(Extensions of Remarks - October 11, 2004)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E1902-E1903]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []



                           HON. NANCY PELOSI

                             of california

                    in the house of representatives

                        Friday, October 8, 2004

  Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Speaker, environmental contaminants have been linked 
to birth defects, developmental delays, and many chronic diseases 
including asthma, various forms of cancer, and neurological disorders 
like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and Multiple Sclerosis.
  Research shows that women and children are at especially high risk 
for health problems related to environmental factors. Each year, 4 
percent of all births--more than 150,000 babies--are born with 
significant birth defects. The number of children with asthma has 
doubled in the past 15 years to about 5 million. And more than 8,000 
children are diagnosed with cancer every year.
  We do not understand the long-term health effects of the vast 
majority of the approximately 80,000 chemicals have been released into 
the environment over the past 50 years and the more than 7 billion 
pounds of chemicals that are released each year by industrial 
facilities in the United States. While many chemicals do not cause 
damage, we need to know which ones do.
  In my hometown of San Francisco, breast cancer rates are more than 12 
percent higher than they were 15 years ago. These rates are 
significantly higher than the rest of the nation, and public health 
officials are searching for

[[Page E1903]]

answers. We must understand what could be causing such a dramatic rise, 
especially when three out of four women who are diagnosed with breast 
cancer have no family history of cancer or other known risk factors. 
For these women, environmental factors may be the link to their cancer.
  Improved infrastructure that enables local, state, and Federal public 
health agencies to monitor disease rates and environmental hazards is 
needed. However, there is no system in place that explores the 
relationship between disease and potentially associated environmental 
  Today, I am joined by Representatives Stephanie Tubbs Jones and 
Louise Slaughter, and Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton, Harry Reid, and 
Lincoln Chafee, in introducing the Coordinated Environmental Health 
Network Act to respond to this urgent need by creating the 
infrastructure necessary to collect, analyze, and report data on the 
rate of disease and the presence of relevant environmental factors and 
  The Network would also coordinate national, state, and local efforts 
to bolster our public health system's capacity to investigate and 
respond aggressively to environmental exposures that threaten health. 
In addition, the Coordinated Environmental Health Network will alert 
health officials when there is a sudden increase in any disease or 
condition, including those associated with a biological or chemical 
  Over the past 3 years, my colleagues and I have worked to secure more 
than $73 million for pilot programs to begin developing the capacity 
for a Coordinated Environmental Health Network, with an additional $28 
million pending in the Fiscal Year 2005 Labor-Health and Human 
Services-Education Appropriations bill. These pilot projects are giving 
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental 
Protection Agency the information they need to put in place a 
comprehensive, coordinated network.

  Once fully operational, the network will coordinate national, state, 
and local efforts to inform communities, public health officials, 
researchers, and policymakers of potential environmental health risks, 
and to integrate this information with other parts of the public health 
  This is really an issue of environmental justice. Minority and low-
income communities are particularly vulnerable to environmental health 
hazards. The factories and dumping sites that emit pollutants are often 
located near communities with little political and economic power, and 
therefore less ability to protest. The result is an elevated risk of 
exposure to harmful substances.
  Numerous public health and environmental organizations understand the 
need for an improved response to these threats, and the Coordinated 
Environmental Health Network Act is supported by the Trust for 
America's Health, American Public Health Association, Citizens for a 
Cleaner Environment, March of Dimes, American Lung Association, U.S. 
Public Interest Research Group, The Breast Cancer Fund, Physicians for 
Social Responsibility, and many others.
  We must respond to these health threats in a comprehensive and 
coordinated manner. To take action to prevent disease we must 
understand its cause. I look forward to working with my colleagues to 
enact this vital legislation.