Senate Hearing Focuses on Reid/ Clinton
Health Tracking Legislation
Wednesday, March 6, 2002
Washington, D.C. - Continuing his work to help Fallon families
answers to the childhood leukemia cancer cluster, Senator
today spoke on the need to identify and track chronic
their environmental factors. Reid testified at a Senate health
committee hearing exploring the links between the environment
"I am here today to bring the personal experience of the
community in Nevada to you as you consider the important issue
tracking and responding to chronic disease," Reid
testified. "We don't
know what caused this leukemia outbreak, and we don't have a
system to tell us how many other Fallons there are out there
yet to be
Last April, Senator Reid was joined by Senator Hillary Clinton
field hearing in Fallon to look at possible causes and
the childhood leukemia outbreak in the community. That hearing
on-going response to the Fallon cancer outbreak have provided
roadmap for what the senators will seek to establish on the
level. Senator Reid recently secured a $17.5 million down
develop pilot programs in states as a first step in the
a nationwide health tracking network. Reid and Clinton will
their national health tracking legislation in the coming
bill would provide for a nationwide network to track both
diseases and environmental exposures so that correlations
disease and environmental factors may be identified, tracked
monitored. The legislation would also establish a public
response system to respond to higher than normal incidents of
"In the case of Fallon, the Centers for Disease Control
has done a
good job responding and helping us investigate possible causes
connections. But this is the first cancer cluster
have conducted since the 1980s," Reid added. "If we
had a nationwide
tracking system and a federal response team, we could focus
resources of the CDC and other federal agencies. We could,
find some answers and help other communities avoid the anguish
has befallen Fallon."
The hearing looked at the overall need for improved
on health outcomes and relevant environmental factors needed
document or rule out possible links between environmental risk
and chronic disease. Reid and Clinton will use information
today's hearing as the final step before introducing their
STATEMENT OF SENATOR HARRY REID Committee on Health, Education
and Pensions Subcommittee on Public Health Hearing on Health
Improving the Surveillance and Response to Chronic Disease and
to Environmental Exposures March 6, 2002
- I thank the Subcommittee for the opportunity to testify here
- I am here to bring the experience the small community of
Nevada to you as you consider the important issue of tracking
responding to chronic disease.
- That is the most important reason for me to be here today.
- Fallon is a small rural community outside of Reno. In the
of just a few years, 15 children in that community of about
been inflicted with leukemia.
- Since I was joined in Fallon by my colleague from New York,
Clinton, at the first hearing on this issue nearly a year ago,
children have passed away.
- We don't know what caused their leukemia. We don't know
there was an environmental cause.
- We don't have a tracking system to tell us how many other
there are out there yet to be identified.
- We don't have a system that allows us correlate possible
between a chronic disease like leukemia and pollution.
- And, we don't have a federal rapid response team to help
like Fallon when it becomes apparent that they have been hit
cancer cluster or other chronic disease outbreak.
- In the case of Fallon, the Centers for Disease Control has
good job helping us investigate possible causes and
too has the Agency for Toxic Substances Control and Disease
- They have done fine work in Fallon.
- But this is the first cancer cluster investigation CDC has
since the 1980s.
- If we had a nationwide tracking system and a federal
we could focus the resources of the CDC and other federal
- We could - perhaps - find some answers.
- More important, we could help other communities avoid the
that has befallen Fallon's families.
- These are the reasons why my colleague Senator Clinton and
believe our bill to bring a new national commitment to
the role the environment plays in chronic diseases is so
- It is why we have worked so hard on our bill to help
track chronic diseases like childhood leukemia, to help them
disease with pollution, and to help them respond when a
tragedy like a
cancer cluster hits.
- We hope to introduce that bill within the next week so that
nation can benefit from our experience in Fallon, Nevada, Long
New York and the other communities around the nation.
- That bill will help states establish networks to monitor,
correlate chronic diseases like cancer with environmental
- States will get grants to do this work. The federal
help them with technical advice and will establish minimum
for what information they should collect.
- The bill then requires the federal government to synthesize
information into a nationwide network.
- What's the benefit of that network to a community like
- If it existed today, investigators from the CDC would be
identify other places in the nation with higher than normal
of childhood leukemia.
- CDC would be able to look to see whether those other
shared a similar environmental problem in common.
- This would let CDC focus in on possible causes. It could
some questions about cancer and other chronic diseases. It
us find the underlying cause.
- Since I began my service in the Senate, I've worked on the
how environmental pollution can affect health.
- For example, we don't know if the environment plays a role
development of breast cancer, and if it does, we don't know
significant that role is.
- Senator Chafee and I have sponsored legislation, the Breast
and Environmental Research Act, that would give scientists the
they need to pursue a better understanding of potential links
breast cancer and the environment.
- In addition, several years ago, I served as the Chairman of
then known as the Subcommittee on Toxic Substances and the
Environment. It was a subcommittee of the Environment
which I still serve.
- In that Subcommittee, we worked on a number of bills and
hearings on the possible connections between exposure to
like pesticides and chronic disease.
- We tried for years to make improvements in the environmental
legislation that regulates the use of chemicals in the
The industry fought us in that effort at the time.
- They told us that we couldn't show them any connection
chemical exposures and chronic diseases.
- My view at the time was that it was their burden to show us
there was no connection.
- That debate ended in a stalemate.
- I think they recognize today that an effort to track and
chronic disease and environmental pollution is something we
- We need to answer the questions about whether there are
connections so that - if there are - we can deal with them.
- It is an idea - for all the Fallons out there - whose time
March 21, 2002
Senators Clinton and Reid Introduce Bill to Establish a
Health Tracking Network
Health Track Legislation Would Help To Identify Connections
Disease and Environment, Develop a Rapid Response Capability
Washington, DC -Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (NY) and Harry
(NV), the Assistant Senate Majority Leader, today introduced
Nationwide Health Tracking Act of 2002. The legislation is the
of months of work and several Congressional hearings held by
Reid and Clinton in Washington, D.C., as well as in two
suffering from a concentrated and unexplained outbreak of
disease. These two field hearings, held in Fallon, NV and Long
NY, looked for possible environmental links to cancer in the
communities and resulted in a firm recommendation for
nationwide tracking network for chronic diseases.
Representatives Pelosi, King, and Slaughter, who joined
and Clinton at the press conference, announced their
companion legislation in the House. The Trust for America's
March of Dimes, American Lung Association, Children's
Health Network, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, and
Resources Defense Council and other groups also attended.
"There is a saying, what you don't know can't hurt you -
but when it
comes to chronic disease, what we don't know can hurt us. The
are introducing today will help get to the bottom of the
behind high rates of chronic disease that afflict communities
Fallon, Nevada and Long Island, NY. And once we are able to
these diseases, and detect links to environmental or other
will be able to attack the problem and ultimately prevent
health problems before they occur," said Senator Clinton.
"We must act
now because as Senator Reid and I learned from our field
Fallon and on Long Island, when it comes to the hidden health
in our environment, ignorance is anything but bliss."
"Almost one year ago, Senator Clinton and I traveled to
community of Fallon, Nevada to investigate why, against all
children out of a community of a few thousand had been
leukemia," said Senator Reid. "What we found was a
mystery that first
emerged when parents found themselves in hospital waiting
other parents whose children had developed the same deadly
cancer. We now know that what started out as a horrible
has become a nightmare, taking the lives of two of Nevada's
and mystifying the doctors and environmentalists who search
cause and cure. Today Senator Clinton and I unveil a bill
track the outbreak of disease, locate potential environmental
of this cancer cluster and get us working on a cure. This bill
begin the important work of keeping tragedy from further
communities all across America, communities like Fallon,
The National Health Tracking Act of 2002 will:
Establish a Nationwide Health Tracking Network to connect
systems tracking chronic diseases, environmental exposures,
risk factors so that causes of priority chronic diseases can
identified, addressed, and ultimately prevented in the future,
that public health officials, the research community, and the
have the information they need to fight back against chronic
Provide States with Environmental Health Tracking Network
that States can develop the infrastructure they need to
the Nationwide Network, including the appointment of State
Environmental Health Investigators.
Create a National Environmental Health Rapid Response Service
develop and implement strategies with State and local
coordinated rapid responses to public health and environmental
Require a National Environmental Health Report that will
public with the annual findings of the Nationwide Health
Network, helping to educate and arm them with valuable
the fight against chronic disease.
Expand Our Environmental Health Infrastructure through the
establishment and operation of at least five regional
labs, five Environmental Health Centers of Excellence, and the
Chafee Environmental Health Scholarship Program.
Our current public health surveillance systems were developed
major threats to health were infectious agents. Currently, 50
infectious diseases are tracked on a national basis, but now
diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease are the
number one killers, and there is some evidence that rates of
chronic diseases and conditions are rising. Survey data from
suggests that endocrine and metabolic disorders (such as
neurological conditions (including migraines and multiple
have risen roughly 20 percent between 1986 and 1995. Asthma is
rise, and some have cited an increase in autoimmune diseases,
learning disabilities. Yet our systems for tracking chronic
are woefully underdeveloped.
Last April, Senator Clinton joined Senator Reid (NV) at a
hearing in Fallon, Nevada to investigate childhood leukemia
the area of Fallon. In June, Senator Clinton, along with
(NV) and Chafee (RI), hosted a field hearing at Long Island's
University to discuss possible environmental links to chronic
diseases, including breast cancer.
Earlier this month, Senator Clinton chaired a hearing in the
Commmittee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions on the
between the environment and public health, including the need
legislation to create a health tracking system. At the
researcher from the New York University School of Medicine
new study that demonstrates a link between the environment and
health, showing that exposure to air pollution in an urban
increase risk of lung cancer and heart disease as much as
In a speech at the National Press Club Luncheon on July 19,
Senator Clinton talked about the importance of creating a
tracking system for chronic diseases.
Gary N. Greenberg, MD MPH Sysop / Moderator
Duke Occupat, Environ, Int & Fam Medicine
OEM-L Maillist Website:
Committee on Health, Education, Labor,
and Pensions Subcommittee on
Public Health Hearing on Health Tracking:
Improving Surveillance of Chronic Conditions and Potential
March 6, 2002
Dr. Kenneth Olden Director National Institute of Environmental
GENE-ENVIRONMENT INTERACTION . . . THE CENTERPIECE FOR DISEASE
Dr. Richard Jackson Director National Center on Environmental
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
CDC Efforts to Develop and Implement an Environmental Health
Dr. Henry Falk Assistant Administrator Agency for Toxic
ATSDR's Role in Environmental Health Tracking
Dr. John Harris Director California Birth Defects Monitoring
March of Dimes
Dr. F. E. Thompson, Jr., M.D., M.P.H. State Health Officer
State Department of Health Association of State and
HEALTH TRACKING: IMPROVING SURVEILLANCE OF CHRONIC CONDITIONS
POTENTIAL LINKS TO ENVIRONMENTAL EXPOSURES
Dr. George Thurston New York University School of Medicine
Institute of Environmental Medicine
THE USE OF THE NATIONWIDE REGISTRIES TO ASSESS ENVIRONMENTAL
Dr. Thomas Burke The John Hopkins University School of Hygiene
Dr. Shelley Hearne Executive Director Trust for America's
Last Updated: 03/12/02