AP

Research On Children’s Health Risks In Doubt Over EPA Funds

May 22, 2019, 8:31 AM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 5:06 pm
(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)...
(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Long-running research projects credited with pivotal discoveries about the harm that pesticides, air pollution and other hazards pose to children are in jeopardy or shutting down because the Environmental Protection Agency will not commit to their continued funding, researchers say.

The projects being targeted make up a more than $300 million, federally funded program that over the past two decades has exposed dangers to fetuses and children. Those findings have often led to increased pressure on the EPA for tighter regulations.

Children’s health researchers and environmental groups accuse the EPA of trying to squelch scientific studies that the agency views as running counter to the Trump administration’s mission of easing regulations and promoting business.

“A lot of the centers, including mine, have identified a lot of chemicals that are associated with diseases in children,” said Catherine Metayer, an epidemiologist who directs research into children’s leukemia at University of California at Berkeley through the federal program.

The EPA awarded smaller than average funding for the research grants for this year, asked Congress to cut funding for it from its budget, and has refused to commit to future funding for the program.

“The EPA anticipates future funding opportunities that support EPA’s high priority research topics, including children’s health research,” spokesman James Hewitt said, while declining to answer questions on the future for the national research projects.

Children’s centers at universities around the country typically get joint funding from the EPA and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in three- and five-year packages, with most packages running out in 2018 and 2019. With no word on future funding, researchers overall “have been kind of scrambling to find a way to continue that work which is so important,” said Tracey Woodruff, director of the children’s center at the University of California at San Francisco.

Woodruff’s federally funded work includes looking at how flame-retardant chemicals and PFAS compounds — a kind of stain-resistant, nonstick industrial compound — affect the placenta during pregnancy. The Trump EPA has come under increasing pressure from states to regulate PFAS as it shows up in more water supplies around the country.

With no news from the EPA on any more funding in the future, “we’ve been winding down for about a year” on work funded through those grants, Woodruff said.

On Tuesday, a banner across a website home page for the overall children’s research declared “EPA will no longer fund children’s health research.”

The EPA and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences have jointly funded the children’s environmental health research since 1997, through grants to at least two dozen children’s environmental research centers around the country. The annual grants averaged $15 million through 2017. In the current fiscal year, the EPA contributed $1.6 million, agency spokeswoman Maggie Sauerhage said.

The research often involves enrolling women while they are still pregnant and then following their children for years, to study environmental exposures and their effects as children grow, said Barbara Morrissey, a toxicologist and chairwoman of the EPA’s Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee.

The long-term projects often produce much stronger results overall than one-off studies do, Morrissey said.

Each children’s center funded by the grants also works to spread information about environmental threats to local health workers and to families.

The institute is under the National Institutes of Health, which has numerous other children’s environmental research studies underway but said with the EPA joint program left hanging, it was considering a new program to put lessons learned about pediatric risks into practice in communities.

EPA’s funding for the grants comes from the agency’s Science To Achieve Results, or STAR, program for research into environmental threats.

The Trump administration 2020 budget request sought to eliminate funding for the STAR grants, and sought a nearly one-third cut in the EPA’s budget overall.

A House Appropriations subcommittee released its own budget proposal Tuesday to restore funding for the STAR grants and boost the agency’s overall budget from last year by 8%, rejecting the administration’s requests for cuts.

EPA spokespeople did not respond when asked why the EPA had asked Congress to end funding for the grant program, and whether the agency would commit to continuing the children’s health research if Congress overrides the EPA and restores funding for the grants, as expected.

The science journal Nature first reported funding concerns for the program.

In a statement Tuesday, Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group said “crippling research to protect children’s health, while bowing to the agenda of the chemical industry, is the calling card of the EPA in the Trump administration.”

Even if the administration does restore funding to previous levels, for one year or several years, the time span of grant cycles and grant-funded work means that uncertainty over continued federal support is making the intended multiyear research untenable, researchers and program supporters said.

“The whole point of these children’s centers is to be following children over time,” Morrissey, the chairwoman of the advisory committee to the EPA, said. “That’s why it’s so high-quality.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

AP

A sunken World War II-Era Higgins landing craft that used to be nearly 200 feet underwater is being...
Associated Press

World War II-era boat emerges from shrinking Lake Mead

A sunken boat dating back to World War II is the latest object to emerge from a shrinking reservoir that straddles Nevada and Arizona.
2 days ago
CUSCO, PERU - MAY 23: A view over the city of Cusco from the Inca ruins of Sacsayhuaman on May 23, ...
FRANLIN BRICEÑO Associated Press

Peru home build vexed by ‘the neighbors’ — Inca-era mummies

Hipólito Tica had saved for decades to finally build himself a proper house in a working class neighborhood of Lima. His problem was what to do about “the neighbors” — as he called the centuries-old mummies buried below.
2 days ago
Japanese musician Takeshi (L) and Canadian musician Randy Bachman (R) exchange guitars on July 01, ...
MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press

Rock star Randy Bachman reunited with beloved stolen guitar

Canadian rock legend Randy Bachman’s long search has ended after he was reunited in Tokyo with a cherished guitar 45 years after it was stolen from a Toronto hotel.
2 days ago
Travelers arrive an air train at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) on July 1, 2022 in Newa...
DAVID KOENIG, AP Airlines Writer

Holiday-travel chaos: Airlines brace for huge weekend crowds

The July Fourth holiday weekend is off to a booming start with airport crowds crushing the numbers seen in 2019, before the pandemic.
2 days ago
DONETSK DISTRICT, UKRAINE - JULY 01: A fireball appears in the woods as a tank unit with the 14th M...
NOMAAN MERCHANT Associated Press

US announces $820M in Ukraine aid, including missile systems

The U.S. announced on Friday that it will provide Ukraine with $820 million in new military aid, including new surface-to-air missile systems and counter-artillery radars to respond to Russia's heavy reliance on long-range strikes in the war.
2 days ago
CONCORD, NH - JULY 13:  U.S. Sen. and presidential candidate John McCain (R-AZ) gestures while deli...
DARLENE SUPERVILLE, Associated Press

Biden to award Medal of Freedom to Biles, McCain, Giffords

President Joe Biden will present the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to 17 people, including actor Denzel Washington, gymnast Simone Biles and the late John McCain, the Arizona Republican with whom Biden served in the U.S. Senate.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...
1-800-GOT-JUNK?

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Research On Children’s Health Risks In Doubt Over EPA Funds