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Protecting the Children: Risk Assessment, Risk Management, and Children's Environmental Health

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Publication Date: June 2001

Publisher(s): Reason Foundation

Author(s): Gail Charnley

Topic: Environment (Radioactive and dangerous substances)

Type: Report


Concern about the impact of the environment on health has become almost a religious issue in the United States, and one of the most controversial health issues is how best to protect children from environmental contaminants. Chemical contamination that occurs in utero or during childhood can of course have tragic consequences: stillbirths and spontaneous abortions, birth defects, greater likelihood of disease throughout both childhood and adulthood, and/or early mortality. These place great demands on social and emotional resources. The extent to which environmental chemicals--as distinct from other contaminations--contribute to such outcomes appears to be small, however. More stringent regulations, such as those required by the Food Quality and Protection Act to limit pesticide exposures, appear to be policy-driven, not science-based. Because the United States lacks both a public health surveillance network and the ability to track environmental exposures routinely, potential connections between environmental exposures and public health outcomes are poorly understood for both children and adults. Without that understanding, the benefits or impacts of many environmental regulations limiting chemical exposures cannot be properly evaluated.