Protecting science at EPA means defending its budget

Over 100 scientists, clinicians and health professionals are telling Congress not to defund programs at EPA that are essential to protecting children and pregnant women’s health from environmental threats.

Funding and support for research to understand how the environment can impact children and the health of communities are more important than ever to provide evidence in the face of an anti-science and deprotection agenda.  The current leadership at EPA is continuing to make decisions contrary to the scientific evidence and counter to the Agency’s mission to protect public health and the environment. For example, fuel efficiency standards, designed to reduce greenhouse gas and other air pollutant emissions, are just one of 52 health and environmental protections the EPA has rejected or proposed to rollback under Scott Pruitt’s leadership. Each removal endangers our health.

Air pollution exposure can result in a host of adverse health conditions, including asthma, bronchitis, premature birth, heart and lung disease, and premature death. In re-opening review of the fuel efficiency standards, Pruitt and his industry-aligned appointees have ignored the science documenting the tremendous benefits the rule could provide, such as reducing premature death, asthma and respiratory diseases, especially for children. The standards are estimated to provide at least $5.9 billion per year in health benefits in 2040.

To provide critical data to the public and other decision makers in support of common-sense protections, the EPA needs access to the most up-to-date science and analyses on everything from how the Clean Air Act is working to evaluating and preventing health risks from harmful chemicals in commerce. The health of the public, especially those who are most vulnerable, depends on the EPA having enough resources because:

  1. EPA programs help protect children’s health from toxic chemicals in the air, water, home and other environments.
  • EPA’s Science To Achieve Results (STAR) programs that conduct the critical research on how the environment can affect children’s health, science that is not being funded anywhere else. For example, research supported by this program demonstrated that children are more vulnerable to toxicity and exposures from environmental chemicals, so chemical evaluations should incorporate child-specific considerations.
  • Programs to prevent lead poisoning and exposures in children and for environmental justice programs. Lead damages children’s brains and there is no safe level of exposure. As the ongoing Flint water crisis demonstrates, it is vital that these programs are resourced to function properly at the federal, state and local levels.
  • Local programs that monitor the quality of the air, water, and soil help ensure healthy communities. Families and communities need know whether their community is free of dangerous levels of contaminants that threaten them and their children’s health. This only happens when there is data to understand where and when exposures occur. Documenting chemical levels after hazardous leaks and spills caused by the recent hurricane in Texas is just one example of why these programs are so important.
  1. EPA’s research and the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program are critical to evaluate health risks from pesticides and chemicals and protect the public from those that pose unreasonable risks.
  • The EPA has enormous statutory obligations and responsibility to protect families from dangerous chemicals and yet less than 10% of high-volume chemicals in the US have exposure and health data. EPA research is critical to filling the gap and is particularly important to provide key data for the Agency to successfully implement the updated Toxic Substances Control Act, which Congress approved last year.
  • The IRIS program carries out independent assessments of chemicals, which are vital resources for local, state and national authorities to use in decision making on hazardous chemicals, including informing regulations and clean-up standards. Funding for the IRIS program is needed for EPA to move forward with chemical evaluations and to make science-based decisions as required by law.

We know from past administrations that when an agency like the EPA is cut, it can take decades before important programs are back up and running. EPA’s programs generate the data needed to inform sound, science-based policy decisions that protect the public’s health; thus it is vital to maintain EPA’s scientific and research capacities despite Agency leaders who choose to ignore the evidence.

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