Toxic Chemical Exposure Costs California $2.6 Billion

The Californian state government's inadequate oversight of hazardous chemicals sickens thousands of workers and children each year and costs the state an estimated $2.6 billion in medical expenses and lost wages, according to a report released by researchers at the University of California.

The report, “Green Chemistry: Cornerstone to a Sustainable California,” reveals more than 200,000 California workers were diagnosed with deadly, chronic diseases, such as cancer or emphysema, in 2004. These diseases were attributed to chemical exposures in the workplace. Another 4,400 workers died as a result of those afflictions.

Instead of relying on toxic chemicals, the report suggested that the industry should take comprehensive steps in instituting green chemistry — the use of renewable and safer raw materials, manufacturing processes and products — as a sustainable solution.

The report also called on the California state government to lead the nation in implementing a comprehensive approach to the management of chemicals and products and initiate policy changes. For example, they recommend passing new laws that would provide state businesses, regulators and consumers with more data so they can make more intelligent choices on product use, as well as investing in the design of chemicals, materials and manufacturing processes that are inherently safer for humans.

AIHA Protests Air Monitoring Bill

The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) urged New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to reconsider a bill requiring New Yorkers to obtain a permit from the New York Police Department (NYPD) to buy or use detectors that warn of a biological, chemical or radiological attack.

The bill, known as “Int. No. 650: A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the City of New York, in relation to permits for atmospheric biological, chemical and radiological detectors,” would give New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly the ability to authorize, deny or delay any workplace or environmental sampling.

Proponents of the bill claim it could ensure that detectors will not “lead to excessive false alarms and unwarranted anxiety.” According to the first draft of the bill, instruments designed to detect the presence of certain chemicals, biological agents and radiation should be deployed and operated only with the knowledge of appropriate city agencies.

AIHA President Don Hart said enacting this bill will be problematic because the definition of detectors is so vague that each home and business owner would need to file for a permit for smoke detectors. Also, the permit application requires emergency response plans for use with the detectors, but there is no way to develop or determine plans for emergency situations that have not yet occurred, he said.

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