Saturday, July 31, 2010

House Members, Witnesses Clash Over Chemicals Regulation

Things are heating up. The following excerpts are taken from the full article that was posted on the EWG site by Nils Bruzelius in Featured Articles, House status, Legislation on July 30, 2010.

"At a packed hearing before a key House subcommittee, Environmental Working Group President and co-founder Ken Cook called on Congress yesterday (July 29) to pass tough new legislation to repair a “broken toxic chemicals policy” that is currently so weak “the American public has lost confidence that the products they are using, the chemicals they are being exposed to, are safe.”

Reps. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.), the subcommittee chairman, and Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the parent Committee on Energy and Commerce, co-sponsored the pending bill along with three other House members.

“Americans are exposed to a staggering number and variety of chemicals – even before birth,” Waxman said in his opening remarks, “yet consumers lack even basic information about these chemical exposures. And the federal government is no less in the dark.”

Ranking Republican member Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) set the contrary theme voiced by a number of Republicans, scoring the bill with words including “cumbersome,” “unworkable,” “ineffective,” and “overly broad.”

Perhaps the most unexpected testimony of the day came from Howard Williams, vice-president and general manager of the Pennsylvania Division of Construction Specialties, Inc., a maker of building products for commercial construction. Williams described his firm’s difficulties in obtaining detailed information about the chemicals in the materials it buys, focusing particular on PBTs (persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals) and carcinogens.

“Environmentally preferable and green building standards reward those whose materials have high amounts of recycled content,” Williams noted, but if the original materials contain long-lasting PBT chemicals, this has the unintended effect of recycling these toxic materials “from one generation to another.”

Describing himself as a Republican from a conservative area of Pennsylvania, Williams said:

“Given the economic and population multipliers, coupled with America’s global reach, H.R. 5820 becomes one of the more beneficially impactful pieces of legislation of our generation.”

Thank you, Environmental Working Group!

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