Ten Years of Addressing Children's Health through Regulatory Policy at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Article excerpt

BACKGROUND: Executive Order (EO) 13045, Protection of Children From Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks, directs each federal agency to ensure that its policies, program, activities, and standards address disproportionate environmental health and safety risks to children.

OBJECTIVES: We reviewed regulatory actions published by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the Federal Register from April 1998 through December 2006 to evaluate applicability of EO 13045 to U.S. EPA actions and consideration of children's health issues in U.S. EPA rulemakings.

DISCUSSION: Although virtually all actions discussed EO 13045, fewer than two regulations per year, on average, were subject to the EO requirement to evaluate children's environmental health risks. Nonetheless, U.S. EPA considered children's environmental health in all actions addressing health or safety risks that may disproportionately affect children.

CONCLUSION: The EO does not apply to a broad enough set of regulatory actions to ensure protection of children's health and safety risks, largely because of the small number of rules that are economically significant. However, given the large number of regulations that consider children's health issues despite not being subject to the EO, other statutory requirements and agency policies reach a larger set of regulations to ensure protection of children's environmental health.

KEYWORDS: children's environmental health, EPA's policy on evaluating health risks to children, Executive Order 13045. Environ Health Perspect 116:1720-1724 (2008). doi:10.1289/ehp. 11390 available via http://dx.doi.org/[Online 30 September 2008]

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In 1997 President Clinton signed Executive Order (EO) 13045, Protection of Children from Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks (Clinton 1997). This order directs each federal agency to "make it a high priority to identify and assess environmental health risks and safety risks that may disproportionately affect children" and to "ensure that its policies, programs, activities, and standards address disproportionate risks to children that result from environmental health risks or safety risks" (Clinton 1997). That same year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created the Office of Children's Health Protection to support its implementation of the Executive Order and its National Agenda to Protect Children's Health from Environmental Threats (U.S. EPA 1996). Finally, U.S. EPA created the Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee (CHPAC) in 1997, which is an independent body that advises U.S. EPA on regulations, research, and communication issues relevant to children. These actions were taken in direct response to the growing body of scientific knowledge that demonstrated that children may suffer disproportionately from environmental health and safety risks [National Research Council (NRC) 1993, 1994]. Disproportionate risks to or impacts on children may occur when children are more sensitive to, are more likely to be exposed to, or are likely to be exposed to higher levels of a particular pollutant or agent being considered in the rulemaking than adults are (U.S. EPA 2006c).

Although EO 13045 has been pointed to as a model policy because it specifically addresses children and directs federal agencies to deliberately consider disproportionate risks to children (Fischer 2007), others say that the impact of EO has waned over the years (Carlson 2005; Spady 2006). The U.S. EPA recently marked the tenth anniversary of EO 13045, and CHPAC concluded that children's environmental health considerations are still not explicitly addressed in U.S. EPA decisions, policies, and programs and urged renewed commitment to EO 13045 (Johnson 2007; Marty 2007). In this article we review U.S. EPA regulatory actions to evaluate applicability of EO 13045 and consideration of children's health issues in U.S. EPA rulemakings.

Requirements to consider children's health in regulatory development at U. …