Statement Of James Gulliford
Environmental Protection Agency
Aging Initiative Public Listening Session
Iowa City, Iowa
April 15, 2003
EPA Regional Administrator
EPA Regional Administrator
My name is James Gulliford and I am the Regional Administrator for Region 7 that includes the states of Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska.
It is a pleasure to be here today to welcome you to the third of EPA's six public listening sessions to develop the National Agenda on the Environment and the Aging.
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 Iowans represent the fastest growing segment of the state's population. It feels good to be home.
As many of you know, Iowa ranks second in the country in percentage of total state population that are over the age of 85 as well as in number of centenarians. Today there are four million Americans over 85 years of age and by 2050 their number will surge to 19 million.
And today we are privileged to be at such a prestigious University, and in a community that cares so deeply about its aging population.
I would like to thank the University of Iowa College of Public Health and the Center on Aging and the Heritage Area Agency on Aging and its Director Elizabeth Selk and her staff for being enthusiastic partners in this effort.
And I am so pleased that so many of you are able to be here today to listen and participate in this important initiative.
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 mid-century our population 65 and older will have more than doubled from today. Our population 85 and over is the fastest growing age group and their numbers are expected to triple.
- 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.
- 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.
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 all of the Environmental Protection Agency, I appreciate the willingness of each person here today to help us meet that challenge together.
Let me lay out the agenda for today's meeting.
This afternoon we will be hearing from individuals who will provide their comments on the National Agenda on the Environment and the Aging.
Each speaker will represent themselves or may be speaking 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 length of time that Members of Congress have to discuss legislation in Washington.
Please keep to the time you have been allotted so that we are able to hear from all our pre-registered speakers this afternoon.
Know too that all of your comments will be reviewed by the team that will be assembled to craft the comments into a final National Agenda.
If we have time at the end of the 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 my staff or 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 can also visit EPA's new Aging website at http://www.epa.gov/aging/ and follow the instructions on the National Agenda page to provide comments.
- You can send your comments electronically to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Or you can 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 hand-outs today.
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.