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Daily News Blog

19
Oct

VOTE early. Bad Government Decisions Kill People and the Environment

(Beyond Pesticides, October 19, 2020) The COVID-19 epidemic has made clear to the general public what we at Beyond Pesticides have been stressing since our inception—some populations have disproportionate risk of severe outcomes, exposures to toxic chemicals can affect susceptibility to disease, comorbidity increases risk, and bad government can kill you.

As Trump declares that “unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House,” we are reminded of Erik Jansson, who ran the National Network to Prevent Birth Defects and helped to convene the founding meeting of Beyond Pesticides, and took on then-Administrator of EPA Anne Gorsuch, calling her a “baby killer” because of policies that allowed exposures to toxic chemicals—exposures that endangered children and fetuses. Those were harsh words in the 1980s even when the Reagan administration’s environmental and toxics policies were tied to elevated harm to people, and children in particular. In today’s world, scientists and medical doctors are regularly linking elevated death rates from coronavirus to the federal government’s inadequate coronavirus policy and its attack on science. And, they are pointing to those in charge.

Policies and decisions under the Trump administration that threaten the health of children and the unborn include:

  • COVID-19 misinformation. According to a Cornell University study, Trump is the single largest driver of misinformation around COVID, and, says Scientific American, that misinformation kills people.
  • Poisoning children. In a move that challenges the preponderance of independent peer-reviewed scientific findings on children’s health, EPA stripped away protections that limit children’s exposure to class of chemicals associated with childhood cancer, autism other learning disorders, and asthma. The result of the agency’s actions will be a dramatic increase in the use of synthetic pyrethroids, insecticides found in indoor and outdoor bug sprays, bug bombs, and often used on conventionally grown fruits and vegetables.
  • Ignoring the recommendations of EPA scientists to ban chlorpyrifos. Chlorpyrifos is a cholinesterase inhibitor that binds irreversibly to the receptor sites of acetylcholinesterase (AChE), an enzyme that is critical to normal nerve impulse transmission. In so doing, chlorpyrifos inactivates the enzyme, damages the central and peripheral nervous systems, and disrupts neurological activity. The compound is associated with harmful reproductive, renal, hepatic, and endocrine disrupting effects, and most notably, with neurodevelopmental impacts, especially in children. It is a neurological toxicant that damages their brains and leads to compromised cognitive function, attention deficit disorder, developmental delays, lowered IQs, and a host of other developmental and learning anomalies.
  • Failure to regulate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). EPA Administrator Wheeler “told reporters he believes the agency’s voluntary 70-part-per-trillion health-advisory level for the chemicals is ‘a safe level for drinking water,’ despite the fact that this level is more than six times higher than what the Department of Health and Human Services considers safe.” The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCSUSA) says, “[S]cientific evidence suggests that children may be especially vulnerable to PFAS exposure. For many children, exposure begins almost immediately, first through placental transfer and then through breast milk after birth. While medical professionals still recommend breastfeeding because of its many benefits, the idea that something so natural has been tainted with harmful, manmade chemicals is disturbing.”
  • Weakening air pollution regulations. Weakening air pollution regulations serves polluting industries but harms children, whose lungs are still developing and are more exposed through active, outdoor activities. Air pollution levels can also affect developing brains.
  • Disregards scientific consensus on climate change. According to UCSUSA, “[T]he complete failure of this administration to accept climate science and act to reduce carbon emissions is putting our children and future generations at risk. Children are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of a warming world. Extreme heat can cause pregnant women to experience abnormally high blood pressure, liver and kidney damage, and premature births, and children are more susceptible to undernutrition, dehydration, and asthma and other respiratory diseases.”
  • Failure to reduce lead in drinking water and paint. There is no safe level for children of exposure to lead, which is, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), a highly potent neurotoxin that even at low doses can cause irreversible damage to the nervous system of children.
  • EPA proposed lowering the age at which farmworker children are allowed to apply pesticides to 16. In 2015, the WPS was revised to set a minimum age of 18 for pesticide application. In 2018, after being sued for not implementing the minimum age requirement, EPA proposed lowering the age to 16. EPA dropped its proposal to lower the age for pesticide handlers after negotiating with Congress. Despite EPA’s reversal, a change in the statute such as that proposed in H.R. 3394 would prevent the agency or the courts from allowing 16-year-olds to be hired to apply pesticides in the future.
  • Dismantling of EPA’s and other regulatory programs. The range of government decisions, or the failure to act, is causing real harm to people, and too numerous to list here, but we can add ignoring EPA scientists’ call for an asbestos ban.   

In addition to moves that directly affect the health of children, there are many more that affect the future environment—the environment in which those children will live. Several lists of Trump administration actions that hurt health and the environment are available online, including those compiled by National Geographic, The New York Times, Union of Concerned Scientists, Scientific American, and World Resources Institute. Concern for the far-reaching impacts of the Trump administration on the environment and health and its attacks on science, have prompted some organizations to take a first-ever stand on the presidential election. These include the New England Journal of Medicine and Scientific American.

Of course, these Trump administration policies are supported by the leadership in the U.S. Senate and among leaders in many state legislatures across the country. As we sit on the precipice of existential threats to health and the environment, we appreciate all those who participate in Beyond Pesticides’ Action of the Week. The issues of concern have been covered in our actions, where we thank all those who participate.  

NOW IT’S TIME TO VOTE. NOW IT’S TIME TO ASK OUR FAMILY, FRIENDS,  AND NEIGHBORS TO VOTE.

Remember, many rules have changed during the pandemic, making it harder to figure out how to cast your ballot. This interactive guide can help you ensure your vote is counted.

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