(New York, NY) A new bill that claims to update how chemicals are regulated in the United States, introduced today by Senators David Vitter (R-LA) and Tom Udall (D-NM), is a sweet deal for the chemical industry that would keep exposing Americans to harmful chemicals while exposing the nation to billions in health care costs, a coalition of community, environmental and health groups said today.
The groups pointed to a new study by New York University that documents over $100 billion a year in health care costs in the European Union for diseases associated with endocrine disrupting chemicals, including IQ loss, ADHD, infertility, diabetes and other disorders that have been rising in the U.S.
The Vitter-Udall bill, introduced on Tuesday, March 10th, purports to update the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976, which was meant to protect the public from harmful chemicals but which has allowed tens of thousands of chemicals – including chemicals that cause cancer and other problems noted above – into the marketplace with little or no health and safety testing.
“New research links toxic chemicals with a range of illnesses and billions of dollars in health care costs, yet Senators Udall and Vitter are proposing a bill that doesn't address major problems with current policies and would give the chemical industry a free pass to keep exposing Americans to harmful chemicals for decades to come,” said Katie Huffling, RN, CNM, Director of Programs for the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, a network of nurses across the U.S. who have been working to reform TSCA.
“The chemical industry should not be allowed to draft the very laws meant to regulate them,” said Richard Moore from Los Jardines Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico, also with the Environmental Justice Health Alliance. “We need serious chemical reform that protects the health of all people including those who are living in ‘hot spots’ or ‘sacrifice zones’ – typically communities of color -- that are highly impacted by chemical factories.” Moore continued, “It seems that my own Senator, Senator Udall, has forgotten the needs of his constituents in favor of meeting the needs of his industry friends.” The New York Times reported last week that Sen. Udall has received tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the chemical industry.
Dorothy Felix from Mossville Environmental Action Now (MEAN) in Louisiana, said, “Because of the failure of TSCA, our community is faced with extensive toxic pollution that is causing us to consider relocating. Senator Vitter and other legislators are well aware of these toxic impacts yet they are proposing a bill that would be even worse than current law. Let's be clear: Senator Vitter's bill is good for the chemical industry, not for the people who live daily with the consequences of toxic chemical exposures.”
“Chemical industry influence over the Vitter-Udall bill is unacceptable and the authors need to come back to the table and listen to the huge community of environmental and health groups that have been working on TSCA reform for decades,” said Martha Arguello, Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles.
“The regulatory framework for chemicals must protect health, especially the most vulnerable members of our society, and also must allow states to regulate toxic chemicals in order to protect their communities,” said Kathy Curtis, Executive Director of Clean and Healthy New York. “State actions to protect their own residents are the only thing prompting federal action, and states should not lose that right.”
“We need 21st century, solution-based laws that empower agencies and people to live in a society that safeguards our health and environment. This bill falls short of that goal,” said Jose Bravo, Executive Director of the Just Transition Alliance. “The bill is called the ‘Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act’ but unfortunately it is a horrible reminder of what industry special interests can do to undermine our personal and environmental health.”
The groups are part of the Coming Clean coalition’s Workgroup for Public Policy Reform, which is advocating for TSCA reform to include the six principles outlined in the Louisville Charter for Safer Chemicals:
The Charter, in effect since 2004, provides a framework for comprehensive chemical policy reform in a manner that protects public health, preserves the environment and supports innovation for safer chemical solutions.
For more information on the Louisville Charter and federal chemical policy reform, including statements from other organizations on the newly-introduced TSCA bill, see www.smartpolicyreform.org.
Kathleen A. Curtis, LPN; Executive Director, Clean & Healthy New York; Former Policy Director, Clean New York, a project of Women's Voices for the Earth; Co-Coordinator, Workgroup for Public Policy Reform, Coming Clean; (518) 355-6202, email@example.com. Kathy can address chemical reform in states and on a federal level and the role of flame retardants in the story.