Statement Of Carl Edlund
Environmental Protection Agency
Aging Initiative Public Listening Session
San Antonio, Texas
April 8, 2003
Director, Multi-media Planning and Permitting Division
EPA Region 6
Good Afternoon. My name is Carl Edlund; I am the Director of the EPA Region 6 programs for Air Pollution, Hazardous Waste and Toxics for the states of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. These responsibilities include programs aimed at improving the environment for sensitive populations including Children's Health and now Senior Citizens. I am very honored to represent Administrator Whitman at this listening session regarding the agency's aging initiative.
With us today at the head table are representatives of the University of Texas Health Science Center, the Alamo Area Council of Governments, the Bexar County Agency on Aging, and representatives of local government active in the aging initiative. I would like to recognize each:
- Al J. Notzon, III, Executive Director, Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG) (Co-sponsor of the event)
- Carol Zernial, Director, Alamo Council of Governments, Bexar County Area Agency on Aging
- Dr. Toni Miles, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, and at large member of the Executive Committee at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (Co-Sponsor of the event)
- Donna Morstad, M.P. Aff., Policy and Planning Specialist, Texas Department on Aging
- Dr. Arlan G. Richardson, Ph.D., Director, Aging Research and Education Center, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
- Dr. Fernando A. Guerra, M.D., M.P.H., Director of Health San Antonio Metropolitan Health District
- Marcy Meffert, Mayor of Leon Valley, TX Board and Chair, Alamo Area Council of Governments
We are privileged to be at such a prestigious University, and in a community that cares so deeply about its aging population. And I am so pleased that so many of you are able to be here today to listen and participate in this important initiative. (What a wonderful turnout!)
Today represents another significant step in EPA's efforts to protect the health of older Americans from environmental health hazards.
And what better place to begin the public part of this process than in a State where older Texans represent 20% of the State's population, and which will soon rank third in the nation for states with populations age 65 and over. San Antonio is an especially important place to have this listening session since this community has been on the vanguard of taking action to improve the environment; it is one of eight cities in the Southwest that have entered into an Early Action Compact with the EPA to provide clean air in advance of federal requirements.
I recently read that in the year 2020, Texas will have 100 older females for every 86 men!
When Administrator Whitman launched EPA's Aging Initiative last fall, she announced that we would be developing a National Agenda on the Environment and the Aging which will be announced in early 2004.
The reasons we must do this are evident:
- Our country is undergoing a dramatic demographic transformation. By 2030 our population age 65 and older will have more than doubled. The population age 85 and older is both the most frail and the most rapidly increasing. Today, 4 million Americans are 85 years of age and older and by 2050, their number is expected to exceed 19 million.
- Older adults are more susceptible to threats from the environment, which may cause or worsen chronic or life-threatening conditions.
- Poor indoor air quality as well as ozone and particulate matter in the air exacerbate respiratory and heart conditions, trigger asthma attacks, and limit activity levels.
- Older immune systems are also less able to fight off microbes such as e-coli and cryptosporidium, sometimes found in our drinking water.
- In addition, older persons have accumulated a lifetime of environmental and occupational contaminants which are capable of remaining in the body - such as lead, mercury and PCB's.
Building on ongoing research within EPA, and working with many federal, state, and local partners, as well as the private sector and research community, the National Agenda on the Environment and the Aging will include three distinct but interrelated components.
- First, we will identify research gaps that exist in environmental health.
- We know that research leads to prevention and education.
- Second, we will examine the interface between a rapidly growing aging population and our environment.
- In a few short years, the baby boomers will begin to join the ranks of our aging population, creating the largest single cohort in the history of our country, and potentially generating novel ecological pressures.
- Third, we will look for ways to encourage older persons to contribute their considerable skills and talents to reduce environmental hazards in their communities and raise awareness of health concerns from these hazards.
- We want to learn more about model programs that exist in communities across America that might warrant replication at the national level.
The National Agenda on the Environment and the Aging will be crafted in the cities (like San Antonio), towns and communities in which we live - by the people who have the most to gain from our efforts - older Americans, and their care givers.
Only by opening up this process and encouraging broad, active participation can we expect to gain a more complete understanding of the environmental health issues of most concern to older Americans, and the most effective ways to address those issues.
So, this afternoon is an opportunity for us to listen to YOU, and we are looking forward to that. Thank you so much for being part of this process.
The challenge we face is to improve the quality of life for all older Americans, and on behalf of the Administrator and staff of the Environmental Protection Agency, I appreciate the willingness of each person here today to help us meet that challenge together. There is wisdom and strength when we unite to protect others.
PUBLIC LISTENING SESSION LOGISTICS FOLLOW
LET ME LAY OUT THE LOGISTICS AND GROUND RULES FOR TODAY'S MEETING.
This afternoon we will be hearing from roughly 25 individuals who will provide their comments on the National Agenda on the Environment and the Aging.
Each speaker will represent themselves or may speak on behalf of an organization. Before making their remarks, speakers should state their name -- and agency or organization, if appropriate. Each speaker will have three minutes to present their comments on one or all three of the main components of the National Agenda, as outlined by the Administrator.
At the conclusion of each speaker's 3-minute remarks, the microphone will be passed the next scheduled speaker.
Each speaker will be politely signaled when one minute remains.
We recognize that three minutes is not a long time to talk, especially on topics as important as these, ...but three minutes is the same length of time that Members of Congress have to discuss legislation in Washington.
Please limit your remarks to the 3 minutes you have been allotted so that we are able to hear from all pre-registered speakers this afternoon.
All of your comments will be reviewed by a team that will be assembled to craft the comments into a final National Agenda.
If we have time at the end of today's session, we will open the floor to one minute statements from members of the audience.
Unfortunately, time will not allow a dialogue in the form of questions and answers this afternoon. However, should you have questions about the National Agenda, you are encouraged to share them with the Aging Initiative staff, who will do their best to respond in a timely manner.
Each speaker's remarks will be recorded as part of the official record of today's proceedings to ensure that we have captured the essence of the messages delivered today.
If you are not among the speakers today, please know that there are many opportunities that exist for you to comment today, and in the future as you help shape the National Agenda on the Environment and the Aging.
- You may write your comments on the sheets provided to you at the registration table and present them to any of the EPA Listening Session volunteers who are helping us today.
- Please remember to write clearly and include your name and address (if you wish to be contacted.)
- You may call in your comments to EPA's toll-free Aging Initiative hotline which is -1-866-EPA-AGED (372-2433).
- You are also invited visit EPA's new Aging website at http://www.epa.gov/aging/ and follow the instructions on the National Agenda page to provide comments. If you wish to access information in Spanish, click on Recursos en Español, located on the lower left of the Aging website home page.
- You can send your comments electronically to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Or you may use the old-fashioned way of communicating by mailing them or faxing them to EPA's Aging Initiative staff. The address and number are included in your handouts today.
Your comments will be welcomed through Friday, May 16.
Again, on behalf of Administrator Whitman and the Environmental Protection Agency's Aging Initiative, I thank you for being part of this effort today - your participation is critical to the success of this Initiative.
Before we get started, we will have a few brief comments from our distinguished head table whose support has been essential in making this day happen.
Now, let's begin with our first speaker: Dr. Guerra.