Friday, October 19, 2018

Sidelined children's health official says EPA inaction means "kids are disposable"

Making sure children are protected from environmental toxins has been Dr. Ruth Etzel's job at the Environmental Protection Agency. She's the agency's top pediatric expert – the author of textbooks and policy handbooks on children's environmental health. As director of the Office of Children's Health Protection (OCHP), it was her job to determine the impacts of regulations on children.
"I often think of the Office of Children's Health as the conscience of EPA, because, you know, we're kind of nagging at them: 'Is this okay for children? Are you sure this is okay for children?'" she told correspondent Anna Werner.
But from the beginning of the Trump administration, Dr. Etzel says it seemed those above her no longer wanted her advice. "Our message is no longer welcome. The message that children are not little adults and they need special protections is not welcome," she said.
Her monthly meetings to advise the EPA administrator were abruptly halted.
"So, you had no one-on-one meetings with Scott Pruitt, and you had no one-on-one meetings with Andrew Wheeler? Not one?" asked Werner.
"Not one."
And, she says, a national strategy to remove lead from children's environments – launched after the Flint, Michigan water crisis – stalled, with one official brought in by the new administration telling her that anything involving new regulation "wouldn't fly."
"My sense is that the government has absolutely no intention of taking any action toward seriously changing lead in children's environments," Dr. Etzel said.
Werner asked, "What does that mean for the kids?"
"It basically means that our kids will continue to be poisoned," Dr. Etzel replied. "It basically means that kids are disposable, they don't matter."

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