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President's Task Force on Environmental Health and Safety Risks to Children

In April 1997, President Clinton issued Executive Order 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: climate change, asthma disparities, healthy homes, and chemical exposures.

Climate Change

Tell us your story! What policy or programs to protect children's health against the impacts of climate change are happening in your school, community, tribe or state?

The President's Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children is gathering examples of policy actions at the Federal, State, Local, and Tribal levels to highlight during Children's Health Month in October.

Any one is welcome to submit. Compelling stories will be featured on the Task Force website, highlighted during Children's Health Month, and shared widely to raise awareness and encourage others to protect children from climate change.

Stories should describe the policy action or program, identify key players, and include any other information you think significant.

All submissions must be made online at Policy Roundup.

Submissions should be no more than 500 words. You can also attach up to three photos, videos, or related materials (handout, training tool, app).

Fact Sheet:  White House Announces Actions to Protect Communities from the Health Impacts of 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

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

The purpose of the Chemical Exposures Subcommittee is to understand and predict lifelong disease and disabilities from changing chemical exposures to fetuses, infants and children. This subcommittee facilitates interagency coordination around priority chemical exposure issues, and is a vehicle for coordinating research activities and educating the public.  The Chemical Exposures subcommittee encourages cooperation and communication across the federal government on cross-agency chemicals of concern by:

  • Coordinating the generation of information needed by decision makers about existing chemical exposures
  • Coordinating the development of methods and models to enhance exposure assessment relevant to regulatory goals (e.g., product safety) through environmental monitoring, observational exposures studies, and biomonitoring
  • Promoting programs that encourage sustainable chemicals management (e.g.,  green chemistry), voluntary programs that promote the use of products containing low-toxicity/non-toxic chemicals, and integrated pest management programs that help promote the safe use of chemicals in settings where children are present
  • Coordinating among federal agencies to enhance communication related to chemical exposures raised by Congress, the White House or the public.

The activities and achievements of this subcommittee include:

  • Identified cross-agency biospecimen resources for potential additional measurements of children’s chemical exposures
  • Leads discussions on:
    • agency priority issues related to children’s chemical exposures
    • cross-agency data sources available on product formulations
    • updates concerning ongoing research activities on bisphenol A
    • health effects associated with children’s blood lead levels lower than 10 micrograms/dL
    • potential health effects in children exposed developmentally to phthalates.

 Subcommittee agency, stakeholder and external links include:

Subcommittee publications and other documents include:

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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