This post is a part of a series on Understanding the Budget
Parents are used to getting progress reports on how their children are doing—from teachers at school and from health care providers who assess developmental milestones. Early indicators are important; they can identify problems early, trigger needed interventions, or provide welcome assurance that things are looking good.
The news has been full of what President Trump has been doing in the first 90 days of his administration. Let’s do a quick progress report on what he’s done for children’s health.
One could start by thinking about what a repeal of the Affordable Care Act might have meant (or still might mean) for children’s health care, especially poor children. Or what Mr. Trump’s efforts to round up and deport undocumented people has meant for their health and well-being (shattering stories here and here). Or the many ways that Mr. Trump’s “2 for 1” executive order could impact children. Or how his agenda to roll back public protections (i.e., regulations) will affect the many determinants of health, like clean air, water, food. (Children are especially vulnerable to environmental conditions, as they take in more air, water, and food per pound than adults.)
And then, of course, there’s the administration’s efforts to sow doubt about climate science and roll back safeguards that limit harmful climate pollution. Here is what our nation’s pediatricians have to say about climate change and child health.
These past two weeks give us another window into the administration’s stance on specific environmental threats to children’s health.
Strike one. Rejecting the conclusions of its own scientists, last week the EPA Administrator announced a “final agency action” that it would not ban a pesticide (chlorpyrifos) that poses a clear risk to child health. This after years of independent study and solid scientific evidence (here, here, here) that the pesticide poses a developmental risk to children. (In 2000, the EPA phased out its use around homes, schools, day care centers and other places where children might be exposed.)
And here’s the kicker: the next time the EPA is required to re-evaluate the safety of this pesticide is 2022! That means another five years of exposure to this widely-used pesticide that poses a clear risk to the developing brains of children.
Strike two: Last week, the EPA released its proposed budget for FY18, aligning its budget with President Trump’s war on the EPA. The proposal eliminates two agency programs that help protect children from exposure to lead, a potent neurotoxin. Not trim , not cut, but eliminate!
One program trains and certifies workers involved in lead abatement in buildings that may have lead-based paint. The other is a grant program to states and tribal jurisdictions that address lead-based paint. We can likely expect a groundswell of protest from the nation’s public health community, which well-understands the grave risks of lead exposure to children, and the singular value of primary prevention. They also recognize the important role that the EPA has played in protecting children’s health over the past two decades.
Strike three: Stand by. I fear it won’t be long.
I’m struck that I’m blogging about two well-recognized and highly researched environmental health threats to children during National Public Health Week, and at the same time that the Children’s Environmental Health Network (CEHN) is holding its 2017 research conference in Arlington, VA. Among other things addressed by these children’s health specialists: pesticides and lead!
What to do?
At the risk of repeating myself—(OK, I am)—we need to remember that our government, including Mr. Pruitt’s EPA, works for us. Our public health and the health of our children should override private interests. We have voice. We have science behind us. We need to speak up, show up, and let our leaders know that we are watching and that attempts to roll back public protections IS NOT ALL RIGHT.
UCS has tools and resources to help do that. Join us—and others—in this fight.
Support from UCS members make work like this possible. Will you join us? Help UCS advance independent science for a healthy environment and a safer world.