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New Statewide Effort to Measure Pollution in People Launched

Senators, Scientists, Cancer Survivors and Advocates to Promote "Biomonitoring" Technology at Capitol Press Conference Wednesday

Contact: Marisa Walker, Breast Cancer Fund, (415) 346-8223 x17,; Davis Baltz, Commonweal, (510) 848-2714,

SACRAMENTO, Calif.—State Sens. Don Perata and Deborah Ortiz will join environmental health advocates Wednesday, March 29, to launch a statewide effort to begin to discover how exposure to toxic chemicals impacts devastating diseases such as asthma and cancer.

Last month, Senate President pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland) and Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento) introduced SB 1379, the “Healthy Californians Biomonitoring Program,” which would establish a statewide, voluntary and confidential program to measure chemical contaminants in people. The bill is sponsored by the 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, one of the bill’s sponsors. “A statewide biomonitoring program will help us find out what we need to know to protect family health so that, ultimately, serious diseases such as breast cancer can be prevented from occurring in the first place.”

Wednesday’s press conference will be at 11 a.m. in the State Capitol, Room 1190.

A December report from UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research revealed that 45 percent of California adults (11.5 million people) have one or more chronic health conditions, or rated their own health as fair or poor.

“We are experiencing a dramatic increase in chronic diseases and illnesses, and mounting evidence links the incidence and severity of these illnesses and diseases to environmental contaminants,” said Davis Baltz, senior program associate at Commonweal. “This bill will enable us to know which toxic pollutants are actually in our bodies and move accordingly to improve everyone’s health and safety.”

According to the bill, chronic diseases carry enormous costs to California. The estimated total cost of asthma to the state, for example, is $1.27 billion every year.

“I’m just an average guy and I’m astounded by the number of people I know fighting cancer and other serious conditions,” Perata said. “Biomonitoring is a way to use scientific advances to figure out how previous scientific advances are affecting our bodies and communities.” Perata has listed SB 1379 as a top legislative priority.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have offered a minimum of $1.7 million dollars in in-kind testing and training services to California to help launch a statewide biomonitoring program.

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, the bill says.