Environmental Protection Agency officials are proposing to eliminate two programs focused on limiting children’s exposure to lead-based paint, which is known to cause damage to developing brains and nervous systems.
The proposed cuts, outlined in a 64-page budget memo revealed by The Washington Post on Friday, would roll back programs aimed at reducing lead risks by $16.61 million and more than 70 employees, in line with a broader project by the Trump administration to devolve responsibility for environmental and health protection to state and local governments.
Old housing stock is the biggest risk for lead exposure — and the EPA estimates that 38 million U.S. homes contain lead-based paint.
This is pretty typical Trump. Or maybe I should say, pretty typical conservative. The lead program is part of the EPA, liberals like the EPA, therefore the lead program must be a worthless, job-killing regulation. Or something like that.
The only thing that keeps me from being more pissed off is that $16 million is an absurdly paltry sum to begin with. I’d take issue with the article’s claim that lead paint is the biggest risk for lead exposure—lead in soil is an equal or bigger threat—but either way, we ought to be spending something like $10 billion a year to remediate this. Getting rid of the current program is like going from a 1 percent response to a 0 percent response.
The problem with lead, of course, is the same as the problem with climate change: you have to spend money on it now, but the benefits don’t come until today’s politicians are long out of office. Getting Congress to approve $10 billion for a program that will start to show results around 2040 or so is a hard lift.
Plus it would make it harder to fund tax cuts for the rich. We can’t have that, can we?