Senate Action on the Safe Chemicals Act

Sharyle Patton
Director of the Commonweal Biomonitoring Resource Center

On Wednesday, July 25th, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will vote on an improved version of the Safe Chemicals Act, an act that reforms the current set of federal regulations, the Toxic Substances Control Act, which governs toxic chemicals production and use. TSCA entered into force in 1976, and as recent articles in the Chicago Tribune point out, is in need of being brought up to date to reflect current scientific knowledge about the capacity of toxic chemicals to compromise the health and safety of humans and ecosystems. This new version is the result of many months of discussions among key stakeholders and represents a major step forward in balancing stakeholder interests and concerns. Richard Denison from the Environmental Defense Fund provides an overview of the Safe Chemicals Act in his recent blog post, A pivotal moment for TSCA reform.

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Fracking and Low Birth Weight: Preliminary Evidence

Ted Schettler, MD, MPH
Science Director

In an important development in the debate about health risks associated with fracking for natural gas, Elaine Hill, a doctoral candidate at Cornell University, has carried out a detailed analysis of certain birth outcomes in Pennsylvania, before and after fracking began. She used a “difference-in-difference” study design, which enabled her to compare outcomes in two groups of people:

  • Group 1: People living prescribed distances from a location where a well had been permitted but never drilled
  • Group 2: People living the same distances from a location where a well had been permitted and subsequently drilled

She compared birth outcomes in groups 1 and 2 before and after any wells were drilled.

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Spotlight on Fertility and Reproductive Health Work at CHE

Karin Russ, MS, RN, CHE’s Fertility and  Reproductive Health Working Group Coordinator

Years ago,  I  was a nurse caring for a patient who had just had her sixth miscarriage. She was, as one might expect, emotionally  devastated and searching for answers as to why this might have  happened. At the time, some potential physiological causes  were examined, but environmental factors were not  considered.

As CHE celebrates its 10th  anniversary, significant progress has been made toward  educating professionals and the public on environmental  contributors to infertility, early pregnancy loss, and impacts on the developing fetus. Since CHE’s early years, the Fertility and Reproductive Health Working Group  has sought to bring  attention to the growing body of research linking environmental factors to problems with reproductive health. In  the male, many environmental agents are associated with decreased sperm quality and increased risk of prostate cancer.  Women are more susceptible to endometriosis, polycystic ovary  disease, and problems with in vitro fertilization following exposure to some environmental chemicals. A substantial body  of scientific literature demonstrates the crucial nature of  fetal environmental exposures on developmental origins of  adult health and disease.

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