Government Shutdown Puts Public Health at Risk
What’s worth denying even a single child with cancer available and potentially life-saving treatment? Nothing—in my book.
By shuttering the federal government, the Tea Party wing of the House of Representatives has done exactly this. The government shutdown means an estimated 30 children a week—10 of whom have cancer—cannot take part in clinical trials, meaning experimental treatments, at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
"This is the place where people have wanted to come when all else has failed," NIH director Francis Collins told the Associated Press. "It's heartbreaking."
Scientists with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (which is on the front lines in protecting the public from communicable diseases) have been sent home. I suppose we can all pray that no life-threatening viruses reach epidemic proportions while Congress fiddles.
Before changing their voicemail messages and shutting off the lights in the lab, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) scientists were anxiously chasing outbreaks of, among other things, naegerlia fowleri, a “brain-eating amoeba” that has already killed a four-year old in Louisiana, and the parasite cyclospora that attacks the stomach and has sickened at least 645 people in 25 states. The CDC has also closed its flu program—just before flu season.
"I usually don't lose sleep despite the threats that we face, but I am losing sleep because we don't know if we'll be able to find and stop things that might kill people," CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden told CBS News.
Most employees at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are not working on important programs meant to protect and clean up drinking water, air, streams, rivers, lakes and land.
The U.S. EPA’s work investigating toxic chemicals in consumer goods and possible misuses of pesticides will also be interrupted.
Huffington Post’s Kate Sheppard reported that the EPA suspended cleanup at 505 of 800 Superfund sites in 47 states. Again, courtesy of the wingnuts in Congress.
The Food and Drug Administration has stopped most regular food inspections, including those conducted on imported foods. Joe Satran of the Huffington Post reported that “for every day the government doesn't work, approximately 80 food facilities will go uninspected. If the shutdown lasts until Oct. 17, 960 facilities may go without U.S. inspections.”
Oct. 17 is when the U.S. hits its debt limit and will default if Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling. If it doesn’t and the government stays closed, the economic recovery will be drastically set back with many economists predicting another recession.
There’s more. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has terminated funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. This program serves 9 million mothers and children, some 53 percent of infants born in the U.S.
While “closed” signs in front of monuments and parks are the most visible evidence of an intractable Congress, harming the health of young children is far more dire. Those lawmakers who are backing the shutdown also object to expanding healthcare coverage to millions under the Affordable Care Act, including kids.
So if you’re not a federal employee or a person seeking a last-ditch cancer treatment, if you don’t care about the safety of food or drinking water, don’t live near a toxic dump site or worry about those who do, don’t think about clean air, hungry babies or contracting a communicable disease, I suppose you can ignore the impacts of the shutdown.
Maybe you can join some of those who put us in this fix and knock back a few drinks instead.
Visit EcoWatch’s HEALTH page for more related news on this topic.
Disturbing footage of a snake in Goa, India vomiting an empty soft drink bottle highlights the world's mounting plastic pollution crisis.
By Melissa Hellmann
When her eldest son was in elementary school in the Oakland Unified School District, Ruth Woodruff became alarmed by the meals he was being served at school. A lot of it was frozen, processed foods, packed with preservatives. At home, she was feeding her children locally sourced, organic foods.
By James O'Hare
There are 20 million people in the world facing famine in South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen. In developed nations, too, people go hungry. Venezuela, for instance, is enduring food insecurity on a national level as a result of economic crisis and political corruption. In the U.S., the land of supposed excess, 12.7 percent of households were food insecure in 2015, meaning they didn't know where their next meal would come from.
Artists are taking the climate crisis into frame and the results are emotional, beautiful and stirring.
So you've seen the best climate change cartoons and shared them with your friends. You've showed your family the infographics on climate change and health, infographics on how the grid works and infographics about clean, renewable energy. You've even forwarded these official National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration graphs that explain the 10 clear indicators of climate change to your colleagues at the office.
As the Trump administration moves full speed ahead on boosting the oil and fossil fuel industry, opposition to increased pipeline construction is cropping up in different communities around the country.
By Simon Evans
Last Saturday, two dead whales washed up on the coast of Suffolk, in eastern England, and a third was spotted floating at sea.
What happened next illustrates how news can spread and evolve into misinformation, when reported by journalists rushing to publish before confirming basic facts or sourcing their own quotes.
By Monica Amarelo and Paul Pestano
Sun safety is a crucial part of any outdoor activity for kids, and sunscreen can help protect children's skin from harmful ultraviolet rays. Kids often get sunburned when they're outside unprotected for longer than expected. Parents need to plan ahead and keep sun protection handy in their cars or bags.
By Joe McCarthy
A lot of people take part in community clean-up efforts—spending a Saturday morning picking up litter in a park, mowing an overgrown field or painting a fence.