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Margie Kelly
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Proposed toxics bill would make bad situation worse, is a gift to chemical industry

A statement by Nancy Buermeyer, Senior Policy Strategist, Breast Cancer Fund

For Immediate Release: Friday, February 28, 2014
Contact: Margie Kelly, 541-222-9699, mkelly@breastcancerfund.org, or Shannon Coughlin, 415-336-2246, scoughlin@breastcancerfund.org

SAN FRANCISCO – U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., released a draft bill called the Chemicals in Commerce Act on Thursday, February 27 that guts what little health protections from toxic chemicals now exist and would further weaken our national chemical law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which is a well-established failure. This draft advances the interests of the chemical industry and disregards years of work by doctors, scientists, health advocates and state legislators to enact meaningful reform and to prevent diseases linked to chemical exposure. In essence, this draft bill has the potential to make a bad situation even worse.

The Breast Cancer Fund does not consider Rep. Shimkus’s bill to be a credible response to the urgent toxic chemical crisis that is contributing to increased incidence of diseases including asthma, infertility, birth defects and cancer. The bill would do nothing to curb Americans’ exposure to chemicals that a growing body of science has linked to increased risk of breast cancer and numerous other health problems.

Additionally, Rep. Shimkus’s bill would nullify state laws, which provide critical information about and protection from unsafe chemicals linked to cancer and reproductive harm. States across the nation have passed legislation to increase safeguards for children and pregnant women from an ineffective, fundamentally flawed federal system. Given that preemption of state laws is at the center of the chemical industry’s agenda, it’s difficult not to see this bill as industry-driven and industry-serving.

In the absence of federal action and increasing public demand for safer chemicals, states, manufacturers and retailers have stepped in to protect public health:

• Thirty-three states are considering chemical safety policies that would restrict chemical use in consumer products to protect the health of children and other vulnerable populations.
• Retailers like Walmart and Target are developing their own chemical standards.
• Manufacturers, including Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble, are removing toxic chemicals from products.

While these actions show momentum and leadership in the face of the federal government’s failure to regulate chemicals, people want to know the products they bring into their homes and the chemicals that are released into the air and water won’t make their families sick.

The recent West Virginia chemical spill is a sober reminder of just how broken the system is. At least 10,000 gallons of a chemical mixture contaminated the municipal water, and because of lax federal regulations, there is no data about these chemicals or their potential to harm to health. With this new House bill, we could face many more such mystery chemical spills.

The Breast Cancer Fund is committed to supporting meaningful and effective chemical reform that will put public health above chemical industry interests and that will protect the most vulnerable—pregnant women, children, workers and communities disproportionately impacted by proximity to factories or toxic chemical disposal sites— from chemical exposures. We can and must do much better to protect our health and the health of future generations.

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The Breast Cancer Fund is the leading national organization working to prevent breast cancer by eliminating our exposures to toxic chemicals and radiation linked to the disease.