  • Recommending and implementing interagency actions
  • Communicating information to federal, state, and local decision makers for use in protecting children from environmental health and safety risks

The Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency co-chair the Task Force, which comprises representatives of 17 federal departments and White House offices. A senior staff steering committee coordinates interagency cooperation on Task Force priority areas. To date, these include: asthma disparities, healthy homes, chemical exposures, and climate change.

Asthma Disparities

In May 2012, the President’s Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children released the Coordinated Federal Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Asthma Disparities. The goal of the Action Plan is to reduce the burden of asthma in minority children and those with family incomes below the poverty level. The plan promotes synergy and alignment across numerous federal programs. It emphasizes priority actions to address preventable factors that lead to asthma disparities. The Action Plan is organized around four strategies:

  • Reduce barriers to the implementation of guidelines- based asthma management
  • Enhance capacity to deliver integrated, comprehensive asthma care to children in communities with racial and ethnic asthma disparities
  • Improve capacity to identify the children most impacted by asthma disparities
  • Accelerate efforts to identify and test interventions that may prevent the onset of asthma

Healthy Homes

Unhealthy and inadequate housing can disproportionately affect the health of children. In February 2013, the Federal Healthy Homes Work Group, under the guidance of the Task Force, released Advancing Healthy Housing – A Strategy for Action. The concept of a healthy home includes at least eight characteristics: dry, clean, pest-free, safe, contaminant-free, well ventilated, well maintained, and thermally controlled. The Strategy for Action aims to reduce the number of American homes with residential health and safety hazards by achieving five goals:

  • Establish healthy homes recommendations
  • Encourage adoption of healthy homes recommendations
  • Create and support training and workforce development to address health hazards in housing, including by building a cadre of trained experts to deliver healthy homes services such as weatherization and retrofitting
  • Educate the public about healthy homes
  • Support research that informs and advances healthy housing in a cost-effective manner

Chemical Exposures

Children are not just “small adults.” Myriad factors, such as differences in metabolism; amount of air they breathe; food they eat and water they drink relative to weight; and their still developing bodies may increase the susceptibility of children to negative health effects from exposure to toxic agents. The Senior Staff Steering Committee is a forum for discussion and collaboration on issues related to children’s toxic exposures including:

  • Childhood lead poisoning prevention and the health effects of low-level lead exposure
  • Effects of endocrine disruptors, such as Bisphenol A, on children’s health and development
  • Cumulative effects of exposures to phthalates on human reproduction and development
  • Needs for biomonitoring data on very young children

Climate Change

Children are uniquely vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Federal agencies engaging in climate change mitigation and adaptation need to understand how children may be exposed and affected by the plethora of human health threats posed by climate change, including: heat waves, extreme weather, disasters, air and water quality changes, vectorborne and zoonotic diseases, and food quality and security issues. The Task Force has begun to explore these issues through a newly established subcommittee on climate change.  Subcommittee activities include:

  • Convening an expert consultation on July 10, 2014 to address climate change and children’s health
  • Informing the Interagency Special Report on the Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States to ensure children’s health is addressed
  • Identifying the needs of children to inform climate change mitigation, adaption, and resilience strategies
  • Convening a federal community of practice around climate change impacts on children’s health

Task Force Members

  • Consumer Product Safety Commission
  • Department of Health and Human Services
  • Environmental  Protection Agency
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Labor
  • Department of Justice
  • Department of Energy
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Transportation
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Office of Management and Budget
  • Council on Environmental Quality
  • Assistant to the President for Economic Policy
  • Assistant to the President on Domestic Policy
  • Office of Science and Technology Policy
  • Council of Economic Advisors

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