EPA’s Children’s Health Office: Childhood Defined as Conception Through Adolescence

By Penny Starr | January 13, 2010 | 6:00 PM EST

Lisa Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, set out goals for her agency for the next year, including a 'revatilized Children's Health Office," that defines childhood as being from conception through adolescence. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – The Environmental Protection Agency is no longer classifying children as a "subpopulation." Instead, it is defining them by their "lifestage," which covers "conception through fetal development" and beyond.

In a memorandum listing her “seven priorities for EPA’s Future” Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson cites a “revitalized Children’s Health Office,” which includes a change in the classification of children.
“The term ‘lifestage’ refers to a distinguishable time frame in an individual's life characterized by unique and relatively stable behavioral and/or physiological characteristics that are associated with development and growth,” says the Web page describing the change. “Thus, childhood should be viewed as a sequence of lifestages, from conception through fetal development, infancy, and adolescence.”
The explanation is on a link on the EPA’s Web site for the Office of Children’s Health Protection in a statement entitled “Lifestage Versus Subpopulation.” The statement argues that 2005 EPA reports on assessing and monitoring environmental risk to children used “subpopulations” to distinguish groups of people.
The statement about the Office for Children's Health Protection was noted under the sixth priority in Jackson's memorandum -- "Expanding the Conversation on Environmentalism and Working for Environmental Justice."
The other six priorities are "Taking Action on Climate Change," "improving Air Quaility," "Assuring the Safety of Chemical," "Cleaning Up Our Communities," "Protecting American's Waters" and "Building Strong State and Tribal Partnerships."
The statement says that the reports, however, recognized the importance of further distinguishing between “fixed” groups, such as those of the same race, and the age or “lifestage” that are represented across the entire population.
Thus, the change to a distinction of the “lifestage” of children, the statement said.
The EPA statement, however, states that “later guidance” recommends that children be divided by age, but does not include a conception to birth category.
Instead, it notes children be categorized for “less than 12 months” as birth to less than 1 month, 1 month to less than 3 months, 3 months to less than 6 months, and 6 to less than 12 months.
Children “greater than 12 months” are categorized similarly from age 12 months to 21.
Nonetheless, the statement also notes unborn children in its conclusion, stating that “other lifestages that may be important to consider when assessing human exposure and risk including: pregnancy, nursing (infants) and old age.”
The Web site states that “The Office of Children’s Health Protection was established by EPA in May 1997 to make the protection of children's health a fundamental goal of public health and environmental protection in the United States.”
CNSNews.com repeatedly asked the EPA press office to answer inquiries about the classification, including 1) confirmation that the agency was defining childhood as from conception through adolescence and 2) why does the agency not include conception to birth in its age categories?
Voicemail and e-mail requests were not returned by press time.