A Stealth Attack on Public Health

No, this isn’t about the health care bill.

The Trump Administration has embarked on a campaign of postponing pollution regulations that protect the public health. Even if these are only temporary delays, rather than steps toward permanently weakening health protections, the delays are not innocuous. To put it as bluntly as possible, Americans will die as a result of these delays.

For instance, the delay in implementing new air quality standards will directly impact public health. Scott Pruitt announced at the beginning of the month that he was postponing phased implementation of tougher restrictions of ozone for a year. T EPA projected the benefits for separately for California and the rest of the country, because the compliance date is later for California. Putting the numbers together, a one-year delay translates into an extra 420-880 deaths and 390,000 asthma attacks in 2025. Of course, the reduction in air pollution won’t magically appear out of nowhere in 2025; there will be reduced numbers of deaths and heart attacks as steps are taken toward implementation, and all those interim health benefits will be delayed.

This is not an isolated example. In May, Pruitt announced plans to delay limits on dumping of waste by power plants in water bodies. The rule was projected to keep 700,000 tons of toxic metals and other pollutants out of waterways each year. EPA is also putting a two-year delay on a rule for safer storage of hazardous substances at chemical plants. And EPA also decided to delay implementation of a rule governing dangerous emissions from oil and gas facilities, despite admitting that doing so would disproportionately impact the health of children. And there are others: the Administration has delayed health-based rules on e-cigarettes, food labeling, silica dust at construction sites, and safety training for truck drivers, all to the cost of public health and safety.

This apparent indifference to public health should not be surprising. This is the same Administration that proposed a $6 billion cut for the National Institutes of Health, a 30% cut in FDA’s budget, and a billion dollar cut for the Centers for Disease Control.

In a way, delays are a more insidious attack on public health, because they seem more innocuous. But just as justice delayed is justice denied, the same is true of public health. Those who die from a “mere” delay in protecting the public are just as dead as those who die from a complete failure to do so.


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Reader Comments

4 Replies to “A Stealth Attack on Public Health”

  1. Yes, the republicans are attacking the human race but, the democrats are totally failing to protect the human race and our democracy doesn’t al low us to do anything about it in time because the republicans control everything in Washington.

    Unless Michael Bloomberg can make a difference with his new initiative to help U.S. city leaders develop inventive ideas that tackle today’s toughest problems.

    1. Republicans are killing their constituents. Democrats are saving theirs. California is the national leader in protecting public health and safety from fossil fuel emissions and climate change, and its policies have served as models for other states and countries. California has reaffirmed its commitment to achieve the goals of the Paris Accord, despite the Trump administration’s withdrawal, and has also brokered agreements with regional governments in several countries such as Germany, Mexico and Brazil. Last month, Gerry Brown met with China’s President Xi Jinping while Rick Perry was received by a lesser official.

      While it would be better if Republicans and the Trump administration would protect the lives of the people who voted for them, their fate may soon align with the dinosaurs if they are not careful what they wish for.

  2. Dan, our Greater Good Science Center just published a most important article that we all need to learn from if we are ever going to learn how to communicate and cooperate in time to protect an acceptable quality of life for our newest generations from the increasingly destructive consequences of out of control climate changes we are experiencing, that is to say, to achieve what Legal Planet appears to be trying to inform, teach and motivate us about:

    Why Is It So Hard to Change People’s Minds?

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About Dan

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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About Dan

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

READ more