Trump at 6 Months: An Unprecedented Assault on Children’s Health

President Trump said last week that in his first months in office he has accomplished "more ... than practically any president in history." His claim is not supported by the facts, but at the six-month mark one thing is indisputable: No president and administration have ever done so much so quickly to roll back protections for children's health and safety.

Trump and the unqualified, uninformed sycophants with whom he's surrounded himself have spent the last six months trying to tear down virtually every program meant to shield kids from exposure to pollution, provide them with healthy diets, promote good nutrition, and ensure they have adequate and affordable health care. American children need a champion in the Oval Office, but the president has gone out of his way to implement policies that will hurt them.

"The president and his appointees display not only disregard of kids' needs, but outright hostility to the idea that the government has a duty to safeguard their health and well-being," said EWG President Ken Cook. “Just when you think the Trump administration's indifference to children's welfare has hit bottom, another assault is launched. What it amounts to is a war on American kids."

The spearhead of the administration's offensive is its plan to gut health insurance for children. The White House has proposed nearly $6 billion in cuts to the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, which provides health care coverage for 8.9 million low-income children. The president's budget also proposes $1.4 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years to Medicaid, which provides health care to approximately 37 million more poor children.

Dirty Air, Dirty Water and Hungrier Kids

Not as much public attention has been paid to the steps Trump and his team have taken to reverse rules and reduce spending on programs designed to protect children from dirty air and water, toxic chemicals, and junk food. So far, the administration has:

  • Withdrawn a rule that protects the drinking water of 117 million Americans.
  • Slashed funding for the Environmental Protection Agency to its lowest level in 40 years.
  • Cancelled a scheduled ban of a pesticide linked to brain damage in kids.
  • Cut funding for programs designed to protect kids from lead.
  • Weakened new chemical safety rules that protect kids from toxic chemicals.
  • Reduced funding for programs designed to protect kids near Superfund toxic waste sites.
  • Scuttled the EPA’s plan to dramatically reduce childhood asthma.
  • Delayed clean air rules designed to reduce mercury emissions, which can cause brain damage in young children.

But that’s not all.

The Trump administration has also waged a full-scale war on America’s food and nutrition policies, delaying proposals designed to combat childhood obesity – such as more easily understood food labels – and relaxing rules to get junk food out of schools.

Trump is also demanding nearly $200 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. An estimated one in four American children receive food assistance through the program, and more than 40 percent of all SNAP recipients are children, according to the nonpartisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

More Threats to Kids’ Health Ahead

Trump is not done yet. The president and his allies in Congress are pushing so-called regulatory reforms that would make it impossible to adopt rules to safeguard kids and other Americans from dangerous products and practices.

But EWG is fighting back.

EWG’s scientists, lawyers and media staff, with help from thousands of our supporters, have responded to the assault by fighting radical appointees like EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, conducting groundbreaking analyses and investigations, and sounding the alarm when Trump’s proposals threaten the health of our children.

EWG led the fight against Pruitt’s confirmation by exposing his efforts to protect poultry polluters as Oklahoma’s attorney general, including investigations of his campaign contributions and his time as a state legislator. We worked closely with Oklahoma experts, national reporters and congressional leaders to share our research with the public. When Pruitt lied to the Senate, we told you so and urged the Justice Department to investigate. When he put chemical industry lobbyists in charge at the EPA, we sounded the alarm.

Despite overwhelming evidence that Pruitt was unfit to lead the EPA, he was confirmed. EWG's Ken Cook predicted that Pruitt would “start on day one as the worst EPA administrator in history." 

We didn't have to wait long for fulfillment of this prediction. One of Pruitt’s first decisions was to reverse the EPA’s decision to ban the use of chlorpyrifos, a pesticide shown to lower kids’ IQs.

“The chance to prevent brain damage in children was a low bar for most of Scott Pruitt’s predecessors, but it apparently just wasn’t persuasive enough for an administrator who isn’t sure if banning lead from gasoline was a good idea,” Cook told The Washington Post. “Instead, in one of his first major decisions as head of the EPA, like a toddler running toward his parents, Pruitt leaped into the warm and waiting arms of the pesticide industry.”

EWG documented how Pruitt sided with Dow, the maker of chlorpyrifos, to ignore the recommendations of the EPA's own scientists after the company made a $1 million donation to help fund Trump’s lavish inauguration. We also worked with the nation’s pediatricians to highlight the threats the pesticide poses to children, and went to court with American Oversight to demand records documenting Pruitt’s collusion with the pesticide industry. We provided advice on how to avoid eating Pruitt’s pesticide, and in the absence of federal action, we’re putting pressure on retailers and state legislators to help protect kids from exposure.  

Trump and Pruitt are also trying to weaken chemical safety laws to help keep dangerous chemicals on the market, including 1,4-dioxane, a chemical the EPA says is a likely human carcinogen. EWG’s in-depth investigation found 1,4-dioxane in thousands of personal care products, including hundreds of products marketed to kids. We’ve told Trump and Pruitt we’ll see them in court.

Just this month, Trump and Pruitt withdrew a rule protecting rivers, lakes and bays from pollution – an action that threatens the drinking water of 117 million Americans. In response, EWG researchers dug into the data and published an interactive map that shows which communities will no longer be protected. EWG called out Trump and Pruitt for allowing polluters to treat our waters "like an ashtray."

EWG investigators also raised serious concerns about Trump’s pick to head the Department of Agriculture. Once leading the department, former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue did not wait long to roll back efforts to help combat childhood obesity, including new rules to keep junk food out of schools.

More White Bread, Salt and Sugar in School Lunches

Our nutrition expert concluded that Perdue’s school lunch menu might as well be “white bread with extra salt and sugar,” and Cook told the New York Times: "Just because children would rather eat heavily salted, processed foods at school, doesn’t mean they should." Now Trump and his allies in Congress are setting their sights on anti-hunger programs, including funding for school meals.

To block future safeguards designed to protect our kids, Trump and his allies in Congress are planning to tie agencies like the EPA, the USDA, and the Food and Drug Administration in legal knots. The House has already passed its version of the Regulatory Accountability Act, or RAA, a law so bad it's been dubbed the “License to Kill” bill. If enacted, the bill would subject consumer protection agencies to an impenetrable gauntlet of studies and court reviews.

“This breathtaking six-month assault by President Trump and his minions rolls out a stark roadmap for the next three and half years for the most vulnerable Americans – our children foremost among them,” said Cook. “The lobbyists for chemical companies, Big Ag and other corporate interests have the ear of Trump, his cronies and their Congressional acolytes, but the administration turns a deaf ear to advocates for poor, hungry, sick and polluted children." 

Trump's war on kids isn't done, but neither are we.

While Trump and his administration continue to tear down safeguards for children’s environmental health, ignore science, and work to keep Americans in the dark about their destructive agenda, EWG will be doing the exact opposite. Here are some of the priorities on our agenda:

  • Working to defeat the Regulatory Reform Act by highlighting how sensible safeguards have saved millions of lives and prevented millions of injuries.
  • Fighting the Trump EPA’s efforts to weaken air and drinking water rules and chemical safety reviews, and expanding efforts to review toxic chemicals in cosmetics and food.
  • Growing our efforts to keep your kids safe from dangerous chemicals, including lead and toxic chemicals in cleaners and cosmetics, through state legislation.
  • Helping you keep your kids away from toxic chemicals in everyday products, with tools including Skin Deep®, our Guide to Sunscreens, our Guide to Healthy Cleaning, and our guides to Pesticides in Produce and packaged foods.
  • Rolling out our national Tap Water Database next week, which will allow virtually anyone in the U.S. to enter their zip code and find out what contaminants their local utilities found in drinking water – along with the levels of those pollutants that scientists say are safe.
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