Just today the National Resources Defense Council released the results of a poll in New Hampshire that indicates high levels of bi-partisan support for stronger federal chemical regulation. Specifically, 77 percent of those polled support stricter regulation of chemicals produced and used in the US. As Daniel Rosenberg from NRDC points out: with many of us seeing our friends and families suffer from cancer, learning or developmental disabilities, infertility issues, asthma, or birth defects, it’s no wonder that this is an issue that garners support across the political spectrum.
What would a poll on this issue among Minnesotans look like? Without perhaps many citizens even realizing it, Minnesota is at the forefront of attempts to protect the health of citizens and the environment from unregulated chemicals. The Environmental Initiative has helped convene a stakeholder process over the past couple years called the Minnesota Chemical Regulation & Policy Project to recommend improvements to Minnesota’s approach to chemical regulation, management and policy. The final report from this effort will be presented at the January 2012 legislative session.
Minnesota is just one of many states that are trying to press forward to be a leader for other states and the federal government to follow. The catch in this work is to not get in the way of the comprehensive reform that needs to happen at the federal level. Regulating one chemical at a time at the state level is not an effective approach to make a dent on the 85,000 unregulated chemicals in the market. It just creates a regulatory landscape that is even harder for industry to manage. International companies are already frustrated by having to manage the differences between the EU’s stricter REACH policy – which takes a precautionary approach – and lax US policy. Industry supports clear, comprehensive reform to patchwork policy.
There is much individuals can do right now to support efforts at both the state and federal level. As I shared in my last post, the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 (S.847) has currently been left in the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works. Due to political gridlock in Congress, getting action on any issue right now is a challenge, much less an issue that is as far off public’s radar as chemical policy. However, even in a time of gridlock, there is hope to move forward if enough people speak up. Online petitions from the National Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Defense Fund, and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families give you the chance to do just that. The Environmental Defense Fund takes it a step further providing a social media toolkit you can use among your friends and family as well as great resources to make you a smarter consumer around chemicals.
The Safe Chemicals Act is worth supporting. It includes a solid range of reforms to TSCA that would not only ensure chemical manufacturers are proving safety prior to moving chemicals to market but provide the EPA the authority to limit and ban chemicals.
Locally, you can voice your thanks to Senators Klobuchar and Franken for supporting the Safe Chemicals Act. Furthermore, you can follow and share the activity of the Minnesota Chemical Regulation & Policy Project and be poised to call your State legislator to encourage the implementation of the recommendations that emerge from this group in January 2012.
If you feel you need to educate yourself further on the issue before taking action, I encourage you to take a look at the great list of resources the Environmental Initiative has compiled.
I encourage you to take action. This problem is manifesting itself not only in the health of our citizens but in the Minnesota waters we cherish. Voice your pride in Minnesota for taking a collaborative lead on this issue and ask the federal government to step it up on this highly important issue.