against environmental threats. It was cochaired by the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It included representatives of 16 departments and White House offices.
Motivating the call for the task force was evidence that certain environmental exposures early in life, such as lead poisoning and alcohol exposure in utero, compromise the health of children. At the same time, there was considerable uncertainty about the relationship of other environmental factors to what often appeared to be growing health problems among children, including asthma, autism, developmental disorders, obesity, and childhood cancers.
A task force recommendation called for legislation to mandate a large study to identify the risks to children from environmental exposures. In response, on October 17, 2000, Congress enacted the Children’s Health Act (Public Law 106-310). Section 1004 of the act reads as follows (see http://nationalchildrensstudy.gov):
SEC. 1004. LONG-TERM CHILD DEVELOPMENT STUDY.
PURPOSE.—It is the purpose of this section to authorize the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to conduct a national longitudinal study of environmental influences (including physical, chemical, biological, and psychosocial) on children’s health and development.
IN GENERAL.—The Director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development shall establish a consortium of representatives from appropriate Federal agencies (including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency) to—
plan, develop, and implement a prospective cohort study, from birth to adulthood, to evaluate the effects of both chronic and intermittent exposures on child health and human development; and
investigate basic mechanisms of developmental disorders and environmental factors, both risk and protective, that influence health and developmental processes.
REQUIREMENT.—The study under subsection (b) shall—
incorporate behavioral, emotional, educational, and contextual consequences to enable a complete assessment of the physical, chemical, biological, and psychosocial environmental influences on children’s well-being;
gather data on environmental influences and outcomes on diverse populations of children, which may include the consideration of prenatal exposures; and
consider health disparities among children, which may include the consideration of prenatal exposures.