Public health attacks you missed during the Congressional recess

Keith Gaby

If you want evidence that elections matter, check your kid’s drinking water for lead. And arsenic. And mercury in her body. Because a series of new actions by the Trump administration mean the progress we’ve made on those public health threats is under attack.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced a series of actions last week meant to kick off a public relations tour to promote his agenda – and perhaps gain a little exposure for his widely rumored Senate campaign.

These actions are an assault on public health and will result in more dangerous neurotoxins in our water, food, and bodies, and developmental problems for children, dangers for pregnant women, and others.

More toxic rivers and waterways

Pruitt said he was halting a rule that would limit dumping of coal ash, and the toxic chemicals it carries, into rivers and waterways. Starting next year, power plants, which account for about 30 percent of all toxic industrial discharges into our nation’s waterways, were supposed to use the latest technology to remove metals like lead, arsenic, and mercury from their wastewater.

These discharges cause lowered IQ in children, elevated cancer risk for humans, and deformities in fish and wildlife; but Pruitt is postponing the deadlines and said he will “reconsider” the rule.

More mercury in the air

The Trump administration may seek to delay a court hearing on the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which keeps these same chemicals out of the air, our lakes and rivers, and the fish we eat. These standards are already fully implemented and delivering life-saving protections. The air is cleaner at fraction of cost that industry predicted. Yet Pruitt seems ready to revisit these standards.

More regulations under the axe

Pruitt held a press event at a mine in Pennsylvania which was fined by EPA for 350 cases of dumping pollution into a river. The message seems to be that the ideology of cutting regulations trumps the value of keeping seriously dangerous chemicals out of our water supply.

Pruitt is counting the modest price of corporate compliance, but apparently not the human and economic cost of developmental problems and sickness from more toxic pollution.

More to come

Trump and Pruitt’s attack on public health is not likely to stop. By May 15, all agencies are supposed to have completed a process of finding rules and protections they’d like to cut. Pruitt has set up an internal process for hunting safeguards to kill, apparently seeking input from industry and few others. I suppose this shouldn’t be surprising from an Administrator who seemed to indicate last week that he might rather define “healthy” smog levels than listen to scientists.

The public does not appear to be happy with the direction things are going. Trump’s approval rating on environmental issues is at 29%. But even more than polls, elected officials know from long experience that the public cares deeply about clean air and water. Pruitt might get some credit from big energy companies who will now get to cut corners, but it’s hard to believe there will be cheering from the parents whose children will only get more pollution.

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