05/04/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

If It's Polluting People, Stop It

I like the way my colleague, Elaine Shannon, tees up our letter to Congressman Bobby L. Rush - chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection. A link to the letter is at the end.

Would you take an airline that screened baggage for high explosives?


But what if the airline stopped there and didn't check for firearms, knives, grenades, combustible liquids, ignition devices, caustics and other dangerous devices? You'd find another way to get there, fast, and you'd also demand a Transportation Security Administration crackdown on every carrier without a security plan based on real-world threat scenarios.

Toxic chemicals, too, pose multiple threats to human health.

That's why Environmental Working Group is urging Congress to develop a comprehensive plan to give top priority to controlling all substances found to contaminate human bodies, particularly those detected in umbilical cord blood.

EWG made this argument in a letter submitted to the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection, which held a hearing today, March 4, on crafting a new federal toxic chemicals policy that could curb pollution by persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals, known as PBTs.

EWG's senior vice-president for research Jane Houlihan and senior vice-president for policy and communications Richard Wiles wrote panel chairman Bobby L. Rush, D-IL, that the federal government should take urgent action to stop the proliferation of PBTs, a class of chemicals that includes mercury, dioxin and certain fire retardant and anti-stain, anti-grease coatings. Even PBTs not currently recognized as toxic to people, they said, must be presumed unsafe, because as science progresses and some of these pollutants turn out to affect human health, it will be impossible to purge them from the environment.

But they advised the subcommittee not to focus solely on PBTs, to the exclusion of other chemicals that may pose equal or greater dangers to people, especially during critical windows of development.

You can read our entire letter to Chairman Rush here.