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Washington Health Professionals Urge Strong Chemical Policy Reform!

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To Washington State Congressmen and women:

We invite you to share our vision of a country free of harmful toxic chemicals. As health professionals, we urge you to take action in support of this goal by supporting and strengthening the Safe Chemicals Act of 2010, which was recently introduced by Chairman Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) as a discussion draft of the Toxic Chemical Safety Act. In general, the proposal represents a major overhaul of the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. However, several areas must be improved for the bill to fully achieve the goal of protecting public health and the environment from harmful chemicals.

While the discussion draft requires basic health and safety information on chemicals, requires chemicals to eventually meet a safety standard, and protects communities disproportionately impacted by chemicals, it presents three serious shortcomings that must be addressed in subsequent bill versions. Specifically, we urge the following changes be made:

1.    New Chemicals Must Not Be Allowed On Market Without Safety Determination: Shockingly, the draft allows new chemicals onto the market without requiring they meet a minimum safety standard. This provision undermines one of the core goals of reform that is widely understood by the public- that chemicals should have to be proven safe before they are allowed on the market.

2.    Persistent, Bioaccumulative Toxic Chemicals (PBTs) Should Be Phased Out Except For Critical Uses. For Washington State, and the rest of the nation, it is critical for the legislation to require a phase out of PBTs except for critical uses. The draft recognizes that PBTs are different than other chemicals, but it defers to EPA to develop methodology for evaluating them. Washington State already has slated PBTs for elimination because of their devastating impact on health and the environment. PBT chemicals like the toxic-flame retardants PBDEs contaminate our homes, environment, and bodies and are passed onto children in the womb and through breastfeeding. Once a PBT chemical is released into the environment, they are expensive to clean up as evidenced by the millions spent to clean up PCBs in Puget Sound and the Spokane River. Puget Sound’s orca whales have become one of the most contaminated populations of marine mammals in the world, in part because of PCBs in the Puget Sound food chain.

3.    Cancer-causing and other dangerous chemicals should be immediately reduced and substituted with safer chemicals. While the bill recognizes specifically recognizes other harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde and BPA, it does not require their reduction or elimination from our everyday lives. Chemicals that we know are harmful- carcinogens, mutagens, developmental toxicants, and endocrine disruptors-- must be immediately reduced and companies must move to safer alternatives.

As you know, Washington State is a leader in protecting the public health and environment from toxic chemicals. Washington was the first state to ban the toxic flame retardant deca-BDE in 2007; passed the toughest standards on lead, cadmium, and phthalates in toys in 2008; and most recently became one of a handful of states which will begin phasing out the use of the hormone-disruptor bisphenol A (BPA) in children’s products. The President’s Report On Cancer, just released this month, specifically points to these Washington State policies as examples of the type of federal policies needed to protect public health from cancer-causing chemicals. States like ours play an important role in advancing chemicals policy by demonstrating that stronger standards are possible. Now it is time for change at the federal level and we welcome the much-needed reform of current law.

Children and families across Washington State and throughout the country are being exposed to chemicals found in everyday products and are asking for your leadership. Puget Sound, the Spokane River, the Yakima River, and many other water bodies are contaminated with chemicals that harm wildlife and our health. We have an opportunity to pass federal policy that will protect our families and complement our work at the state level but we need your help. We urge you to support those provisions highlighted above that we find most significant in TSCA reform and help make the necessary improvements in order to make this bill as strong as it can be. Children across the US are depending on you to keep them safe.

Please know that there is strong support in Washington for these provisions and improvements. We look forward to working with you on making this a strong bill that will protect public health, the environment and our local economies.

Thank you for your attention to this important issue. We look forward to working with you, Congressmen Waxman and Rush, and Committee members to ensure meaningful reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act.


Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility ~ Guided by the values and expertise of medicine and public health, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility engages the community to create a healthy, peaceful and sustainable world.


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