Picture of Kristin Schafer

Kristin Schafer

“Walking the talk” on kids health

There’s plenty of talk in Washington DC these days about the importance of keeping kids healthy. From Michelle Obama’s initiatives promoting healthy eating and exercise to EPA leader Lisa Jackson’s emphasis on children’s health, politicians and policymakers are recognizing the importance of creating healthy environments for kids.

The Obama Administration has a chance to “walk the talk” in Geneva next week, when experts from around the world will discuss the fate of a new group of persistent pollutants being considered for global phase out. The link to kids health couldn’t be clearer: these chemicals build up in the environment and in our bodies, posing particular dangers to developing infants and children.

Some of these substances stick around for years — even decades. So the sooner we stop making and using persistent chemicals, the sooner our children will be born free of pollutants that can harm their developing bodies.

Twenty-one chemicals have already been targeted for global action under the “POPs Treaty,” also known as the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. The experts meeting in Geneva will review the next batch of likely suspects, and send along their recommendations to next April’s global meeting of governments, where final decisions will be made. The widely used pesticide endosulfan, slated for withdrawal from U.S. fields in the near future, is one of the chemicals being considered.

PAN scientist Karl Tupper will be in Geneva to watchdog the discussions, press for good U.S. positions, and be sure the strongest science is fully considered by the government experts. He'll be working with other PAN offices around the world, partners from Alaska, and experts from the International POPs Elimination Network who will also be "observers" at the meeting.

Because the U.S. hasn’t yet joined the 172 countries who have fully adopted the treaty, the U.S. government will be attending the session as an "observer" as well. Officials from Obama's EPA and the State Department recently told Congress they’re eager to have a full seat at the treaty table, and urged lawmakers to ratify the Convention soon.

This is a great idea — if the U.S. takes steps to get it’s own house in order first. A draft law that's before Congress now directs EPA to target persistent chemicals here at home. Once we've prioritized protecting kids from long-lasting pollutants in the U.S., we can take that commitment to the global level and press for strong, protective decisions there. Until then, the U.S. should do what it can behind the scenes to "walk the talk" on kids health.

Picture of Kristin Schafer

Kristin Schafer

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