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The Long, Twisting Tale of Chemical Policy - April 2015 Networker

SEHN Networker Volume 20 (4) April, 2015.


Safer Chemicals, Safer Products: Is Congress Up to Their Task? by Ted Schettler, Science Director

If you are among those who assume that chemicals in your consumer products must first be tested for safety before being put on the market you have plenty of company. But you are wrong. Except for pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and some food additives, no Federal or state law requires safety testing of thousands of chemicals in consumer products that people come into contact with every day.

Schettler headshotIt’s easy to understand your assumption. After all, biomonitoring studies of blood and urine of newborn infants, children, and adults regularly detect hundreds of commercial chemicals from clothing, toys, house paint, kitchen floors, cleaners, carpets, televisions, furniture, shower curtains, and the other products we live with. They are in our food, water, air, soil, and house dust. Surely they must first be tested for safety. No, that is not required.

It wasn't supposed to be this way... Continue Reading

How to Unleash Chemicals Policy Reform (and Every Other Progressive Reform) by Peter Montague

Peter headshotIn this essay, Historian and Journalist Peter Montague -- one of the true Godfathers of the environmental health and justice movements -- provides a deep critique of how money in politics destroys our ability to regulate corporations. For over 20 years Peter published Rachel's News which provided simple, strong arguments around complex issues, surveyed precautionary actions across sectors, and connected disparate actors with common aspirations. Peter has co-authored two books on toxic heavy metals.

An excerpt from this recent piece, "How to Unleash Chemical-Policy Reform (and Every Other Progressive Reform)": "Why is it so hard for Congress to pass a decent law to protect public health by regulating toxic chemicals? After all, during the 1960s and 1970s Congress adopted nearly two dozen far-reaching environmental laws and treaties. Why can't Congress just repeat those earlier policy prescriptions? Here's why..." Continue Reading Peter's White Paper Here.

We invite you to help us continue this work in 2015

An Interview with Rebecca Gasior Altman on "American petro-topia", and the merging of motherhood, legacy and the long-arc of pollutants

Rebecca Altman headshotEnvironmental Sociologist and Writer Rebecca Gasior Altman explores environmental legacy – what we pass from one generation to the next. Her writing weaves the personal with the scientific and visionary, often taking the reader down a path of personal narratives. She is working on her first book, which explores the history of synthetic chemicals, body burden, and the legacy of persistent pollutants in US communities from Alaska to Appalachia. Her most recent publication, American petro-topia (Aeon Magazine, March 11, 2015), explores the complex history of plastics, their legacy, and their burden on our bodies and our environments. SEHN's Kaitlin Butler spoke with Becki about her recent piece, the book she’s presently working on for Vanderbilt, and the merging of motherhood, legacy and the long-arc pollutants.

Listen to the Full Interview Here

An Interview with Bhavna Shamasunder on "Scientific Contestations Over 'Toxic Trespass'", and science on the side of environmental justice

Bhavna Shamasunder, Assistant Professor in the Urban and Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College, teaches and conducts research on environmental Bhavna LA River Headshothealth and justice with a focus on the disparate and cumulative burdens faced by communities of color and the poor. Her work also examines how social movements leverage science in campaigns for justice. Her most recent piece on this work appears in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, titled the “Scientific contestations over “toxic trespass”: health and regulatory implications of chemical biomonitoring”. SEHN's Kaitlin Butler spoke with Bhavna about her recent article, her work around chemical biomonitoring, and her perspective on the intersections between science and environmental justice.

Listen to the Full Interview Here


Thanks for exploring some of the many aspects of toxics with us. We welcome any comments or suggestions for future Networkers at