By Pete Altman, Natural Resources Defense Council
Last month’s inferno at Grenfell Towers in London was a horrific tragedy. It cost more some 80 people their lives, leaving families grief-stricken and neighbors in shock. Sadly, the victims had no idea of the danger they were in until it was too late. Even worse, this tragedy could have been prevented.
If the United Kingdom had the same safeguards as we do here in the United States, those people might be alive today. As the New York Times explained, U.S. regulations prohibit using on high buildings the panels in which Grenfell Towers was wrapped. And London’s fire department has long been seeking to ban refrigerators like the one that started the fire, since they don’t have fire-resistant backing.
It’s a sobering reminder of something we take for granted. In the US, we have a long-standing fabric of health and safety standards that protects us and our loved ones from harm every day. The cribs our babies sleep in, the cars we drive our kids to school in, the places we work, the air we breathe, the water we drink…pretty much everything that touches our daily lives is safer because we’ve empowered our government to create and enforce safeguards that protect our health, safety and welfare.
The benefits of safeguards are substantial. Here’s one example: just ten safeguards created between 2009 and 2014 will save more than 10,000 lives and prevent 300,000 cases of illness and injury each year.
Major regulations produced as much as $863 billion in benefits over the past decade for as little as $57 billion, according to a 2014 report by the White House Office of Management and Budget (The Trump White House website removed the report, but it is preserved at archive.org.)
In other words: the benefits of public protections are 15 times the costs.
That’s why NRDC, Public Citizen, Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention and STOP Foodborne Illness teamed up to produce and air a television ad that shows how important our common-sense system of health and safety standards is to a typical American family.
This ad was inspired by the many heart-wrenching stories we’ve heard from people who have—or whose families have—suffered because life-saving protections didn’t exist or weren’t enforced. People like Paul A. Schwarz, Jr., a veteran who died from eating contaminated cantaloupe. And Julie Gundlach, whose body is ravaged by tumors caused by secondhand exposure to asbestos when she was a child. You can read their stories here. They remind us how important it is to have a system that protects us from health and safety dangers we know about and new ones as they emerge.
But big businesses and special interests value their own profits more than our well-being. They rail against “burdensome red tape” and “excessive” compliance costs, with little or no regard for the human and social costs of rolling back the safeguards they oppose.
President Trump and his Republican wrecking crew have launched an unprecedented array of attacks on the very system of safeguards that helps us prevent needless deaths and injuries. This alone is bad news, but on top of putting Americans at greater risk for injury and illness, their health-care repeal efforts would make it even more difficult for people to get proper medical help once they have suffered harms.
Here’s a look at the many attacks on our health, safety and welfare underway:
Trump Executive Orders
- EO 13771: Requires elimination of two existing regulations to establish one new regulation and limiting the net cost of new regulations, regardless of their benefits. Existing regulations to be repealed could include basic protections. [NRDC, Washington Post.]
- EO 13777: Creates “regulatory reform officers” and task forces for all executive branch agencies charged with identifying existing regulations to rewrite or repeal, with little regard for their benefits. [Reuters.]
- EO 13778: Orders review of the Clean Water Rule intended to limit clean water protections. [NRDC, Washington Post.]
- EO 13783: Reverses standards to reduce climate-changing pollution and orders a review of existing protections that might limit production of dirty fossil fuel energy. [NRDC, Washington Post.]
- H.R. 5; S.951: Would make creation of new safeguards much more difficult. [NRDC, (H.R. 5), NRDC (S. 951)]
- H.R. 26: Would make it easier for Congress to block new safeguards and requires Congress to affirmatively approve all existing ones. Those not approved would be eliminated automatically. [NRDC, E&E News (subscription required).]
- H.R. 998: Would establish a commission to target existing rules or safeguards to repeal and require eliminating existing protections before establishing new ones. [E&E News.]
Quite a list. That’s why NRDC and so many other organizations are working tirelessly to alert you to this danger. Together, we must raise our voices to stop these harmful policies.