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Politicizing Safety: When Corporations Trump Children

Monday, January 31, 2005

In her new book "It's My Party Too,” former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christie Whitman's accuses the chemical industry's lobbying arm, the American Chemistry Council (ACC), of foiling her efforts to protect chemical plants from attack after September 11.

According to a Newhouse News story, Whitman wondered whether the ACC's member companies "spend more money trying to defeat new regulations than they would by simply complying with them."

Whitman and then-Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge crafted rules requiring the 15,000 most high-risk plants to undertake reasonable security measures and then report that they had done so to the EPA. However, those measures never made it into law.

With few exceptions, chemical industry lobbyists outnumber public health advocates and have greater financial resources at their disposal.

While EWG fights the chemical industry on several issues, one in particular is that of mercury. The heavy metal mercury flows out of smoke stacks, joins rainwater and falls into the ocean where it becomes part of the seafood we eat. EWG work has long studied the dangers to women of childbearing age of eating tuna and other seafood as well as the political maneuverings that disrupt or prevent health messages from reaching consumers. According to The Wall Street Journal, a report that connected coal-fired power plants and children's health risk was delayed for nine months by the Bush administration. Presently, laws that seriously control mercury pollution are a long ways off and the current seafood advisory telling women of childbearing age how much tuna and other seafood they can safely eat could potentially lead to women having babies with over-the-safe-limit levels of mercury in their blood.

Read more on EWG's work on mercury pollution here: http://www.ewg.org/issues/mercury/index.php.

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