Statement Of Robert W. Amler
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
National Agenda on the Environment and the Aging
Public Listening Session
University of South Florida, College of Public Health
Tampa, Florida, April 3, 2003
Environmental Exposures and the Aging
Robert W. Amler, M.D., M.S.
Chief Medical Officer
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
I am speaking today as the chief medical officer of a collaborating federal health agency that in many ways functions as a public health arm for EPA. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Our staff work side-by-side with your staff in all 10 regions and at all 1,500 Superfund waste sites to help people who live near these sites get their health concerns addressed.
EPA and HHS recently co-chaired a government-wide initiative on the environmental health risks of young children. And now we will work together again, this time to examine America’s most rapidly growing population: the aging.
This is the right thing to do, and the right time to do it!
Let me tell you a little secret, as a practicing ER doctor. We doctors have a wealth of information about the medical aspects of aging. We all know that older people are more prone to infections, more sensitive to some medicines, and typically take several different medicines every day.
And yet---There is suprisingly little known about how chemical exposures influence these factors that are unique to older people. There is no body of public health science on chemical exposures in the aging. So, none of us completely understand how environmental exposures affect this growing segment of our nation.
EPA’s Initiative on the Aging may change all that!
And my agency is glad to join you in this groundbreaking effort. ATSDR can offer technical support, medical guidance, and public health expertise as needed. We will work from the Superfund platform and build on existing collaborations with your Office of Children’s Health Protection and several other EPA programs—from water and pesticides to research—such as the work under way right now at many important sites around the country.
Nearly 25 years ago, after the infamous events of Love Canal, Congress gave ATSDR a mandate to examine how toxic exposures can harm our health. This led to a sustained partnership with EPA that has yielded many answers and saved many lives. Now, our older citizens are asking us to do much more than save life; they want and deserve the best quality of life, with all the environmental ramifications implicit in that phrase, "quality of life."
So please accept ATSDR’s admiration for your bold new vision in launching this initiative for the aging, and my very enthusiastic personal commitment to helping you make this a great success.
Robert W. Amler, MD, is the chief medical officer at ATSDR. ATSDR is the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry division of the Department of Health and Human Services created to protect the public's health from exposures to toxic substances in the environment.
Dr. Amler administers a national environmental health program and recently received the Meritorious Service Medal for his leadership in launching a North American network of pediatric environmental health specialty units (PEHSUs), with EPA collaboration and support. He serves on the Surgeon General’s Policy Advisory Council and the Medical Advisory Board of the Centers for Disease Control, which formulate standards of professionalism, health, and safety for several thousand active duty and civilian federal employees stationed worldwide.
Dr. Amler was educated at Dartmouth College and Rutgers Medical School, and received specialty training at New York's Bellevue Hospital and CDC's Epidemic Intelligence Service. He is a board-certified physician and practices ER medicine part-time in Atlanta.
Dr. Amler is a clinical professor at Emory University School of Medicine
and at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.