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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed efforts to collect environmental health data, focusing on the: (1) extent to which states, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) collect human exposure data on potentially harmful chemicals, including data to identify at-risk populations; and (2) main barriers hindering further progress in such efforts.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Health and Human Services 1. The Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Administrator, EPA, should develop a coordinated federal strategy for the short- and long-term monitoring of human exposures to potentially toxic chemicals. In developing such a strategy, the Secretary and the Administrator should assess the need for an interagency program to collect and report data on human exposures, the extent surveys and agency efforts can be used as part of such an effort, and the funding needs and sources to sustain a viable program for monitoring human exposures to toxic substances. Such a strategy should address individual agency needs and expertise.
Closed - Implemented
EPA and HHS have coordinated through a HHS/CDC/NCEH Working Group on Human Exposures, and developed a strategy for the monitoring and reporting of human exposure data through CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, including an annual report issued by CDC on human exposures, and a process for setting chemical priorities for monitoring. EPA is establishing a program addressing environmental public health outcomes, holding workshops with several public health agencies to help develop the research framework that would be complimentary to HHS' efforts, and to define opportunities for collaborations. EPA and CDC are considering co-funding an RFA to stimulate research as to approaches to develop and validate environmental public health measures.
Environmental Protection Agency 2. The Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Administrator, EPA, should develop a coordinated federal strategy for the short- and long-term monitoring of human exposures to potentially toxic chemicals. In developing such a strategy, the Secretary and the Administrator should assess the need for an interagency program to collect and report data on human exposures, the extent surveys and agency efforts can be used as part of such an effort, and the funding needs and sources to sustain a viable program for monitoring human exposures to toxic substances. Such a strategy should address individual agency needs and expertise.
Closed - Implemented
EPA and HHS have coordinated through a HHS/CDC/NCEH Working Group on Human Exposures, and developed a strategy for the monitoring and reporting of human exposure data through CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, including an annual report issued by CDC on human exposures, and a process for setting chemical priorities for monitoring.
Department of Health and Human Services 3. The Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Administrator, EPA, should develop a coordinated federal strategy for the short- and long-term monitoring of human exposures to potentially toxic chemicals. In developing such a strategy, the Secretary and the Administrator should assess the need for an interagency program to collect and report data on human exposures, the extent surveys and agency efforts can be used as part of such an effort, and the funding needs and sources to sustain a viable program for monitoring human exposures to toxic substances. Such a strategy should provide a framework for coordinating efforts to gather data needed to improve understanding of human exposures.
Closed - Implemented
EPA and HHS have coordinated through a HHS/CDC/NCEH Working Group on Human Exposures, and developed a strategy for the monitoring and reporting of human exposure data through CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, including an annual report issued by CDC on human exposures, and a process for setting chemical priorities for monitoring. EPA is establishing a program addressing environmental public health outcomes, holding workshops with several public health agencies to help develop the research framework that would be complimentary to HHS' efforts, and to define opportunities for collaborations. EPA and CDC are considering co-funding an RFA to stimulate research as to approaches to develop and validate environmental public health measures.
Environmental Protection Agency 4. The Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Administrator, EPA, should develop a coordinated federal strategy for the short- and long-term monitoring of human exposures to potentially toxic chemicals. In developing such a strategy, the Secretary and the Administrator should assess the need for an interagency program to collect and report data on human exposures, the extent surveys and agency efforts can be used as part of such an effort, and the funding needs and sources to sustain a viable program for monitoring human exposures to toxic substances. Such a strategy should provide a framework for coordinating efforts to gather data needed to improve understanding of human exposures.
Closed - Implemented
EPA and HHS have coordinated through a HHS/CDC/NCEH Working Group on Human Exposures, and developed a strategy for the monitoring and reporting of human exposure data through CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, including an annual report issued by CDC on human exposures, and a process for setting chemical priorities for monitoring. EPA is establishing a program addressing environmental public health outcomes, holding workshops with several public health agencies to help develop the research framework that would be complimentary to HHS' efforts, and to define opportunities for collaborations. EPA and CDC are considering co-funding an RFA to stimulate research as to approaches to develop and validate environmental public health measures.
Department of Health and Human Services 5. The Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Administrator, EPA, should develop a coordinated federal strategy for the short- and long-term monitoring of human exposures to potentially toxic chemicals. In developing such a strategy, the Secretary and the Administrator should assess the need for an interagency program to collect and report data on human exposures, the extent surveys and agency efforts can be used as part of such an effort, and the funding needs and sources to sustain a viable program for monitoring human exposures to toxic substances. Such a strategy should assess needed federal and state laboratory capacity.
Closed - Implemented
EPA and HHS have coordinated through a HHS/CDC/NCEH Working Group on Human Exposures, and developed a strategy for the monitoring and reporting of human exposure data through CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, including an annual report issued by CDC on human exposures, and a process for setting chemical priorities for monitoring. Starting in fiscal year 2001, HHS/CDC announced the availability of funds for a grant program to promote planning for the development, implementation, and expansion of state-based biomonitoring programs to help prevent disease resulting from exposure to toxic substances.
Environmental Protection Agency 6. The Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Administrator, EPA, should develop a coordinated federal strategy for the short- and long-term monitoring of human exposures to potentially toxic chemicals. In developing such a strategy, the Secretary and the Administrator should assess the need for an interagency program to collect and report data on human exposures, the extent surveys and agency efforts can be used as part of such an effort, and the funding needs and sources to sustain a viable program for monitoring human exposures to toxic substances. Such a strategy should assess needed federal and state laboratory capacity.
Closed - Implemented
EPA and HHS have coordinated through a HHS/CDC/NCEH Working Group on Human Exposures, and developed a strategy for the monitoring and reporting of human exposure data through CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, including an annual report issued by CDC on human exposures, and a process for setting chemical priorities for monitoring. To support state laboratory capacity for human exposure (biomonitoring) monitoring, HHS in 2001, announced the availability of grant funds to promote state planning for the development, implementation, and expansion of state-based biomonitoring programs to help prevent disease resulting from exposure to toxic substances.
Department of Health and Human Services 7. The Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Administrator, EPA, should develop a coordinated federal strategy for the short- and long-term monitoring of human exposures to potentially toxic chemicals. In developing such a strategy, the Secretary and the Administrator should assess the need for an interagency program to collect and report data on human exposures, the extent surveys and agency efforts can be used as part of such an effort, and the funding needs and sources to sustain a viable program for monitoring human exposures to toxic substances. Such a strategy should establish research priorities for laboratory methods development and a mechanism or process for setting chemical monitoring priorities.
Closed - Implemented
EPA and HHS have coordinated through a HHS/CDC/NCEH Working Group on Human Exposures, and developed a strategy for the monitoring and reporting of human exposure data through CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. In March 2002, HHS issued a federal register notice with proposed criteria and a process for selecting chemicals for human exposure monitoring, and the process was finalized in a federal register notice dated October 2002. EPA has worked closely with CDC/HHS in the development of the chemical priority setting process, and plans to provide input on chemical monitoring priorities.
Environmental Protection Agency 8. The Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Administrator, EPA, should develop a coordinated federal strategy for the short- and long-term monitoring of human exposures to potentially toxic chemicals. In developing such a strategy, the Secretary and the Administrator should assess the need for an interagency program to collect and report data on human exposures, the extent surveys and agency efforts can be used as part of such an effort, and the funding needs and sources to sustain a viable program for monitoring human exposures to toxic substances. Such a strategy should establish research priorities for laboratory methods development and a mechanism or process for setting chemical monitoring priorities.
Closed - Implemented
EPA and HHS have coordinated through a HHS/CDC/NCEH Working Group on Human Exposures, and developed a strategy for the monitoring and reporting of human exposure data through CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. In March 2002, HHS issued a federal register notice with proposed criteria and a process for selecting chemicals for human exposure monitoring, and the process was finalized in a federal register notice dated September 2003. EPA has worked closely with CDC/HHS in the development of the chemical priority setting process, and plans to provide input on chemical monitoring priorities.
Department of Health and Human Services 9. The Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Administrator, EPA, should develop a coordinated federal strategy for the short- and long-term monitoring of human exposures to potentially toxic chemicals. In developing such a strategy, the Secretary and the Administrator should assess the need for an interagency program to collect and report data on human exposures, the extent surveys and agency efforts can be used as part of such an effort, and the funding needs and sources to sustain a viable program for monitoring human exposures to toxic substances. Such a strategy should develop a framework for identifying at-risk populations.
Closed - Implemented
EPA and HHS have coordinated through a HHS/CDC/NCEH Working Group on Human Exposures, and developed a strategy for the monitoring and reporting of human exposure data through CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, including an annual report issued by CDC on human exposures, and a process for setting chemical priorities for monitoring. The annual report expects for 2002 to include reports of human exposures for particular demographic groups, for example, by race, age, and sex. Such breakouts can help determine whether certain groups are at-risk.
Environmental Protection Agency 10. The Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Administrator, EPA, should develop a coordinated federal strategy for the short- and long-term monitoring of human exposures to potentially toxic chemicals. In developing such a strategy, the Secretary and the Administrator should assess the need for an interagency program to collect and report data on human exposures, the extent surveys and agency efforts can be used as part of such an effort, and the funding needs and sources to sustain a viable program for monitoring human exposures to toxic substances. Such a strategy should develop a framework for identifying at-risk populations.
Closed - Implemented
EPA and HHS have coordinated through a HHS/CDC/NCEH Working Group on Human Exposures, and developed a strategy for the monitoring and reporting of human exposure data through CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, including an annual report issued by CDC on human exposures, and a process for setting chemical priorities for monitoring. The annual report expects for 2002 to include reports of human exposures for particular demographic groups, for example, by race, age, and sex. Such breakouts can help determine whether certain groups are at-risk.
Department of Health and Human Services 11. The Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Administrator, EPA, should develop a coordinated federal strategy for the short- and long-term monitoring of human exposures to potentially toxic chemicals. In developing such a strategy, the Secretary and the Administrator should assess the need for an interagency program to collect and report data on human exposures, the extent surveys and agency efforts can be used as part of such an effort, and the funding needs and sources to sustain a viable program for monitoring human exposures to toxic substances. Such a strategy should consider states' informational needs.
Closed - Implemented
EPA and HHS have coordinated through a HHS/CDC/NCEH Working Group on Human Exposures, and developed a strategy for the monitoring and reporting of human exposure data through CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, including an annual report issued by CDC on human exposures, and a process for setting chemical priorities for monitoring. HHS/CDC, as part of its strategy for fiscal year 2001, offered a grant program to states and others to promote planning for the development, implementation, and expansion of state-based biomonitoring programs to help prevent disease resulting from exposures to toxic substances.
Environmental Protection Agency 12. The Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Administrator, EPA, should develop a coordinated federal strategy for the short- and long-term monitoring of human exposures to potentially toxic chemicals. In developing such a strategy, the Secretary and the Administrator should assess the need for an interagency program to collect and report data on human exposures, the extent surveys and agency efforts can be used as part of such an effort, and the funding needs and sources to sustain a viable program for monitoring human exposures to toxic substances. Such a strategy should consider states' informational needs.
Closed - Implemented
EPA and HHS have coordinated through a HHS/CDC/NCEH Working Group on Human Exposures, and developed a strategy for the monitoring and reporting of human exposure data through CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, including an annual report issued by CDC on human exposures, and a process for setting chemical priorities for monitoring. HHS/CDC, as part of its strategy for fiscal year 2001, offered a grant program to states and others to promote planning for the development, implementation, and expansion of state-based biomonitoring programs to help prevent disease resulting from exposures to toxic substances.
Department of Health and Human Services 13. The agencies should identify common or complementary performance goals or measures to reduce, monitor, or develop methods for measuring human exposures to toxic chemicals. Such goals or measures can be a basis for structuring and supporting interagency collaborations to collect and use human exposure data.
Closed - Implemented
EPA's Office of Environmental Information has worked closely with CDC on a potential cross-agency initiative to develop and link environmental and health information resources, specifically CDC's National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network, and EPA's National Environmental Information Exchange Network. The linkage seeks to enhance information technology tools to advance the analysis and dissemination of information obtained to various audiences. CDC and EPA signed an MOU related to this effort, which sets forth authorities, responsibilities, and procedures under which EPA and CDC will seek jointly to advance efforts to achieve mutual environmental public health goals. The MOU is effective September 30, 2002 - June 30, 2007.
Environmental Protection Agency 14. The agencies should identify common or complementary performance goals or measures to reduce, monitor, or develop methods for measuring human exposures to toxic chemicals. Such goals or measures can be a basis for structuring and supporting interagency collaborations to collect and use human exposure data.
Closed - Implemented
EPA's Office of Environmental Information has worked closely with CDC on a potential cross-agency initiative to develop and link environmental and health information resources, specifically CDC's National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network, and EPA's National Environmental Information Exchange Network. The linkage seeks to enhance information technology tools to advance the analysis and dissemination of information obtained to various audiences. CDC and EPA signed an MOU related to this effort, which sets forth authorities, responsibilities, and procedures under which EPA and CDC will seek jointly to advance efforts to achieve mutual environmental public health goals. The MOU is effective September 30, 2002 - June 30, 2007.
Department of Health and Human Services 15. As part of this coordinated strategy, the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Administrator, EPA, should periodically publish a report on levels and trends in the national population of exposures to selected toxic substances.
Closed - Implemented
EPA and HHS have coordinated through a HHS/CDC/NCEH Working Group on Human Exposures, and developed a strategy for the monitoring and reporting of human exposure data through CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, including an annual report issued by CDC on human exposures, and a process for setting chemical priorities for monitoring. In March 2001, HHS issued its first National Report on Human Exposures to Environmental Chemicals, in line with GAO's recommendation.
Environmental Protection Agency 16. As part of this coordinated strategy, the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Administrator, EPA, should periodically publish a report on levels and trends in the national population of exposures to selected toxic substances.
Closed - Implemented
EPA and HHS have coordinated through a HHS/CDC/NCEH Working Group on Human Exposures, and developed a strategy for the monitoring and reporting of human exposure data through CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, including an annual report issued by CDC on human exposures, and a process for setting chemical priorities for monitoring. In March 2001, HHS issued its first National Report on Human Exposures to Environmental Chemicals, in line with GAO's recommendation.

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