Protecting Children from Chemical Exposure: Social Work and U.S. Social Welfare Policy

By Rogge, Mary E.; Combs-Orme, Terri | Social Work, October 2003 | Go to article overview

Protecting Children from Chemical Exposure: Social Work and U.S. Social Welfare Policy


Rogge, Mary E., Combs-Orme, Terri, Social Work


Children in the United States are exposed daily to combinations of more than 70,000 to 75,000 chemicals in air, land, water, and food (Mott, 1996). Evidence suggests that those chemicals are instrumental in increasing rates of childhood asthma, leukemia and other diseases. Deaths from pollution-linked asthma (Dassen et al., 1986), and blood-lead levels are high enough to cause permanent neurological damage in 3 to 4 million children in the United States (Natural Resources Defense Council [NRDC], 1998). Despite life-changing--and largely preventable--consequences for children, the regulation of chemicals is rarely thought of as social welfare policy. Consequently, the social work profession is generally disengaged from practice-related knowledge and advocacy channels entailed by environmental legislation.

This article uses a policy research approach, with a focus on U.S. federal domestic policy, to provide a primer of the complex issues of children's exposure to chemicals in the environment. The problem has local and international dimensions. Although we discuss implications of chemical exposure for children for social work practice at subnational levels, an adequate discussion of international policy in this arena, including U.S. foreign policy, is beyond the scope of this article (see, however, Hoff & McNutt, 1994; Rogge, 1998). The article's focus on U.S. federal domestic policy illustrates the profound and broad influences that environmental legislation can have on children's well-being. And the vantage point of a national perspective positions social workers to mobilize more rapidly to advocate for improvement in local and state environmental policy or in U.S. foreign and other international policy, depending on the geopolitical communities and populations they serve.

The Social Work Imperative

Environmental organizations such as the Natural Resources Defense Council have taken important action to protect children's health from environmental threats, as have the legal and medical professions. Social work as a profession has largely been absent from the struggle to protect children from this serious threat (Rogge & Darkwa, 1996).

Social work has not always been uninvolved in such arenas, however. Since the inception of social work as a profession, its commitment to children has never been questioned (Bruno, 1948); one of the first manifestations of that commitment occurred through the leadership of the Children's Bureau in the early years of the 20th century (Combs-Orme, 1988). Indeed, innovative research conducted by the social workers in the Children's Bureau indicted crowded, unsanitary housing and contaminated milk as major contributors to infant mortality (Devine, 1909; Lathrop, 1919). Using this information, Children's Bureau social workers were instrumental in shaping successful policies to provide pure milk at reduced prices to poor families and to educate poor immigrants about pregnancy and the need for medical care during delivery (Combs-Orme, 1988).

Since that time, social work has been prominent in several movements to improve child health, including the Child Health Insurance Program, which provides health insurance for low-income children (Keigher, 1997). Indeed, enhancing the health of this country's children is the area in which lies the greatest potential--and greatest challenge--for social work's contribution to child well-being. Yet, health insurance can do little to address the kind of damage that can be inflicted by a poisoned environment.

The deplorable risk to children from chemical exposure is more so for its disproportionate burden on children of color, who more often live in communities characterized by low income, urban congestion, inadequate housing, poor home ventilation systems, poor air quality, and overcrowding. Wennette and Nieves (1992) found that 57 percent of white people, 65 percent of African Americans, and 80 percent of Hispanics live in counties that exceed at least one EPA air quality standard. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Protecting Children from Chemical Exposure: Social Work and U.S. Social Welfare Policy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.