First State Biomonitoring Program
10-16-2006, 02:03 PM
First State Biomonitoring Program
GOVERNOR SIGNS SB 1379 (PERATA-ORTIZ) TO CREATE NATIONS FIRST STATE BIOMONITORING PROGRAM
By Senator Deborah Ortiz
We monitor our air and water for pollution. We monitor fish for mercury. But we dont monitor ourselves to determine what chemicals we have accumulated in our bodies.
There are an estimated 100,000 chemicals that are registered for use in the United States today, and another 2,000 chemicals are added each year. Some toxicological screening data exists for a slight 7 to 10 percent of these chemicals. But more than 90 percent of them have never been tested for their effects on human health.
Thats worrisome enough, but its downright scary when we realize we are bombarded by chemicals on a daily basis those in our cosmetics, personal care products, pesticides, food dyes, cleaning products, fuels and plastics.
California and the nation are experiencing dramatic increases in chronic diseases and illnesses. Studies increasingly show that certain toxic chemicals contribute to the development of cancers, asthma, learning disabilities, endometriosis, birth defects, infertility, Parkinsons disease and other illnesses.
How can public health advocates and medical experts possibly get a handle on the causes of those diseases without knowing what we have been exposed to, whether it has accumulated in our bodies, and what that impact on our health may be.
On Friday, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed SB 1379, legislation I co-authored with Senate President pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland) to establish the nations first statewide biomonitoring program. Once again, California is on the cutting edge in the nation.
This bill will require the Department of Health Services and the California Environmental Protection Agency to establish a program to monitor the presence and concentration of designated chemicals in California, chemicals that are known to, or strongly suspected of, adversely impacting human health or development.
Their work will be assisted by a Scientific Guidance Panel, whose members will be appointed by the Governor and legislative leadership. The goal is to study biospecimens blood, urine, breast milk, hair from a broad base of Californians who volunteer to have their body burden tested. These individuals will represent Californias ethnic, economic and geographical diversity. Individual results will be strictly confidential, but available to those volunteers who request their personal information.
This data will help us begin identifying hot spots, whether they are breast-cancer clusters in Marin County or pesticides in the bodies of children of Central Valley farmworkers.
This has been a long journey, one that started five years ago, when I chaired informational hearings on the need for a state biomonitoring program. Due to intense opposition from the chemical and agriculture industries, the chamber and others, several bills to establish the program failed to make it out of the Legislature. Last year, a bill very similar to SB 1379 finally landed on the governors desk, where it was promptly vetoed.
But this year, armed with even more alarming studies such as the Environmental Working Groups report that even the bodies of newborns show high exposures to a variety of chemicals, we were able to prevail. Thanks to the hard work of our sponsors, the Breast Cancer Fund and Commonweal, as well as a growing awareness that I believe have enlightened and educated legislators and the governor, we finally prevailed.
This is a right-to-know law. We have the right to know what we are exposed to, and what we carry in our bodies. And, importantly, that basic information will provide building blocks for scientists and medical experts to better protect our health.
Biomonitoring is the first step in what our sponsors have dubbed the next generation of public health policy. By identifying disproportionately affected communities and linking environmental exposures to pollution-related disease, we can all look forward to a healthier California.
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