The Trump Administration’s 2018 budget proposal takes direct aim at the Environmental Protection Agency. If adopted, the budget would cut the EPA’s fundingby 31%, with most of the reductions concentrated in programs that study pollution and environmental toxins, and write and enforce rules to protect public health. Those programs would see as much as a 42% reduction.
It can be hard to understand the life-and-death impact this would have. The dollar values and percentages feel inhuman. Even the marches with the broad message on behalf of “science” can feel distant. But behind all the statistics produced by scientists and researchers lie human stories.
Here’s just one of those stories. When Heather Von St. James was growing up in the 1970s, my friends have told me, she borrowed her dad’s work coat to do her outdoor chores. The jacket was warm, but was also covered in a grey dust, residue from his job sanding down drywall taping compound. At the time, neither Heather nor her dad realized that drywall contained asbestos — fibers closely linked to certain types of cancer.
Thirty years later, Heather was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, a cancer that destroys the lining around the lung, sometimes also affecting the heart, abdomen and genitals. Although Heather had given birth to a baby girl just three months earlier, her world was immediately taken over by medical procedures to save her life.