Article submission from Nicholas Scott, a health, safety, and political advocate with a passion for environmental responsibility. He believes there should be a greater focus on the present risks of environmental toxins to urban communities with close proximity to dense areas of industry.

With the recent legislation proposed by the GOP that requests for the removal of the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, one has to wonder if such a move is in the best interest of the average American family. Carbon emissions, cigarette smoke, lead-based paint, asbestos, and house hold chemicals are environmental toxins are scientifically proven to be harmful, especially to children. Removing the authority of the EPA to regulate emissions will put many urban, inner city communities with high concentrations of industry at significant risk. 

After the recent release of the 2012 White House Budget plan, Energy Secretary Steven Chu has made a request for a multi-billion dollar increase to the EPA budget. Such an increase could be necessary given the rise of environmental toxins. This request, however, was not met without a fight.

The Hill Reported:

Energy Secretary Steven Chu will be three floors above in the Dirksen Senate office building. He’ll be defending the request for a multi-billion dollar increase before the Senate Budget Committee. The Energy Department budget plan focuses heavily on expanding renewable energy and efficiency R&D and science programs.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson will appear in the afternoon before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The panel’s top Republican, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), is among the leaders of GOP attempts to strip EPA’s power to regulate greenhouse gases.

Obama has already proposed a 2012 budget cut of $1.6 billion dollars to the EPA, which was intended to reduce funding for states’ clean water and drinking projects. As if this wasn’t enough, it seems like the GOP will not stop until the EPA is left with nothing.

The only way to minimalize the risks of environmental hazards is to limit exposure to them. By removing the EPA’s authority to regulate emissions, we are putting ourselves at risk. This is particularly frustrating, because unlike certain health problems that we have no control over, environmental health hazards are issues we can prevent from happening. One thing to consider is that we are usually unable to see the effects of environmental toxins until children have grown into adults. For instance, mesothelioma symptoms, a lung disease caused by exposure to asbestos, have a latency period of as long as twenty years.

Children are especially vulnerable to environmental toxins. When children are growing, their behavior puts them closer to the ground ultimately promoting closer proximity to potential toxins. Additionally, their organs are developing, their bodies are smaller, and they breathe faster and take in more substances than adults. An increased breathing rate raises an individual’s susceptibility to the fibrous asbestos material that can cause mesothelioma and other lung cancers. Furthermore, the risk is compounded for families that can’t afford to live in places that are environmentally safe.

The Greater Birmingham children’s Environmental Health Initiative (GBCEHI) did a study targeting 12 zip codes in the Birmingham area. Their focus of study involved mostly populations that were primarily African-American and low-income. They found that these communities had high population densities with even higher concentrations of heavy industry. They have since discovered that one of the most prominent environmental hazards is poor indoor air quality, citing it as a massive contributor to asthma. More frighteningly, asthma shares the basic symptoms of most lung diseases: coughing, shortness of breath, and chest heaviness. Because of the similarities, most lung disease is not diagnosed until it is far too late.  With the mesothelioma life expectancy being as short as fourteen months, the impact of environmental toxins can be devastating to a community.

Organizations such as the EPA and the GBCEHI are attacking the problem of environmental hazards on several fronts. To slash the EPA’s budget and remove their power over the regulation of carbon emissions seems to be counterproductive to the health and wellbeing of American citizens. We can only hope that our representatives examine this issue thoroughly and come to a conclusion that finds a favorable balance for both environmental safety and American industry.