Linked to Human Health Problems, Chemicals Largely Untested, Unregulated
WASHINGTON, April 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On the eve of legislation slated to be introduced this month to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), almost two dozen organizations representing health care professionals, along with health sector businesses sent letters to Congress urging the passage of strong reform of our nation's chemical regulatory system. Health Care Without Harm coordinated the letters from across the health care sector (see accompanying list for names of signers).
Letter signatories represent purchasing volumes of more than $87 billion annually, and include some of the nation's largest health professional organizations. The health care sector is the single largest user of chemicals, including pharmaceuticals. In 2002, health care spent over $106 billion in direct purchases of chemicals and chemical products, more than double the amount spent by the second largest consuming industry sector. (1)
TSCA, the nation's current law to regulate chemicals, has not been updated in 34 years. Because current regulations provide the EPA with little regulatory authority, the EPA has been able to require comprehensive testing on just 200 of the more than 80,000 chemicals produced and used in the U.S., and only five chemical groups been regulated under this law.
Meanwhile, according to the letters, the evidence linking chemical exposures to negative health outcomes continues to rise, including increases in disease and conditions such as cancers, birth defects, and infertility. Estimates of the proportion of the disease burden that can be attributed to chemicals vary, and are difficult to determine with precision. Some studies have suggested ten percent of diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and neuro-developmental deficits, and 30 percent of childhood asthma could be linked to environmental exposures (2). The health care cost savings attributable to a decline in the incidence of chronic diseases due to reductions in chemical exposures has been estimated in one study at $5 billion per year (3)."
"Congress has the unprecedented opportunity to craft truly preventative and health protective legislation that will also increase economic competitiveness and efficiency," said Gary Cohen, President of Health Care Without Harm. "The emerging evidence linking environmental exposures to increased disease burden and, consequently, further burdening our health care system, makes reform of our nation's chemical regulatory system not only an urgent ethical imperative, but also a critical economic initiative. The nation's largest health care organizations and health professional organizations understand the urgency, and have encouraged Congress to act."
The letters, written to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), and Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-IL), all chairs of key committees involved in chemical regulation, outlined key principles that should guide reform of the Act.
- Take immediate action on the worst chemicals: Some chemicals, including persistent, bioaccumulative toxicants (PBTs), are too hazardous to continue using. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should be given the authority to immediately phase out the use of the worst chemicals to which people can be exposed and should act upon that authority expeditiously.
- Require and disclose basic information for all chemicals: Chemical manufacturers should be required to provide full information on the health and environmental hazards associated with their chemicals and this data should be made available to the public.
- Ensure chemical manufacturers demonstrate the safety of their products: Chemical manufacturers should be required to demonstrate the safety of their products based on a health standard that explicitly requires the protection of the most vulnerable subpopulations, including children, workers, pregnant women, and communities located closest to industrial sources of chemical contamination.
- Promote safer alternatives: There should be national support for research into green chemistry and engineering, and policies should favor safer chemicals and products over those with known health hazards.
Health Care Without Harm will feature discussions of chemicals policy reform, one of the major reform efforts on Congress's plate, at CleanMed 2010, in Baltimore, MD, May 11-13.
HCWH is an international coalition of more than 430 organizations in 52 countries, working to transform the health care industry worldwide, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it is ecologically sustainable and no longer a source of harm to public health and the environment. For more information on HCWH, see www.noharm.org.
(1) Wilson, M., "Green Chemistry in California: A Framework for Leadership in Chemicals Policy and Innovation," California Policy Research Center, University of California, 2006, http://coeh.berkeley.edu/FINALgreenchemistryrpt.pdf.
(2) "The Health Case for Reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act," Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, January 2010, http://healthreport.saferchemicals.org/.
Health Care Professional Organizations Signing Letter
American Nurses Association
American Public Health Association
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Association of Public Health Laboratories
National Environmental Health Association
National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners
Association of Community Health Nursing Educators
Association of State and Territorial Directors of Nursing
American Public Health Association's Public Health Nurse Section
Association of Reproductive Health Professionals
Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments
Connecticut Nurses Association
Connecticut Public Health Association
Michigan Nurses Association
Montana Public Health Association
Blue Mountain Clinic, MT
New York State Nurses
Ohio Nurses Association
Pennsylvania State Nurses Association
Washington State Nurses Association
Health Care Companies Signing Letter
Consorta, Schaumburg, IL
Broadlane, Dallas TX
Premier, Charlotte, NC
Novation, Irving, TX
Catholic Healthcare West (with hospitals in NV, AZ, CA)
San Francisco General Hospital Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology at Hackensack University Medical Center
Fairview Health Services (Minneapolis, MN)
Children's Environmental Health Center, Mount Sinai School of Medicine (NY)
SOURCE Health Care Without Harm