EPA Places Head of Children’s Health Department on Administrative Leave

The Office on Children's Health Protections worked to safeguard one of our most vulnerable populations—kids, babies, and fetuses—from environmental dangers.

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Just days after resisting a court-ordered ban of chlorpyrifos—a pesticide known to cause neurological damage in children—the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency put Dr. Ruth Etzel, the head of its Office on Children’s Health Protections, on administrative leave without explanation. “This move comes against the backdrop of a disturbing pattern of blatant disregard for science and the protection of the most vulnerable among us: America's children,” says David Wallinga, a physician and a senior health expert with NRDC.

Etzel, a pediatrician and renowned expert on children’s environmental health, had led the department since 2015, working to safeguard children, babies, and fetuses from environmental threats like lead-contaminated drinking water and brain-damaging pesticides. “The EPA owes the public an explanation for dismissing the head of an office that is critical to the federal government’s ability to protect children from a wide range of threats,” said Wallinga.

The Trump administration’s rollbacks of environmental and health protections—many of which will impact the health of children—have continued under the EPA’s new acting administrator, Andrew Wheeler.

“Rather than kids, it’s clear who this administration is fighting for: dangerous, powerful polluters,” Wallinga says. “That’s something that people on both sides of the aisle should not stand for.”

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