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Opinion: Stronger safeguards needed to keep summertime safe

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Summer is supposed to be when we take time off work to spend with family and friends, enjoy picnics and barbeques, lay out by the pool or on the beach, take road trips across the country or fly to far-flung places.

But what happens if you’ve been deprived of the wages needed to take time off or travel, if road trips, flights and tour boats are potentially dangerous, if it’s way too hot to work or play outside, and if there’s a good chance the food and water may be hazardous to your health?

Suddenly, summertime looks less like a dreamy vacation and more like a scorching hot nightmare — a terrifying time of year that’s going to do lasting damage to your bank account and your health, and, tragically, might even claim the life of a family member.

This frightening version of summer is much closer to reality than you might think. The commonsense regulatory protections we need to keep summer safe, healthy, affordable and fun are dwindling because of a decades-long war on public protections that has escalated in recent years — one led by regulated industries and astroturf organizations, the Trump administration and conservatives in Congress.

Polls repeatedly show that the public overwhelmingly supports stronger safeguards, but deep-pocketed corporations and their hand-picked politicians in Washington are standing in the way.

Their hostility to regulation has an extremely high cost — one that this summer will be borne by workers, families, businesses and local communities across the country.

Big polluters are exacerbating climate change — raising temperatures to levels that make it hazardous for workers (or potentially anyone) to be outside, while fueling blooms of toxic algae that poison the water we might otherwise swim in, fish in and drink.

Employers aren’t paying workers the full overtime wages they deserve — making summer vacation plans unaffordable and forcing people to work longer hours instead of spending time with their families and friends.

Online travel booking sites that have benefited from corporate consolidation and a lack of antitrust enforcement are charging higher prices for flights and hotels.

Planesduck boats and cars have significant and as-yet unaddressed safety problems that make tourism and travel dangerous, putting children and passengers at risk.

Sunscreens — an absolute must for beachgoers and at pool parties — still lack health, safety and effectiveness standards.

Food safety measures that keep summer grilling season safe are being rolled back. This includes, but is not limited to, faster line speeds and fewer safety inspectors at pork slaughter plants.

Even first responders are being put at even greater risk. After Net Neutrality protections were repealed, telecoms slowed down firefighters’ internet service during last year’s California wildfires, preventing them from communicating with each other.

This isn’t how summer is supposed to be — a carefree time to relax, not an unregulated death trap.

Regulatory safeguards are our lifeguards. Summer won’t be the same without them.

Lisa Gilbert is the vice president of legislative affairs for Public Citizen and an executive committee member of the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards. She wrote this for