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Why Trump is bad for public health

Coal miners wave signs at a Donald Trump rally in Charleston, W.Va., in May. Trump’s election could end many of President Barack Obama’s signature environmental initiatives.
Coal miners wave signs at a Donald Trump rally in Charleston, W.Va., in May. Trump’s election could end many of President Barack Obama’s signature environmental initiatives. Associated Press file

While there will be many ripple effects of a Donald Trump presidency, the real loser will be your health and its connection to the health of the planet.

Regulations born from decades of sound science look to be rolled back by Trump, a pitch to industry leaders and lower wage earners. The ironic twist is that such regulations were developed to protect ordinary citizens from the negative side effects of industrial and agricultural practices.

Recent studies have pointed out that one in eight people die from air pollution worldwide, with an estimated 6 percent of all premature deaths in this country attributed to nitrogen oxide in the air. This nitrogen is traced back to fossil fuel combustion and agricultural fertilizers that enter the water and air, resulting in upper respiratory disease and sudden infant death syndrome. Recent studies indicate that nitrogen pollution is a huge drain on the economy, equal to roughly $250 billion of environmental and health damages each year.

Climate change and greenhouse gases are another case in point, given that the U.S. emits the second most carbon pollution of any country on the planet. Although Trump will be unable to back out of the Paris agreement on carbon pollution for at least four years, it doesn’t have any sanctions for exiting early.

At precisely the time when climate change is causing the world’s seas to rise and shorelines to erode, voters in Florida who supported Trump spoke loudly against their own interests in climate protection.

Finally, the spread of infectious disease such as the Zika virus is greatly reduced in ecosystems with a rich diversity of wild plants and animals. Without new conservation measures – and a president willing to conserve our natural world – climate change and biodiversity declines will result in even greater disease outbreaks throughout the country, particularly in the Upper Midwest where winters are turning quickly mild.

Trump’s willingness to call climate change a global conspiracy and cut environmental protection measures are more than a rejection of science. It’s a clear example of what he really thinks about your health and the toxins that threaten our children’s future.

The president-elect recently appointed arguably the most radical climate denier, Myron Ebell, to lead his transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency. Trump is yet again cooking up a con with major stakes, played out on the most vulnerable and least educated people in our society.

It seems that Trump forgot about your health when he decided to “make America great again.” But should anyone really be surprised?

Benjamin Z. Houlton is director of the John Muir Institute of the Environment at UC Davis. He can be contacted at bzhoulton@ucdavis.edu.

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