There are a number of health risks inherent to the proposed budget cuts, thanks in part to Trump’s promises to leave only “a little bit” of federal regulations. For example, the EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention runs a program that screens and tests endocrine disruptors, which are harmful chemicals that pose a threat to reproductive health and children’s growth and development. Under the Trump budget, funding for this program would be cut from $7.5 million to $445,000—rendering the program inoperable and ineffective. Trump also wants to significantly cut the federal radon program to the tune of 80 percent. Radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, is believed to cause lung cancer and is linked to 21,000 deaths annually. An estimated one in 15 homes has high levels of the gas, and this small program promotes radon testing in homes.
Pollution poses an undeniable threat to public health, as the Supreme Court has validated. A 2013 Massachusetts Institute of Technology study reported that roughly 19,000 more people die prematurely from automobile pollution each year than die in car accidents. The same year, Harvard University researchers found that pregnant women living in areas with elevated levels of air pollution “were up to twice as likely” to have an autistic child, compared with women in low-pollution locations. And a new study released in January found that air pollution increases the risk and expedites the onset of dementia and other forms of cognitive decline.
The Clean Air Act of 1970 was designed to control air pollution on a national level by authorizing the development of comprehensive regulations to limit emissions. It has been extremely successful—between 1970 and 2015, “aggregate national emissions [of] six common pollutants alone dropped an average of 70 percent,” the EPA reports. A summary report of the benefits and costs associated with the act estimates that public and private spending to reduce pollution will reach approximately $65 billion annually by 2020. By contrast, the economic benefits are estimated to reach approximately $2 trillion dollars in 2020 alone. Yet under Trump’s proposed budget—despite the public-health and economic advantages—funding for the Clean Air Act would be cut in half.
Perhaps the greatest threat the new budget poses is to several vital bodies of water. Trump’s budget would reduce funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, or GLRI, by more than 90 percent, from $300 million to $10 million. The GLRI is the largest investment in the Great Lakes in two decades. The EPA partners with federal agencies and provides local grants to achieve its goals of targeting and eliminating threats to the Great Lakes’ ecosystem, and fostering a safe environment for natural habitats and species. One of the program’s focuses is to restore “areas of concern”—areas that have been damaged by decades of industrial pollution. The EPA has effectively improved several areas so that they could be removed from the concern list.