By Ketura Persellin, Environmental Working Group
Three years into President Trump’s administration, the Union of Concerned Scientists, or UCS, has taken an in-depth look at the impact on children’s health. The findings are bleak.
“The federal government has traditionally worked hard to ensure that future generations enjoy an ever-improving quality of life,” the report says. “In the past three years, the Trump administration has backslid on that progress, putting our children – and future generations – in harm’s way. “
“Endangering Generations: How the Trump Administration’s Assault on Science Is Harming Children’s Health” details how, under the Trump administration, federal agencies have eliminated policies that protect children, rolled back protections of air and water, stymied research on children, and prevented progress toward a greater understanding of kids’ unique vulnerability to exposure to toxic chemicals and other health risks. Children of color and from low-income households are disproportionately affected.
The report, from the UCS Center for Science and Democracy, says the administration’s rollbacks of protecting children’s health are broad and deep, including:
- Lead. A Trump administration proposal for regulating lead will leave millions of children exposed to lead, a potent neurotoxin that hampers children’s growth and development.
- Asbestos. Children are especially vulnerable to asbestos exposure because they play on or near the floor in close contact with asbestos fibers. Buildings in disrepair are likely sources of contamination – including schools, where millions of kids and adults are exposed every day. Children’s makeup kits, even those sold as toys, may also be a source of contamination.
- PFAS. The Environmental Protection Agency has a long history of failing to regulate the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS, with monitoring, testing or cleanup of these “forever chemicals,” despite the rollout last year of a so-called action plan. Nearly 3 million children attend a school or day care near a PFAS-contaminated site, and 3.6 million women of childbearing age live within five miles of one.
- Food contamination. The Department of Agriculture has relaxed meat inspections, and a recently introduced program allows pork processors to act as their own inspectors, increasing children’s vulnerability to food-borne illnesses.
- Food security. Trump’s USDA finalized a rule kicking 700,000 Americans off food stamps, denying support for the nutritional needs of 3 million low-income people, many of them children. If implemented, the rule would consign more kids to poverty and hunger.
- Pesticides. The administration has allowed the continuing contamination of the food and drinking water supply with pesticides. UCS found that nearly 2 million children are exposed to a higher risk of harm because of the EPA’s failure to ban the use of chlorpyrifos.
- Climate change. Many effects of climate change have a dramatically bigger impact on children. The report points to the connection between extreme heat and adverse birth outcomes. Hotter temperatures affect most acutely children already susceptible to malnutrition, fever, asthma and kidney disease.
- Air pollution. Trump’s policies on air pollution are especially harmful to kids because of the amount of time they spend outdoors. Air pollution can trigger asthma and emergency room visits and even lead to premature death. The administration is rolling back the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which EPA scientists estimated would prevent up to 90,000 asthma attacks in children per year.
The Trump administration shows its disregard for children’s health in other ways, such as weakening the consumer product safety system, and developing policies that separate children from their families, which UCS points out is devastating for the mental health of a child.
The report argues that the administration is failing to follow the best scientific methods, “potentially misrepresenting the underlying science” that is supposed to guide environmental and public health policy. And the administration has stacked the deck against the nation’s youngest citizens, especially those of low-income groups and communities of color, with what UCS calls “dangerous decisions [that] go against the core values of our country.”