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New Republican House Bill “Chemicals in Commerce Act” (CICA) Promotes Environmental Racism

Contact: Stephenie Hendricks, (415) 258-9151, shendricks@comingcleaninc.org

(Washington, DC)  A new bill introduced by House Republican John Shimkus (R-Illinois) with the House Energy and Commerce Committee  on Thursday, called “The Chemicals in Commerce Act,” would insure that regulations on toxic chemicals continue to disproportionately harm people of color.

“It should really be called  ‘The Chemicals in People Act’ because it does nothing to stop the toxic chemical harm linked to asthma, infertility, cancer and other illness. CICA will only make our communities sicker,” says Michele Roberts from the Environmental Justice and Health Alliance. “Could it really be that members of Congress who get campaign contributions from the chemical industry are making an end run before they go to their Districts to try and keep their seats? If so, shame on them for legislation like this that keeps their constituents  - disproportionately people of color-  sick and dying from chemicals.”

“Folks hurting from chemicals are also calling this the  ‘Poison Pill Bill,’  because it guarantees that the chemical industry can keep poisoning people with harmful chemicals with no consequences,” says Juan Parras from Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (t.e.j.a.s.) in Houston, Texas. “Kids on respirators here in the Houston ship channel can look forward to a lifetime of fighting for each breath and a larger cluster of childhood leukemiaif this law is allowed to pass. Where are our Texas Representatives when we need them to protect us from bad bills like this?

“This new House bill is supposed to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) but really reads like a chemical industry bill to block health protections from their toxic chemicals. For example, it makes it illegal for a physician or nurse to publicly disclose the information about the chemicals that are making their patients sick,” adds Richard Moore, with the Environmental Justice and Health Alliance and the Los Jardines Institute. “That’s just plain immoral. We’ll be watching our New Mexico Representatives and paying attention to how well they protect us from bills like this”

Christine Bennett, with Mossville Environmental Action Now (MEAN), who lives near chemical plants in Louisiana, says “Our doctors and nurses don’t have any information to identify the chemicals that are making us sick. I almost died three years ago because they didn’t know what to do, or how to treat my low white blood cell count. This new bill would then theoretically make them outlaws for telling our communities about the chemicals here that are making us sick. I’m having a tough time as it is now finding out exactly what is making me sick and how I can stop myself from being exposed to the chemicals. This can not be allowed to become law. Our representatives in Congress and the state seem to be influenced by the chemical industry, and come November we’ll be watching to see who protects our health.”

“The Shimkus bill legalizes the ‘canary in the coal mine’ approach to chemicals  management. Especially for those of us in Environmental Justice communities living with the legacy of chemical pollution, use, storage and waste. Recently President Obama signed an executive order on Chemical Security to strengthen our safety from catastrophic events. And yesterday Rep. Shimkus introduced a bill  that puts us all back  in harms way,” adds Jose Bravo with Just Transitions Alliance. “Here in California, we’ll see who is truly protecting us and who works for the chemical industry without regard to our health when we see who supports this bad bill.”

“Toxic chemicals drift North on wind and water and are in our traditional foods, corresponding to rising rates of birth defects and cancer here,” says Vi Waghiyi, mother and grandmother, from the Yupik people on St. Lawrence Island and Alaska Community Action on Toxics. “How will our Alaska Representatives protect us with a bill like this? This is criminal. CICA is not a solution.”

Available for Comment

Christine Bennett; Mossville Environmental Action Now; (337) 274-2223, cbforone@yahoo.com.

Jose Bravo; Director, Just Transition Alliance; National Coordinator, Campaign for Healthier Solutions; (619) 838-6694, jose@comingcleaninc.org. Jose works with communities contaminated with chemicals, which occurs mostly where low income people of color are living, although everyone is at risk.  Habla Espanol.

Stephen Boese; Former Executive Director, Learning Disabilities Association of New York State; (518) 608-8992, sboese@ldanys.org.

Pam Miller; Founder and Executive Director, Alaska Community Action on Toxics; (907) 222-7714, pamela@akaction.org. Pam can address the drift of POPs chemicals from lower hemispheres, putting Indigenous peoples in the Arctic at great risk for illness from chemical contaminants and can also address the several hundred toxic waste dump sites, now leaking chemicals due to global warming, and contaminating water, soil and air near communities. 

Kathleen A. Curtis, LPN; Executive Director, Clean & Healthy New York; Former Policy Director, Clean New York, a project of Women's Voices for the Earth; Co-Coordinator, Workgroup for Public Policy Reform, Coming Clean; (518) 355-6202, kathy@cleanhealthyny.org. Kathy can address efforts in New York state, the importance of states to be able to have their own strong chemicals policies, and can talk about national work to reform TSCA and chemical regulations for safer chemicals in general.   

Juan Parras; Executive Director, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services; (281) 513-7799, parras.juan@gmail.com. Juan can address the issue of chemically impacted communities in the Houston Ship Channel area, the prevalence of disease and premature death in this area, and the urgent need for real TSCA reform.

Michele Roberts; Co-Coordinator, Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform; (202) 704-7593, mroberts@comingcleaninc.org. Michele can discuss the problem with removing so-called “hot spots” protection from chemical reform legislation and also tell about the issues in Mossville, Louisiana, and elsewhere where people are pointing to chemicals exposure as their source of their illnesses.

Richard Moore; Los Jardines Institute; Co-Chair, Environmental Justice and Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform; (505) 301-0276, ljinewmexico@gmail.com. Richard can discuss the failure of the CSIA to include so called “hot spots,” and the health impacts on workers and communities from chemicals exposure.