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November 20, 2008Scientists, Physicians, Health Advocates, Parents to Obama: Chemical exposure is an urgent crisis in the United States

Contact: Stephenie Hendricks, (415) 258-9151,

Suggested Principles and Guidelines for Toxic Chemical Regulatory Reform in the U.S.

(Washington, DC) Physicians, scientists, health advocates, and parents groups hold great optimism and high expectations for the Obama administration in addressing toxics issues, and its ability to choose administrative staff who will prioritize public health, worker safety and a clean environment. Today, they submitted their pleas for a halt to the urgent chemical exposure crisis in the U.S. and the world, and to the attacks on scientific integrity that have been used to delay a remedy, and have submitted their ideas on what to do about it to the Obama website that has been set up to receive input for the new administration. Specific ideas submitted by the group include: prevention of exposure from known dangerous chemicals, public disclosure of chemistry in products, protection for scientists, and transforming the chemical economy to a green collar economy.

“Our members don’t want to have to feel like they have to be research chemists to buy products for their children,” says Joan Blades, Co-Founder of “Chemical regulatory reform is past due. It is outrageous more and more parents look for labels that say items meet European regulatory standards, because American standards are not to be trusted. We want our families protected from chemical exposure.”

Health and environmental advocates point to recent developments around the chemical bisphenol-A as a prime example of the need for greater integrity at the administration level. “An immediate priority for the new administration should be to support a ban on bisphenol A in food can liners and plastic baby bottles. More than 130 scientific studies have linked this toxic hormone disrupting chemical to breast cancer, obesity, diabetes, neurological effects and other illness — even at very low doses,” said Janet Nudelman, Policy Director at the Breast Cancer Fund. “We have more than enough evidence of harm to act, and we need to do so quickly.”

“Toxic chemical exposure is such a great threat to American health. It effects some of our most fragile individuals in our society, children and the unborn child, who cannot protect themselves from these assaults. That is why we must do it for them. We are looking to the Obama administration to listen to the scientists, physicians, and health professionals to immediately implement strategies that will save lives and prevent human suffering,” says Kristen Welker-Hood, ScD, MSN, RN Director, Environment and Health Programs with Physicians for Social Responsibility.

 “The EPA’s own scientists had to stand by, silenced by a gag order, and watch as chemicals and rules were approved without adequate scientific study,” says Dr. William Hirzy, EPA scientist, and vice president of EPA scientists’ union, NTEU 280. At least one EPA advisory scientist was publicly attacked in a letter and removed from an advisory panel on a chemical used in flame retardants by industry.

“Our government has failed to protect us from toxic chemicals leaking from dumps, being released into the air and water in environmental justice communities, and even in children’s toys and baby bottles. We need nothing short of a total overhaul of our nation’s failed chemical regulatory system, which for years has benefited the big polluters and left communities and workers struggling for justice,” said Lois Gibbs, Executive Director of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice.

“We believe that living without toxic chemicals in our water, soil, air, and bodies is a universal human right. It’s time to stop the contamination of our nation’s cities, towns, and rural areas — often located in low income communities of color. But chemical exposure also knows no boundaries and depending on the chemical, can travel thousands of miles from where it is applied,” according Pam Miller, Director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics, “So no one is protected from toxic chemical exposure. Arctic Indigenous peoples are among the most highly exposed people in the world.”

Martha Dina Arguello, Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility - Los Angeles, says, “Whether people are living in rural communities contaminated by pesticide drift, or living in cities and exposed to air contaminants from traffic, or just becoming exposed buying unregulated products, everyone is in danger from unregulated chemicals. We are asking for immediate attention to these issues with help and support for the people working toward real solutions.”

Even the administration’s efforts to restore the integrity of the financial marketplace can play a role in ensuring safer chemicals, said Sanford Lewis, Counsel, Investor Environmental Health Network. He said, “As the Obama administration strengthens the Securities and Exchange Commission, it should ensure that all financial risks, including the risks associated with toxic products, are being disclosed to investors. This has not been the case under the prior administration.”

Guidelines and Principles for Toxic Chemical Regulatory Reform in the United States list five clear principles and remedies to the current chemical exposure crisis in the U.S. and the World. 

Additional Resources

Contaminated without Consent 

Healthy Child Healthy World

Is It In Us? 

The Louisville Charter

Physicians for Social Responsibility

Principles of Environmental Justice 

Scientific Consensus Statement on Environmental Agents Associated with Neurodevelopmental Disorders developed by the Collaborative on Health and the Environment’s Learning and Developmental Disabilities Initiative, February 20, 2008 (revised July 1, 2008).

Toxic Playroom 

Available for Comment

Martha Dina Arguello; Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility - Los Angeles; (310) 261-0073, Martha can address a variety of toxic chemical exposure issues to communities of color, about educating physicians, and what has happened in California toward reforming chemical regulatory policy. She has been involved in the California Green Chemistry Initiative.

Joan Blades; President and Co-Founder, To schedule an interview contact Gretchen Wright or Lisa Lederer at (202) 371-1999.

Arlene Blum, PhD; Executive Director and Founder, Green Science Policy Institute; (510) 644-3164, Arlene can address flame retardants and the efforts toward Green Chemistry solutions.

Jose Bravo; Director, Just Transition Alliance; National Coordinator, Campaign for Healthier Solutions; (619) 838-6694, Jose works with communities contaminated with chemicals, which occurs mostly where low income people of color are living, although everyone is at risk.  Habla Espanol.

Elizabeth Crowe; Associate Director, Coming Clean; Former Director, Kentucky Environmental Foundation; (859) 200-8207, Elizabeth is a young mother. She works on chemical weapons issues and on environmental justice issues, and was very involved in the making of this document. 

Jay Feldman; Executive Director, Beyond Pesticides; (202) 543-5450, Jay can address pesticide contamination from lawn chemicals and everyday pesticide use.

Christopher Gavigan; CEO and Executive Director, Healthy Child Healthy World; Author of Healthy Child, Healthy World: Creating a Cleaner, Greener, Safer Home; (310) 820-2030. Christopher can address how to raise a family in a less toxic environment.  

Lois Gibbs; Executive Director, Center for Health, Environment & Justice; (703) 237-2249. Lois has been working on toxic exposure issues since 1970 when her activism around Love Canal forced the founding of the Superfund designation.  

Kathryn Gilje; Executive Director, Pesticide Action Network North America; (415) 981-1771, Kathryn can address the need to support farmer transitions off of chemically based farming, and the dangers of pesticide contamination for farmworkers and those living in rural communities.

Sanford Lewis, JD; Counsel, Investor Environmental Health Network; (413) 549-7333, Sanford can address how investors can address the risks and opportunities associated with toxic chemicals and products and safer materials. He can discuss how the securities and exchange commission can better protect investor interests regarding toxic chemicals in products as part of its regulatory reform efforts.

Richard Liroff, PhD; Executive Director, Investor Environmental Health Network; (703) 970-4790, Richard can address how investors can address the risks and opportunities associated with toxic chemicals and products and safer materials.

Pam Miller; Founder and Executive Director, Alaska Community Action on Toxics; (907) 222-7714, Pam can address the drift of POPs chemicals from lower hemispheres, putting Indigenous peoples in the Arctic at great risk for illness from chemical contaminants and can also address the several hundred toxic waste dump sites, now leaking chemicals due to global warming, and contaminating water, soil and air near communities. 

Elise Miller, MEd; Executive Director, Institute for Children’s Environmental Health; National Coordinator, The Collaborative on Health and the Environment’s Learning and Developmental Disabilities Initiative; (360) 331-7904, Also see,

Janet Nudelman; Director of Program and Policy, Breast Cancer Fund. Janet has been extensively involved in working toward restrictions on harmful chemicals such as bisphenol A and phthalates.  To arrange an interview contact Shannon Coughlin, (415) 336-2245,

Judith Robinson; Executive Director, Coming Clean; Former Director of Programs, Environmental Health Fund; (802) 251-0203, Young mother of two.

Jennifer Sass, PhD; Senior Scientist, Natural Resources Defense Council; (202) 289-2362, Dr. Sass can address scientific integrity issues and the need for chemical regulatory reform.

Ted Schettler, MD, MPH; Science Director, Science and Environmental Health Network; Ted is co-author of Generations at Risk: Reproductive Health and the Environment, which examines reproductive and developmental health effects of exposure to a variety of environmental toxicants, and also co-author of In Harm’s Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development.

Lynn Thorp; National Campaigns Coordinator, Clean Water Action; (202) 895-0420 ext. 109. Lynn will address the need for chemical policy reform and what is happening with federal policy.

Kirsten Welker-Hood, ScD, MSN, RN; Director, Environment and Health Programs, Physicians for Social Responsibility - National; (202) 667-4260 ext. 244, Dr. Welker-Hood can speak on comprehensive federal chemical policy reform as well as medical and health professional activism advocating for safer chemical management regulation and pediatric environmental health.

John Kepner; Project Director, Beyond Pesticides; (202) 543-5450 ext. 20,


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