EPA to rewrite standards with eye to children's health Changes could result in tougher regulations

September 12, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration said yesterday that it would start focusing all environmental protection standards on the risks that pollution poses to the health of children.

The change could lead to tougher rules on pollutants as diverse as soot fouling the air and microbes contaminating tap water.

The Environmental Protection Agency said it would adopt this approach not only when writing new rules but by reviewing and revising several of the most important regulations that are already on the books.

Increasingly, children are viewed as facing special risks from toxic chemicals and other contaminants because their organs are still developing, because their immune systems are less robust and because they eat more food, drink more water and breathe more air in relation to their size than adults do.

In recent weeks, President Clinton has made the well-being of children the central theme of his re-election campaign. And to some extent, announcing the policy yesterday while releasing a detailed report on what had already been done was the regulatory equivalent of baby-kissing.

But Carol M. Browner, administrator of the EPA, and outside experts said it would be unfair to call the changes a political gimmick, because they grew out of a series of measures taken by the environmental agency over the years to target its regulations more directly toward the health of children.

It is too early to say exactly how the new policy would affect the specific pollution controls required at a given factory or the cleanup work demanded at a local toxic waste dump. That kind of specific decision, the ultimate result of the regulatory process, must await the long process of conducting risk assessments and other scientific research and could be delayed further by litigation.

"The overall trend will be toward tighter standards," Browner said at a news conference yesterday.

Those rules, which seek to limit the soot and smog-causing ozone that spew from vehicles, power plants and other sources, are expected to be tightened considerably to more fully protect zTC children with asthma, which is exacerbated by air pollution.

The proposed revisions are expected to be issued a few weeks after the election.

Pub Date: 9/12/96

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