EPA shuts down office that protects children from harmful chemicals

The National Center for Environmental Research (NCER) will no longer exist as a standalone entity following plans to combine three EPA offices, the agency confirmed to The Hill on Monday.

One of the key functions of NCER was to give out grants to scientists that are investigating the effects of chemical exposure on human health.

The EPA states that the staff from the offices will be reassigned within the agency. It’s not clear what will happen to the grant and fellowship programs that NCER has been giving out for the past decade.

However, President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2019 would have dramatically slashed funding for NCER by more than 90 percent, but the most recent budget deal did not touch the program.

A detailed review of the Science to Achieve Results Research Program (a primary NCER grant program, referred to as STAR grants) by the National Academies of Sciences lauded its results:

“STAR has had numerous successes, such as in research on human health implications of air pollution, on environmental effects on children’s health and well-being, on interactions between climate change and air quality, and on the human health implications of nanoparticles. Those are just a few examples; many more could be cited.”

More examples from the STAR report:

“In 2016, a research project partially supported by a STAR grant recognized that infants could be exposed to arsenic through rice cereal (Karagas et al. 2016), and this recognition led the Food and Drug Administration to propose regulations to protect infant health (FDA 2016). Another example is the discovery by the University of Washington Children’s Center that farmworker children had increased exposure to the pesticide ingredient azinphos-methyl which is a neurotoxicant (Curl et al. 2002), which informed EPA’s decision to phase out the use of azinphos-methyl (EPA 2006).”

In the past, NCER programs also support prevention and/or treatment of childhood asthma, preterm births, leukemia, and the list goes on. The EPA stated that the office is being eliminated as part of a merger of three EPA offices “to create management efficiencies within the organization.

On top of this news, the White House announced on Friday that President Trump plans to nominate a Dow Chemical Co. lawyer to lead the Environmental Protection Agency’s office of solid waste.


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