Children's Environmental Health Program
Infants and children breathe more air, eat more food and drink more water per pound of body weight than adults, thus are exposed to relatively greater quantities of environmental pollutants. They are also more vulnerable to the health impacts of pesticide and toxic substances because their respiratory and immune systems are in developing stages.
To ensure that its programs remain vigilant in protecting this sensitive population subgroup, the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) has established and maintained an active Children’s Environmental Health Program to identify and protect California’s children from the harmful effects of environmental pollutants. The Office of the Secretary at Cal/EPA oversees and coordinates the research efforts, studies and remediation efforts relating to children’s environmental health that are currently being pursued by the Cal/EPA Boards, Departments and Office (BDOs). Collectively, these efforts have been proactively addressing concerns and issues about protecting children’s health, particularly from potential exposures in the school environment.
Biennial Report to the Governor and the Legislature
The Cal/EPA Children's Environmental Health Center is required to report biennially on the implementation of the Governor's Children's Health Initiative (embodied in Chapter 144, Statutes of 2000) and the Children's Environmental Health Protection Act (Chapter 731, Statutes of 1999). The biennial report covers the programmatic activities of Cal/EPA's Boards, Departments, and Office addressing the health issues of children in California.
Below are summaries of major activities in the biennial report:
Review of California Ambient Air Quality Standards
The Air Resources Board (ARB) lowered the annual average PM10 ambient air quality standard to 20 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3) and established an annual average PM2.5 ambient air quality standard at 12 μg/m3. The Board also adopted a new 8-hour average standard for ozone of 0.070 parts per million (ppm) in consideration of impacts to children and other vulnerable population subgroups. The new ozone standard is effective since May 17, 2006.
Evaluation of the Adequacy of California’s Air Monitoring Network
ARB conducted extensive monitoring at six school sites for fine particulates, ozone, carbon monoxide, and oxides of nitrogen. Results obtained by this effort generally indicate few exceedences of standards and were mostly similar to the results obtained at other monitoring locations in the general proximity of each respective study area. The evaluation led to a monitoring study for dioxins and a method for measuring acrolein, two known toxic chemicals.
Identification and Control of Toxic Air Contaminants
In its January, 2006 public hearing, ARB identified environmental tobacco (second-hand) smoke as a toxic air contaminant in consideration of its effects on asthmatic children and breast cancer in women. ARB staff has proposed eight airborne toxic control measures to reduce exposures to diesel emission particulates with several of these measures being adopted by ARB. In addition, staff has reviewed the need for new control measures for three other substances (acrolein, lead, and polycyclic organic matter) pursuant to the review. As a result of this review, the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) developed regulations to reduce acceptable levels of worker and public seasonal exposures to the fumigant methyl bromide.
Risk Assessment Methodologies
The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) initiated the development of guidance concerning early-life exposure to carcinogens and assessment of procedures that could better account for such exposures in assessing lifetime cancer risks. The proposed changes in the risk assessment methodology are expected to be available for public review in 2006.
Development of Children's Cancer Risk Assessment Guidelines
OEHHA also reviewed both the U.S. EPA Guidelines for Carcinogenic Risk Assessment and the Supplemental Guidance for Assessing Susceptibility from Early Life Exposure to Carcinogens. In addition, OEHHA proposed criteria for identifying carcinogens that might have greater impact if exposure occurs early in life. OEHHA staff continues to add information to the Age-Related Cancer Susceptibility (ARCS) database and has presented at a national risk and exposure conference their preliminary analysis of 41 studies contained in the ARCS database.
School Site Multimedia Exposure and Health Risk Assessment Guidance
OEHHA, in collaboration with the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) released a final report providing guidance for a multimedia, multi-pathway risk assessment for existing and proposed school sites.
Contaminants of Greatest Potential Health Concern at Schools
This activity identifies chemical contaminants commonly found at school sites determined to be of greatest concern based on criteria that identify child-specific exposure and child specific sensitivities. OEHHA has reported the rationale for health guidance values for five contaminants (cadmium, chlordane, heptachlor-heptachlor epoxide, methoxychlor, and nickel). OEHHA also held a public workshop regarding draft health guidance values for pentachlorophenol and manganese, provided a draft health guidance value for lead to external peer reviewers, and drafted guidance values for toluene, delta-methrin and atrazine.
Evaluating Toxic Substance Risks at School Properties
DTSC reviewed 607 school projects in the past two years and is currently developing the School Evaluation and Assessment Manual which provides a comprehensive approach for environmental evaluation of proposed new school sites or expansions. DTSC also completed a study regarding the background concentration of metals at several Los Angeles Unified School District school sites and completed an interim guidance for reducing the impacts of naturally occurring asbestos at school sites. Several other advisory documents related to the evaluation of subsurface vapor intrusion into indoor air, and methane assessment and mitigation measures were released to the public.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in California Schools
This pest management strategy focuses on long-term prevention or suppression of pests through a combination of techniques such as monitoring for pest presence and establishing treatment threshold levels using non-chemical practices. DPR continues to maintain and update its school IPM web site and conduct regional school IPM workshops. The department has provided to the schools and public IPM fact sheets for controlling common pests.
Environmental Health Conditions in California’s Portable Classrooms
A statewide study recently completed by ARB evaluated ventilation systems and maintenance practices, indoor air quality, and other physical environmental factors in portable and permanent classrooms in public schools. The investigators documented in a report the findings and advisories of inadequate air ventilation, excessive background noise, high levels of indoor formaldehyde, mold problems, and inadequate lighting.
Children’s School Bus Exposure Studies
ARB has sponsored a number of research studies on children’s exposures to pollutants from diesel-fueled vehicles during their commute to school on a school bus. A recently completed study concluded that there appears to be a few inexpensive, easy to implement and effective mitigation methods for owners and operators of school buses to eliminate the negative impacts of school bus self-pollution. The report recommended several methods to minimize the negative effects to children such as reducing the caravanning of school buses, raising the bus exhaust release location, and reducing children’s exposure to idling diesel engine emissions.
Cal/EPA’s Children’s Environmental Risk Reduction Plan
The Office of the Secretary provides the guidance to the Boards, Departments, and Office (BDOs) in developing new methods to reduce children’s environmental risk as part of the Cal/EPA’s overall efforts in addressing environmental justice issues through community projects. Cal/EPA hosted a series of workshops to present project goals, and timelines. The ARB, DPR, DTSC, and State Water Resources Control Board have been recently working with the local community groups to initiate a total of six 2-year pilot projects focused on reducing risks to children.
Vulnerable Populations Research Program
This program is designed to identify susceptible subpopulations, quantify the degree to which their health is compromised, and to characterize their exposures to air pollutants. Three projects are being conducted under the program including ARB’s Fresno Asthmatic Children’s Environment Study and a study of Traffic Related Air Pollution and Asthma in Economically Disadvantaged and High Traffic Density Neighborhoods in Los Angeles County, and OEHHA’s East Bay Children’s Respiratory Health Study. The East Bay study has shown a correlation between the proximity of a child’s school and home to major roadways and the incidence of asthma symptoms and chronic bronchitis.
Southern California Children’s Health Study
Sponsored by ARB, this has been a 10-year study of the health effects of children’s long-term exposures to Southern California’s high concentrations and unique mixtures of air pollutants. The recently-completed final report yielded many important results including a finding that a child’s history of a doctor’s diagnosis of asthma was found to be associated with nitrogen dioxide exposure and residential distance to a freeway. The study also found that significant decreases in lung function development at the age of 18 could be attributed to air pollutant exposure.
Last updated: October 16, 2008
California Environmental Protection Agency, http://www.calepa.ca.gov
General Public Contact, email@example.com (916) 323-2514