New Government Report on Children Underscores Folly of
Weakening Public Right-to-Know Standards for Toxics
(Washington, DC, May 17, 2006) – A new report on children and health, partly funded by the U.S. government, underscores the folly of weakening public right-to-know standards for toxic pollutants, the non-profit Clean Air Watch warned this morning.
The report, released this morning by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, a North American environmental watchdog agency, examines the link between children’s health and toxic industrial pollution.
The report (available at www.cec.org) comes as Congress is about to debate efforts by the Bush administration to limit the public’s right to know about toxic releases by industry.
In contrast, the new study calls for efforts to better determine the sources, levels of exposure, and risks that industrial chemicals pose to children's health.
The report focuses on the releases of carcinogens, developmental and reproductive toxicants, and suspected neurotoxins, as reported by the U.S. Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) and a counterpart Canadian program. It finds that lead, mercury, PCBs, dioxins and furans, phthalates and manganese are substances of either significant or emerging concern as they affect children and disease.
One report recommendation - to enhance mandatory pollution reporting requirements – “stands in stark contrast to the Bush administration's plan to weaken the public’s right to know about toxic releases,” noted Frank O’Donnell, president of the non-profit Clean Air Watch.
The EPA has proposed to reduce the frequency of TRI reporting by industry to every other year as well as to allow companies to release ten times the amount of toxics before detailed reporting is required.
The Bush plan has prompted Reps. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Hilda Solis (D-CA) to announce they will challenge the EPA rule when the spending legislation for the EPA reaches the House floor, probably later this week. They plan to offer an amendment to prevent the EPA from moving forward with these weakening changes.
In addition to ranking clusters of toxic chemicals according to volume of total reported releases, the new report also examines chemicals based on the relative levels of their toxicity.
Doing this makes some air pollutants such as mercury appear far more significant, O’Donnell noted. For example, in looking at chemicals that are recognized developmental and reproductive toxicants, mercury and its compounds jump from 14th in terms of total on-site air releases to number one in terms of toxicity; lead and its compounds shift from 7th to the second most toxic on-site air release.
O’Donnell noted it was ironic that the report was released on what the EPA has called “National Air Quality Awareness Week” – a label that has been lampooned by some critics because of administration efforts to weaken clean-air requirements.