Have you ever heard of the National Center for Environmental Research (NCER)? Most people have not. It was an entity under the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that fulfilled the role of handing out money, grants and fellowships to scientists who were trying to figure out what contaminants and chemicals are doing to food, people, and the environment.
No surprise to people who understand the inherent paradox of government regulation, the Scott Pruitt, Trump Administration EPA is saying they no longer need the NCER, so their staff will be disbanded, but retained and reassigned in the EPA.
The grants and fellowships that NCER had been putting out for years will apparently cease with no forewarning. Perhaps someone in a position of power needs a window of time where usual things will not be in operation as they were before.
It is unclear whether the NCER performed a very useful role for scientists looking to investigate environmental contamination with chemicals, or contamination of food with things such as arsenic, mercury, or glyphosate. Usually a government agency tasked with something like this will incorporate a certain amount of apathy into their work.
Sometimes however, a gem of info might come out of a grant-making agency like this. The agency was apparently responsible for a wide range of things. According to Forbes:
“But the list goes on. NCER programs also support prevention and/or treatment of childhood asthma, preterm births, leukemia, immune system disorders, neurodevelopment problems, autism spectrum disorder and obesity.
The EPA says the NCER will be eliminated as part of a merger of three EPA offices “to create management efficiencies within the organization.””
The results of a detailed review of a particular NCER grant program known as STAR (Science To Achieve Results), by the National Academies of Sciences said:
“STAR has had numerous successes, such as in research on human health implications of air pollution, on environmental effects on children’s health and well-being, on interactions between climate change and air quality, and on the human health implications of nanoparticles. Those are just a few examples; many more could be cited.”
The report continues:
“In 2016, a research project partially supported by a STAR grant recognized that infants could be exposed to arsenic through rice cereal (Karagas et al. 2016), and this recognition led the Food and Drug Administration to propose regulations to protect infant health (FDA 2016). Another example is the discovery by the University of Washington Children’s Center that farmworker children had increased exposure to the pesticide ingredient azinphos-methyl which is a neurotoxicant (Curl et al. 2002), which informed EPA’s decision to phase out the use of azinphos-methyl (EPA 2006).”
This week, a federal judge temporarily prevented environmental officials in California from requiring glyphosate cancer warnings on food products contaminated with it.
The state does not play fair because the right to vote is not much of a right to do anything: what is stopping them from just saying “even though you won the vote, you can’t have this?” Could the dissolving of this EPA agency have anything to do with this?
While government regulation inherently lacks incentive to deliver any actual safety to people, we might be worse off without this agency that will be cut out of the EPA.
(Image credit: Huffington Post)