Our Children’s Health Ignored by Agency Charged to Protect the Most Vulnerable – Will It Change Now?

It’s become an all too familiar story: a government agency whose job it is to protect us has failed to do so according to a watchdog audit.  The work is done to figure out how to fix a problem, recommendations are vetted and sent to the “Deciders”, just to have them ignored.  Meanwhile, the Deciders collect their paychecks and go about business as usual.  Even though it is a familiar story of government failure, the latest revelation out of Washington is causing shock waves of tsunami proportions.  Why?  Because the failures affect an entire generation of our children.

According to the federal Government Accounting Agency (GAO), EPA Children’s Health Officials routinely ignored the recommendations of their own advisors and experts for the last 10 years.

Because children breathe more air in proportion to their weight than do adults, and because their bodies are still developing, toxic chemicals affect them more profoundly. Exposures to chemicals today portend a “flood of chronic disease” tomorrow, according to Ted Schettler, of the Science and Environmental Health Network.

Schettler, who has served on EPA advisory committees, testified that the problems “are setting the stage for an overwhelming wave of disease and disability … in the coming decades.”   As the Air Hugger has warned before, we’re concerned about the lack of information about thousands of chemicals and how they interact with each other.  The EPA only has enforceable air quality standards for 6 air pollutants that cause smog, leaving the worst cancer causing chemicals largely unmonitored and unregulated.

The GAO report documents “high-level” failures to ensure that the interests of children were considered when the EPA acted.  Get this: Ruth McCully, the head of EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection at the time, told Americans that it wasn’t her job to determine whether the air outside schools contained high levels of toxic chemicals.  Huh?  Where do you think the air INSIDE the classroom comes from?

If there is any good news, it’s that things are changing at EPA apparently.  Just this week EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson sent a memo to her staff reminding them that “protecting children’s environmental health is central to our work at EPA.”

Can we believe it this time?  EPA is supposed to roll out a host of new regulations and air monitors, so we’ll see rather quickly if it’s just talk or real action.