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EPA is committed to considering risks to children in developing standards to protect human health and the environment. This commitment is reflected in:
- Rulemaking Guidance
- Transparency in Regulatory Development
- Development of Rules and Actions
EPA has developed a regulatory action development guidance entitled Guide to Considering Children's Health When Developing EPA Actions: Implementing Executive Order 13045 and EPA's Policy on Evaluating Health Risks to Children. This Guide is designed to help Agency staff involved in developing regulatory actions determine whether Executive Order 13045 Protection of Children from Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks and/or EPA's Policy on Evaluating Health Risks to Children (Children's Health Policy) applies to an Agency action and, if so, how to implement the Executive Order and/or EPA's Policy. EO 13045 requires that each Federal agency: "(a) shall make it a high priority to identify and assess environmental health risks and safety risks that may disproportionately affect children; and (b) shall ensure that its policies, programs, activities, and standards address disproportionate risks to children that result from environmental health risks or safety risks." In addition, the Children's Health Policy requires EPA "to consider the risks to infants and children consistently and explicitly as a part of risk assessments generated during its decision making process, including the setting of standards to protect public health and the environment." Since the issuance of the first EPA's Rule Writer's Guide to Executive Order 13045 in 1998, EPA has published several guidance documents relating to risk assessment, regulatory policy and action development. The Guide has been revised to reflect these developments. In addition, this Guide more clearly integrates EPA's Policy on Children's Health with the Action Development Process, and provides an updated listing of additional guidance documents.
EPA typically prepares an Analytic Blueprint when developing rules, policies, and other actions. An Analytic Blueprint describes the Agency's plans for data collection and analyses to support developing the action. To ensure that children's health is properly considered, the Guidelines identify the need for analyses related to children's health including determining whether the action may disproportionately affect children, assessing risks to children, and analyzing the distribution of the costs and benefits. For more information on how EPA writes regulations and the EPA regulatory management process, see The Basics of the Regulatory Process.
EPA developed a Children's Health Valuation Handbook (October 2003) as a reference tool for analysts conducting economic analyses of EPA regulations and policies that may affect risks to children's health. This handbook focuses on valuing changes in risks to children's health caused by environmental improvement or degradation. It addresses incorporating children's health considerations in efficiency assessments and distributional analyses.
Transparency in Regulatory Development
On April 14, 2008, EPA announced that it is making Federal environmental regulation more transparent by providing online information as soon as the agency begins the development of a new rule.
EPA is now using Action Initiation Lists (AILs) to notify the public about new rules and other regulatory actions. The AILs provide summaries, agency contacts, and other information about the rules EPA has approved for development. AILs will be posted on the EPA Web site at roughly the end of each month; each will describe those actions that were approved for commencement during the given month. Formerly, the public had to wait for EPA's Semiannual Regulatory Agenda, which is updated only every six months, to learn about new regulatory actions. Learn more about EPA's Action Initiation Lists.
Development of Rules and Actions
Regulatory Actions are one of the major ways that EPA can protect children from environmental health hazards. Executive Order 13045, signed in 1997 by President Clinton, directs the EPA and other federal agencies to “make it a high priority to identify and assess environmental health risks and safety risks that may disproportionately affect children” and “ensure that its policies, programs, activities, and standards address disproportionate risks to children that result from environmental health risks or safety risks”. Therefore, under this directive, the EPA considers potential impacts for adverse effects on children in its rulemakings. Children have many unique susceptibilities to environmental contaminants. Because of differences in breathing patterns, food and water consumption, activity patterns, and inherent physiological and developmental differences depending on life stage, children may experience greater health effects from environmental risks than adults.
Breathing: Children breathe more than adults (per pound body weight and surface area of the respiratory tract). For example, a three month old infant breathes about 35 times more air than adults. Additionally, substantial lung development takes place after birth, primarily through adolescence.
Eating and drinking: Children consume more food and water than adults (per pound body weight). Young children often have higher intakes of certain food categories, and are more likely to have less variation in their diets. For example, infants consume approximately ten times more apples than adults. Breast milk is another important exposure pathway that is unique to infants and young children. Additionally, infants may consume a large volume of drinking water through infant formula that is reconstituted with tap water.
Activity patterns: Children are more likely to spend time outdoors than adults and are therefore more likely to be exposed to certain outdoor pollutants. Also, infants and toddlers are disproportionately exposed to many contaminants because they crawl and play on or near the floor or ground. Contaminants, such as lead and pesticides, often settle in floor dust where children can be exposed to them. Infants and toddlers also pass through a developmental stage characterized by oral exploration. They often touch or handle objects and then place their fingers or the objects into their mouths. As a result of this mouthing behavior, children can consume much higher levels of contaminated dirt and dust than adults.
Physiological differences: There are many physiological differences that can affect how environmental contaminants are absorbed, distributed, metabolized, and excreted from a child’s body. For example, children’s skin is more permeable and easily damaged. Children also retain ingested substances longer in the stomach and the small intestines, they have a more permeable blood-brain barrier, and they have greater cerebral blood flow.
Developmental differences: A child undergoes critical stages of development for each organ and system, where there is the potential for chemical exposures to disrupt growth patterns. For example, the nervous, reproductive and metabolic systems develop throughout childhood, and the respiratory system is fully developed between two and ten years of age, with growth continuing through adulthood.
The Office of Children’s Health Protection’s (OCHP) Regulatory Support and Science Policy Division (RSSPD) works to address the potential for unique exposures, hazards, health effects, and health risks in children during the development of agency regulations and policies. This page provides examples of some of the important regulations EPA is currently working on that are of interest to children’s health. A link for more information is included after each description.Air Regulations
Review of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone
Research has linked ozone exposure with a variety of health effects, including numerous respiratory symptoms in children. Children, especially asthmatic children, are highly susceptible to ozone. Children are more likely than adults to be active outside in the summer, when ozone levels are highest. Also, children are susceptible to ozone air pollution because they breathe proportionally more air than adults, their respiratory systems are still developing, and they have greater asthma prevalence than adults.
Review of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Nitrogen Dioxide
Research has shown that exposures to nitrogen dioxide are linked with a variety of respiratory effects, including respiratory symptoms in children, particularly those with asthma. Infants and children may be more susceptible than adults because their lungs are still developing, they have greater prevalence of asthma, they have higher breathing rates per body weight, and participate in higher exposure activities, including outdoor play.
Review of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Sulfur Dioxide
Current scientific evidence links short-term exposures to SO2, with an array of adverse respiratory effects including bronchoconstriction and increased asthma symptoms. These effects are particularly important for asthmatics at elevated ventilation rates (e.g., while exercising or playing). Studies also show a connection between short-term exposure and increased visits to emergency departments and hospital admissions for respiratory illnesses, particularly in at-risk lifestages such as children.
Review of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Lead
Lead harms the nervous systems of infants and children, causing effects on IQ, learning abilities, and contributing to behavioral problems. Lead exposure also impairs normal growth, and affects the immune and other systems. Lead that is emitted into the air can be inhaled or, after it settles out of the air, can be ingested. Ingestion of lead that has settled onto surfaces is the main route of exposure to lead originally released into the air. Children are most vulnerable to the damaging effects of lead because they are more likely to ingest lead due to hand-to-mouth activity and their bodies are developing rapidly.
Endangerment Finding for Lead Emissions from Piston-Engine Aircraft Using Leaded Aviation Gasoline
Although removed from automobile gasoline by 1996, lead is still used in aviation gasoline for piston-engine powered aircraft and currently accounts for approximately half the lead emitted to air annually. EPA is evaluating lead emissions, ambient concentrations and potential exposure to lead from the use of leaded aviation gasoline in piston-engine powered aircraft. Lead harms the nervous systems of infants and children, causing effects on IQ, learning abilities, and contributing to behavioral problems. Lead exposure also impairs normal growth, and affects the immune and other systems.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles
The changes in temperature, precipitation, sea level, and weather patterns now taking place because greenhouse gas, or carbon, emissions are likely to have unique effects on the health of children. Children, particularly young children, are more vulnerable than others to heat waves, extreme weather events, declining air quality, and climate-sensitive diseases, and therefore will see more impacts due to climate change. Heavy-duty trucks account for only 4 percent of the vehicles on roads but approximately 20 percent of transportation sector carbon emissions. Reducing medium- and heavy-duty engines’ and vehicles’ carbon emissions may help reduce the severity or likelihood of the impacts of climate change.Water Regulations
National Primary Drinking Water Regulations for Lead and Copper: Regulatory Revisions
Children can be exposed to lead and copper via drinking water, as the metals leach from plumbing materials. Short-term exposure to copper may cause health problems such as gastrointestinal distress and long-term exposure may lead to liver or kidney damage. Lead harms the nervous systems of infants and children, causing effects on IQ, learning abilities, and contributing to behavioral problems. Lead exposure also impairs normal growth, and affects the immune and other systems. Drinking water contaminants such as lead and copper are a concern for children because they absorb lead and copper at higher rates than adults, and they consume more water than adults, especially infants whose formula is made with tap water.
Drinking Water: Regulatory Determinations for Contaminants on the Third Drinking Water Contaminant Candidate List
The Safe Drinking Water Act requires the consideration of sensitive lifestages, like children, in the regulatory determination process for national drinking water standards. Drinking water contaminants may have adverse health effects associated with exposures for a specific developmental group or period of sensitivity. Drinking water contaminants are a concern for children because they consume more water than adults, especially infants whose formula is made with tap water. In addition, the 2005 Cancer Guidelines require consideration related to increased risks from mutagenic carcinogens due to early childhood exposure.
National Primary Drinking Water Regulations: Regulation of Perchlorate
EPA has initiated the process to develop a national primary drinking water regulation (NPDWR) for perchlorate. An NPDWR will establish a legal limit on the level of perchlorate in drinking water. The legal limit will reflect both the level that protects human health and the level that water systems can achieve using the best available technology. The National Academy of Sciences identified "the fetuses of pregnant women who might have hypothyroidism or iodide deficiency" as "most sensitive" but also identified infants and developing children as additional “sensitive” lifestages. Infants and young children have greater exposure to contaminants in food and water because of greater consumption of food and water on a per unit body weight basis, especially infants whose formula is made with tap water. Therefore, these lifestages may be the most vulnerable when their relative exposure is considered.
National Primary Drinking Water Regulations: Group Regulations of Carcinogenic Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Early-life exposure to carcinogenic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) may increase the risk of developing cancer later in life. Carcinogenic VOCs in drinking water are a particular concern for children because they consume more water than adults per unit body weight, especially infants whose formula is reconstituted with tap water. Exposures to certain carcinogenic VOCs may also lead to other adverse noncancer health effects such as reproductive and developmental effects. In addition, the 2005 Cancer Guidelines require consideration related to increased risks from mutagenic carcinogens due to early childhood exposure.
Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule
EPA uses the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR) to collect data on contaminants suspected to be present in drinking water, but that do not have health-based standards set under the Safe Drinking Water act (SDWA). Every five years EPA revises the list of contaminants, largely based on the Contaminant Candidate List, and collects occurrence data on a new list of contaminants. These contaminants may be a concern for children because they consume more water than adults, especially infants whose formula is made with tap water. They may also have adverse health effects associated with exposure for a specific developmental groups or periods of sensitivity.Chemical Safety Regulations
Lead; Renovation, Repair, and Painting Program for Public and Commercial Buildings
Lead harms the nervous systems of infants and children, causing effects on IQ, learning abilities, and contributing to behavioral problems. Lead exposure also impairs normal growth, and affects the immune and other systems. Common renovation activities on public and commercial buildings may result in the deposition of lead dust and paint chips on interior surfaces and nearby properties such as housing and day care centers. This may result in lead-based paint dust exposure to children both outside and inside such facilities. Lead dust and paint chips may be accidentally ingested via common childhood behaviors such as hand-to-mouth activities.
Lead Wheel Weights; Regulatory Investigation
Lead harms the nervous systems of infants and children, causing effects on IQ, learning abilities, and contributing to behavioral problems. Lead exposure also impairs normal growth, and affects the immune and other systems. Lead wheel weights are sometimes lost in the environment where children can be exposed.
Lead; Residential Lead Dust Hazard Standards (TSCA Sec 403)
Lead was used for many years in products found in and around our homes, and is still found in some products. Older homes may contain lead-based paint which can create lead paint chips and lead dust. Lead harms the nervous systems of infants and children, causing effects on IQ, learning abilities, and contributing to behavioral problems. Lead exposure also impairs normal growth, and affects the immune and other systems. Lead exposure can be increased because babies and young children often put their hands and other objects that can have lead dust on them in their mouths. Also, children’s growing bodies absorb more lead than adult bodies do, and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.
Hazard Standards for Lead in Paint, Dust and Soil (TSCA Section 403)
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs); Reassessment of Use Authorizations
Exposure to PCBs during pregnancy and childhood is of great concern because the effects of PCBs on sensitive immature tissues, organs, and systems, can have serious long-lasting consequences. PCBs have been linked to various health outcomes such as decreased gestational age at birth, lower birth weight, depressed immune responses, impaired mental development, and growth retardation. Nursing infants may have especially high exposures as PCBs are lipophilic substances, and can accumulate in breast milk.
Pesticides; Agricultural Worker Protection Standard Revisions
The Agency is considering revisions to this rule to reduce potential pesticide exposures and improve health protections for agricultural workers and for children who live, play or work on or near covered agricultural establishments.
Pesticides; Certification and Training Revision
The Agency is considering changes to the federal regulation governing the certification of pesticide applicators using restricted use products. The proposals are intended to improve the competency of such pesticide applicators. More competent applicators will be better able to protect themselves, the public, and the environment from pesticide risks. The proposals are also intended to better protect children through establishing a minimum age for certified applicators to protect adolescents, and establishing requirements for additional training designed to protect families from pesticide exposure.
EPA Proposes Stronger Standards for People Applying Riskiest Pesticides
TSCA Section 6 Rule for Long-Chain Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFCs)
Long-chain PFCs are prevalent and persistent in the environment; they also bioaccumulate and can remain in people for years. Long-chain PFCs are a concern for children because studies in laboratory animals have demonstrated developmental toxicity, including neonatal mortality in laboratory animals. In addition, biomonitoring studies have found PFCs in cord blood and breast milk, and have reported that children have higher levels of some PFCs compared to adults.
Registration Review for Chlorpyrifos
Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate (OP) pesticide with registered uses primarily on food and feed crops. Several of the limited non-agricultural and non-residential uses are for golf course turf, wood products, greenhouse and nursery production, and as an adult mosquitocide. In 2000, all residential uses of chlorpyrifos were cancelled, except ant and roach bait station products in child resistant packaging. Chlorpyrifos is currently undergoing registration review, which is EPA’s process pursuant to Section 3(g) of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), where each registered pesticide is reviewed every 15 years to determine whether it continues to meet the FIFRA standard for registration. There is evidence that exposure to OP pesticides can affect the developing nervous system. Prenatal exposure in pregnant women and early postnatal exposure are particularly of concern as this is a vulnerable period for the developing nervous system. Behavioral patterns of young children, such as playing on the floor and putting objects in their mouth, also increase the chance of dermal or oral exposure.
Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act Implementing Regulation
This rule would implement the formaldehyde emission limits for composite wood panel producers established under TSCA Title VI. Children exposed to formaldehyde may experience sensory irritation, asthma exacerbation, and develop some types of cancer, depending on concentration and duration of exposure. Children are susceptible to formaldehyde emissions because they breathe more air than adults, their breathing zone is closer to composite wood products used in homes such as flooring, cabinets, and cribs, and their respiratory systems are still developing.
Formaldehyde; Third-Party Certification Framework for the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products
This rule would establish a framework for a third-party certification program to help producers in complying with the emissions standards (described above).