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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.
In May 2021, federal agencies, along with academic and community partners, convened a workshop to explore Children's Health and Wildfire Smoke Exposure. The meeting explored explore issues related to children’s health and school activity guidelines, air quality sensors, indoor air in schools, and mask wearing. Participants identified the current best evidence and public health messaging recommendations on this issue.
This recommendations document can be found on the AirNow website, along with a Workshop Summary that includes additional insights on research needs, mental health, and tribal perspectives.
Summertime brings great opportunities for children to spend healthy time outdoors being active and having fun, but there are also certain environmental health risks that are increased during the summer months. May 23-29, 2021 is Health and Safe Swimming Week. The Task Force has a number of resources for parents and others to help ensure that children stay safe while spending additional time in swimming pools and other bodies of water during the summer months. Similarly, warmer weather provides more time for children to be outdoors, but extreme heat can pose a serious risk to children while playing, particularly children athletes. National Heat Safety Awareness Day is May 31, 2021. The Task Force website provides resources aimed at protecting children’s health from extreme heat.
Many young children spend a significant amount of time in early care and education (ECE) facilities, and in most states, licensing requirements of these facilities do not consider environmental exposures. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) created the Choose Safe Places for Early Care and Education (CSPECE) program to help towns, cities, and states adopt practices that will make sure ECEs are located away from chemical hazards. ATSDR has released its first CSPECE Story Map. From 2017-2019, returning states worked on developing and piloting new interventions. This story map tracks and highlights the progress and successes of these unique programs, while providing a comprehensive summary of the CSPECE activities completed throughout the three years.
In 2017, ATSDR’s Partnership to Promote Local Efforts to Reduce Environmental Exposure (APPLETREE) Cooperative Agreement Program expanded its scope to protect the health of children where they learn and play. This led to incorporating CSPECE as a key activity in APPLETREE. ATSDR’s 28 APPLETREE states will use 2020-2023 fiscal year funding to build their capacity to evaluate and respond to environmental public health issues. Returning states will enhance or expand their programs to full- scale implementation and plan for long-term sustainability.
The Lead Awareness in Indian Country: Keeping our Children Healthy! curriculum is a series of four modules.
These modules include lesson plans, worksheets, key messages, presentation slides, and kids activity sheets that community leaders and other instructors can use to improve public awareness of the dangers associated with lead exposure and promote preventative actions.
The Wildfire Smoke Guide for Public Health Officials, released August 22, includes information on protecting children from exposure to wildfire smoke.
An accompanying fact sheet explains the ways in which children are vulnerable to smoke and ash exposure.
The guide was produced through an interagency collaboration of the California Air Resources Board; California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; U.S. Forest Service; and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The Federal Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposures and Associated Health Impacts (Action Plan) is a blueprint for reducing lead exposure through collaboration among federal agencies and with a range of stakeholders, including states, tribes and local communities, along with businesses, property owners and parents.
The Action Plan will help federal agencies work strategically and collaboratively to reduce exposure to lead and improve children’s health. The Action Plan is the product of the President’s Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children (Task Force), the focal point for federal collaboration to promote and protect children’s environmental health.
Lead Action Plan (8MB)
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.