Bill would create health net

Four Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation March 21 that would create a national health tracking system linking information on disease and environmental hazards.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the House minority whip, said there is an urgent need to develop a system that tracks the relationship between disease and potential environmental causes in the wake of disease clusters, such as lung diseases and cancers, that have appeared throughout the United States.

"Currently, there is no nationwide system to meet this need," Pelosi said in a statement. "Tracking programs that do exist at the state and local levels are a patchwork due to the lack of agreed-upon minimum standards or requirements for environmental health tracking."

Last year, Pelosi and other lawmakers earmarked $17.5 million for a pilot program. The new legislation would build on that project to develop a nationwide network to collect, analyze and report data on the rate of chronic disease and the presence of environmental hazards.

Pelosi said the breast cancer rate in Marin County, Calif., near her hometown of San Francisco, has increased 60 percent in the past decade, and there are many cases where health problems have arisen as a result of exposure to toxic elements. But what those toxic elements are has not been determined.

Other co-sponsors of the legislation included Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.).

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