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November 12, 2013Toxic Chemical Protections? Not Likely in House Hearing

Contact: Stephenie Hendricks, (415) 258-9151, shendricks@comingcleaninc.org

Hearing on Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA): Wednesday, November 13, 2013, 10:15 am EST

(Washington, DC) The House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy is holding a hearing Wednesday on “chemical safety,” to address the Senate bill for reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA). On May 22, the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA) (S. 1009) was introduced in the United States Senate to update the failed TSCA framework.

Richard Moore, Coordinator of the Los Jardines Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico, also with the Environmental Justice and Health Alliance, says “Senators who have taken control of the CSIA, under heavy influence from the chemical industry, removed a section in a previous bill, the Safe Chemicals Act, designed to protect ‘hot spots’ or ‘sacrifice zones’ - communities suffering the longest and most severely from toxic chemicals. Now they are trying to gain legitimacy for this with their similarly influenced colleagues in the House.”

"Kentuckians are more concerned about everyday toxic chemical exposures, and have less patience for government failing to protect our health," said Elizabeth Crowe, Director of the Kentucky Environmental Foundation. "As such, we need our legislators to spend less time defending chemical company profits, and more time working to get manufacturers to use safer chemicals that will keep workers and communities safe."

Advocates for Environmental Human Rights Co-Founder and Attorney Monique Harden, Esq. comments: “This House of Representatives will go down in history as having obstructed every good piece of legislation that has come their way, and as having supported some of most harmful bills. The CSIA as it is originally written would create human rights violations by restricting the legal rights of people harmed by chemicals, and establishing weak standards that fail to protect those most harmed from toxic chemicals.”

“There are House representatives who get funding from the petrochemical industry and they all have an election coming up in 2014. How can a legislator who is taking money from these corporations hold a fair hearing to honestly discuss putting limits on toxic chemicals exposure?” asks Jose Bravo, Executive Director of the Just Transition Alliance.

Kathy Curtis, LPN, Executive Director, Clean & Healthy New York, said “States are the laboratories for effective federal policy, yet not only does the CSIA preempt successful state-level efforts to regulate chemicals in New York, California, Washington, Maine and elsewhere, but states’ ability to act to protect their residents from toxic chemicals in the future will be severely limited. Who in the House will fight for states’ rights to protect their own residents at this hearing? We didn't wait 37 years to make TSCA even worse.”

“The European Union and Canada have stronger protections from chemicals than the United States,” says Bev Thorpe, Communications Director and Partner, Clean Production Action. “TSCA reform must encourage manufacturers to make safer chemicals and make safer products. Some companies are now making safer products for the EU than the US. Why should we allow corporations to put toxic products in our marketplace?”

Martha Dina Arguello, Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility - Los Angeles points out: “Lower IQs in children, infertility, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and many other health impacts are linked to unregulated toxic chemicals exposure. Yet this new bill puts a ‘gag order’ on doctors and nurses to prevent reporting on health impacts from chemical exposure, which will no doubt block important public health research and protections for the public, this is of particular concern for communities of color where much of the chemical production occurs and for the workers in these plants.”

Katie Huffling, RN, MS, CNM, Director of Programs with Alliance of Nurses for a Healthy Environment, concurs, “A physician or nurse needs to be able to readily know the identity of a chemical and its properties suspected of causing illness. It is their imperative to raise awareness to the public about health impacts they see linked to chemical exposure. The ‘confidentiality’ order must be removed from this legislation, and this House hearing should guarantee protection for healthcare providers in this regard.”

“Kids today experience unprecedented exposure levels to a mixture of toxic chemicals. Some exposures happening even before they breathe their first breath,” said Eric Uram, Executive Director at SafeMinds. “Many of these toxic chemicals in our environment and our bodies will affect the brain and nervous systems during critical windows in their development. Will the House look at the rising rates of learning disabilities and neurodevelopmental impairments in children linked to toxic chemicals?”

Stephen Boese from the Learning Disabilities Association of New York State says, “The current bill would not prevent disability in children and protect American's health and safety, instead it protects markets for companies that manufacture and sell poisonous products. Let's instead stand up for legislation that protects children, prevents learning disability and other neurological impairments, and holds corporations accountable for the products they manufacture and sell."

“Our children and families deserve real protections from toxic chemicals. The current Senate Bill being considered by the House is a fig leaf of reform giving our families a false sense of security, while dangerous chemicals will continue to threaten our health in everyday products like toys, pacifiers, furniture, and end up in our air and water.” remarks Ansje Miller, Eastern States Director for Center for Environmental Health.

Pam Miller, Executive Director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics adds, “The Arctic is a ‘toxic sink’ for persistent chemicals drifting North on wind and water. We have one of the highest birth defects rates in the nation along with some of the highest amounts of toxic chemicals in our bodies. How will our Representatives work to halt this exposure through TSCA reform?”

Jamie McConnell, Director of Programs and Policy with Women’s Voices for the Earth says, “Any bill to reform TSCA must include explicit protections for women, who are more vulnerable to the impacts of exposure to toxic chemicals. The CSIA needs to be strengthened if it’s truly going to protect public health from exposure to neurotoxins, carcinogens, and chemicals that can impact women’s reproductive health.”

“If the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (S.1009) were enacted today it would fail to eliminate the cocktail of toxic chemicals that every American is involuntarily exposed to while also reversing the progress many states have made in the absence of a Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that protects public health or the environment. Like TSCA, S.1009 ignores those most vulnerable among us such as children, pregnant women, workers and communities who live closest to polluting facilities. Only the chemical industry will cheer if Congress enacts a bill that once again fails to end the use of cancer causing and other toxic chemicals in our products, homes and workplaces," said Rick Hind, Legislative Director for Greenpeace.

Health, community, and workers advocates are asking Congress to provide meaningful protections against toxic chemical exposures, by supporting amendments to:

1. Allow EPA to quickly initiate action on the worst chemicals: persistent, bioaccumulative toxicants (PBTs).

2. Protect the most vulnerable among us, including children, the elderly, pregnant women and people of childbearing age, those individuals with learning and/or developmental disabilities, those who are ill or predisposed to illness, workers, and communities where people of color and low income people are forced to bear multiple chemical exposures. Ensure environmental justice.

3. Hold industry responsible for demonstrating chemical safety and paying for the review of their products.

4. Remove the “gag rule” from CSIA that makes it illegal for physicians, nurses and healthcare providers to publicly share information on the toxic chemicals that are making people sick who they are treating for illness linked to toxic chemicals.

5. Enhance government coordination, including maintaining the ability of the states to enact stronger chemical policies than the federal government.
6. Promote safer alternatives to toxic chemicals and incentivize innovation into safer chemicals and green chemistry.

7. Ensure the Right to Know and Right to Act about chemical hazards and exposures for the public, workers, and the marketplace.

8. Require that safety assessments of chemicals and exposure reduction to toxics be based on a minimum set of the best science and methods.

Additional Resources

Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families

Available for Comment

Stephen Boese; Former Executive Director, Learning Disabilities Association of New York State; (518) 608-8992, sboese@ldanys.org.

Jose Bravo; Director, Just Transition Alliance; National Coordinator, Campaign for Healthier Solutions; (619) 838-6694, jose@comingcleaninc.org. 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.

Lin Kaatz Chary, PhD, MPH; Clean & Healthy Indiana; Formerly of Indiana Toxics Action; (219) 938-0209, lchary@sbcglobal.net.

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, kathy@cleanhealthyny.org. Kathy can address efforts in New York state, the importance of states to be able to have their own strong chemicals policies, and can talk about national work to reform TSCA and chemical regulations for safer chemicals in general.   

Dorothy Felix; Mossville Environmental Action Now; (337) 882-8078, mossville4ej@yahoo.com. Dorothy can tell about how Senator Vitter’s own state of Louisiana has among the highest cancer rates in the nation from chemical exposures and unprotected communities.  

Monique Harden, Esq.; Co-Director and Attorney, Advocates for Environmental Human Rights; (504) 799-3060, mharden@ehumanrights.org. Monique can address the legal elements of the CSIA that fail to protect communities in Louisiana and elsewhere.

Rick Hind; Legislative Director, Greenpeace; (202) 319-2445, rick.hind@greenpeace.org. Rick is an expert on chemical policy and how weak regulations contributed to the tragedies in West, Texas and elsewhere in communities impacted by chemical disasters.

Katie Huffling, RN, MS, CNM; Director of Programs, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments; Co-Coordinator, Workgroup for Public Policy Reform, Coming Clean; (240) 753-3729, katie@envirn.org. Katie can address nurses’ involvement in national work on safer chemicals and specifically chemical impacts to the health of women and infants, and the de facto "gag order" on nurses and doctors in the CSIA.

Martha Dina Arguello; Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility - Los Angeles; (310) 261-0073, arguello@psrla.org. Martha can address the de facto “gag order” on health care providers to prevent their public disclosure of concerns about the health impacts from chemicals on their patients and others. 

Jamie McConnell; Director of Programs and Policy, Women's Voices for the Earth ; (406) 543-3747, jamies@womensvoices.org. Jamie can address how regulatory failure has contributed to toxic chemicals in products we use every day, and what needs to be in TSCA reform to keep dangerous chemicals out of the marketplace.

Ansje Miller; Eastern States Director, Center for Environmental Health; (212) 689-6999. Ansje can address the potential chilling effect of CSIA on California’s progressive policies related to chemicals.

Pam Miller; Founder and Executive Director, Alaska Community Action on Toxics; (907) 222-7714, pamela@akaction.org. 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. 

Vi Waghiyi; Environmental Health and Justice Program Director, Alaska Community Action on Toxics; (907) 222-7714 . Vi can speak to the shocking chemical test results of the St. Lawrence Island, Alaska traditional foods and human health bio-monitoring results of Alaska native people.

Richard Moore; Los Jardines Institute; Co-Chair, Environmental Justice and Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform; (505) 301-0276, ljinewmexico@gmail.com. Richard can discuss the failure of the CSIA to include so called “hot spots,” and the health impacts on workers and communities from chemicals exposure.

Juan Parras; Executive Director, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services; (281) 513-7799, parras.juan@gmail.com. Juan can address the issue of chemically impacted communities in the Houston Ship Channel area, the prevalence of disease and premature death in this area, and the urgent need for real TSCA reform.

Michele Roberts; Co-Coordinator, Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform; (202) 704-7593, mroberts@comingcleaninc.org. Michele can discuss the problem with removing so-called “hot spots” protection from chemical reform legislation and also tell about the issues in Mossville, Louisiana, and elsewhere where people are pointing to chemicals exposure as their source of their illnesses.

Susan D. Shaw, PhD; President and Founder, Marine Environmental Research Institute ; Environmental Toxicologist and Professor, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, SUNY, Albany; (207) 374-2135, info@meriresearch.org. Susan can address threats of new chemicals designed to replace older ones, for example flame retardants are potentially just as as toxic and not evaluated for health impacts before use. Firefighters should be included as a vulnerable population - her new research shows elevated rates of several cancers thought to be related to their exposure to carcinogenic dioxins and furans while firefighting.

Beverley Thorpe; Consulting, Co-Director, Clean Production Action; Co-Coordinator, Workgroup for Safe Markets, Coming Clean; bev@cleanproduction.org. Bev can address the comparison of U.S. chemicals policy with the policies in Canada and the European Union, and tools that help businesses identify safer chemicals for their products. 

Eric Uram; SafeMinds; (608) 233-9022, eric.uram@safeminds.org. Eric can address the proliferation of neurotoxic chemicals in our environment and corresponding rising rates of neurodevelopmental health impacts such as autism, learning disabilities and more.

Heather White; Executive Director, Environmental Working Group; (202) 667-6982.

 

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