WASHINGTON (December 4, 2008) – Millions of Americans have been left in the dark about hazardous pollutants being released into their communities, according to a new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The new report provides a comprehensive look at the Bush Administration’s systemic cutting of health and environmental programs that monitor toxins across America.
“The Bush administration has turned off the tap on data and monitoring, depriving scientists, agencies, and Americans of information crucial to ensuring public health protections,” said Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, research scientist at NRDC. “Immediate action is needed by the next administration to restore, strengthen and fund these crucial monitoring programs.”
The report demonstrates that during the eight years of the Bush Administration, the federal government has quietly eliminated or crippled more than a dozen essential monitoring programs. Budget cuts, restructuring, program termination, and removal of industry reporting requirements have been steadily undermining or eliminating the information that alerts us to problems in our air, water, food, and communities.
Programs that directly track human health have also been slashed, creating information gaps about infectious disease outbreaks, chemical exposures in people, and chronic disease.
Some of the worst examples of the program cuts include:
- Hundreds of communities near lead polluters will not have air quality testing, and the lead monitoring network has been cut by half over the past decade, hampering the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce the new air standard for lead.
- The Bush Administration has proposed to eliminate requirements that “factory farms” and similar facilities report the air pollution from animal waste. This proposal may be finalized before January, even though many such facilities pollute the air more than large industrial factories.
- Budget cuts at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) will devastate two programs that test groundwater and surface water for pesticides, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, hormone disruptors, and other toxic chemicals.
- The already tight budget for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) program that tracks food-related illness was cut by more than $2 million, at a time when some foodborne illness outbreaks have been increasing.
The report provides specific recommendations for the government to restore these programs that are critical for setting strong public health protections. The cost of reinstating these programs would total approximately $133 million. According to NRDC experts, these costs could be offset by identifying and preventing pollution and disease problems before they cost our health care system and taxpayers many more millions of dollars.