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#80 -- Power Lines and Precaution, 7-Mar-2007

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Rachel's Precaution Reporter #80

"Foresight and Precaution, in the News and in the World"

Wednesday, March 7, 2007.............Printer-friendly version
www.rachel.org -- To make a secure donation, click here.
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Table of Contents...

Power Line Opponents Granted Court Date
Indigenous people of the Tsawwassen First Nation in British
Columbia, Canada, are opposing a high-voltage power line, basing their
legal argument on the precautionarty principle. Their case will be
heard in court later this month.
New Pathways to Disease Prevention
The new director of the National Institute of Environmental Health
Sciences (NIEHS) wants to focus NIEHS not on eliminating the causes of
disease but on medical "intervention between exposure and disease" --
and he wants to label these medical interventions "prevention." More
pills, anyone? This is a sad state of affairs for one of the nation's
premier public health institutions.
French Ethics Group Recommends Precaution for Nanotechnology
The French National Consultative Committee on Ethics has
recommended a precautionary approach to the development of
nanotechnology.
Environment: California Out in Front
U.S. [chemical] industries have fought against REACH [Europe's new
law for industrial chemicals], which will affect their exports to
Europe. Now some industry stakeholders worry that California's
potential green chemistry policies could be a stepping stone toward
REACH implementation in the United States.
Washington Emerges as Test for States' Push to Ban Fire Suppressant
If the Washington [state] bill passes, "it would have a big impact"
on other states debating similar bills... The industry source says
officials are closely following the state efforts. "I am watching all
the state bills very closely, every day..."

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From: South Delta [British Columbia] Leader, Mar. 2, 2007
[Printer-friendly version]

POWER LINE OPPONENTS GRANTED COURT DATE

By Philip Raphael, South Delta Leader praphael@southdeltaleader

With an increase in political momentum to help safeguard the
environment, Tsawwassen [First Nation] residents opposed to local
power line upgrades feel confident about their upcoming court appeal.

Maureen Boradfoot, spokesperson for Tsawwassen Residents Against
Higher Voltage Overhead Lines [TRAHVOL], said recent federal funding
to help provide shore-based power for ships, and B.C.'s [British
Columbia, Canada] commitment to become more "green" could have an
affect on their case which is scheduled to be heard in B.C. Court of
Appeal March 26 and 27.

"You can never predict with any great certainty what the outcome of a
court case will be, but we are confident our appeal will have a
favourable ruling," Broadfoot said.

A particular reason to be optimistic was the recent inclusion of
TRAHVOL's appeal based on the precautionary principle which maintains
that in the absence of scientific agreement that something may be of
harm to human health, that prudent avoidance or a precautionary
approach should be taken, Broadfoot said.

Residents fear the electro magnetic fields from the lines contribute
to incidents of cancer, especially leukemia in children. That
contention is hotly debated among environmental and power utility
advocates.

"Hopefully the court will rule that Crown Corporations cannot run
roughshod over communities," Broadfoot said, adding TRAHVOL would like
to see the lines diverted along an industrial corridor serving the
Deltaport container ship facility.

TRAHVOL is also appealing B.C. Transmission Corporation's power line
plan on the basis the upgrade -- which is being undertaken to serve
increasing demands from customers on Vancouver Island -- represents a
significant change in use along a 50-plus-year-old BC Hydro right-of-
way which cuts across roughly 147 homes, churches, schools, daycares
and commercial properties.

Copyright Copyright 2007 South Delta Leader

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From: Environmental Health Perspectives, Feb. 15, 2007
[Printer-friendly version]

NEW PATHWAYS TO DISEASE PREVENTION

By David A. Schwartz, director, NIEHS

As scientists, communication -- not only with those outside our area
of expertise but also with those within our scientific sphere -- is an
important responsibility, though often an ongoing challenge. As NIEHS
director, I increasingly realize that, as the writer Andre Gide said,
"The most important things to say are those which often I did not
think necessary for me to say -- because they were too obvious." In
this case, the thing that I thought was obvious, but now believe needs
to be clearly reiterated and more fully described, is the focus of my
vision and the work of this institute on the prevention of human
disease.

In retrospect, I can see how discussions of my role as a physician and
my strong emphasis on the value of clinical and translational research
to the environmental health sciences may have created a misperception
that my sole interest is clinical disease. People tend to talk most
often and loudly about those things which they are passionate about.
In reality, it is my role as a physician that has enabled me to
recognize that clinical research and fundamental research in disease
prevention are not separate paths, but rather intricately and
necessarily connected approaches to achieving health. Though I have
witnessed the enormous value of clinical and translational research to
alleviate suffering from disease, I deeply believe that a far greater
impact on human health can be attained by harnessing the power of this
research toward understanding the etiology of disease and focusing
this knowledge on preventing illness and death. It is this concept
that is embodied in the NIEHS vision, which, as stated in our
Strategic Plan, is "to prevent disease and improve human health by
using environmental sciences to understand human biology and human
disease."

A changing concept of disease prevention may also contribute to
confusion on this issue. There are different approaches to preventing
environmentally mediated disease. The first is to prevent all exposure
to harmful environmental agents. The historical work of this institute
has had a profound effect in this area by identifying agents such as
metals, chemicals, and pollutants, and informing public policies to
protect against them. But technology, time, money, and behavioral and
societal factors are all real and constant hindrances to these
efforts. A second approach is to identify those populations who may be
most susceptible to environmental insults due to factors such as age,
genetics, and health status, and then prevent exposures to these
populations discretely. Ongoing studies funded by the NIEHS are
focused on examining just such populations, but many of the same
limitations of the first approach also apply here. A third approach,
intervention between exposure and disease, is the most ambitious
scientifically and a natural progression of the field of environmental
health. Ambitious because we are pushing the bounds of knowledge and
technology in our quest for understanding the biological effects of
environmental exposures on mechanisms of human disease, and a natural
progression because of the enormous potential of this approach to
change the way we view disease and our ability to prevent it.

In reality, all three approaches complement each other and will
continue to be part of our arsenal of disease prevention tools.
Examples from the NIEHS research portfolio illustrate various ways in
which we are exploring disease prevention strategies. A project in a
low-income community in Washington State is implementing multilevel
strategies including innovative housing for people with asthma,
clinical asthma care, in-home education, and resident empowerment,
along with scientific assessment and analysis, to decrease asthma
morbidity and improve the built environment of public housing. Another
project is developing bioinformatics tools to identify polymorphic
promoter response elements in candidate environmental response genes
such as p53 to help determine the limits of human variability in risk
assessment and thereby aid in disease prevention. The newly instituted
Exposure Biology Program will move the science toward intervention
between exposure and disease by providing sensitive biomarkers of
exposure, susceptibility, and early biological response.

It is my belief that in the near future, the greatest impacts on
global environmental health in terms of reduced morbidity and
mortality will be made through breakthroughs in our basic
understanding of the causes and mechanisms of disease. As we continue
to develop new directions and priorities for the NIEHS, I hope that it
will become ever more clear that in no way are we abandoning our long-
held goal of disease prevention, but rather we are expanding our
sights and exploring new pathways for understanding human biology and
disease, always with this critical goal in mind.

David A. Schwartz, MD Director, NIEHS and NTP E-mail:
david.schwartz@niehs.nih.gov

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From: Le Figaro, Mar. 5, 2007
[Printer-friendly version]

FRENCH ETHICS GROUP RECOMMENDS PRECAUTION FOR NANOTECHNOLOGY

Opinion of the CCNE [French National Consultative Committee on Ethics]
on ethical questions asked by nanosciences: more research and more
transparency


CCNE is the French National Consultative Committee on Ethics. In their
latest work on nanosciences they call for more fundamental research
and more transparency to better understand nanoproducts effects on
humans. They take for example the REACH law on chemical products.

CCNE was founded in 1983 to give advice on ethical problems and social
questions induced by advancements in scientific knowledge in the
fields of life sciences, medicine, and health. This is a completely
independent committee and its role is only consultative. It is made up
of representatives of the main philosophical and spiritual families,
people qualified in the field of ethics (researchers, doctors, nurses,
politicians, jurists).

They published their recommendations on ethical questions asked by
nanosciences, nanotechnologies and health and more especially on
potential risks for human health and for individual liberties.
They warned on the global attitude that privileges technologic
performance and commercial profitability and regrets that so little
worldwide nanotechnologies expenditure are dedicated to the study of
risks and side effects.

Thus recommendations follow the precautionary principle, which implies
more [the need for] fundamental research on risks before diffusing
nano-applications. It also implies more transparency on
nanotechnologies researches that is not currently effective because of
the requirements for confidentiality related to industrial
applications.

Finally they recommend the creation of a European [nanotechnology] law
like REACH on chemical products, based on transparency and an extreme
vigilance of nanotechnology's consequences on individual liberties.

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From: Environmental Health Perspectives, Mar. 1, 2007
[Printer-friendly version]

ENVIRONMENT: CALIFORNIA OUT IN FRONT

By Charles W. Schmidt, Environmental Health Perspectives

When it comes to ecological diversity, California has it all: snow-
capped mountains, wide deserts, scenic beaches, and some of the worst
environmental problems in the country. Six of the country's ten most
polluted cities-Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Fresno-Madera,
Visalia-Porterville, Merced, and Sacramento-are found in California,
where children face fivefold greater risks of reduced lung function
compared with children who live in less-polluted areas. Beyond its air
pollution problems, California could also face catastrophic
consequences from climate change. Assuming warming trends continue at
their present rates, experts generally agree that the Sierra snowpack-
which is crucial to the state's drinking water supply-could decline by
50-90% by the century's end.

With statistics like that, environmentalism has become a powerful
force in California. According to a 2006 survey conducted by the
Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), a San Francisco-based
research organization, 65% of Californians don't think the federal
government is doing enough to combat global warming. Two-thirds of the
population support state efforts to address climate change, while an
equal number support tougher air pollution standards on new vehicles,
even if it makes vehicles more expensive.

California legislators have responded with some of the strongest
environmental laws ever passed. Whereas the U.S. government has yet to
regulate carbon dioxide, California recently passed AB 32, a
groundbreaking law signed by governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in
September 2006 that directs industries to reduce all greenhouse gas
emissions by 25% over the next 13 years. Another law-AB 1493, which
was enacted in 2002-directs automakers to reduce greenhouse gases
emitted by passenger vehicles sold in California after 2009, with a
30% reduction in statewide vehicular emissions by 2016. (That law is
currently being challenged by a lawsuit from the automotive industry.)

This year, California will consider a statewide green chemistry policy
that could exceed the scope of the federal Toxic Substances Control
Act (TSCA), which sets national policy on chemicals used in products
and industrial processes. Local governments have also tightened
environmental controls. San Francisco, for instance, recently passed
the country's first ban on baby products containing bisphenol A and
has also regulated levels of phthalates in these products. Bisphenol A
and phthalates are both suspected endocrine disruptors.

Coming from one of the world's largest economies, these preemptive
legislative efforts have impressive clout. "California provides an
example [for other states]," says Cympie Payne, associate director of
the California Center for Law and Policy at the University of
California (UC), Berkeley. "Other states find it easier to model their
own laws on those that another state has already put into effect."

Clearing the Air

California's aggressive environmental policies build on a long
history. In 1965, the state became the first to regulate vehicle
exhaust by setting limits on hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide
emissions. Two years later, the newly formed California Air Resources
Board (ARB)-now part of the California EPA-set the nation's first air
quality standards for total suspended particulates, photochemical
oxidants, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and other pollutants.

Early on, U.S. lawmakers recognized that California had a terrible
problem with air pollution. Living in low-density sprawl, Southern
Californians travel everywhere by car, generating exhaust plumes that
get trapped at ground level in the area's low-lying valleys. Truck
traffic across the Mexican border, in addition to emissions from the
Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex-the largest man-made harbor in the
western United States-also contribute to the region's poor air
quality.

To give the state more leverage on pollution control, Congress allowed
California to enforce pollution standards that might be more stringent
than those passed by the federal government. That allowance was first
introduced in the Federal Air Quality Act of 1967, and later codified
in Section 209 amendments to the Clean Air Act (CAA). California has
since set the nation's tightest standards for ozone and particulate
matter, according to ARB spokesman Jerry Martin. Other states,
meanwhile, have no comparable authority when it comes to devising
their own air quality standards. Rather, the CAA allows them to choose
whether to adopt federal standards or the more stringent California
standards.

If California's strict environmental policies were triggered by
traditional air pollution, its current reputation as a green pioneer
has more to do with recent initiatives on climate change. By signing
AB 1493, governor Gray Davis put California at the leading edge of
government efforts to regulate greenhouse gases. Reflecting
California's legislative influence, ten other states-New York,
Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware, Rhode Island, Maine,
Vermont, Washington, and Oregon-along with Canada have all adopted the
same goal.

But AB 1493 has its detractors, particularly among the auto industry.
The stakes are huge for U.S. automakers: California accounts for 10%
of their total sales. Auto industry lobbyists have overcome every
congressional attempt to improve fuel efficiency standards since 1990.
But Martin stresses that although better fuel efficiency does advance
AB 1493's goals, automakers have other alternatives for reducing
emissions, such as cutting back on the use of halogenated
refrigerants, which exceed carbon dioxide in terms of greenhouse
potency. Automakers can also sell more "flex-fuel" vehicles that run
on ethanol blends, he says.

According to Martin, this flexibility in options distinguishes AB 1493
from corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards, which dictate
only the minimum average miles per gallon that cars of a particular
class need to achieve. "Our standards are for greenhouse gases; we
call them global warming standards," Martin says. "And they include
not just carbon dioxide but other gases like methane and [halogenated
refrigerants]."

But the auto industry sees things differently. Charlie Territo, a
spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a national
industry trade group, calls AB 1493 a thinly veiled attempt to
regulate fuel economy. Moreover, he adds, California has no authority
to impose higher fuel economy standards because its special state
status on the environment applies only to the CAA. CAFE standards, on
the other hand, are administered by the National Energy Policy and
Conservation Act, under which California has no special status.
Equally significant, California can set its own state standards only
for criteria pollutants listed under the CAA, a list that doesn't yet
include carbon dioxide, he says.

The U.S. Supreme Court will determine later this year if the U.S. EPA
must regulate carbon dioxide as an air pollutant. At issue is
Massachusetts et al. v. Environmental Protection Agency et al.,
wherein Massachusetts represents a coalition of stakeholders who
believe carbon dioxide should be regulated to limit global warming.
The U.S. EPA doesn't want to regulate carbon dioxide without better
knowledge of the gas's role in climate change, according to James R.
Milkey, the counsel of record for the Supreme Court case. Meanwhile,
the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and other auto industry
groups have sued California, Rhode Island, and Vermont, arguing that
the application of AB 1493 (and equivalent counterparts in other
states) is illegal. The suit, originally scheduled for trial in
California beginning 31 January 2007, has been postponed until the
spring pending the Supreme Court's decision.

Meeting Legislative Goals

The upcoming Supreme Court decision could also be critical for AB 32's
goal of reducing California's total greenhouse gas emissions to 25%
below 1990 levels by 2020. A press release issued by California's
Office of the Governor on 27 September 2006 stated that AB 32 is a
"landmark bill that establishes a first-in-the-world, comprehensive
program of regulatory and market mechanisms to achieve real,
quantifiable, cost-effective reductions of greenhouse gases." Says
Martin, "AB 1493 just focuses on cars, but AB 32 covers everything
that uses energy in some way. And since California is the twelfth
largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world, that's a big deal."

The law directs the ARB to determine how California can meet its
emissions reduction goal. Toward that end, the board will develop
appropriate regulations (which it will also enforce) and create a
reporting system to track and monitor greenhouse gas emissions. With
ARB approval, the law could allow California industries to trade
emissions on global markets. That effort would apply economic forces
to the goal of limiting emissions below a statewide cap yet to be
identified, which will be phased in starting in 2012.

As a first priority, Martin says the agency is producing an emissions
inventory, to quantify how much carbon dioxide California industries
and their suppliers produce. At the same time, the ARB is compiling a
list of "discrete early actions" -- simple measures -- to limit
greenhouse gases that can be phased in by 2010. Along those lines,
Schwarzenegger recently ordered that the carbon content of all
transportation-related fuels burned in California must be reduced by
10% by 2020. The ARB is currently reviewing the governor's order to
see if it qualifies as a discrete early action under AB 32. Martin
suggests that it might, and adds that fuel companies could meet the
mandate in a number of ways, for instance, by selling more biofuels.

In contrast to AB 1493, lawsuits against AB 32 haven't been filed.
That's because specific measures targeting individual industries
aren't yet known, Martin explains. Once those measures are identified,
affected industries will sue accordingly, he predicts.

Meanwhile, stakeholders everywhere are anxious to know if California
can limit greenhouse gases without wrecking its economy. "It's going
to be tricky," concedes Dominic DiMare, vice president of government
relations at the California Chamber of Commerce, which opposed both AB
1493 and AB 32. "The law could harm the economy, but it could also
help it, and that depends on how it's implemented, which is something
we still don't know. My concern is that some companies might leave
California rather than face those restrictions. Then they might wind
up in other areas where they pollute even more than they do here."

Countering those concerns, UC Berkeley adjunct professor David Roland-
Holst was quoted in the 15 September 2006 New York Times as estimating
that AB 32 could pump $60 billion and 17,000 jobs into the California
economy by 2020, by attracting investment in alternative energy.
Roland-Holst could not be reached for comment.

Green Chemistry

Apart from global warming, California's next big effort on the
environment could come from a burgeoning green chemistry policy-that
is, one that identifies safer chemicals and processes. That pending
effort responds to a 2006 UC Berkeley report titled Green Chemistry in
California: A Framework for Leadership in Chemicals Policy and
Innovation, which concluded that federal policies under TSCA don't do
enough to protect public health. The 130-page document was drafted at
the request of the California legislature.

According to lead author Michael P. Wilson, a research scientist at
the UC Berkeley Center for Occupational and Environmental Health,
TSCA's data requirements impede the transparency and oversight that
are necessary to protect public health and allow proper function of
the chemicals market. TSCA does not require producers to generate data
on chemical toxicity, he says, and that produces uncertainty for
companies that purchase chemicals. Moreover, he says, TSCA constrains
the government's ability to control the sale of hazardous chemicals,
which allows these substances to remain competitive in the market. The
report concluded that these market conditions have dampened interest
by industry in green chemistry.

"We have a failure in the U.S. chemicals market," Wilson stresses.
"Chemicals are marketed on the basis of their function, price, and
performance, but the hazard piece is still largely missing."

Responding to the report's message, state senator Joe Simitian, who
chairs the California Senate Environmental Quality Committee, is
investigating options for a new green chemistry policy that might
address TSCA's shortcomings. Bruce Jennings, a senior advisor to the
California legislature, with whom Simitian collaborates, says a number
of green chemistry bills could go to the floor this year. One would
create a clearinghouse on alternatives to hazardous chemicals, geared
toward small companies that lack access to that type of information
and patterned after a similar U.S. EPA program, Design for the
Environment. Another would require the producers of high production
volume chemicals to submit environmental health information to
California, in addition to information about the use and disposal of
such chemicals.

Simitian was quoted in the 2 November 2006 Capitol Weekly as saying
that he wants to apply a precautionary approach to California's
emerging chemical regulations. That approach-popular among European
Union countries-shifts the burden of proof regarding chemical safety
to manufacturers instead of regulators. The precautionary principle,
as it is often called, drives some of the European Union's most
sweeping-and controversial-environmental initiatives, particularly the
REACH (Registration, Evaluation, and Authorisation of Chemicals)
directive, which requires that chemicals manufactured or imported at
volumes of greater than one metric ton be registered with the European
Chemicals Agency. Under the REACH initiative, which goes into effect
in June 2007, some toxic chemicals could be phased out in favor of
less toxic alternatives.

U.S. industries have fought against REACH, which will affect their
exports to Europe. Now some industry stakeholders worry that
California's potential green chemistry policies could be a stepping
stone toward REACH implementation in the United States.

"We're concerned this could impose added costs on California
businesses," says John Ulrich, executive director of the Chemical
Industry Council of California, a trade group. "Anything that
increases the cost of manufacturing across the board in California
will discourage manufacturing here. I'm afraid a legislative package
that claims to be green chemistry will go down a conventional route of
legislating based on unfounded science, using timetables that aren't
credible or achievable."

While claiming it's still too early to know what form the policy will
take, Jennings stresses the goal isn't to replicate REACH or any other
European initiative. "We want to complement what they're doing," he
says. "And there are plenty of industry players who face challenges
with operating in global markets when they lack information about the
chemical content of their products. Chemical producers may be troubled
by changes in the law, but we think downstream users will welcome
efforts to give them more information."

In support of that view, Rachelle Reyes Wenger, who manages public
policy and advocacy at Catholic Healthcare West, a San Francisco-based
company that owns 42 hospitals and employs 44,000 people, says better
information on chemical safety and alternative products can be good
for business. She notes that her company recently awarded a multiyear
$70 million contract to a company that supplies intravenous bags that
do not contain polyvinyl chloride, phthalates, or other toxic
chemicals. "With our purchasing power, we can really make a
difference," she says. "A comprehensive chemical policy could hurt
finances initially, but not in the long run. It's ultimately better
not just for the financial bottom line, but also for the moral bottom
line."

And of course, for the environmental bottom line. California's
lawmakers have apparently decided that sacrifices made now to achieve
environmental goals are worth the future benefits, not just for health
and ecology, but for the long-term sustainability of the state's
industries. Ultimately, California's paving a road forward on which
others may inevitably follow.

Source: Environmental Health Perspectives

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From: Risk Policy Report, Mar. 6, 2007
[Printer-friendly version]

WASHINGTON EMERGES AS TEST FOR STATES' PUSH TO BAN FIRE SUPPRESSANT

By Adam Sarvana

Legislation pending in Washington state to ban a controversial flame-
retardant chemical is emerging as a test case for similar legislative
efforts pending in several state legislatures around the country,
industry and environmental sources say.

The multi-state effort to ban decabrominated diphenyl ether (decaBDE)
could be bolstered by a recent EPA decision to tighten its safe
exposure level for the chemical, which is the only remaining
commercially used substance in a class of chemicals known as
polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). DecaBDE is used in a variety
of consumer products, plastics and textiles as a flame retardant.

EPA recently tightened its reference dose (RfD), used to set certain
environmental and health regulations, from .01 milligrams per kilogram
of body weight per day (mg/kg-day) to .007 mg/kg-day in a draft
toxicological review released last December. The RfD is the amount
that the average person could be exposed to without anticipating
adverse health effects. RfDs are used in regulatory determinations to
ensure that regulations, such as drinking water standards, are
sufficiently protective of human health (Risk Policy Report, Feb. 13,
p14).

Supporters of the bills to ban decaBDE argue it poses similar heath
risks to other PBDEs, which are already being phased out in Europe and
the United States. However, industry opponents point to studies they
say indicate decaBDE is safe and argue it should not be thrown out in
favor of replacements that are less well understood.

PBDEs as a class include the phased-out penta- and octabromodiphenyl
ethers, which industry consented to stop using in the U.S. in 2004
under an agreement with EPA. DecaBDE was not addressed in the
agreement and has become a contentious issue as lawmakers, health
officials, environmental groups and industry continue to debate its
proper regulatory and scientific status. California originally moved
to ban decaBDE along with the other common varieties in a 2003 law but
stripped the provision before the bill was ultimately signed by then-
Gov. Gray Davis (D).

Now Washington, California and Minnesota are among seven states in
various stages of considering similar bills to phase out or mandate
safer alternatives for decaBDE, with Washington the furthest along.

According to several sources, the Washington state bill appears headed
for enactment after sponsors scaled back some of the measure's
requirements. The Washington state House passed H.B. 1024 Feb. 16,
which would ban decaBDE in mattresses after January 1, 2008, and
require the state environment and health departments to review risk
assessments and data on the use of commercial alternatives to decaBDE
and report to the state legislature by December 15, 2008. Relevant
documents are available on InsideEPA.com.

The measure, sponsored by state Rep. Ross Hunter (D), who has
sponsored previous versions of the bill, appears headed for enactment.
10 House Republicans joined with 61 Democrats in passing the bill,
while key advisers to Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) are endorsing it.

Jay Manning, the head of the state's Department of Ecology, urged the
legislature to quickly approve the measure before its April 22
deadline. "The PBDE flame retardant legislation represents a
comprehensive and common sense approach to protecting public health
and our environment without sacrificing fire safety. It's based on
science and thorough study. Delaying this action means the continued
buildup of Deca in people, animals and the environment. Let's not
wait," Manning wrote in a recent editorial.

A source with the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL)
says the current version has a better chance of passage than prior
versions because sponsors broadened exemptions, phaseout timetables
and provisions for expert input on implementation. The bill "has been
crafted to eliminate opposition from everyone except the bromine
industry," making passage more politically likely, the NCEL source
says.

An industry source suggests that the bill may be enacted, but cautions
that banning the chemical could have harmful consequences. "This bill
is designed to [allow environmental activists to claim a political
victory] regardless of the consequences." The source argues that
"there are significant economic impacts to the state in banning a
product and enforcing that ban," and that the state Department of
Ecology "has said it cannot identify an alternative to Deca that is
safer."

Many of the state bills include several exemptions from the phaseout,
which is scheduled for Jan. 1, 2008, in versions being considered by
Montana, Illinois, Minnesota and Washington and for Jan. 1, 2009, in a
version being considered by Hawaii. Not all bills would extend the
phaseout to the same number or types of products, but all include at
least a phaseout in mattresses and all versions require the state to
broadly study alternatives.

The exemptions in the Minnesota legislation, which would mandate the
most extensive phaseout, include transportation vehicle parts,
charitable donations, items with specific military or space program
applications, recycled foam carpet cushions and medical devices. An
amendment offered to the bill by one Minnesota state lawmaker would
create a process to apply for specific exemptions subject to a series
of findings by state officials and vows by the petitioner company to
phase out PBDEs to the extent practicable.

If the Washington bill passes, "it would have a big impact" on other
states debating similar bills, the NCEL source says. "Once California
enacted a penta and octa ban [in 2003], several other states followed.
Once one state takes a first step it's easier for others to follow."

An environmentalist source agrees, saying, "We'll be getting an
indication quickly from Washington" on whether the issue is resonating
with state lawmakers. If the bill passes, "it will increase the
momentum of all states considering this." The source cautions,
however, that "each state is different and you can't predict from one
state victory or failure what will happen."

The industry source says officials are closely following the state
efforts. "I am watching all the state bills very closely, every day,"
the source says. The source adds, "It's hard to say what happens if
one state passes legislation," arguing that decaBDE is "the most
studied flame retardant in history" and has not been shown to cause
significant health problems in humans. Signing such a bill into law
"would set a bad precedent in substituting an unknown substance for a
known substance" -- because many state versions of the bill require
industry to use alternatives after the decaBDE phaseout -- "and that's
not good public policy," the source says.

Return to Table of Contents

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Rachel's Precaution Reporter offers news, views and practical
examples of the Precautionary Principle, or Foresight Principle, in
action. The Precautionary Principle is a modern way of making
decisions, to minimize harm. Rachel's Precaution Reporter tries to
answer such questions as, Why do we need the precautionary
principle? Who is using precaution? Who is opposing precaution?

We often include attacks on the precautionary principle because we
believe it is essential for advocates of precaution to know what
their adversaries are saying, just as abolitionists in 1830 needed
to know the arguments used by slaveholders.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter is published as often as necessary to
provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the subject.

As you come across stories that illustrate the precautionary
principle -- or the need for the precautionary principle --
please Email them to us at rpr@rachel.org.

Editors:
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Tim Montague - tim@rachel.org

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Table of Contents...

Power Line Opponents Granted Court Date
Indigenous people of the Tsawwassen First Nation in British
Columbia, Canada, are opposing a high-voltage power line, basing their
legal argument on the precautionarty principle. Their case will be
heard in court later this month.
New Pathways to Disease Prevention
The new director of the National Institute of Environmental Health
Sciences (NIEHS) wants to focus NIEHS not on eliminating the causes of
disease but on medical "intervention between exposure and disease" --
and he wants to label these medical interventions "prevention." More
pills, anyone? This is a sad state of affairs for one of the nation's
premier public health institutions.
French Ethics Group Recommends Precaution for Nanotechnology
The French National Consultative Committee on Ethics has
recommended a precautionary approach to the development of
nanotechnology.
Environment: California Out in Front
U.S. [chemical] industries have fought against REACH [Europe's new
law for industrial chemicals], which will affect their exports to
Europe. Now some industry stakeholders worry that California's
potential green chemistry policies could be a stepping stone toward
REACH implementation in the United States.
Washington Emerges as Test for States' Push to Ban Fire Suppressant
If the Washington [state] bill passes, "it would have a big impact"
on other states debating similar bills... The industry source says
officials are closely following the state efforts. "I am watching all
the state bills very closely, every day..."

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From: South Delta [British Columbia] Leader, Mar. 2, 2007
[Printer-friendly version]

POWER LINE OPPONENTS GRANTED COURT DATE

By Philip Raphael, South Delta Leader praphael@southdeltaleader

With an increase in political momentum to help safeguard the
environment, Tsawwassen [First Nation] residents opposed to local
power line upgrades feel confident about their upcoming court appeal.

Maureen Boradfoot, spokesperson for Tsawwassen Residents Against
Higher Voltage Overhead Lines [TRAHVOL], said recent federal funding
to help provide shore-based power for ships, and B.C.'s [British
Columbia, Canada] commitment to become more "green" could have an
affect on their case which is scheduled to be heard in B.C. Court of
Appeal March 26 and 27.

"You can never predict with any great certainty what the outcome of a
court case will be, but we are confident our appeal will have a
favourable ruling," Broadfoot said.

A particular reason to be optimistic was the recent inclusion of
TRAHVOL's appeal based on the precautionary principle which maintains
that in the absence of scientific agreement that something may be of
harm to human health, that prudent avoidance or a precautionary
approach should be taken, Broadfoot said.

Residents fear the electro magnetic fields from the lines contribute
to incidents of cancer, especially leukemia in children. That
contention is hotly debated among environmental and power utility
advocates.

"Hopefully the court will rule that Crown Corporations cannot run
roughshod over communities," Broadfoot said, adding TRAHVOL would like
to see the lines diverted along an industrial corridor serving the
Deltaport container ship facility.

TRAHVOL is also appealing B.C. Transmission Corporation's power line
plan on the basis the upgrade -- which is being undertaken to serve
increasing demands from customers on Vancouver Island -- represents a
significant change in use along a 50-plus-year-old BC Hydro right-of-
way which cuts across roughly 147 homes, churches, schools, daycares
and commercial properties.

Copyright Copyright 2007 South Delta Leader

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From: Environmental Health Perspectives, Feb. 15, 2007
[Printer-friendly version]

NEW PATHWAYS TO DISEASE PREVENTION

By David A. Schwartz, director, NIEHS

As scientists, communication -- not only with those outside our area
of expertise but also with those within our scientific sphere -- is an
important responsibility, though often an ongoing challenge. As NIEHS
director, I increasingly realize that, as the writer Andre Gide said,
"The most important things to say are those which often I did not
think necessary for me to say -- because they were too obvious." In
this case, the thing that I thought was obvious, but now believe needs
to be clearly reiterated and more fully described, is the focus of my
vision and the work of this institute on the prevention of human
disease.

In retrospect, I can see how discussions of my role as a physician and
my strong emphasis on the value of clinical and translational research
to the environmental health sciences may have created a misperception
that my sole interest is clinical disease. People tend to talk most
often and loudly about those things which they are passionate about.
In reality, it is my role as a physician that has enabled me to
recognize that clinical research and fundamental research in disease
prevention are not separate paths, but rather intricately and
necessarily connected approaches to achieving health. Though I have
witnessed the enormous value of clinical and translational research to
alleviate suffering from disease, I deeply believe that a far greater
impact on human health can be attained by harnessing the power of this
research toward understanding the etiology of disease and focusing
this knowledge on preventing illness and death. It is this concept
that is embodied in the NIEHS vision, which, as stated in our
Strategic Plan, is "to prevent disease and improve human health by
using environmental sciences to understand human biology and human
disease."

A changing concept of disease prevention may also contribute to
confusion on this issue. There are different approaches to preventing
environmentally mediated disease. The first is to prevent all exposure
to harmful environmental agents. The historical work of this institute
has had a profound effect in this area by identifying agents such as
metals, chemicals, and pollutants, and informing public policies to
protect against them. But technology, time, money, and behavioral and
societal factors are all real and constant hindrances to these
efforts. A second approach is to identify those populations who may be
most susceptible to environmental insults due to factors such as age,
genetics, and health status, and then prevent exposures to these
populations discretely. Ongoing studies funded by the NIEHS are
focused on examining just such populations, but many of the same
limitations of the first approach also apply here. A third approach,
intervention between exposure and disease, is the most ambitious
scientifically and a natural progression of the field of environmental
health. Ambitious because we are pushing the bounds of knowledge and
technology in our quest for understanding the biological effects of
environmental exposures on mechanisms of human disease, and a natural
progression because of the enormous potential of this approach to
change the way we view disease and our ability to prevent it.

In reality, all three approaches complement each other and will
continue to be part of our arsenal of disease prevention tools.
Examples from the NIEHS research portfolio illustrate various ways in
which we are exploring disease prevention strategies. A project in a
low-income community in Washington State is implementing multilevel
strategies including innovative housing for people with asthma,
clinical asthma care, in-home education, and resident empowerment,
along with scientific assessment and analysis, to decrease asthma
morbidity and improve the built environment of public housing. Another
project is developing bioinformatics tools to identify polymorphic
promoter response elements in candidate environmental response genes
such as p53 to help determine the limits of human variability in risk
assessment and thereby aid in disease prevention. The newly instituted
Exposure Biology Program will move the science toward intervention
between exposure and disease by providing sensitive biomarkers of
exposure, susceptibility, and early biological response.

It is my belief that in the near future, the greatest impacts on
global environmental health in terms of reduced morbidity and
mortality will be made through breakthroughs in our basic
understanding of the causes and mechanisms of disease. As we continue
to develop new directions and priorities for the NIEHS, I hope that it
will become ever more clear that in no way are we abandoning our long-
held goal of disease prevention, but rather we are expanding our
sights and exploring new pathways for understanding human biology and
disease, always with this critical goal in mind.

David A. Schwartz, MD Director, NIEHS and NTP E-mail:
david.schwartz@niehs.nih.gov

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From: Le Figaro, Mar. 5, 2007
[Printer-friendly version]

FRENCH ETHICS GROUP RECOMMENDS PRECAUTION FOR NANOTECHNOLOGY

Opinion of the CCNE [French National Consultative Committee on Ethics]
on ethical questions asked by nanosciences: more research and more
transparency


CCNE is the French National Consultative Committee on Ethics. In their
latest work on nanosciences they call for more fundamental research
and more transparency to better understand nanoproducts effects on
humans. They take for example the REACH law on chemical products.

CCNE was founded in 1983 to give advice on ethical problems and social
questions induced by advancements in scientific knowledge in the
fields of life sciences, medicine, and health. This is a completely
independent committee and its role is only consultative. It is made up
of representatives of the main philosophical and spiritual families,
people qualified in the field of ethics (researchers, doctors, nurses,
politicians, jurists).

They published their recommendations on ethical questions asked by
nanosciences, nanotechnologies and health and more especially on
potential risks for human health and for individual liberties.
They warned on the global attitude that privileges technologic
performance and commercial profitability and regrets that so little
worldwide nanotechnologies expenditure are dedicated to the study of
risks and side effects.

Thus recommendations follow the precautionary principle, which implies
more [the need for] fundamental research on risks before diffusing
nano-applications. It also implies more transparency on
nanotechnologies researches that is not currently effective because of
the requirements for confidentiality related to industrial
applications.

Finally they recommend the creation of a European [nanotechnology] law
like REACH on chemical products, based on transparency and an extreme
vigilance of nanotechnology's consequences on individual liberties.

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From: Environmental Health Perspectives, Mar. 1, 2007
[Printer-friendly version]

ENVIRONMENT: CALIFORNIA OUT IN FRONT

By Charles W. Schmidt, Environmental Health Perspectives

When it comes to ecological diversity, California has it all: snow-
capped mountains, wide deserts, scenic beaches, and some of the worst
environmental problems in the country. Six of the country's ten most
polluted cities-Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Fresno-Madera,
Visalia-Porterville, Merced, and Sacramento-are found in California,
where children face fivefold greater risks of reduced lung function
compared with children who live in less-polluted areas. Beyond its air
pollution problems, California could also face catastrophic
consequences from climate change. Assuming warming trends continue at
their present rates, experts generally agree that the Sierra snowpack-
which is crucial to the state's drinking water supply-could decline by
50-90% by the century's end.

With statistics like that, environmentalism has become a powerful
force in California. According to a 2006 survey conducted by the
Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), a San Francisco-based
research organization, 65% of Californians don't think the federal
government is doing enough to combat global warming. Two-thirds of the
population support state efforts to address climate change, while an
equal number support tougher air pollution standards on new vehicles,
even if it makes vehicles more expensive.

California legislators have responded with some of the strongest
environmental laws ever passed. Whereas the U.S. government has yet to
regulate carbon dioxide, California recently passed AB 32, a
groundbreaking law signed by governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in
September 2006 that directs industries to reduce all greenhouse gas
emissions by 25% over the next 13 years. Another law-AB 1493, which
was enacted in 2002-directs automakers to reduce greenhouse gases
emitted by passenger vehicles sold in California after 2009, with a
30% reduction in statewide vehicular emissions by 2016. (That law is
currently being challenged by a lawsuit from the automotive industry.)

This year, California will consider a statewide green chemistry policy
that could exceed the scope of the federal Toxic Substances Control
Act (TSCA), which sets national policy on chemicals used in products
and industrial processes. Local governments have also tightened
environmental controls. San Francisco, for instance, recently passed
the country's first ban on baby products containing bisphenol A and
has also regulated levels of phthalates in these products. Bisphenol A
and phthalates are both suspected endocrine disruptors.

Coming from one of the world's largest economies, these preemptive
legislative efforts have impressive clout. "California provides an
example [for other states]," says Cympie Payne, associate director of
the California Center for Law and Policy at the University of
California (UC), Berkeley. "Other states find it easier to model their
own laws on those that another state has already put into effect."

Clearing the Air

California's aggressive environmental policies build on a long
history. In 1965, the state became the first to regulate vehicle
exhaust by setting limits on hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide
emissions. Two years later, the newly formed California Air Resources
Board (ARB)-now part of the California EPA-set the nation's first air
quality standards for total suspended particulates, photochemical
oxidants, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and other pollutants.

Early on, U.S. lawmakers recognized that California had a terrible
problem with air pollution. Living in low-density sprawl, Southern
Californians travel everywhere by car, generating exhaust plumes that
get trapped at ground level in the area's low-lying valleys. Truck
traffic across the Mexican border, in addition to emissions from the
Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex-the largest man-made harbor in the
western United States-also contribute to the region's poor air
quality.

To give the state more leverage on pollution control, Congress allowed
California to enforce pollution standards that might be more stringent
than those passed by the federal government. That allowance was first
introduced in the Federal Air Quality Act of 1967, and later codified
in Section 209 amendments to the Clean Air Act (CAA). California has
since set the nation's tightest standards for ozone and particulate
matter, according to ARB spokesman Jerry Martin. Other states,
meanwhile, have no comparable authority when it comes to devising
their own air quality standards. Rather, the CAA allows them to choose
whether to adopt federal standards or the more stringent California
standards.

If California's strict environmental policies were triggered by
traditional air pollution, its current reputation as a green pioneer
has more to do with recent initiatives on climate change. By signing
AB 1493, governor Gray Davis put California at the leading edge of
government efforts to regulate greenhouse gases. Reflecting
California's legislative influence, ten other states-New York,
Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware, Rhode Island, Maine,
Vermont, Washington, and Oregon-along with Canada have all adopted the
same goal.

But AB 1493 has its detractors, particularly among the auto industry.
The stakes are huge for U.S. automakers: California accounts for 10%
of their total sales. Auto industry lobbyists have overcome every
congressional attempt to improve fuel efficiency standards since 1990.
But Martin stresses that although better fuel efficiency does advance
AB 1493's goals, automakers have other alternatives for reducing
emissions, such as cutting back on the use of halogenated
refrigerants, which exceed carbon dioxide in terms of greenhouse
potency. Automakers can also sell more "flex-fuel" vehicles that run
on ethanol blends, he says.

According to Martin, this flexibility in options distinguishes AB 1493
from corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards, which dictate
only the minimum average miles per gallon that cars of a particular
class need to achieve. "Our standards are for greenhouse gases; we
call them global warming standards," Martin says. "And they include
not just carbon dioxide but other gases like methane and [halogenated
refrigerants]."

But the auto industry sees things differently. Charlie Territo, a
spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a national
industry trade group, calls AB 1493 a thinly veiled attempt to
regulate fuel economy. Moreover, he adds, California has no authority
to impose higher fuel economy standards because its special state
status on the environment applies only to the CAA. CAFE standards, on
the other hand, are administered by the National Energy Policy and
Conservation Act, under which California has no special status.
Equally significant, California can set its own state standards only
for criteria pollutants listed under the CAA, a list that doesn't yet
include carbon dioxide, he says.

The U.S. Supreme Court will determine later this year if the U.S. EPA
must regulate carbon dioxide as an air pollutant. At issue is
Massachusetts et al. v. Environmental Protection Agency et al.,
wherein Massachusetts represents a coalition of stakeholders who
believe carbon dioxide should be regulated to limit global warming.
The U.S. EPA doesn't want to regulate carbon dioxide without better
knowledge of the gas's role in climate change, according to James R.
Milkey, the counsel of record for the Supreme Court case. Meanwhile,
the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and other auto industry
groups have sued California, Rhode Island, and Vermont, arguing that
the application of AB 1493 (and equivalent counterparts in other
states) is illegal. The suit, originally scheduled for trial in
California beginning 31 January 2007, has been postponed until the
spring pending the Supreme Court's decision.

Meeting Legislative Goals

The upcoming Supreme Court decision could also be critical for AB 32's
goal of reducing California's total greenhouse gas emissions to 25%
below 1990 levels by 2020. A press release issued by California's
Office of the Governor on 27 September 2006 stated that AB 32 is a
"landmark bill that establishes a first-in-the-world, comprehensive
program of regulatory and market mechanisms to achieve real,
quantifiable, cost-effective reductions of greenhouse gases." Says
Martin, "AB 1493 just focuses on cars, but AB 32 covers everything
that uses energy in some way. And since California is the twelfth
largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world, that's a big deal."

The law directs the ARB to determine how California can meet its
emissions reduction goal. Toward that end, the board will develop
appropriate regulations (which it will also enforce) and create a
reporting system to track and monitor greenhouse gas emissions. With
ARB approval, the law could allow California industries to trade
emissions on global markets. That effort would apply economic forces
to the goal of limiting emissions below a statewide cap yet to be
identified, which will be phased in starting in 2012.

As a first priority, Martin says the agency is producing an emissions
inventory, to quantify how much carbon dioxide California industries
and their suppliers produce. At the same time, the ARB is compiling a
list of "discrete early actions" -- simple measures -- to limit
greenhouse gases that can be phased in by 2010. Along those lines,
Schwarzenegger recently ordered that the carbon content of all
transportation-related fuels burned in California must be reduced by
10% by 2020. The ARB is currently reviewing the governor's order to
see if it qualifies as a discrete early action under AB 32. Martin
suggests that it might, and adds that fuel companies could meet the
mandate in a number of ways, for instance, by selling more biofuels.

In contrast to AB 1493, lawsuits against AB 32 haven't been filed.
That's because specific measures targeting individual industries
aren't yet known, Martin explains. Once those measures are identified,
affected industries will sue accordingly, he predicts.

Meanwhile, stakeholders everywhere are anxious to know if California
can limit greenhouse gases without wrecking its economy. "It's going
to be tricky," concedes Dominic DiMare, vice president of government
relations at the California Chamber of Commerce, which opposed both AB
1493 and AB 32. "The law could harm the economy, but it could also
help it, and that depends on how it's implemented, which is something
we still don't know. My concern is that some companies might leave
California rather than face those restrictions. Then they might wind
up in other areas where they pollute even more than they do here."

Countering those concerns, UC Berkeley adjunct professor David Roland-
Holst was quoted in the 15 September 2006 New York Times as estimating
that AB 32 could pump $60 billion and 17,000 jobs into the California
economy by 2020, by attracting investment in alternative energy.
Roland-Holst could not be reached for comment.

Green Chemistry

Apart from global warming, California's next big effort on the
environment could come from a burgeoning green chemistry policy-that
is, one that identifies safer chemicals and processes. That pending
effort responds to a 2006 UC Berkeley report titled Green Chemistry in
California: A Framework for Leadership in Chemicals Policy and
Innovation, which concluded that federal policies under TSCA don't do
enough to protect public health. The 130-page document was drafted at
the request of the California legislature.

According to lead author Michael P. Wilson, a research scientist at
the UC Berkeley Center for Occupational and Environmental Health,
TSCA's data requirements impede the transparency and oversight that
are necessary to protect public health and allow proper function of
the chemicals market. TSCA does not require producers to generate data
on chemical toxicity, he says, and that produces uncertainty for
companies that purchase chemicals. Moreover, he says, TSCA constrains
the government's ability to control the sale of hazardous chemicals,
which allows these substances to remain competitive in the market. The
report concluded that these market conditions have dampened interest
by industry in green chemistry.

"We have a failure in the U.S. chemicals market," Wilson stresses.
"Chemicals are marketed on the basis of their function, price, and
performance, but the hazard piece is still largely missing."

Responding to the report's message, state senator Joe Simitian, who
chairs the California Senate Environmental Quality Committee, is
investigating options for a new green chemistry policy that might
address TSCA's shortcomings. Bruce Jennings, a senior advisor to the
California legislature, with whom Simitian collaborates, says a number
of green chemistry bills could go to the floor this year. One would
create a clearinghouse on alternatives to hazardous chemicals, geared
toward small companies that lack access to that type of information
and patterned after a similar U.S. EPA program, Design for the
Environment. Another would require the producers of high production
volume chemicals to submit environmental health information to
California, in addition to information about the use and disposal of
such chemicals.

Simitian was quoted in the 2 November 2006 Capitol Weekly as saying
that he wants to apply a precautionary approach to California's
emerging chemical regulations. That approach-popular among European
Union countries-shifts the burden of proof regarding chemical safety
to manufacturers instead of regulators. The precautionary principle,
as it is often called, drives some of the European Union's most
sweeping-and controversial-environmental initiatives, particularly the
REACH (Registration, Evaluation, and Authorisation of Chemicals)
directive, which requires that chemicals manufactured or imported at
volumes of greater than one metric ton be registered with the European
Chemicals Agency. Under the REACH initiative, which goes into effect
in June 2007, some toxic chemicals could be phased out in favor of
less toxic alternatives.

U.S. industries have fought against REACH, which will affect their
exports to Europe. Now some industry stakeholders worry that
California's potential green chemistry policies could be a stepping
stone toward REACH implementation in the United States.

"We're concerned this could impose added costs on California
businesses," says John Ulrich, executive director of the Chemical
Industry Council of California, a trade group. "Anything that
increases the cost of manufacturing across the board in California
will discourage manufacturing here. I'm afraid a legislative package
that claims to be green chemistry will go down a conventional route of
legislating based on unfounded science, using timetables that aren't
credible or achievable."

While claiming it's still too early to know what form the policy will
take, Jennings stresses the goal isn't to replicate REACH or any other
European initiative. "We want to complement what they're doing," he
says. "And there are plenty of industry players who face challenges
with operating in global markets when they lack information about the
chemical content of their products. Chemical producers may be troubled
by changes in the law, but we think downstream users will welcome
efforts to give them more information."

In support of that view, Rachelle Reyes Wenger, who manages public
policy and advocacy at Catholic Healthcare West, a San Francisco-based
company that owns 42 hospitals and employs 44,000 people, says better
information on chemical safety and alternative products can be good
for business. She notes that her company recently awarded a multiyear
$70 million contract to a company that supplies intravenous bags that
do not contain polyvinyl chloride, phthalates, or other toxic
chemicals. "With our purchasing power, we can really make a
difference," she says. "A comprehensive chemical policy could hurt
finances initially, but not in the long run. It's ultimately better
not just for the financial bottom line, but also for the moral bottom
line."

And of course, for the environmental bottom line. California's
lawmakers have apparently decided that sacrifices made now to achieve
environmental goals are worth the future benefits, not just for health
and ecology, but for the long-term sustainability of the state's
industries. Ultimately, California's paving a road forward on which
others may inevitably follow.

Source: Environmental Health Perspectives

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From: Risk Policy Report, Mar. 6, 2007
[Printer-friendly version]

WASHINGTON EMERGES AS TEST FOR STATES' PUSH TO BAN FIRE SUPPRESSANT

By Adam Sarvana

Legislation pending in Washington state to ban a controversial flame-
retardant chemical is emerging as a test case for similar legislative
efforts pending in several state legislatures around the country,
industry and environmental sources say.

The multi-state effort to ban decabrominated diphenyl ether (decaBDE)
could be bolstered by a recent EPA decision to tighten its safe
exposure level for the chemical, which is the only remaining
commercially used substance in a class of chemicals known as
polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). DecaBDE is used in a variety
of consumer products, plastics and textiles as a flame retardant.

EPA recently tightened its reference dose (RfD), used to set certain
environmental and health regulations, from .01 milligrams per kilogram
of body weight per day (mg/kg-day) to .007 mg/kg-day in a draft
toxicological review released last December. The RfD is the amount
that the average person could be exposed to without anticipating
adverse health effects. RfDs are used in regulatory determinations to
ensure that regulations, such as drinking water standards, are
sufficiently protective of human health (Risk Policy Report, Feb. 13,
p14).

Supporters of the bills to ban decaBDE argue it poses similar heath
risks to other PBDEs, which are already being phased out in Europe and
the United States. However, industry opponents point to studies they
say indicate decaBDE is safe and argue it should not be thrown out in
favor of replacements that are less well understood.

PBDEs as a class include the phased-out penta- and octabromodiphenyl
ethers, which industry consented to stop using in the U.S. in 2004
under an agreement with EPA. DecaBDE was not addressed in the
agreement and has become a contentious issue as lawmakers, health
officials, environmental groups and industry continue to debate its
proper regulatory and scientific status. California originally moved
to ban decaBDE along with the other common varieties in a 2003 law but
stripped the provision before the bill was ultimately signed by then-
Gov. Gray Davis (D).

Now Washington, California and Minnesota are among seven states in
various stages of considering similar bills to phase out or mandate
safer alternatives for decaBDE, with Washington the furthest along.

According to several sources, the Washington state bill appears headed
for enactment after sponsors scaled back some of the measure's
requirements. The Washington state House passed H.B. 1024 Feb. 16,
which would ban decaBDE in mattresses after January 1, 2008, and
require the state environment and health departments to review risk
assessments and data on the use of commercial alternatives to decaBDE
and report to the state legislature by December 15, 2008. Relevant
documents are available on InsideEPA.com.

The measure, sponsored by state Rep. Ross Hunter (D), who has
sponsored previous versions of the bill, appears headed for enactment.
10 House Republicans joined with 61 Democrats in passing the bill,
while key advisers to Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) are endorsing it.

Jay Manning, the head of the state's Department of Ecology, urged the
legislature to quickly approve the measure before its April 22
deadline. "The PBDE flame retardant legislation represents a
comprehensive and common sense approach to protecting public health
and our environment without sacrificing fire safety. It's based on
science and thorough study. Delaying this action means the continued
buildup of Deca in people, animals and the environment. Let's not
wait," Manning wrote in a recent editorial.

A source with the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL)
says the current version has a better chance of passage than prior
versions because sponsors broadened exemptions, phaseout timetables
and provisions for expert input on implementation. The bill "has been
crafted to eliminate opposition from everyone except the bromine
industry," making passage more politically likely, the NCEL source
says.

An industry source suggests that the bill may be enacted, but cautions
that banning the chemical could have harmful consequences. "This bill
is designed to [allow environmental activists to claim a political
victory] regardless of the consequences." The source argues that
"there are significant economic impacts to the state in banning a
product and enforcing that ban," and that the state Department of
Ecology "has said it cannot identify an alternative to Deca that is
safer."

Many of the state bills include several exemptions from the phaseout,
which is scheduled for Jan. 1, 2008, in versions being considered by
Montana, Illinois, Minnesota and Washington and for Jan. 1, 2009, in a
version being considered by Hawaii. Not all bills would extend the
phaseout to the same number or types of products, but all include at
least a phaseout in mattresses and all versions require the state to
broadly study alternatives.

The exemptions in the Minnesota legislation, which would mandate the
most extensive phaseout, include transportation vehicle parts,
charitable donations, items with specific military or space program
applications, recycled foam carpet cushions and medical devices. An
amendment offered to the bill by one Minnesota state lawmaker would
create a process to apply for specific exemptions subject to a series
of findings by state officials and vows by the petitioner company to
phase out PBDEs to the extent practicable.

If the Washington bill passes, "it would have a big impact" on other
states debating similar bills, the NCEL source says. "Once California
enacted a penta and octa ban [in 2003], several other states followed.
Once one state takes a first step it's easier for others to follow."

An environmentalist source agrees, saying, "We'll be getting an
indication quickly from Washington" on whether the issue is resonating
with state lawmakers. If the bill passes, "it will increase the
momentum of all states considering this." The source cautions,
however, that "each state is different and you can't predict from one
state victory or failure what will happen."

The industry source says officials are closely following the state
efforts. "I am watching all the state bills very closely, every day,"
the source says. The source adds, "It's hard to say what happens if
one state passes legislation," arguing that decaBDE is "the most
studied flame retardant in history" and has not been shown to cause
significant health problems in humans. Signing such a bill into law
"would set a bad precedent in substituting an unknown substance for a
known substance" -- because many state versions of the bill require
industry to use alternatives after the decaBDE phaseout -- "and that's
not good public policy," the source says.

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