Corporate Wealth vs Americans’ Health

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We’ve reached a point in U.S. history where the forces of corporate wealth and responsibility have taken the reins of reason and compassion away from the people of this country. It’s been an agenda ever since the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) became law in December of 1970. NEPA was instituted as a means in the war against cancer, the second-leading cause of death in America at that time.  

However, the amoral drive of profitability now without shame, has flourished under this current administration.

I base this observation on the constant attack and dismantling of the NEPA since January 2017. Now this country’s leader has shown the gall to undermine the 50-year status of NEPA, regardless of the long term impact to our citizens’ health, the health of our land, air and water.

NBC News reported on January 9, “In a dramatic rollback of environmental oversight, President Donald Trump took action Thursday to clear the way and speed up development of a wide range of commercial projects by cutting back federal review of their impact on the environment.

“ ‘The United States can’t compete and prosper if a bureaucratic system holds us back from building what we need,’ Trump said at the White House, surrounded by Cabinet secretaries, industry leaders and workers in hard hats.”

The public (you and I) have lost the right of review and input.

What does that mean?

For one, as The Intercept headlined recently, it’s “The War on the War on Cancer.”

From the report:  

Now, political appointees at the EPA are engaged in what appears to be an end-run around the agency’s own science. While IRIS, which is staffed by career scientists, hasn’t officially backed away from its 2016 report, * [on ethylene oxide CASRN 75-21-8] the Trump EPA recently announced that it would not be calling for the level of pollution reductions IRIS laid out during the previous administration, leaving people around the country more vulnerable to the known carcinogen. And that’s only one of the changes made under the Trump administration that promise to weaken protections for Americans’ health, many of which were intended specifically to stave off cancers.

Virtually no sector of the EPA’s work has escaped reversals that will cause disease and death among the U.S. population. The agency scrapped the Clean Power Plan and a rule to improve fuel efficiency standards for cars, depriving the public of not just the climate benefits but also the improvements to air quality and health both would have brought. The EPA rejected its own science in deciding not to ban chlorpyrifos, a pesticide linked to autism and other neurodevelopmental problems in children. Dozens of other EPA rollbacks — including the gutting of the Clean Water Act, the undermining of guidelines on emissions of methane from landfills, the loosening of restrictions on toxic air pollution from industrial facilities, the disbanding of a panel on air pollution — will have dire health consequences, as will the dramatic reduction in the enforcement of environmental laws.

I dare you to argue that these moves are not against the well-being of the populace and are a boon to corporate profitability instead.

I understand how corporations are mandated by law to bring profit to shareholders. Fair enough. But at the well-being of humanity? This, in my opinion is where our leadership shows no sign of moral judgement unless it is for profit. 

This is not new to American economics. Consider the efforts by the tobacco industry to prove that smoking cigarettes was healthy and not a direct link to cancer.  

While deaths from cigarette-smoking caused cancers has dropped over the last 50 years, cancer remains the second leading cause of American deaths.

Why?  Aging population.  Continued exposure to carcinogenic chemicals.  According to the Lancet Commission on pollution and health, “Pollution is the largest environmental cause of disease and premature death in the world today.”  

It also notes that since 1950, over 140,000 chemicals and pesticides have been introduced to our environment.

A heart-breaking truth is that children are most vulnerable to carcinogens.  From Health Affairs:  “The incidence of leukemia and brain cancer in children younger than age eighteen increased steadily from the 1970s through the 1990s, despite declining mortality. Testicular cancer in males ages 15–30 has increased in incidence by more than 50 percent.”

There was a moment in time when our government worked to reduce these risks by implementing stricter rules to the introduction of chemicals and pesticides. But this move cut into the profitability of chemical and pesticide sales. Now we have an administration bent on bringing back profitability as opposed to the health of the American public.

The Intercept reports ends with: “The change [in this rollback] would mark a profound shift both for the U.S. government and for the American people. ‘It’s saying what’s important is no longer the public interest but the industrial interest,’ said Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. ‘Cancer is the most obvious and feared sign of ignoring public interest. And this will lead to more cancer.’” 

*  Ethylene oxide is a known cancer causing chemical. “…exposure to ethylene oxide caused elevated rates of tumors in the brain, lungs, uterus, and lymph systems,” states IRIS, a division of the EPA.

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