States attempt to minimize public health impact as Congress lags behind.
Media advisory for January 19
Contact: Jamie Silberberger
(406) 543-3747, firstname.lastname@example.org
HELENA, Mont. –Montana legislators and advocates joined 30 states today in supporting pending federal legislation that would protect children and families from harmful chemicals. The move is in response to continued public concern over the presence of dangerous chemicals in common household products, coupled with Congressional inaction. Despite well-funded opposition from the chemical industry, 18 state legislatures have already passed 71 chemical safety laws in the last eight years by an overwhelming, bipartisan margin – with more to come this year.
“Montana has been uniquely impacted by weak chemical safety laws and there is no better example of this than what the people in Libby, Montana have had to suffer. If we had stronger chemical safety laws, the EPA could have addressed and remediated termolite asbestos contamination in that community much earlier and more effectively, thus preventing unnecessary exposure to the people of Libby and likely preventing illness and death” said Michele Reinhart (HD 97). “That’s why I am introducing a resolution to show that Montanans support stronger chemical safety laws, so we can avoid future tragedies like Libby. In this contentious legislative session, this is surely an issue both Democrats and Republicans can agree upon.”
Montana and 11 other states introduced resolutions urging Congress to overhaul the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) – the outdated federal law that allows dangerous and untested chemicals to be used in everyday products and materials. Bills to be considered in 25 other states include: bans on BPA and hazardous flame retardants in consumer products; and requirements that children’s product manufacturers use only the safest chemicals. Increasing rates of chronic diseases linked to toxic chemical exposure, including cancer, asthma, and infertility, has created urgency in state capitols to enact policies to get harmful chemicals off the market.
“A substantial body of scientific research shows that the public is exposed to chemicals that increase the risk of serious health threats, including cancer, asthma, infertility, and learning and developmental disabilities,” said Dr. Ted Schettler, MD, MPH, Science Director of the Science and Environmental Health Network. “For most chemicals, no government agency has the authority to require safety testing before they are put into widespread use. It’s an uncontrolled experiment, and individuals and families across the country are paying the price.”
Despite overwhelming public support for stronger laws on toxic chemicals, Congress has heeded the aggressive opposition of chemical industry lobbyists rather than the support of the American electorate and failed to pass TSCA reform legislation three times in the last six years. However, the battle will continue at the federal level in 2011, with new TSCA reform bills expected to be introduced.
“Updating our chemical safety laws to meet standards that protect women and children from harmful chemical exposure should be a top priority for Senators Baucus and Tester. The special interests of the chemical industry shouldn’t trump public health. There is no reason toxic chemicals like lead, cadmium, and BPA should be allowed for use in consumer products,” says Jamie Silberberger, director of programs and policy at Missoula-based Women’s Voices for the Earth, a national organization that works to protect women’s health by reducing exposure to toxic chemicals.
The resolution introduced in Montana asks Congress to pass a chemical safety law that places the burden of proving a chemical is safe on the manufacturer, and not taxpayers. It also asks for immediate action to be taken on the most toxic chemicals like mercury and asbestos, and for a health safety standard that protects the most vulnerable populations, including pregnant women and children. Ten other states, including Alaska, California, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin, are introducing similar resolutions.
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