GAO Report Scolds the EPA for Not Keeping Kids Safe From Toxins

In March 2009, Jackson announced the EPA would launch a $2.25 million air-monitoring effort outside more than 60 schools across the nation. McCully was later replaced as the head of EPA's children's health office. In subsequent monitoring, the EPA found high levels of chemicals such as manganese, a dangerous metal that can affect the brain, outside some schools.

The GAO report documents how the EPA allowed the children's health office to all but waste away.

"From 2002 to 2008, the office had four acting directors and no permanent director," the report says. It suffered the effects of "inconsistent leadership and direction" and that hurt "its ability to fulfill its priorities and commitments."

The report also chastised the agency for failing to "proactively" use its Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee "to maintain a focus on protecting children's environmental health." The committee had been established in the late 1990s to offer agency leaders advice and recommendations on research and regulations. The GAO "identified 607 recommendations" made by the committee during the past decade, many of which were not acknowledged.

The current director of the Office of Children's Health, Peter Grevatt, testified Wednesday that he is adding staff to the office, and the GAO report says Grevatt "recently asked the committee to provide EPA with advice on its draft school siting guidelines," which will help communities determine the safest locations to build schools.

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