Children’s Environmental Health Agenda
Children are uniquely susceptible to toxic chemicals, and rising rates of childhood diseases and disorders of environmental origin tell a chilling tale: asthma has tripled, learning disabilities and related neurological disorders affect one in seven children, and autism has increased dramatically, affecting one child out of 88. Childhood cancer rates are steadily rising. The cost to New York State runs an estimated $4.35 billion each year. Action to reduce these diseases pays dividends and has positive ripple effects throughout society. The JustGreen Partnership supports a Children’s Environmental Health Agenda to turn the tide and protect the health of New York’s most vulnerable residents.
New York State’s Laws Must Protect Children’s Health
The Child Safe Products Act (S. 4614/A. 6328) Toxic chemicals have no business in children’s products like toys, clothing, or car seats. Yet product makers have reported more than 5,000 types of kids’ products that contain dangerous chemicals. New York must act to protect children’s health with a comprehensive approach, modeled after effective policies in other states and countries, and containing the following elements:
- Identify chemicals of high concern based on their inherent hazards;
- Create a priority list of chemicals of high concern found in children’s products;
- Require manufacturers to disclose use of priority chemicals in children’s products;
- Phase out those priority chemicals in children’s products;
- Participate in an interstate chemicals clearinghouse (IC2).
Green Schools New York (S. 5113/A. 3676) 98% of children are in school buildings for at least seven hours a day. Materials used to build and maintain these buildings often contain harmful chemicals. New York State needs to require all school construction in the state to meet the NY Collaborative for Healthy and High Performance Schools (NY-CHPS) standards, as has been required in New York City since 2005.
New York State’s Budget Must Protect Children’s Health
Interstate Chemicals Clearinghouse (IC2) To effectively and efficiently implement the Child Safe Products Act, New York contributes funds to and provides leadership in this collaborative effort among ten states to compile and share information about chemical hazard and use, as well as availability of safer alternatives. The IC2 needs its own line item in the Environmental Protection Fund budget, instead of being included in funding for the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute.
Fund Lead Poisoning Prevention through a Lead Paint Surcharge Though children’s blood-lead levels have dropped overall, many children in specific communities continue to be diagnosed with lead poisoning. At the same time, funding for lead poisoning prevention strategies has dropped off sharply. New York must restore funding to prevent further childhood lead poisoning and help children already affected, by instituting a 25¢ surcharge on paint manufacturers for each gallon of paint sold in the state – as Maine has done.
Children’s Environmental Health Centers (A. 7885/S.6166) New York needs to reinstate funds for Centers of Excellence in Children’s Environmental Health to reduce the burden of disease of environmental origin. The Centers provide a clinical setting for outreach and education, treatment, referrals, and research that prioritizes prevention. Doctors and parents across the state must have access to information regarding connections between symptoms of children in their care and environmental exposures. It is imperative to restore $1,000,000 in funding to support Centers of Excellence at seven facilities across the state.