By missing its March 1 deadline, Congress ran out of time to strike a budget deficit deal that would replace $85 billion in federal cuts split between defense and discretionary funding. As a result, automatic across-the-board cuts to government agencies known as sequestration take effect today, which are expected to jeopardize the nation’s health, economy and security.

Lawmakers met with President Obama and White House officials as late as Friday morning to make a last ditch effort to avert the cuts. With no meaningful solution in sight to stop the sequester, some say the meeting is too little, too late.

In a letter to Congress last week, Lisa Jackson, former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, laid out the damaging impact of sequestration on environmental health. Jackson noted that cuts to climate research would limit the ability of local, state and the federal government to help communities adapt to and prepare for certain effects of climate change, such as severe weather events.

“Without information provided by climate research, local governments would not know how climate change would affect water quality, and therefore would be unable to develop adaption strategies to maintain protection of water quality as the climate changes,” Jackson wrote.

The American Public Health Association warned Friday that the law raises risks to the public’s health by undermining many protections in place, citing food inspection reductions and diminished public health emergency preparedness and response capabilities.

“These are essential public health services that save lives and protect our health. They are not the driver of our nation’s debt and have already been ravaged by deep cuts during the recent recession,” said Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of APHA. “To decimate programs that hold the greatest potential for growth and health security is a matter of failed policy. Public health is part of the economic solution since they help reduce the need for more expensive health and social services.”

The cuts are not scheduled to take effect for another month.

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