Is anyone else worried that a climate change denier is in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency? If not, you should be.
Since the EPA has been entrusted to Scott Pruitt – under the Trump Administration – they have reversed the Obama-era recommendation to ban chlorpyrifos, a pesticide linked to brain damage in children. The agency has seen several complaints by groups such as the Pesticide Action Network and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Although required to respond to the petition and make a final decision on the ban by March 31, just a few days before that deadline, Pruitt announced that the agency would roll back the former president’s recommendation. “By reversing the previous administration’s steps to ban one of the most widely used pesticides in the world, we are returning to using sound science in decision-making,” Pruitt said in a statement.
Environmentalists are now suing the Environmental Protection Agency asking a federal court to make the agency follow through on this recommended banning because of its links to autism and childhood brain defects. Even though the EPA concluded in November that the pesticide is associated with autism, lowered intelligence, developmental delays, and attention deficit disorders, they are now changing their position. According to Pruitt’s statement, the EPA now doubts its previous findings about the pesticide’s dangers. Erik Olson, a Natural Resources Defense Council senior attorney and health program director, stated that –
The science is clear that this chemical is dangerous, yet Administrator Pruitt is ignoring findings from EPA’s own experts and brushing off the courts to keep it on the market. The Trump administration is not above the law — and we will not let them put our kids at risk.
The EPA said it will wait to re-evaluate the pesticide’s safety in 2022. But if the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sides with the environmentalists, the agency might have to take action sooner. The Natural Resources Defense Council argues the EPA did not offer any new evidence to show chlorpyrifos can be used safely. Chlorpyrifos is a type of insecticide currently used on a variety of crops, turf, golf courses, and in greenhouses. In its November report, the EPA said that children are exposed to dangerous levels of the pesticide, thanks to its residue on fruits and vegetables. Pregnant mothers who have had even low exposure to the pesticide can end up giving birth to children with long-term and potentially irreversible brain abnormalities, researchers have discovered.
The court trouble continues for the EPA as four conservation and animal welfare groups also sued the Secretary of the Interior, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its acting director earlier this month for failing to protect endangered species from two deadly pesticides used to kill coyotes and other native carnivores. “Cyanide bombs are indiscriminate killers,” Collette Adkins, an attorney and biologist at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a release on the legal action. “In just the past several weeks, they’ve injured a child, killed an endangered wolf and several family dogs. These dangerous pesticides need to be banned, but until then, they shouldn’t be used anywhere they can hurt people or kill family pets and endangered wildlife.” The complaint against the Environmental Protection Agency was filed the same day that University of Iowa and U.S. Geological Survey scientists announced that, for the first time, they’d found a common type of pesticide in American drinking water.
“[The council] stands with medical professionals, scientific experts, farmworkers, and agricultural communities across the country to seek court action in the face of a Trump administration unwilling to put children’s health over corporate profits,” the council’s statement reads.
Along with a proposed $2.6 billion reduction to the EPA budget, the Trump Administration is eliminating many of the regulatory programs that have helped improve air quality and standards that protect kids from pollutants and toxic substances. Research and enforcement budgets would be among the casualties as well as the Clean Power Plan, climate change research, hazmat cleanup funds and state grants for air, water, waste and toxic substance programs. Researchers say that if implemented, these cuts will have long-term and costly health impacts on children. Many things a child does — from playing outside to sprawling out on carpets and lawns — puts them at greater risk for exposure to environmental hazards, such as pollution in the air, pesticides on grass and treatments on rugs. The risk for children is amplified because they are still developing. Exposure to pollutants in the womb through adolescence can cause irreparable harm. Lead poisoning at a young age, for example, can cause neurological damage such as lower IQ that a child will live with for the rest of their life.
I understand the point of wanting to have a balanced budget, but if it just means we are going to pay more later on, all we are doing is shifting that financial burden from us to … our kids, and that just makes no sense at all.
More than two dozen communities in California have experienced recent rates of childhood lead poisoning rivaling or exceeding those in Flint, Michigan. According to data collected by Reuters and detailed in a report published last month, 29 California neighborhoods have been identified where children have elevated rates of lead. The tests don’t indicate the source of the lead exposure, but some common potential sources include crumbling old paint, contaminated soil, and tainted drinking water. Once a common ingredient in household paint, gasoline, and plumbing systems, lead is a neurotoxin that causes irreparable health effects, like cognitive deficiency and attention disorders in young children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says any lead level over 5 micrograms per deciliter is considered elevated for children under 6.
“For their size, kids eat more and drink more and breathe more air than adults do,” said Caroline Cox, research director at the Center for Environmental Health. “So if either the food, the water or the air is polluted, then they’re going to be exposed more.” Children exposed to chemicals and polluted air and water can put undue strain on social services, health care and the economy. Studies have showed that kids with lead poisoning often have lower lifetime earnings and therefore pay less in taxes because of ensuing brain damage, Cox said.
On the Navajo Nation, kids with the most severe developmental disabilities attend a school called Saint Michael’s Association for Special Education. Many of the kids at Saint Michael’s are medically fragile. So they have equipment that needs to be cleaned daily. The staff refuses to use the tap water to wash equipment. Instead, they use 5-gallon jugs of filtered water trucked in from many miles away. More than one-third of the Navajo Nation — which is the size of West Virginia — doesn’t have running water. And at some of the places that do, like Saint Michael’s, people don’t want to drink it because it smells, tastes funny and looks bad. “It has a certain stench to it. Sometimes you’ll smell … kinda like a egg smell,” Woodie says. “Sometimes it’s yellow, brown, or we’ve even seen black.”
In the sink you can see the residue from the black water. It looks like sand. Gregory Bahe, water and waste water operations supervisor at the utility, says the strange color, smell and taste are all likely due to stagnant water. He says the water lines are so far apart that the water sits stagnant for long periods. The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority tests the water at Saint Michael’s monthly and says it meets national primary drinking water standards.
What’s odd to me is how normal it becomes for the water in the laundry room to come out black. And it’s just like we don’t think about it anymore.
While it’s not poisonous, there is still the matter of appearance. It has been noted that the Environmental Protection Agency has established two levels of standards. The primary standard — filtering contaminants that harm your health — is required by law. The secondary standard — eliminating taste, color and smell — is voluntary. The secondary standard is typically considered “aesthetics”.
Saint Michael’s spent almost $3,000 last year on bottled water alone. That’s a big cost for a school with so many expenses and one that a better water filtration system could alleviate. So a school volunteer contacted Dig Deep, a nonprofit that digs wells and makes water accessible throughout the region. George McGraw, Dig Deep’s founder and executive director, is especially concerned for the disabled kids. The organization is raising $100,000 to build a water filtration system for Saint Michael’s. It hopes to install it this summer so the water is more than just technically safe. It will be something kids and staff actually want to drink.
These are people that rely on us, on their teachers, on their government officials, on society at large, to make sure that their most basic needs are taken care of. And what’s more basic than having access to clean running water?” McGraw says.
The Trump administration is taking immediate action that will have far-reaching consequences. The “energy independence” executive order, signed late last month, aims to dismantle President Obama’s signature climate initiative, the Clean Power Plan, and loosen regulations on the coal industry. Ultimately, long-term financial and social costs will far exceed any immediate savings the EPA budget cuts afford, experts say. History has showed that state and local government enforcement can be patchy and irregular, leaving protection measures less effective, said Frederica Perera, a professor of public health and director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health.