Voluntary Children's Chemical Evaluation Program
Between 2002-2005 CEHN had a cooperative agreement with the EPA Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics through which CEHN worked to increase the scientific expertise in non-profit organizations involved in children’s environmental health and to more broadly disseminate accurate, easy to understand information about children’s environmental health regulatory programs. A major aspect of this effort involved the Voluntary Children’s Chemical Evaluation Program (VCCEP).
Children's Environmental Health Network - EPA
Increasing Scientific Expertise in Non-Governmental Organizations
Involved in Children’s Environmental Health
The Children’s Environmental Health Network (CEHN) will use funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to increase the quality and quantity of scientific advice available to the Network and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and, through these NGOs, to the public. This will enable the Network and other NGOs to participate more fully and effectively in scientifically-based public policy forums, to offer more accurate, child-protective advice to policy makers and program staff addressing children’s environmental health concerns. It will also improve the information that the Network and other NGOs disseminate to the general public.
Through this funding, the Network will:
- create a system to identify and organize the participation of experts with appropriate backgrounds to take an active role in public policy discussions
- develop ways to disseminate information to the pediatric environmental health public interest community - and the public in general - about the results of policy-oriented scientific meetings
Through means ranging from formalized stakeholder meetings and federal advisory committees, to public comment periods on relevant policies, CEHN and other public interest groups have as part of their attempts to improve the protection of public health, had a long and consistent history of attempting to provide scientifically-based advice to government agencies. Given the limited resources of these groups and the barriers to recruiting volunteer scientific experts, enlisting sufficient scientific expertise has always been a challenge. When policies are highly technical in nature, e.g. when focused on chemical-specific toxicology and exposure issues, these groups have faced even greater difficulties. For the Network and other public interest groups to continue to strengthen their activities and participate more fully in scientific debates, these groups need to expand the network of scientists upon which they can call for input into important programs, such as the Voluntary Children’s Chemical Evaluation Program (VCCEP).
In spite of the depth of expertise on the Network’s Board and Science Committee, the Network (and partner NGOs) found some of the barriers to the participation of the environmental health public interest community in the VCCEP planning process and other projects to be insurmountable given our community’s current capabilities and resources. In the VCCEP planning process, it was difficult if not impossible to identify individuals with the appropriate qualifications, the time and the resources to voluntarily make the substantial time commitment required to review documents and proposals, to attend meetings and to debate the details of the tiering proposal and the contents of the particular tiers. Individuals with the appropriate qualifications are limited in their participation in this process for a variety of reasons, including competition for their time from other activities, such as teaching and research, for which they are compensated financially and/or professionally. Thus, only a limited number of pediatric environmental health experts ultimately participated in the stakeholder process. It will be even more challenging to secure the participation of individuals with the proper credentials to participate in programs such as the Peer Consultation Process envisioned for the VCCEP, designed to evaluate chemical-specific information.
This project will enable CEHN to increase the scientific expertise available to it and to other non-governmental organization in the children’s environmental health arena. The initial application of this expertise will be to insure pediatric environmental health public interest participation in the VCCEP process. CEHN will also disseminate information about the process to the pediatric environmental health public interest community and to the public in general. This project will also allow expanded children’s environmental health organizational participation in other public policy forums, such as the High Production Volume (HPV) Program, the Endocrine Disruptor Screening and Testing Program, EPA advisory bodies, and public comment periods.
Using its own funds, the Network has already begun recruiting experts: through distributing a detailed questionnaire to all of the staff of the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units and to the NIEHS/EPA-funded Children’s Environmental Health Research Centers, arranging for full-page ads to appear in Environmental Health Perspectives for three-months, and contacts at relevant scientific conferences. Ongoing recruitment efforts will also use our Science Committee and Environmental Defense, American Public Health Association, National Environmental Trust, Physicians for Social Responsibility and the American Academy of Pediatrics to identify additional potential experts. All those recruited will be entered into a database, with detailed descriptions of areas of scientific expertise. The first application for this newly created database of scientists will be to nominate appropriate scientists to participate in the Peer Consultation Process being organized by TERA.
The Network will create a read-only list serve for pediatric environmental health public interest community and the general public to disseminate information about the results of the Peer Consultation process, as well as means for the experts involved to share resources and experiences. The Network will use funds from this cooperative agreement to improve its web site, add better search capabilities, and make it more user-friendly for individuals seeking information about the VCCEP in general and the Peer Consultation process specifically.
Once the mechanisms described above for identifying participants in and the process for disseminating information about public policy activities are in place, they can be used, where appropriate, and where funds are available, to increase public interest participation in and knowledge about HPV and EDSP, and other relevant programs and projects.
The Voluntary Children’s Chemical Evaluation Program, the High Production Volume Evaluation Program and the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program have all pointed out a need for greater expertise in, for example, pediatric toxicology, exposure assessment, design of testing programs, hazard assessment, risk-assessment and communication. The Network will design and implement a pilot program to increase the knowledge of scientists in these areas, particularly as they apply to the development of child-protective public policy.