The Commission for Environmental Cooperation
January 26, 2006


Montreal, January 26, 2006 -- The Commission for Environmental
Cooperation (CEC) [created by the NAFTA side agreement], in
partnership with public health organizations and the governments of
Canada, Mexico and the United States, today released the first-ever
report on children's health and environment indicators in North

The report presents 13 indicators under three thematic areas: asthma
and respiratory disease, effects of exposure to lead and other toxic
substances, and waterborne diseases. It finds that North American
children remain at risk from environmental exposures and that
children's health reporting must be improved to address the data gaps
identified in the report. Only one of the indicators, addressing
asthma in children, was fully reported by all three countries.

These data show a rising number of childhood asthma cases across North
America. One possible contributor is outdoor air pollution such as
ground-level ozone and particulate matter, which remains a problem for
all three countries. In Mexico, exposure to smoke from indoor burning
of wood or charcoal is also a problem, as 18 percent of the country's
population continued to burn biomass for cooking and heating in 2000.
And while Canadian and American children are increasingly less likely
to be exposed to environmental tobacco smoke, data from the United
States shows that certain minority groups remain disproportionately

For lead exposure, case studies from all three countries demonstrate
improvements in children's blood lead levels due to interventions such
as the removal of lead from gasoline. However, there is little
biomonitoring data available in Canada since there has been no
national blood level survey in the country since 1978. Other exposure
pathways for lead remain a concern, such as older homes with lead-
based paint. Recently collected data in the United States show that 25
percent of homes have a "significant lead-based paint hazard, which
could be from deteriorating paint, contaminated dust or contaminated
soil outside the house."

Mexico faces the region's largest challenges in the area of water and
sanitation. Data from 2003 indicate that 17 percent of the Mexican
population did not have water of appropriate bacteriological quality.
However, advances in water and sanitation in Mexico have contributed
to a decline in diarrheic diseases from a rate of 125.6 deaths per
100,000 children in 1990 to 20 deaths per 100,000 children in 2002. In
the United States, the percentage of children living in an area served
by a public water system having at least one major monitoring and
reporting violation decreased from 22 percent in 1993 to 10 percent in

"This first set of children's environmental health indicators will
help improve public policy and promote the cause of improved air and
water quality, pollution prevention and better management of toxic
chemicals," says William V. Kennedy, the executive director of the
CEC. "While this report finds improvement in some indicators and
challenges in others, it's clear that measurable progress will require
a uniform data set for policy-makers to adequately address the risks
to children's health."

Indicators are important to tracking and communicating the health and
well-being of North America's 123 million children because
environmental contaminants can affect the young quite differently than
adults. Children generally eat more food, drink more water and breathe
more air relative to their size than adults do, and children's normal
activities-such as putting their hands in their mouths or playing
outdoors-can result in higher exposures to certain contaminants. In
addition, environmental contaminants may affect children
disproportionately because their immune defenses, for example, are not
fully developed and their organs are more easily harmed.

The CEC, the International Joint Commission, the Pan American Health
Organization, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the governments
of Canada, Mexico and the United States collaborated in the
development and selection of the children's environmental health
indicators and the release of this report.

As the first regional report under the Global Initiative on Children's
Environmental Health Indicators (CEHI)-led by WHO, spearheaded by the
US EPA and launched at the World Summit for Sustainable Development in
Johannesburg-it is anticipated that this report will contribute to
worldwide efforts to improve children's health. Children's
Environmental Health regional indicator pilot projects are currently
underway in Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the
Eastern Mediterranean. WHO plans on rolling out similar projects in
its Southeast Asia and Western Pacific regions in the coming years.

A copy of the report, along with the national reports compiled by each
of the three governments as source material for the CEC's North
American report, can be downloaded here.

For more information, please contact Spencer Tripp at (514) 350-4331.

Additional quotes from report partners:

"The IJC is very interested in the environment's impact on human
health," says Herb Gray, the Canadian Chair of the International Joint
Commission of Canada and the United States. "Children are uniquely
susceptible and vulnerable to environmental risks-and those risks
don't respect boundaries. This report will help us protect our
children and our environments on both sides of the Canada-US border
and in Mexico, too."

"This is a seminal report that will help us understand the
interrelationships between environmental quality and children's
health," says Dennis Schornack, US Chair of the IJC. "It provides a
foundation for all of us-governments, health and environmental
professionals, parents-to make informed decisions that will protect
the long term health of our children."

"This report is an important step towards improving children's
environmental health and will be valuable in reaching our next
challenge to appraise and quantify inequalities in exposure and health
effects in marginalized and poor groups and the design and
implementation of specific interventions," says Luiz A. Galv„o, Area
Manager, Sustainable Development and Environmental Health, PAHO.

"Children around the world suffer disproportionately from exposures to
environmental pollution that have far-reaching impacts on health. And
in North America, this remains a challenge for all countries in the
region, no matter how developed they are," says Dr. Maria Neira,
Director of WHO's Department for the Protection of the Human

"We now have an initial 'report card' of 13 basic children's
environmental health indicators showing the extent of childhood
exposures to air pollution, unsafe water, as well as to toxic
substances, including lead. Indicators such as those identified in
this report provide us with a tool that can help us identify the most
important environmental health risks to children, and then target
preventive actions which will save many lives," adds Dr. Neira.


List of Indicators for Children's Health and the Environment in North


List of Indicators for Children's Health and the Environment in North

Asthma and Respiratory Disease Issue Area Indicator Outdoor Air
Pollution Percentage of children living in areas where air pollution
levels exceed relevant air quality standards Indoor Air Pollution
Measure of children exposed to environmental tobacco smoke (Canada and
the United States); measure of children exposed to emissions from the
burning of biomass fuels (Mexico) Asthma Prevalence of asthma in

Effects of Exposure to Lead and Other Toxic Substances Issue Area
Indicator Lead Body Burden Blood lead levels in children Lead in the
Home Children living in homes with a potential source of lead
Industrial Releases of Lead Pollutant release and transfer register
(PRTR) data on industrial releases of lead Industrial Releases of
Selected Chemicals PRTR data on industrial releases of 153 chemicals
Pesticides Pesticide residues on foods

Waterborne Diseases Issue Area Indicator Drinking Water (2) (a)
Percentage of children (households) without access to treated water
(b) Percentage of children living in areas served by public water
systems in violation of local standards Sanitation Percentages of
children (households) that are not served with sanitary sewers
Waterborne Diseases (2) (a) Morbidity: number of cases of childhood
illnesses attributed to waterborne diseases (Canada, Mexico and the
United States) (b) Mortality: number of child deaths attributed to
waterborne diseases (Mexico)

*The countries' efforts to compile these indicators revealed a number
of data gaps and opportunities for improvement. None of the countries
were able to compile all the indicators but often were able to present
related data sets. Lack of comparability among the data held by the
three countries also posed a considerable challenge to compiling a
North American set of indicators.

A copy of the report can be downloaded from .

Commission for Environmental Cooperation
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