California Continues Its Leadership in Protecting Kids From Environmental Hazards

October was Children’s Environmental Health Month in California, a designation made by state legislators to raise awareness about the importance of cleaner air and water, safer food and healthier products for kids. But lawmakers and state officials didn’t just observe the occasion: They also took important actions to protect children’s health from hazardous chemicals.

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration reached an agreement with the pesticide industry to ban the use of chlorpyrifos, a toxic pesticide shown to cause brain damage in children, even at low levels of exposure. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was poised to ban the pesticide three years ago. But after the Trump administration took over, the EPA sided with the pesticide and chemical agricultural industries over its own scientists and cancelled the national ban.  
  • The state enacted two new EWG-sponsored laws to reduce children’s exposure to lead, a dangerous neurotoxin. One is a law that creates the strictest standards in the nation for lead and cadmium in adult and children’s jewelry. The second is a law that strengthens lead exposure protections for workers, who can unknowingly bring lead dust home to their children.
  • At the urging of EWG and other public interest groups, the State Water Resources Control Board agreed to set a goal of reducing lead in child care centers’ drinking water to no more than 1 part per billion. The state’s goal directly counters the Trump administration’s decision last month to continue to allow millions of children to ingest unhealthy levels of lead in their drinking water.
  • The water board also released test results that revealed that Californians’ exposure to the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS is much greater than previously known. PFAS compounds, which are linked to cancer and other diseases, have been detected in more than 300 wells and other sources of drinking water in the state. More tests of water are coming, as the state works toward setting regulations for PFAS, which have been detected in more than 1,000 locations nationwide.

Children are especially vulnerable to environmental pollution. Their nervous, respiratory, reproductive and immune systems are still developing, and their bodies absorb more contaminants in proportion to their body weight than adults. Children exposed to hazardous chemicals have an increased risk of disease later in life. Although all children are vulnerable, kids living in poverty and in disadvantaged communities are at disproportionate risk of exposure to environmental hazards.

For more than 25 years, EWG has been on the front lines of the fight against threats to children’s health, empowering parents with information on how to avoid toxic exposures in everyday environments. As we celebrate these important advances in California, we’ll continue to work there and across the nation to protect children’s health.

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