Daily News Archive
February 9, 2006
Biomonitoring Bill Returns to California Senate
(Beyond Pesticides, February 9, 2006)
After numerous failed attempts, a bill to create the nation's only statewide
system for tracking our bodies' levels of environmental pollutants such
as plastic and flame retardants is back in California. On Tuesday, February
7, Senators Don Perata (D-Oakland), and Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento),
vowed to introduce for the fourth time a bill creating a California-specific
biomonitoring program, calling it a top legislative priority.
``I'm at the point in my life where it seems one out of two people I
know has cancer,'' Senator Perata said in a statement. He's not far
off: Today half of all men and one out of three women will develop some
kind of cancer in their lifetime.
Public health officials alarmed by rising rates of cancer and other
ailments consider biomonitoring - the use of sophisticated tests to
detect trace amounts of specific chemicals in people's blood, hair or
urine - a powerful tool in their quest to understand why.
But industry and others have long fought such efforts. Technological
advances allow scientists to see trace contaminants in our blood at
fantastically small levels, akin to sniffing out a single drop of gin
mixed with enough tonic to fill a line of railroad tank cars a mile
long. But researchers cannot yet say for certain that pollutants at
such concentrations impair our health. And without that information,
critics contend, biomonitoring programs unnecessarily scare the public
and improperly taint the benefits of modern synthetic chemicals.
A number of studies, however, suggest that some pesticides may cause
health and environmental effects at very low levels. For example, when
exposed to atrazine at concentrations considered safe by EPA, hamster
ovary cells exhibit chromosome damage, including at levels commonly
found in public water supplies. Additionally, tadpoles exposed to below-allowable
levels of atrazine develop sexual abnormalities including hermaphrodism
(See Daily News
Proponents contend information about our “body burden''- –the
chemicals we carry around in our body--is crucial for educating the
public and regulators. Indeed, a year-long investigation by this paper
of a Berkeley family's body burden prompted the family, which had information
unavailable to the wider public about contaminants in their blood, to
make some lifestyle changes and start lobbying the Legislature on this
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the most recent version of this bill
in October, saying he supported the idea but had concerns about the
bill and preferred to work within his administration to develop a program.
``We haven't seen any of that happen,'' said Alicia Dlugosh, spokeswoman
for Senator Perata on Tuesday. ``We want to keep the issue at the forefront.''
The new version, to be introduced next week, contains what Dlugosh described
as ``a few tweaks'' from the previous: The deletion of a controversial
idea to test women's breast milk for contaminants; and the doubling
in size of the advisory panel tasked with overseeing the program, from
eight members to 16.
TAKE ACTION: If you are a
California resident, contact your state representatives telling them
that you support Senator Perata’s biomonitoring bill.