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ANA Endorses Kid Safe Chemical Act

On May 20, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Reps. Hilda Solis (D-CA) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) introduced the Kid Safe Chemicals Act (S. 3040/H.R. 6100). This ANA-supported legislation would protect Americans, especially children, from toxic chemicals in everyday consumer products. ANA believes that protection from exposure to toxic chemicals is fundamental both to public health and to the protection of nurses in the workplace.

Under existing federal law, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has little authority to gather necessary data or to take action to protect workers, consumers or children from dangerous chemicals. Growing scientific evidence of human exposure to hazardous chemicals underscores the importance of prompt Congressional action.

The Kid Safe Chemicals Act places the burden of proof on chemical makers, rather than EPA, to demonstrate the safety of the products that they manufacture and import to the United States. It will force critical information into the public domain about chemical hazards, and contains a strict safety standard that would be applied to thousands of industrial chemicals. In addition, the legislation expands the Center for Disease Prevention and Control's (CDC) national survey of chemicals through human biomonitoring. Specifically the Kid Safe Chemical Act will:
  • Require Basic Data on Industrial Chemicals. Chemical companies must demonstrate the safety of their products, backed up with credible evidence. Chemicals that lack minimum data could not be legally manufactured in or imported into the United States.
  • Place the Burden on Industry to Demonstrate Safety. EPA must systematically review whether industry has met this burden of proof for all industrial chemicals within 15 years of adoption.
  • Restrict the Use of Dangerous Chemicals Found in Newborn Babies. Hazardous chemicals detected in human cord blood would be immediately targeted for restrictions on their use.
  • Use New Scientific Evidence to Protect Health. EPA must consider and is authorized to require additional testing as new science and new testing methods emerge, including for health effects at low doses or during fetal or infant development and for nonmaterials.
  • Establish a National Program to Assess Human Exposure. The federal government's Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is to expand existing analysis of pollutants in people to help identify chemicals that threaten the health of children, workers, or other vulnerable populations.
  • Expand the Public Right to Know on Toxic Chemicals. A new, Internet-accessible public database on chemical hazards and uses will inform companies, communities, and consumers. EPA is to rein in excessive industry claims of confidentiality.
  • Invest in Long-Term Solutions. New funding and incentives are provided for development of safer alternatives and technical assistance in "green chemistry."
In 2006, the ANA House of Delegates affirmed our commitment to reducing the use of toxic chemicals. This resolution recognized the need to better understand the relationship between health and the environment, especially for vulnerable populations such as infants, children, pregnant women, and the elderly. Further, ANA endorses efforts to ensure the right-to-know about potentially hazardous chemicals to which nurses, other healthcare workers, patients, and the public are exposed.

The facts regarding exposures and current lack of regulation are striking. Out of the 80,000 chemicals used to produce the products in our homes, the EPA has only required testing of 200. In fact, a 2006 GAO report cites the weakness of the current Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), highlighting that only five chemicals that existed 29 years ago when Congress passed TSCA have ever been restricted by EPA. Recent revelations about the link between the chemical "Bisphenol A," found in many plastics including baby and water bottles and cancer and reproductive issues only underscores that the current lack of regulation and testing is putting the public at risk.

Nurses in particular confront daily low-level but repeated exposures to mixtures of hazardous materials that include residues from medications, anesthetic gases, sterilizing and disinfecting chemicals, radiation, latex, cleaning chemicals, hand and skin disinfection products, and even mercury escaping from broken medical equipment.

A first-ever national survey of nurses' exposures to chemicals, pharmaceuticals and radiation on the job released in December of 2007 suggests there are links between serious health problems such as cancer, asthma, miscarriages and children's birth defects and the duration and intensity of these exposures. The survey included 1,500 nurses from all 50 states.

ANA is pleased to support the Kid Safe Chemicals Act (KSCA), which represents a major step toward vital reforms in U.S. Chemical Policy, and we will continue to work to advance the bill and ensure the health and safety of nurses and their patients.

Michelle Artz
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