EPA’s Top Children’s Health Dr. Shown the Door – Will Program be Axed?
WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency’s top children’s health official was abruptly put on administrative leave Tuesday, which could be a prelude to shutting the office she ran. EWG said Dr. Ruth Etzel’s dismissal is the latest example of the Trump administration’s “unrelenting hostility” to protecting children from pesticides, lead and other threats.
Dr. Etzel, a leader in children’s environmental health for 30 years, was tapped in 2015 by President Obama to run the Office of Children’s Health Protection, whose stated goal is to “ensure that all EPA actions and programs address the unique vulnerabilities of children.” According to The New York Times, an EPA spokesman refused to give a reason why Dr. Etzel was made to hand in her badge, key and cellphone, and sent home.
“The dismissal of Dr. Etzel shows the unrelenting hostility this administration has toward protecting the environmental health of children,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “It’s sickening to see how every day an agency that is supposed to protect kids is actively working in ways that will harm them.”
It has been rumored that the Trump administration has been eyeing the elimination of the children’s environmental health office. Many of the decisions by former EPA head Scott Pruitt and acting chief Andrew Wheeler have blatantly favored the interests of chemical companies and agribusiness over the health of children.
Just this week, the Justice Department appealed a federal court decision ordering the EPA to ban chlorpyrifos, a widely used pesticide that can harm children’s brains. The Times noted that the agency is dragging its feet on developing a strategy to reduce childhood lead exposure. And the administration is repealing Obama’s Clean Power Plan to reduce air pollution – a program EPA scientists said would avoid up to 150,000 childhood asthma attacks.
“Dr. Etzel is one of the leading experts in the area of children’s environmental health and has played a critical role in making sure the well-being of kids has been a top priority at EPA,” said Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., senior science advisor for children’s environmental health at EWG. “That is why her dismissal is so troubling. If this is a sign the Trump administration is planning to decrease the importance of children’s health at EPA, everyone, whether you’re a parent or not, should be concerned.”