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Oregon Targets 10 Hazardous Chemicals
(Beyond Pesticides, December 9, 2003)
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) identified the top ten chemicals of “increasing concern,” and developed a response plan called the “Toxics Reduction Strategy” to eliminate or at least minimize the release of these hazards into the environment, reports The Oregonian. The Environmental Quality Commission, which approves DEQ policies, began reviewing the plan Friday, December 5.

The ten chemicals, which make up what DEQ calls its “starter list,” include banned pesticides such as DDT, along with PCBs and dioxins. Dick Pedersen, administrator of DEQ's land quality division, said Oregonians are not generating or using more toxic agents than before. However, he said, "based on science and new information, we're realizing problems we might have created."

The persistence of toxic chemicals in the air, land and waterways of Oregon is a major health concern. The conservation group Oregon Environmental Council (OEC) says DEQ is not doing enough to protect the public from these threats. OEC reviewed the discharge permits given to industry by DEQ, and compared that with information industry provided to the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The council found that in 2001, dozens of Oregon plants told the EPA they had released lead, dioxin and mercury at a time when their state permits set no limits on such releases, according to The Oregonian.

“These chemicals are some of the most toxic chemicals out there. They persist in the environment, and they're known to create health problems in people and animals. And yet the department is not using its authority in such a way that means we are controlling, monitoring and even reducing the release of these chemicals into the environment," said Laura Weiss, pesticides and toxics program director for OEC.

The commission will likely hear testimony from OEC regarding DEQ’s actions in its review of the “Toxics Reduction Strategy.”

The Oregonian states that, “One of the goals of the DEQ's new strategy would be to better inventory the toxic chemicals in the state.” Just the opposite tactic was used by state government officials in Oregon in August, when a pesticide use tracking law, approved overwhelmingly by Oregon lawmakers four years ago, was refused the funding it needed to get going, halting an avenue toward improved toxic inventory. (See Daily News story).

For more information on pesticide issues in Oregon, or in your own state, see Beyond Pesticides’ State Pages.