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Schwarzenegger Vetoes Program to Measure Pollution in People

Bill Would Have Established First Statewide Biomonitoring Program in California

Contact: Kevin Donegan, Breast Cancer Fund, (415) 346-8223 x14, (415) 307-2348 mobile; Davis Baltz, Commonweal, (510) 848-2714; Hallye Jordan, Office of Sen. Ortiz, mobile (916) 346-7697

SAN FRANCISCO—Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed SB 600, the “Healthy Californians Biomonitoring Program,” which would have made California the first state in the nation to conduct a statewide biomonitoring program.

Authored by state Sens. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento) and Don Perata (D-Oakland), the bill was viewed as a first step to help public health experts study the relationship between exposure to harmful chemicals and resultant effects on human health. The Breast Cancer Fund and Commonweal were co-sponsors of the legislation.

“The Governor’s veto has made it clear he cares more about currying favor with the chemical and oil industries than he does about protecting Californians’ health,” Ortiz said. “This biomonitoring program would have provided a valuable first step toward protecting our communities, our citizens and our children from exposure to toxic chemicals that have been linked to chronic illnesses and conditions.”

Jeanne Rizzo, R.N., executive director of the Breast Cancer Fund, said, “Despite support from the California Legislature, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the California Medical Society, health and advocacy organizations and the public, California has missed an enormous opportunity to build the scientific knowledge necessary to begin to understand the relationship between chemical exposures and increasing rates of breast cancer and other diseases. We are disappointed, but we will continue to advocate for biomonitoring because it is a critical element in protecting public health and safety.”

The Wall Street Journal currently is running an investigative series into the dangers of low-dose exposures to toxic chemicals, which can have significant effects on health, especially for pregnant women, babies in the womb and young children.

“The governor’s claim to be an advocate for children’s health can now be seen as empty posturing,” said Davis Baltz of the Commonweal Biomonitoring Resource Center. “His veto of this science-based program exposes his true priorities for California voters—protecting the special interests of the chemical industry.”

In August, Commonweal and the Breast Cancer Fund jointly released a new study, “Taking It All In,” in which chemicals commonly found in plastic water bottles, non-stick cookware and other consumer products were detected in the bodies of Californians for the first time. Two of the chemicals found were probable human carcinogens, while others had been linked to a host of health disorders, including asthma, reproductive difficulties, neurological damage and birth defects.

Conducted by Bolinas, Calif.-based Commonweal, the study detailed test results and reactions from 11 prominent Californians from diverse walks of life who submitted urine, blood and hair samples. The study used sophisticated new biomonitoring analysis techniques, only possible in the last few years, to precisely measure the levels of toxic chemicals in their bodies.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention already uses biomonitoring as a scientific health tool, and the CDC had offered California a minimum of $1.7 million in in-kind testing and training services to help California launch its program. More than 85,000 synthetic chemicals currently are registered for use in the United States, and an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 new chemicals are introduced every year. Yet less than 10 percent of chemicals have been tested for their effects on human health, according to SB 600. Many such chemicals persist in the environment, accumulate and remain in the human body and have been shown to be toxic.

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