HCWH Supports Safe Chemicals Act of 2013

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Health Care Without Harm Urges passage of the Safe Chemicals Act of 2013 to protect public health.

Calling it a major step forward for public health, Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) applauded Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and 29 other U.S. senators for introducing the Safe Chemicals Act of 2013. The legislation would provide long overdue fixes to the nation’s broken chemical policies and limit the use of unsafe chemicals linked to a wide range of diseases and health conditions.

“In order to reduce the chronic disease burden of Americans and to contain health care costs, we need to eliminate toxic chemicals that have trespassed into our bodies and into our lives,” stated Rachel Gibson, director of the HCWH Safer Chemicals Program. “There is increasing concern in the health care community about the link between widespread exposures to chemicals and the overwhelming epidemic of chronic disease burdening the U.S. health care system.”

The health care sector has long identified weaknesses in our nation’s regulatory system and sought to change its purchasing policies to reduce the use of chemicals of concern. One example of this effort is the Safer Chemicals Challenge of the Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI), a sector-wide campaign that seeks to embed environmental health and sustainability into the core strategy of health care. Through HHI, over 150 hospitals have committed to moving the health care supply chain to offer safer products that do not expose employees, patients, and communities to toxic chemicals.

While many health systems and group purchasing organizations invest significant time and resources to identify products free from chemicals that are harmful to human health or the environment, the current level of investment is not sustainable, nor is it feasible for most health care institutions.

It has been nearly four decades since the law governing industrial chemicals—the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)—has been updated. Meanwhile, scientific evidence linking chemical exposures and diseases or other problems, such as cancers, learning and developmental disabilities, birth defects, and asthma, continues to mount rapidly.

“Congress has the unprecedented opportunity to craft truly preventative and health protective legislation that will also lead to significant health care cost savings,” stated Gibson. “The scientific evidence linking environmental exposures to increased rates of many diseases and health conditions makes modernizing our national chemical laws both an urgent ethical imperative and critical economic initiative. We urge Congress to support and pass the Safe Chemicals Act now.”

The Safe Chemicals Act of 2013 would go a long way toward protecting Americans from chemicals before they are linked to costly and often preventable diseases and conditions. Specifically, it would:

  •     Require the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to identify and restrict the most harmful chemicals;
  •     Require basic health and safety information for chemicals;
  •     Utilize more current testing procedures to determine chemical safety; and
  •     Provide more authority to EPA to restrict chemicals that pose health and environmental concerns.

For additional information on the Safe Chemicals Act of 2013, visit http://www.saferchemicals.org/safe-chemicals-act/index.html.

Health Care Without Harm is an international coalition of more than 500 organizations in 53 countries, working to transform the health care industry worldwide, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it is ecologically sustainable and no longer a source of harm to public health and the environment. For more information on HCWH, see http://www.noharm.org.

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Eileen Secrest
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