Will a New Chemical Law Protect Children?

Op-Ed by SOPHIA MARTINEZ and RICHARD MOORE

Senator Tom Udall
Senator Tom Udall

We applaud our own Sen. Tom Udall for taking a first step toward protecting New Mexicans from toxic chemicals as the recently appointed chairman of the Senate Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health Subcommittee in DC, where he inherits the Senate initiative to create legislation to regulate toxic chemicals. We urge him to do more.  People mistakenly assume that government is protecting the public from unnecessary exposures from toxics in products or released into our air, water, or lands.  Due to flaws in the language of the 1976 Toxics Substances Control Act, EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] has only been able to require health testing of 200 of the over 80,000 chemicals used today. We are especially concerned by the lack of understanding here in New Mexico of the proposed Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA) as it is currently written. NM State Rep. Christine Trujillo (D) recently endorsed the currently proposed bill on the grounds that it will protect vulnerable populations. CSIA will codify new flaws into law that will make it as toothless and ineffective as the current law, and additionally will prevent states from acting in the absence of federal protections.

Rep. Trujillo has made the mistaken claim that the proposed law will “require EPA to evaluate risks posed to particularly vulnerable populations, such as children and pregnant women.” The law will only require “assessing the vulnerability of [unspecified] exposed subpopulations” when determining who is exposed to a chemical. Further, the bill does not require health and safety standards to protect these or any other vulnerable populations or “hotspot” communities that are disproportionately exposed to toxic chemicals. “Assessment” with no enforceable action is no use to our communities.

The CSIA bill will prevent existing state protections from toxic chemicals to be enacted before federal protections are put in place. To make matters worse, there is no funding and few enforceable deadlines specified in the bill, inviting delay and avoidance of implementation of the law.

For these multiple reasons physicians, health organizations and environmental justice communities across the country are calling for CSIA to be strengthened so that it can really protect the health of all people—including vulnerable populations—in a manner that we all, including Sen. Udall and Rep. Trujillo, would surely like to see.

Los Jardines Institute (The Gardens Institute), 
Richard Moore, Coordinator, 
Albuquerque, NM, 
tel: 505-301-0276, 
email: ljinewmexico@gmail.com

Concerned Citizens of Wagon Mound & Mora County, 
Sofia Martinez, President
, Wagon Mound, NM
, tel: 505-573-1904
, email: sofiam@unm.edu

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