Cuts To The EPA Are Threatening Millions Of America’s Kids (Video)

In March, Donald Trump put forth his administration’s budget for the 2018 fiscal year, and it ignited a maelstrom of controversy. The 64-page document, officially titled “Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again” proposes massive cuts to dozens of government-funded programs in education, housing, business, the arts, and perhaps most importantly, environmental care. Arguably the most crucial problem we face today is global warming and climate change, and the current administration has made it clear they disagree. However, millions of Americans will suffer greatly due to the administration’s climate-change denial, as will the planet. Trump plans to strip the Environmental Protection Agency‘s funding, which will lead to the complete removal of programs that keep environmental hazards at bay, including lead paint.

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Though the threat of lead paint has subsided greatly in past decades, thanks to increased awareness about its hazardous effects on health, it remains a very real problem for Americans living in places where lead-paint removal is slow to catch up with the rest of the country. As part of the EPA cuts, the government plans to do away with Lead Risk Reduction Program, which trains building renovators how to identify unsafe paint, remove it effectively, implement federal safety standards, and educate people about lead exposure. According to the White House, these cuts are intended to place the responsibility of funding state and local entities on the shoulders of state and local governments. However, many states are unlikely to be able to properly fund such programs, and poor children of color are likely to suffer the consequences more than anyone else.

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According to the Washington Post, Trump’s budget memo would decrease spending on reducing lead levels by $16 million, troubling statistics for the people living in the estimated 38 million homes containing lead-based paint. Without the funding, the EPA will have a much tougher time addressing the environmental hazard posed by lead, a fact compounded in poor communities where environmental racism is a very real thing. As the Huffington Post recently reported, “In Chicago, where more than 10,300 kids under the age of six suffer from elevated levels of lead in their blood, officials were already spending less on combating lead paint due to reduced federal funding from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.” Furthermore, per the Post, “Fourteen states — Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin — run programs to train contractors how to properly handle renovations involving lead paint, according to the EPA’s website. The rest rely on the federal government to provide training.”

Huffington Post’s Julia Craven examined the racial undertones to lead’s prevalence in this country, sharing the following statistics:

“Between 1997 and 2001, the CDC estimates that 60 percent of children with confirmed elevated blood-lead levels were Black. Most of them live in poor, predominantly Black areas like Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood where 26.5 percent of 286 children tested in 2014 had lead levels greater than five micrograms per deciliter. And, a 2005 study in the Journal of Environmental Health Perspective discovered that kids living in the inner city were further exposed to lead from soil blowing across playgrounds.”

Similar trends are prevalent in cities like Baltimore and Detroit, where predominantly Black populations continue to suffer health conditions related to lead at a disproportionate rate to any other demographic group.

In a video package for the Post, former EPA environmental justice leader Mustafa Ali explains the troubling reality Trump’s EPA cuts create for America’s most vulnerable citizens. Ali laments the fact that 3,200 EPA employees, who have “dedicated their lives to helping protect public health and the environment,” could soon face unemployment. “Losing those individuals will be a huge plow,” says Mr. Ali, as they have the expertise and experience needed to accurately educate and train future generations about the harmful effects of lead and other environmental hazards.

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“[In] our most vulnerable communities – communities of color, low-income communities, tribal populations – enforcement is extremely important, because they’ve been struggling for many decades to make sure they’re fully protected,” says Ali. “The benefits that other communities have” are oftentimes only extended to these communities by way of the very programs Trump plans to gut. Saying these cuts will likely move communities backwards and not forwards, Ali fears that the federal government’s decision to leave funding up to the states themselves will translate to communities being perpetually left behind. “I know that [states] have had shrinking budgets over the years, and there has been a lack of capacity because of those shrinking budgets. For someone to assume that they’re going to take on the ownership of these issues, I think there needs to be a stronger analysis of whether that’s the case.”

For more information on how Trump’s budget cuts could endanger our most vulnerable, read the recent Post article “New EPA documents reveal even deeper proposed cuts to staff and programs.”