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White House Stalls Critical EPA Report Highlighting Chemical Dangers to Children

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A landmark Environmental Protection Agency report concluding that children exposed to toxic substances can develop learning disabilities, asthma and other health problems has been sidetracked indefinitely amid fierce opposition from the chemical industry.

America's Children and the Environment, Third Edition, is a sobering analysis of the way in which pollutants build up in children's developing bodies and the damage they can inflict. 

The report is unpublished, but was posted on EPA's website in draft form in March 2011, marked "Do not Quote or Cite."  The report, which is fiercely contested by the chemical industry, was referred to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), where it still languishes.

For the first time since the ACE series began in 2000, the draft cites extensive research linking common chemical pollutants to brain damage and nervous system disorders in fetuses and children.  It also raises troubling questions about the degree to which children are exposed to hazardous chemicals in air, drinking water and food, as well exposures in their indoor environments - including schools and day-care centers - and through contaminated lands.

In the making since 2008, the ACE report is based on peer-reviewed research and databases from federal agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, Housing and Urban Development and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Public health officials view it as a source of one-stop shopping for the best information on what children and women of childbearing age are exposed to, how much of it remains in their bodies and what the health effects might be. Among the "health outcomes" listed as related to environmental exposures are childhood cancer, obesity, neurological disorders, respiratory problems and low birth weight. 

The  EPA's website still notes that the report will be published by the end of 2011.  But after a public comment period that was marked by unusually harsh criticism from industry, additional peer review and input from other agencies, the report landed at OMB last March, where it has remained. No federal rule requires the OMB to review such a report before publication, but an EPA spokeswoman said the EPA referred it to the OMB because its impact cuts across several federal agencies.


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