Do you want the good news first or the bad news?
Let's start with the good news.
According to a new report EPA report, “America’s Children and The Environment
," certain health hazards for children — such as lead, tobacco and air pollution, are on the decline. The bad news? Childhood incidence of asthma, cancer, autism and obesity are all on the rise.
The new report compiles the latest EPA findings on environmental stressors that can affect children's health. The report covers 37 indicators of children’s environmental health such as contaminants in air, water, and food; chemicals measured in the bodies of mothers and children; and childhood diseases.
The silver lining of the report is that several key toxins that affect children's health have significantly declined. For instance, the median concentration of lead in the blood of children between the ages of 1 and 5 years was 92 percent lower in 2009-2010 compared to 1976-1980 levels. In addition, the median level of cotinine — the marker used to indicate tobacco smoke exposure — measured in blood of nonsmoking children ages 3 to 17 years was 88 percent lower in 2009-2010 than it was in 1988–1991. And the number of children living in homes where someone smokes regularly has also declined from 27 percent in 1994 to 6 percent in 2010. Finally, the percentage of children living in counties where pollutant concentrations were above the levels of one or more national air quality standards declined from 75 percent to 59 percent from 1999 to 2009.
But the report also found some disturbing trends in regards to childhood illnesses and diseases.
Incidences of cancer in children increased from 153 to 161 cases per million children between 1992 and 1994 to 172 to 175 cases per million children between 2007 and 2009. Childhood asthma cases also increased. In 2001, 8.7 percent of children were diagnosed with asthma compared to 9.4 percent in 2010. However, the severity of children’s asthma symptoms has declined. According to the report, "the rate of emergency room visits for asthma decreased from 114 visits per 10,000 children in 1996 to 103 visits per 10,000 children in 2008 and for the period of 1996 to 2008, hospitalizations for asthma and for all other respiratory causes decreased from 90 hospitalizations per 10,000 children to 56 hospitalizations per 10,000 children." Not surprisingly, the report also found that childhood obesity has tripled from 5 percent in the late 1970s to 15 percent in 2008.
“This latest report provides important information for protecting America’s most vulnerable – our children. It shows good progress on some issues, such as reducing children’s blood lead levels and exposure to tobacco smoke in the home, and points to the need for continued focus on other issues”, said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.