Slashing EPA Budget Would Harm Kids, Pediatric Specialists Say

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By Pat Rizzuto

The Trump administration’s proposal to slash a quarter of the EPA’s budget will harm children’s health, several professionals who work in the pediatric health field told congressional staff and reporters April 5.

“Environmental health is all about prevention not about treatment,” Jerome Paulson, a professor emeritus of pediatrics at George Washington University’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences, said. “As a pediatrician, I know that there is almost nothing that I can do to treat children who have been injured by environmental health hazards. There is no pill or portion I can prescribe to repair lungs that have been damaged by air pollution.”

He said cuts to the EPA’s budget will harm the health of children and adults and make his work and that of other health professionals more difficult. Paulson also advises the Children’s Environmental Health Network, a nonprofit advocacy group.

Paulson was among the health care professionals, researchers and a federal policy analyst who spoke on Capitol Hill at a presentation on the EPA’s role in protecting children’s health, and the impact of the 25 percent cut to the agency’s budget proposed for fiscal year 2018. The Children’s Environmental Health Network and the University of California, San Francisco’s Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment organized the event.

Appropriations Committees

Reaction from appropriations committees divided along party lines with Republicans remaining reticent.

“Congress will carefully consider the proposals presented by the administration as the FY18 budget process moves forward,” Stephen Worley, majority spokesman for the Senate Committee on Appropriations told Bloomberg BNA by email.

Some of the Democrats by contrast spoke out.

“Democrats stand strongly opposed to efforts to undermine or weaken EPA’s critical role in protecting public health from environmental hazards,” Matt Dennis, spokesman for the Democrats on the the House Committee on Appropriations, told Bloomberg BNA by email.

Cuts he said the Democrats intend to oppose include:

  •  the elimination of the EPA’s lead risk reduction program, which sets cleanup standards for lead-based paint cleanups and educates the general public, realtors and building remodelers about lead, lead hazards, and their prevention;
  •   a $2.3 million cut the EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection, which helps coordinate regulatory office efforts to ensure children’s health vulnerabilities and exposures are considered environmental health risks in regulatory decisions; and
  •   more than $82 million in cuts to research funded and conducted by the EPA’s Office of Research and Development.
These cuts and fiscal year 2016 funding levels were detailed in a March 21 memo first obtained by the Washington Post from David Bloom, the EPA’s acting chief financial officer.

Usual Dance?

The proposed cuts are so dramatic that some people have called President Donald Trump’s budget “dead on arrival.”

Attorneys and other policy watchers also have told Bloomberg BNA the proposed budget is part of a routine “dance” between the executive branch and Congress, in which this and previous administrations have proposed cuts to EPA programs it expects Congress to reinstate.

Yet the proposed governmentwide cuts to programs that support the elderly and poor, research and other public health services are so dramatic that Congress may be hard pressed to fully fund some needed services, including some EPA programs, Linda McCauley, dean of the Emory University School of Nursing, told Bloomberg BNA.

$14M Increase for Chemicals

Despite the drastic cuts to other programs, the agency’s budget and staffing for chemical risk review and reduction would increase by $14 million and 53.6 full-time employees under Trump’s budget blueprint. That increase would help the agency implement the amendments Congress made to the Toxic Substances Control Act last summer. The $14 million boost would add to the fiscal year 2016 budget of $19.7 million and 238.7 full-time employees that the agency had for TSCA.

Among other mandates, the TSCA amendments require the EPA to consider health risks to children as it evaluates chemicals.

The chemicals office, however, doesn’t work in a vacuum, McCauley told Bloomberg BNA.

Increased funding, alone, may not help the agency implement TSCA if it doesn’t also have the expertise from the children’s health, research and other offices, she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Pat Rizzuto in Washington at prizzuto@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

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