Suspended EPA health official: Administration’s actions mean ‘kids are disposable’

Suspended EPA health official: Administration’s actions mean ‘kids are disposable’
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The suspended Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official for children’s health says the Trump administration’s actions show it doesn’t care for children.

Ruth Etzel, the director of the Office of Children's Health Protection who was suspended last month, told CBS News that she still doesn’t know why she disciplinary action was taken against her.

“Our message is no longer welcome," she told CBS. "The message that children are not little adults and they need special protections is not welcome.”

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Etzel said that before her suspension she used to have monthly meetings with the administrator — previously Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittEPA to pursue final 'science transparency' rule in 2019 Trump administration to unveil strategy for fighting lead exposure Overnight Energy — Sponsored by the National Biodiesel Board — Court blocks Atlantic coast pipeline | Kerry calls Trump climate actions 'profoundly dangerous' | EPA asked to investigate Pruitt Fox News hits MORE and now acting head Andrew Wheeler — but those stopped.

She also said one of the Trump administration’s landmark priorities for children’s health — reducing lead content in water — has stalled and that an official told her the administration would never allow a new EPA regulation on lead.

“My sense is that the government has absolutely no intention of taking any action toward seriously changing lead in children's environments,” she said. “It basically means that our kids will continue to be poisoned. It basically means that kids are disposable, they don't matter.”

CBS approached both EPA acting deputy chief of staff Helena Wooden-Aguilar and acting Deputy Administrator Henry Darwin to ask about Etzel, but both declined to comment, citing personnel matters.

Wheeler told reporters earlier this month that Etzel was suspended so the EPA could “investigate some allegations” regarding her work. He did not elaborate.

An EPA spokesman on Monday expanded on Wheeler's previous remarks, saying Etzel was put on administrative leave due to "serious reports made against her by staff regarding her ability to effectively lead" of the children's health office.

"The kinds of allegations that have been raised regarding Dr. Etzel’s conduct are very concerning and prompted EPA to take action," the spokesman said.

"Her attempt to use the press to distract from the allegations about her personal conduct is completely inappropriate. Any link that Dr. Etzel is attempting to draw between her personal situation and the mission of the Office of Children’s Health is an attempt at misdirection."

Updated at 7:20 p.m.