As the world marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the world is facing the worst public health crisis. In this difficult time, it is the paramount duty of the authorities to ensure the protection of public health and economic prosperity of the country depends on its government undertaking its responsibility diligently.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), whose aim to protect the environment and public health. Andrew Wheeler, EPA Administrator is working actively for undermining their aim, stymying three major health protection in last three weeks; particulate matter standards, vehicle emission and its efficiency standards, and air toxics standard and power plant mercury.
Congress has made strict laws, including the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, which have delivered health benefits worthy of trillion dollars, enabling people to have healthier lives and improving the environment. These laws are updated regularly for reflecting advances in scientific understanding of the damage caused by the pollution to the environment and public health while adopting cost-effective technologies for pollution reduction. Water and air have become significantly cleaner at the national level over the last half-century.
More efforts are to be done, particularly for communities of low-income or communities of colour as they still bear the heavy burden from environmental pollution. The recent study reveals that long-term exposure to the high level of air pollution, particularly particulate matter increased the risk of mortalities due to COVID-19. So, the cumulative toll of the disproportionate risk is even clearer now.
Under the administration of Donald Trump, EPA is losing ground. Not only existing health protections are being rolled back, but the scientific framework is also under siege. EPA administrator Wheeler has reportedly ignored or denied the important scientific facts for justifying actions. The facts including epidemiological evidence and climate change linking pollution due to particulate matter with increased mortality rates.
Recent actions which are undertaken in the midst of COVID-19 crisis, vividly illustrate the callousness and scope of the administration which is a damaging record at the Environment Protection Agency. While Trump administration is touting its affinity for clean water and air and Wheeler giving statements preening over the decades of progress, the agency has been busy in tearing out most of the rules which helped in delivering this progress, providing the process for ignoring scientific facts and getting the desired outcomes.
Within the last three weeks, three crushing attacks on the health protections have been seen, rolling back vehicle emissions and their efficiency standard on 30th March. The administration has overturned science to gut all the rules, putting the public health on the losing end of the worst deal, ultimately resulting in increased air pollution due to higher fuel expenditures and increased emission of carbon dioxide.
Refusing to strengthen the standards of particulate matter pollution on 14th April. Air pollution due to particulate matter is both common and too dangerous. Scientific evidence says that even low level of exposure to it has long term negative effect in public health. But instead of strengthening standards for relieving the costly burden on public health by particulate matter pollution, the president Trump administration’s EPA chooses to stall thee standards instead, acting against the public interest and totally opposite to the advice by the panel of science experts that warned about the current standards that they were not protective enough.
Undermining protections of mercury power plants on 16th April. Pollution because of mercury from coal plants poses severe public health threats, particularly the developing brains and lungs of children. After the decades of the fight over implementing controls, the Mercury and Air Standards (MATS) was approved in 2011, derived significant declines in mercury pollution.
But as Trump has rolled back the standards, the agency has also sidelined scientists, reducing the opportunities for public engagement also diminished considerations of environmental justice and weakened enforcement, giving a free pass to the polluters during the COVID-19 crisis.