Environment, Trump Administration

While more money needed for chemical research, Trump sets out to slash EPA budget, workforce

Coming to a river near you: Chemicals, lots of chemicals (Photo: Joe Sullivan, Flickr, Creative Commons license)

As a planet, we are awash in 10s of millions of synthetic chemicals: They are infused in hormones and perfumes, weed killers and wood turpentine, flame retardants and freon. These synthetics are damaging ecosystems, including waterways, where chemicals are changing the sex of fish.

Unfortunately, while industry has been churning more than 100 million synthetic chemicals in the last 60 years, few scientists and fewer dollars have been devoted to researching the harm these chemicals are wreaking on the environment. And that comparatively puny amount of federal research dollars could soon nearly, if not completely, disappear.

A new study published by researchers at the Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment concludes that the lack of funding and knowledge have translated to a “critical blindspot” in understanding how chemicals are changing global ecology.

From the study’s announcement:

“When compared to climate change and nutrient pollution, synthetic chemicals have fallen off the research radar — despite the threats they pose to human and environmental health. Right now, we lack the data needed to assess the ecological impacts of most of the synthetic chemicals in use today. The situation is unsustainable.”

A second study shows that the amount of EPA funding devoted to this type of research has drastically declined since 2001 — from 1.3 percent of the agency’s research and development budget to just 0.5 percent. This decline has occurred despite the National Academy of Science recommendations that the portion be boosted to 15 to 20 percent.

The worse news? The Trump administration is strongly considering slashing the EPA budget by $1 billion, about 12 percent of its $8 billion annual budget, and its staff by two-thirds — from 15,000 people to just 5,000. More chilling is that Trump wants require all EPA science to be vetted by political staffers.

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