The Trump Administration’s focus on easing regulations to help business could be detrimental to the future of children’s health. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been conducting long-term research projects on air pollution and pesticides to ensure the safety of those under the age of 18, but with deregulation, children’s health research funding is being cut more and more each year.
“EPA’s latest cuts to children’s health research are part of a pattern that could diminish the importance of science in decisions that affect the well-being of American families,” J.R. DeShazo, director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation and co-chair of the External Environmental Economics Committee, tells Parentology. “This organization, comprised of some of the nation’s top economists, was convened after the EPA recently dissolved the original committee that advised the agency on social costs and benefits of its policies.”
In 1997, the EPA partnered with National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to research environmental health risks to children. Over its history, the partnership awarded 46 grants totaling over $300 million to Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Centers. The federally-funded program now at risk, has exposed dangers to children and fetuses, leading the EPA to tighten restrictions and increase regulations. Researchers and environmental groups are accusing the EPA of disregarding health and safety as to appease the Trump Administration’s mission to deregulate.
The grants given to these programs by the EPA and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences are awarded in three- and five-year packages with most of them set to run out by 2018 and 2019 with little word on renewal. Not only has program funding been cut by the EPA, but there’s been no promise of funding in the future. Congress has even been asked to cut EPA funding from its budget.
The EPA’s long-term programs that follow a child from pregnancy until several years after birth have been the most important in determining the harmful effects of their environment and chemicals they’ve been exposed to. One of these chemicals is PFAS, a stain-resistant industrial compound that’s showing up in water supplies across the US. Researchers are working to understand the long-term effects of PFAS on children and fetuses, but with no word on future funding, they may have to cease research indefinitely.
EPA spokeswoman Maggie Sauerhage told the Associated Press historically these grants have averaged $15 million annually, but in the current fiscal year are only $1.6 million. This funding not only goes into research and important long-term studies, but also educates the public on findings.
Researchers and supporters of the program have said even if full funding is restored, there’s no assurance it will remain intact, making the long-term studies that produce more promising results nearly impossible to utilize. The EPA will not commit to continued funding and under the Trump Administration, we could be at risk of losing critical research regarding children’s health.
J.R. DeShazo, director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation and co-chair of the External Environmental Economics Committee
UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation
External Environmental Economics Committee
Associated Press: Research on children’s health risks in doubt over EPA funds