March 21, 2002

(21 March, 2002 — Washington)  Environmental Defense endorsed legislation introduced today by Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Harry Reid (D-NV) to create a nationwide environmental health tracking network through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  Environmental Defense also endorsed companion legislation introduced in the House by Reprentatives Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Peter King (R-NY), Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH), and Louise Slaughter (D-NY).

“For most chronic diseases other than cancer, the data needed to provide a coherent national picture just don’t exist today, and even the cancer data are not truly comprehensive,” said Karen Florini, senior attorney with Environmental Defense. 

“States are literally all over the map in terms of the quality and extent of their chronic-disease data programs, and even those with effective programs don’t necessarily collect this information in a form that is compatible with data from other states.  As a result, efforts by scientists and policymakers to understand the causes of chronic health problems are gravely hampered. The programs established by this bill will go a long way toward fixing this Tower of Babel.  Senators Clinton and Reid are to be congratulated for their leadership on this vital issue, as are Representatives Pelosi, King, Tubbs, Jones and Slaughter.”

The nationwide network will set minimum standards for state networks, coordinate and compile data from state networks, and make such data available to the public.  The network will include information on chronic conditions and environmental, behavioral, and other factors.  The bill also provides funding and technical assistance for state data programs.

The legislation also calls for creation of a rapid response service at CDC that will develop and implement measures for reacting swiftly to environmental health concerns, and expansion of CDC’s ongoing collection and reporting of biomonitoring data (i.e., levels of toxic substances found in human tissues).