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Trump doesn’t want you to know how toxic your neighborhood may be

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Sarah Okeson
Sarah Okeson

Former President Ronald Reagan enshrined in law the public’s right to know what dangerous chemicals are in our communities. But Trump Republicans have killed off an online mapping tool that lets us easily do that.

ToxMap, a feature of the National Library of Medicine, which bills itself as “an international leader in health informatics research and development,” went dark Monday.

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“Our National Library of Medicine has now joined this administration’s ideologically-driven anti-science crusade, effectively shrinking the public’s access to environmental as well as disease and mortality data,” wrote Chris Sellers, a professor of environmental history and politics at Stony Brook University in New York.

ToxMap started in 2004 to display information the Environmental Protection Agency collects on toxic releases of chemicals. It also included information on nuclear power plants, coal plant emissions, Census figures and health and income data. People with basic computer skills could easily map potential dangers in their communities.

Much of the information fromToxMap is still online but scattered among different web sites, making it more difficult to learn about pollution and the polluters who are Trump’s pals and campaign contributors.

Former EPA officials have described making toxic release information available to anyone who wants it as “among our most potent environmental weapons.”

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Shuttering ToxMap is part of Trump’s push to roll back environmental rules and regulations.

The New York Times counted 85 rollbacks or rollbacks in process. These actions, which include canceling a requirement for oil and gas companies to report methane emissions and shrinking two national monuments in Utah, could significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions. That would lead to thousands of extra deaths each year from poor air.

Reagan signed the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act in 1986. Public demand for information about chemical releases had skyrocketed because of a pesticide release at a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, in 1984 that killed thousands and a toxic chemicals release in 1985 from a Union Carbide plant in West Virginia. The law had overwhelming support from Republicans and Democrats.

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