By Rhea Suh, Natural Resources Defense Council
On the surface, it may seem like the Trump administration cares about our kids and their health, but its actions—and inactions—reveal the opposite.
Almost two years into this not-normal presidency, we’re battling yet another series of attacks on human health and the environment from the Trump administration—and this time our children are the targets.
I know—it’s hard to keep up the outrage. But attacks on our most vulnerable are so contemptible, not only because these actions harm their health directly and indirectly but also because they completely belie the administration’s proclamations that children’s health is important.
But we see these thinly veiled attempts for what they actually are: a pattern of placing the profits of polluters over the health of our children.
Let’s look at the administration’s recent track record. One string of decisions focuses on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency continuing to allow chlorpyrifos, a toxic pesticide, to be used on fruits and vegetables sold in the United States despite the agency’s own findings that it’s dangerous, especially to children.
After a decade of advocating for the ban of this dangerous chemical, NRDC and allies won a critical victory in court in early August when judges ordered the EPA to finalize the ban. Strangely, the agency still wants to keep chlorpyrifos in use—and made this clear in late September when it filed papers asking the court to rehear its case. It’s not surprising, given the administration’s ties to Dow Chemical, the maker of chlorpyrifos, which donated $1 million to President Trump’s inauguration and whose CEO served on Trump’s manufacturing council.
The EPA has also put forth a plan to dramatically weaken existing standards that limit lead and mercury emissions from coal-powered plants—standards that are in place to protect children from known pollutants that can lead to asthma and other illnesses. Absurdly, this news surfaced on October 1, Children’s Health Day, a day when we should be committing to real action to keep our kids safe.
Stop Trump’s attack on children’s health
Add to this the EPA’s complete lack of regulatory action on PFAS—a harmful class of chemicals so ubiquitous that it’s found in the blood of 98 percent of Americans and has been linked to scores of negative health outcomes, including developmental defects in children. In the United States, two PFAS chemicals are present at unsafe levels in the drinking water of six million Americans—but the EPA has done nothing meaningful to address the matter.
These actions—and lack thereof—speak louder than any disingenuous statements. The EPA is not only currying favor with industry players and making it easier for them to pollute our land, water, and climate. It has also completely abandoned any responsibility for establishing and enforcing strong standards to protect children and is failing to use its power to prevent known hazards.
And if you aren’t outraged enough about these policy measures, there’s much more—in the way of EPA administrative actions that don’t always make it to the top of the headlines.
In late September—in fact, one day after the EPA filed papers to challenge the court-ordered chlorpyrifos ban—the EPA placed Dr. Ruth Etzel, the head of the Office of Children’s Health Protection, on administrative leave without any explanation. The role of this office is to ensure that children’s health is factored into policy decisions made by the EPA. NRDC expressed alarm that this move could be more evidence of this agency’s routine undermining of science and scientists, possibly laying the groundwork for dismantling the Office of Children’s Health Protection.
Even Children’s Health Day itself is an example of the empty ceremony of the Trump administration. The important topic used to be celebrated during the whole month of October, a tradition that dates back to the George W. Bush years. Now it has been reduced to 24 hours—a mere vestige of an era when we actually stood up for kids. It’s telling that the page for Children’s Health Month 2017 is no longer available.
Consider these moves in light of a recent study that ranked 20 wealthy countries on childhood deaths, which found that children born in the United States are 70 percent more likely to die than kids in other, comparable nations. Our country ranked last—and this unfortunate distinction serves as an indicator of just how much our government is neglecting them.
The administration claimed on Children’s Health Day that it was renewing its “commitment to ensuring the health and well-being of our young people, who are the future of our great country.” But everything it has done recently contradicts this supposed commitment.
Our children deserve much more than hypocritical statements, or measures that chip away at their well-being. They need our utmost care and consideration and real leadership from our country’s officials. Anything less is simply unacceptable.