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Sens. Clinton, Hatch, and Speaker Pelosi Promote New Health Initiative to Protect Americans from Environmental Health Hazards

Bill Would Create Program to Track Where and When Chronic Diseases Occur and Study Their Connection to Environmental Toxicants

For Immediate Release: September 24, 2007
Contact: Marisa Walker, Breast Cancer Fund (415) 346-8223 x17

WASHINGTON–Today Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced the introduction of The Coordinated Environmental Public Health Network Act of 2007, a groundbreaking bill to examine the links between Americans' health and their exposure to environmental contaminants. Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Harry Reid (D-NV) introduced companion legislation in the Senate on Friday.  Speaker Pelosi is joined by Reps. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY) as original co-sponsors of the House bill. 

"This bill will help us understand how environmental pollutants are contributing to increasing rates of breast cancer and other diseases," said Jeanne Rizzo, R.N., executive director of the Breast Cancer Fund. "With ever more scientific evidence linking environmental exposures to the current high rates of breast cancer, it is time the federal government acted to mitigate the enormous health risks posed by environmental toxicants. We thank Speaker Pelosi and Senators Clinton and Hatch for their leadership, and urge Congress to advance this important bill."

An estimated 125 million Americans suffer from at least one chronic condition. Three-quarters of health care spending goes toward chronic conditions, which cause seven out of every 10 deaths in the United States.

"The connection between disease and environmental toxicants has been recognized for years as an area worthy of study.  Since 2002, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has administered the National Environmental Public Health Tracking Program, collecting significant public health data from 17 state pilot programs," said Janet Nudelman, director of program and policy for the Breast Cancer Fund. "Lack of funding, however, has severely limited the scope and impact of this valuable program."

In addition to providing grants to states so they can develop the infrastructure to participate in the nationwide network, the proposed legislation would establish a National Environmental Health Rapid Response Service to coordinate response efforts to unusual or higher than expected illness incidence or environmental exposures.

The bill would also increase funding for biomonitoring programs, which measure the "pollution in people," allowing greater understanding of how chemicals affect health. An estimated 100,000 synthetic chemicals are registered for use in the United States with another 2,000 added each year. Many of these chemicals accumulate in the body for decades, yet fewer than 10 percent have been tested for their effects on human health.

"The Coordinated Environmental Public Health Network Act of 2007 would be a major step toward a comprehensive understanding of the causes, environmental and otherwise, of chronic illness," Rizzo said. "This crucial information will help us unravel the complex interconnections between health and the environment, and improve the health of millions of American families."