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Bill to Measure Pollution in People Passes Legislature

Decision Now Falls to Governor

CONTACTS: Kevin Donegan, Breast Cancer Fund, (415) 346-8223 x14, Davis Baltz, Commonweal, (510) 848-2714,

SACRAMENTO, Calif.—A bill that would launch the nation's first statewide effort to measure human exposure to toxic chemicals linked to diseases such as cancer and asthma passed the state Assembly late Tuesday evening.

The bill, SB 1379, the California Environmental Contaminant Biomonitoring Program, passed the state Senate in June and now goes to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for signature or veto.

Senate President pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland) and Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento) authored the measure. It would establish a statewide, voluntary and confidential program to measure chemical contaminants in people. The bill is sponsored by the nonprofit environmental health groups Breast Cancer Fund and Commonweal.

"Biomonitoring is about the triumph of knowledge over ignorance," said Jeanne Rizzo, R.N., executive director of the Breast Cancer Fund. "A statewide biomonitoring program will help us find out what we need to know to protect public health so that serious diseases such as breast cancer can ultimately be prevented from occurring in the first place."

Last year, Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar measure. This year, advocates say they worked hard with the administration to address the governor's concerns. It is still uncertain whether Schwarzenegger will sign the bill.

"Biomonitoring offers definitive proof of human exposure to chemicals that don't belong in our bodies," said Davis Baltz, Senior Program Associate at Commonweal. "This bill breaks new ground by giving California public health officials the flexibility to test for chemicals that may be of special concern to our state, and from an ethical point of view by allowing study participants to learn their personal results if they choose."

According to the National Cancer Institute, an estimated 100,000 synthetic chemicals are currently in use in the United States, in everyday products such as cosmetics and other personal care products, pesticides, food dyes, cleaning supplies, fuels and plastics, and 2,000 new chemicals are added every year. Yet less than 10 percent of those chemicals have been tested for their effects on human health, Baltz said.

Biomonitoring studies have scientifically demonstrated that human exposure to many chemicals is widespread.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has documented the presence of 148 environmental chemicals in the bodies of Americans of all ages and races, according to the bill. However, the CDC national studies don't shed light on state exposure patterns.

"I'm astounded by the number of people I know personally who are fighting cancer and other serious diseases," Perata said. "Biomonitoring will generate valuable scientific information we don't currently have that will protect Californians' health and their environment."

The CDC has offered a minimum of $1.7 million dollars in in-kind analysis and training to California to support the launch a statewide biomonitoring program.

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