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Featured Resources are snapshots of reports, tools, websites, videos, training, apps, and other items developed by the Task Force and by federal departments and agencies that may be relevant to address children’s environmental health issues. Featured Resources also may include those whose development has been federally funded or supported, including significant engagement of federal agencies. The validity of the information in Featured Resources is the responsibility of the developing group, agency, or organization.
U.S. Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) house approximately 2 million residents, over a third of whom are children and adolescents, according to 2016 statistics. A rule from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which became effective on July 30, 2018, will protect children’s health and development from the effects of secondhand tobacco smoke. Secondhand smoke causes numerous health problems in infants and children, including more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, ear infections, and increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Smoking during pregnancy results in more than 1,000 infant deaths annually in the U.S. The HUD Smoke-Free Public Housing Regulation requires all PHAs to restrict smoking in low-income, conventional public housing buildings. The rule prohibits the use of all lit tobacco products and hookahs (water pipes) inside all public housing dwelling units, common areas, and PHA administrative offices, and in all areas within 25 feet of such buildings. HUD issued this regulation because of the detrimental effects of secondhand smoke exposure to nonsmokers, as well as the increased costs of turning over to a new tenant a unit where smoking had occurred and the risk of fires caused by residents’ smoking. Many PHAs had already enacted smoke-free housing policies before the regulation was issued, but they must now ensure that existing policies are compliant with the rule’s requirements. PHAs are free to expand the scope of their policies to include e-cigarettes, but these devices are not explicitly covered by the rule. The regulation does not require residents to quit smoking, but limits smoking to areas that are not covered by the rule. HUD has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Office of Smoking and Health to provide technical assistance to PHAs developing smoke-free policies, as well as assistance to residents in quitting smoking.
HUD’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes and Public and Indian Housing (PIH) websites provide resources for PHAs and other housing providers on best practices for implementing smoke-free housing policies. Some of HUD’s resources are also available in Spanish.
HUD Smoke-Free Public Housing and Multifamily Properties websiteHUD PIH Smoke-Free Public Housing websiteCDC’s Office of Smoking and Health
Even when early care and education (ECE) programs meet current state licensing regulations, they may be located in places where children and staff can be exposed to environmental contamination. For example, a new ECE program might inadvertently open in a chemically contaminated industrial building that was never cleaned up, or next door to a business using harmful chemicals. This can put children, who are more sensitive to the effects of chemicals, at risk of health problems. When these issues are discovered after exposures have happened, children may have negative health effects and the programs may be forced to shut down. Preventing problems, by ensuring that ECE programs are safely located, is vital to ensuring the health, economic, and social well-being of families that rely on them and people that staff them.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) created the Choose Safe Places for Early Care and Education program to encourage thoughtful consideration about where to locate ECE programs. It gives towns, cities, and states a framework to adopt practices that will make sure such programs are located away from chemical hazards.
As part of this program, ATSDR recently released online the Choose Safe Places for Early Care and Education (CSPECE) Guidance Manual, along with a suite of related tools and resources to help states and others learn how they can protect children where they learn and play. The Guidance Manual describes the environmental health implications of siting child care and early learning facilities, explains the elements of ensuring sites are safe, and offers tips and tools for health departments interested in building a child care safe siting program. This document, along with fact sheets, checklists, and other materials, is now available online and can be downloaded for free at the ATSDR website.
In 2017, ATSDR incorporated Choose Safe Places for Early Care and Education (CSPECE) as a key activity in its Partnership to Promote Local Efforts to Reduce Environmental Exposure (APPLETREE) Program, a cooperative agreement program that supports 25 state health departments. Funded states will implement programs to assess the current status of early care and education and environmental exposures in their state, develop partnerships with key stakeholders, implement policies and practices to ensure safe siting, and evaluate their chosen approaches.
Reducing lead exposure in children, particularly in minority and low-income children who often are disparately exposed, is a priority of the President’s Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children.
This report comprises the efforts of nine federal departments/agencies currently planned or underway to understand, prevent, and reduce various sources of lead exposure among children. Federal efforts include a wide range of activities such as research, surveillance, regulation, and enforcement, as well as community interventions and educational outreach. Most activities are integrated from the federal level to regional offices; state, local, and tribal governments; and community stakeholders so that the intended benefits can reach target populations such as pre-school and low-income children, and targeted audiences such as health educators, school officials, early care and education providers, industrial workers and renovation contractors.
In 2000, the Task Force published Eliminating Childhood Lead Poisoning: A Federal Strategy Targeting Lead Paint Hazards. The strategy put forward a set of recommendations aimed at eliminating childhood lead poisoning in the United States as a major public health problem by the year 2010. It focused primarily on expanding efforts to correct lead paint hazards (especially in low-income housing), a major source of lead exposure for children. Addressing lead exposures in the United States, however, requires consideration of sources of lead exposure in addition to lead paint including, among others, soil, food, drinking water, and consumer products.
This new report provides a starting point for the development of a comprehensive federal lead strategy that will inform policy makers about evidence gaps and steps needed to further reduce lead exposures in children in the United States. It also provides a basis for increased coordination and collaboration among multiple federal agencies that, as with previous progress on the issue of lead exposures, will be required to further protect the nation’s children.
Due to significant federal regulatory action, the United States has made tremendous progress in reducing lead exposure, resulting in lower childhood blood lead levels over time. From 1988 to 2014, the percentage of children aged 1–5 years with blood lead levels less than or equal to 5 micrograms per deciliter (≥5 μg/dL), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s current reference level for lead, declined from 25.6 percent to 1.9 percent. Blood lead levels fell dramatically for all racial and ethnic groups. Despite the continued decline of children’s blood lead levels, lead exposure remains a significant health concern for children.
Today, about 3.6 million U.S. families with a child under age 6 years live in a home with conditions that can expose children to dangerous levels of lead. There are approximately 500,000 children ages 1 to 5 years with blood lead levels higher than the CDC reference level. Lead exposure is not equal among all children—national data suggest minority children, children living in families below the poverty level, and children living in older housing have significantly higher risk for elevated blood lead levels. In 2007–2014, non-Hispanic black children aged 1–5 years (4.0 percent) were twice as likely as non-Hispanic white children (1.9 percent) and more than three times as likely as Mexican-American children (1.1 percent) to have elevated blood lead levels. No safe blood lead level in children has been identified.
The Children’s Health Exposure Analysis Resource, or CHEAR, is a program funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to advance understanding about how the environment impacts children’s health and development. CHEAR provides children’s health researchers access to laboratory analysis of environmental exposures and data analysis consultation at no cost to the investigator.
CHEAR is designed to expand the range of environmental exposures assessed in NIH-funded children’s health studies, including:
An investigator who is conducting an NIH-funded epidemiological study of environmental influences on childhood asthma might take advantage of CHEAR’s resources to add additional exposure variables to her study or to refine her exposure assessment. For example, she may have used environmental proxies for exposure assessment, such as proximity to a major road; with CHEAR, she could refine her exposure assessment by characterizing specific biomarkers of particulate matter exposure in the urine of her participants.
An investigator who is conducting NIH-funded clinical research on childhood obesity and diabetes, but who has not previously included environmental exposures in his research, might work closely with CHEAR to expand his investigations to include a new environmental emphasis.
Researchers are now invited to begin requesting use of the resource.