WASHINGTON (September 26)—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has placed Dr. Ruth Etzel, director of the Office of Children’s Health Protection, on leave. This is a worrisome step that could undermine the EPA’s ability to fulfill its mission, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
Below is a statement by Kathleen Rest, executive director of UCS. Dr. Rest is a public health expert and the former acting head of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
“Today, it has been reported that Dr. Ruth Etzel, a pediatrician and renowned expert in children’s environmental health, has been placed on leave from the Office of Children’s Health Protection. We have good reason be concerned. There’s a disturbing pattern in the Trump administration of ignoring science, boxing out the expertise of career staff, and undermining the mission of agencies that are supposed to protect us.
“The mission of the EPA is clear— the agency is there to protect us from threats to our health, our safety, and our environment. And young children are especially vulnerable to the both short- and long-term risks posed by pollution and environmental hazards. Without strong and expert leadership, the Office of Children’s Health Protection will be hard-pressed to carry out its vital work. This office provides information on issues like lead exposure and cancer risks, and children’s health providers across the country depend on its research and data.
“EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler promised to listen to the EPA’s expert public servants. We call on Administrator Wheeler to explain why he’s removed Dr. Etzel from her position and, on the eve of Children’s Health Month, confirm his commitment to the Office of Children’s Health Protection.”