EPA Shuttering Program That Aids the Study of Chemical Effects on Children
The Hill reports that the National Center for Environmental Research (NCER) will be shut down and its employees folded into the program's parent agency, the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA says this is a move for efficiency; groups like the Sierra Club see it as an attack on scientists seeking to keep Americans, especially children, safe from dangerous chemical products.
The NCER issues millions of dollars in grants to scientists who study the effects of exposure to various products, including the effects of pesticides on public health. Among those include research connecting a class of pesticides to diabetes, a study examining how pesticide drift can affect children not directly involved in agriculture, another one on the effects of chemicals on the children of farmworkers, a study on how pesticides can trigger endocrine disruption in kids, and many, many more. Outside of the pesticide world, the NCER also funds studies on air and water quality, climate change, among other important environmental concerns. It is a vital cog in the government’s ability to fund independent research for the good of the population.
An EPA spokesperson told The Hill that this is all about “efficiency,” and didn’t elaborate on what that means for the projects that rely on the program’s funding. “In order to maintain the quality and focus of our research, senior leaders from the research and development office are proactively taking steps to create management efficiencies within the organization,” said the spokesperson.
This is just the latest move from the Trump administration’s seemingly anti-science EPA. Under chief Scott Pruitt, the EPA declined to ban chlorpyrifos, a pesticide that the EPA had previously declared unsafe. (Pruitt made that decision shortly after a meeting with Dow, the company that produces and sells chlorpyrifos.) Pruitt has stated that he believes he has a biblical responsibility “to manage and cultivate, harvest the natural resources that we’ve been blessed with to truly bless our fellow mankind.” While Pruitt has previously stated his doubts about the realities of climate change, earlier this month he suggested that climate change may actually be a good thing. The chief has ousted scientific board members only to replace them with people from industries the EPA is meant to regulate, he attempted (unsuccessfully) to eliminate a rule restricting methane emissions from wells, and, generally, has taken a position of deregulation and hostility to science. Previous EPA employees and chiefs—under presidents from both parties—have accused Pruitt of setting the agency’s environmental protection back by decades.
We’ve reached out to the EPA for comment and will update if we hear back.