Saturday December 14, 2019

“EPA Will No Longer Fund Children’s Health Research”, Say Researchers

Research on children's health risks in doubt over EPA funds

0
//
health risks
FILE - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sign is seen on the podium at EPA headquarters in Washington, July 11, 2018. VOA

Long-running research projects credited with pivotal discoveries about the harm that pesticides, air pollution and other hazards pose to children are in jeopardy or shutting down because the Environmental Protection Agency will not commit to their continued funding, researchers say.

The projects being targeted make up a more than $300 million, federally funded program that over the past two decades has exposed dangers to fetuses and children. Those findings have often led to increased pressure on the EPA for tighter regulations.

Children’s health researchers and environmental groups accuse the EPA of trying to squelch scientific studies that the agency views as running counter to the Trump administration’s mission of easing regulations and promoting business.

“A lot of the centers, including mine, have identified a lot of chemicals that are associated with diseases in children,” said Catherine Metayer, an epidemiologist who directs research into children’s leukemia at University of California at Berkeley through the federal program.

The EPA awarded smaller than average funding for the research grants for this year, asked Congress to cut funding for it from its budget, and has refused to commit to future funding for the program.

“The EPA anticipates future funding opportunities that support EPA’s high priority research topics, including children’s health research,” spokesman James Hewitt said, while declining to answer questions on the future for the national research projects.

health risks
FILE – 15-month-old August Goepferd received the measles, mumps and rubella booster shot at a clinic at Children’s Minnesota in Minneapolis. VOA

Children’s centers at universities around the country typically get joint funding from the EPA and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in three- and five-year packages, with most packages running out in 2018 and 2019. With no word on future funding, researchers overall “have been kind of scrambling to find a way to continue that work which is so important,” said Tracey Woodruff, director of the children’s center at the University of California at San Francisco.

Woodruff’s federally funded work includes looking at how flame-retardant chemicals and PFAS compounds – a kind of stain-resistant, nonstick industrial compound – affect the placenta during pregnancy. The Trump EPA has come under increasing pressure from states to regulate PFAS as it shows up in more water supplies around the country.

With no news from the EPA on any more funding in the future, “we’ve been winding down for about a year” on work funded through those grants, Woodruff said. On Tuesday, a banner across a website home page for the overall children’s research declared “EPA will no longer fund children’s health research.”

The EPA and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences have jointly funded the children’s environmental health research since 1997, through grants to at least two dozen children’s environmental research centers around the country. The annual grants averaged $15 million through 2017. In the current fiscal year, the EPA contributed $1.6 million, agency spokeswoman Maggie Sauerhage said.

The research often involves enrolling women while they are still pregnant and then following their children for years, to study environmental exposures and their effects as children grow, said Barbara Morrissey, a toxicologist and chairwoman of the EPA’s Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee.

The long-term projects often produce much stronger results overall than one-off studies do, Morrissey said. Each children’s center funded by the grants also works to spread information about environmental threats to local health workers and to families.

health risks
Children’s health researchers and environmental groups accuse the EPA of trying to squelch scientific studies that the agency views as running counter to the Trump administration’s mission of easing regulations and promoting business. VOA

The institute is under the National Institutes of Health, which has numerous other children’s environmental research studies underway but said with the EPA joint program left hanging, it was considering a new program to put lessons learned about pediatric risks into practice in communities.

EPA’s funding for the grants comes from the agency’s Science To Achieve Results, or STAR, program for research into environmental threats. The Trump administration 2020 budget request sought to eliminate funding for the STAR grants, and sought a nearly one-third cut in the EPA’s budget overall.

A House Appropriations subcommittee released its own budget proposal Tuesday to restore funding for the STAR grants and boost the agency’s overall budget from last year by 8%, rejecting the administration’s requests for cuts.

EPA spokespeople did not respond when asked why the EPA had asked Congress to end funding for the grant program, and whether the agency would commit to continuing the children’s health research if Congress overrides the EPA and restores funding for the grants, as expected.

The science journal Nature first reported funding concerns for the program. In a statement Tuesday, Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group said “crippling research to protect children’s health, while bowing to the agenda of the chemical industry, is the calling card of the EPA in the Trump administration.”

ALSO READ: Palestinians Inaugurates First Solar Plant to Reduce Dependence on Israeli Power Sources

Even if the administration restores funding to previous levels, for one year or several years, the time span of grant cycles and grant-funded work means that uncertainty over continued federal support is making the intended multiyear research untenable, researchers and program supporters said.

“The whole point of these children’s centers is to be following children over time,” Morrissey, the chairwoman of the advisory committee to the EPA, said. “That’s why it’s so high-quality.” (VOA)

Next Story

Here’s why you Should Not Sleep more than 9 Hours

Over 9 hours' of sleep may raise stroke risk by 23%

0
Sleep
You should sleep for 6-8 hours to be healthy. Lifetime Stock

People who sleep nine or more hours per night are 23 per cent more likely to later have a stroke than people who sleep seven to less than eight hours per night, warns a new study.

The results revealed that long naps are also not good for your health.

People who took a regular midday nap lasting more than 90 minutes were 25 per cent more likely to later have a stroke than people who took a regular nap lasting from one to 30 minutes, said the study published online in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

People who took no naps or took naps lasting from 31 minutes to one hour were no more likely to have a stroke than people who took naps lasting from one to 30 minutes.

Nap sleep
A midday nap shouldn’t last more than 90 minutes. Lifetime Stock

“More research is needed to understand how taking long naps and sleeping longer hours at night may be tied to an increased risk of stroke, but previous studies have shown that long nappers and sleepers have unfavourable changes in their cholesterol levels and increased waist circumferences, both of which are risk factors for stroke,” said study author Xiaomin Zhang of Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China.

“In addition, long napping and sleeping may suggest an overall inactive lifestyle, which is also related to increased risk of stroke,” Zhang said.

The study involved 31,750 people in China with an average age of 62. The people did not have any history of stroke or other major health problems at the start of the study.

They were followed for an average of six years. During that time, there were 1,557 stroke cases.

The people were asked questions about their sleep and napping habits.

Also Read- Alzheimer’s Drugs Improve Memory and Slow The Ageing Process

People who were both long nappers and long sleepers were 85 per cent more likely to later have a stroke than people who were moderate sleepers and nappers, said the study.

“These results highlight the importance of moderate napping and sleeping duration and maintaining good sleep quality, especially in middle-age and older adults,” Zhang said. (IANS)