Saturday, January 9, 2010

Government Protection?

Many of us don't like the government interfering in our lives, but we often expect the government to protect us. Police, firemen, etc. are government employees. We expect the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to keep our food safe and tell us which medications are safe and effective. We expect the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)to keep us safe from toxic chemicals in our food, water and environment.

I've written in recent blogs about the effect of heavy metals on the body, and how heavy metals and chemicals are ubiquitous in our food, water and environment. The following statement by Lisa Jackson, Administrator of the EPA, shows us how ineffective the EPA really is. She states that the EPA has the authority to control only around 200 chemicals out of the 80,000 currently being manufactured.

We really have no idea how these chemicals are affecting our health. With dramatic increases in autoimmune diseases, mental illness, autism, ADHD, etc., could there be a correlation? Wouldn't it be good to find out? Again, I am a proponent of less government intrusion, but as I've studied this, the businesses really have no concern whether these chemicals are affecting our health or not. They are concerned with the financial bottom line.

Please read the following and form your own conclusions. Comments are welcome.

Legislative Hearing on the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)

EPA Press Office
December 2, 2009

Statement of Lisa P. Jackson
Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Legislative Hearing on the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)
Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
December 2, 2009

WASHINGTON – Chairman Lautenberg, Chairman Boxer, Ranking Member Inhofe and other members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak about how we can improve our framework for assessing and managing chemical risks.

Understandably, the public is turning to government for assurance that chemicals that are ubiquitous in our economy, our environment and our bodies have been assessed using the best available science, and that unacceptable risks have been eliminated.

But, under existing law, we cannot give that assurance. Restoring confidence in our chemical management system is a top priority for me, and a top environmental priority for the Obama Administration.

EPA is the agency tasked with ensuring that the chemicals used in the American economy are safe. But, Mr. Chairman, the current law that gives EPA that authority is outdated, and does not provide the tools to adequately protect human health and the environment as the American people expect, demand and deserve.

Chairman Lautenberg, I commend you for your long standing leadership on this issue and look forward to working with you, Chairman Boxer and other Members of this committee as you consider ways to improve the safety of chemicals.

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was signed into law in 1976 and was intended to provide protection of health and the environment against risks posed by chemicals in commerce. However, when TSCA was enacted, it authorized manufacture and use, without any evaluation, of all chemicals that were produced for commercial purposes in 1976 or earlier years. Thus, manufacturers of these “grandfathered” chemicals weren’t required to develop and produce the data on toxicity and exposure that are needed to properly and fully assess potential risks. Further compounding this problem, the statute never provided adequate authority for EPA to reevaluate existing chemicals as new concerns arose or as new scientific information became available.

TSCA does provide some authority to EPA to mandate industry to conduct testing, but even in these cases it has taken years to obtain data and information. As a result, there are large, troubling gaps in the available data and state of knowledge on many widely used chemicals in commerce.

TSCA also doesn’t place any legal obligation on producers to conduct testing on new chemicals being introduced into commerce. They are required only to supply existing data to EPA and are not required to provide all the data necessary to fully assess a chemical’s risks.

In the rare cases where EPA has adequate data on a chemical, and wants to protect the public against well-known, unreasonable risks to human health and the environment, there are too many legal hurdles to take quick and effective regulatory action

For example, in 1989, after years of study, EPA issued a rule phasing out most uses of asbestos – a chemical whose health effects had been exhaustively studied and demonstrated to cause lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis in humans. Yet, a federal court overturned the rule because EPA failed to clear the many hurdles imposed under TSCA before existing chemical risks can be controlled

Due to these legal and procedural hurdles in the law over the last 30 years, EPA has only been able to require testing on around 200 chemicals produced and used in the United States, and it has only issued regulations to control five existing chemicals determined to present an unreasonable risk under Section 6 of TSCA. Five from a total universe of more than 80,000 existing chemicals listed on the TSCA Inventory. Though many of these chemicals likely pose little or no risk, the story is clear---we’ve only been able to effectively regulate a handful of chemicals and we know very little about the rest.

TSCA must be updated and strengthened.

Earlier this fall, I announced the Obama Administration’s legislative principles for how this law should be revised and modernized. Let me highlight the Obama Administration’s principles:

First, chemicals should be reviewed against safety standards that are based on sound science and reflect risk-based criteria protective of human health and the environment. Safety standards should be driven solely by scientific evidence of risks. EPA should have the clear authority to establish safety standards that reflect the best available science while recognizing the need to assess and manage risk in the face of uncertainty.

Second, the responsibility for providing adequate health and safety information should rest on industry. Manufacturers must develop and submit the hazard, use, and exposure data demonstrating that new and existing chemicals under review are safe. If industry doesn’t provide the information, EPA should have the necessary tools to quickly and efficiently require testing, or obtain other information from manufacturers that are relevant to determining the safety of chemicals, without the delays and obstacles currently in place, or excessive claims of confidential business information.

Third, EPA should have clear authority to take risk management actions when chemicals do not meet the safety standard, with flexibility to take into account a range of considerations, including children’s health, economic costs, social benefits, and equity concerns. EPA and industry must include special consideration for exposures and effects on groups with higher vulnerabilities – particularly children. For example, children ingest chemicals at a higher ratio to their body weight than adults, and are more susceptible to long-term damage and developmental problems. Our new principles offer them much stronger protections.

Fourth, EPA should have clear authority to set priorities for conducting safety reviews. In all cases, EPA and chemical producers must act on priority chemicals in a timely manner, with firm deadlines to maintain accountability. This will not only assure prompt protection of health and the environment, but provide business with the certainly that it needs for planning and investment.

Fifth, we must encourage innovation in green chemistry, and support research, education, recognition, and other strategies that will lead us down the road to safer and more sustainable chemicals and processes. All of this must happen with transparency and concern for the public’s right to know.

Finally, implementation of the law should be adequately and consistently funded, in order to meet the goal of assuring the safety of chemicals, and to maintain public confidence that EPA is meeting that goal. To that end, manufacturers of chemicals should support the costs of Agency implementation, including the review of information provided by manufacturers.

I know that legislative reform may take time. Consequently, I have directed my Assistant Administrator of Pollution Prevention and Toxic Substances, Steve Owens, to utilize our current authority under TSCA to the fullest extent possible, including Section 6 authority to label, restrict, or ban a chemical, to ensure that we do everything we can to protect the American people and the global environment from dangerous chemicals. While fundamental reform is needed to fully protect against chemical risks, this is a step forward.

Specifically, EPA is currently evaluating an initial set of chemicals based on available hazard, exposure, and use information, for potential action. We will complete and make public “action plans” for the chemicals which will outline the risks that the use of these chemicals may present and what steps we may take to address those concerns. Following this, we aim to complete and make publicly available a group of chemical action plans every four months. EPA intends to engage stakeholders and dialogue with other federal partners, as well as the public, in the discussion about prioritizing chemicals for future risk management action over the coming months through public notices and public meetings.

But let me be clear – this is no substitute for meaningful reform of the underlying law. The need for fundamental TSCA reform has been recognized by industry groups, including the American Chemistry Council, environmental groups, public health groups, several States and cities, and many other groups who have all called on Congress to Act. I too call on Congress to act on this issue and give EPA the tools to adequately protect human health and the environment.

The time has come to bring TSCA into the 21st Century. EPA looks forward to working with this committee on this very important issue.

Until we meet again,
Dr. Judi

Friday, January 1, 2010

Oil In My Lamp

January 1, 2010. Happy Birthday Mom!

This blog is written in extreme gratitude to my dear family, extended family, friends and especially my caring Heavenly Father and my Friend, Brother, and Savior Jesus Christ, who have all carried me through this past year.

2009 was quite a year. It started with the funeral of my mother who died in late December. My father had died 6 months earlier. Then my daughter's husband died, leaving her with three sons and no life insurance. Then my youngest son's wife left him, and because of her difficult situation and finances couldn't take their four children. My son had to stop working evenings and weekends because he needed to watch the kids and couldn't afford to pay his mortgage. So he and the children moved in with me while we worked on renting out his condo to help pay for the mortgage. It didn't rent. I put quite a bit of money into fixing it up and it still didn't rent. After several months he eventually moved back in but is still struggling with his mortgage and making enough money to pay for babysitters while he works long hours.

I left my employment and started my own practice in August, which I had been planning for awhile, and didn't have an income while we paid start-up costs. Then my middle son's wife left him and she came from San Diego to Utah to be with her parents while she worked things out, and he left a good job to come up here to be close to his children, and is looking for a job. Then the business I owned with my oldest son failed, leaving a very large debt, and him looking for work with 6 children to support.

I felt in my heart to assist my children who were struggling, emotionally and financially, and was able to do so for awhile, but then my new business did not bring an income as quickly as we expected it to (true of all new businesses), and I ran out of money and couldn't pay my own bills and the heavy debt from the failed business.

But this is written not to disclose my weaknesses and those of my family, but to show that all of us are going through problems and difficulties right now. Everyone I talk to is going through serious struggles, whether in their relationships, financial situation, illness--physical or emotional, etc.

I believe in the Law of the Harvest--what we sow we shall reap. So I was pondering on why life seems to have been so difficult this year, and what I have been sowing that would reap such results. And while learning the lessons of many mistakes made, the Lord also opened my mind to the myriad of blessings I have received this year. I have truly been enriched this year. I was given to know that this past year was to assist me in filling my lamp with oil.

The parable of the Ten Virgins tells how ten virgins were waiting for the bridegroom. When he finally came, 5 of them had not prepared well enough and didn't have enough oil in their lamps to attend the wedding procession. There have been many interpretations of what this parable means, and what kind of preparation is needed to fill our lamps as we await the coming of the Bridegroom and deal with the difficult times that are upon us and what may be coming in the future.

My lamp has been filled this year in the following ways:
1. A stronger faith that I am not alone. As I would pray about my difficult financial situation, I would be led to the scripture in Matthew 6: "Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns: yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not better than they?" And "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?"

Over and over again, even though I wouldn't know how I was going to pay my next bill, the Lord would promise me He would take care of me. And He did, mostly through other people. Every time it was important, some money showed up to pay the next bill. My sister started a part-time job and has been sending me all of her income every two weeks. My brothers have sent checks as gifts. A great friend paid for some of my property taxes and sent extra payments on a car he had bought from me because he knew I needed the money. Some unexpected money came in from my parent's estate. My business partner paid money out to me without taking any herself so both I and the business could keep going. My middle son, while looking for a better job, has come in to help us organize our business and make it profitable. The Lord has touched the hearts of so many, many people, and they have responded and truly blessed my life.

2. A greater knowledge that all is in Divine Order. So often, when I was concerned about my children or grandchildren, or myself for various reasons, the Lord would fill my heart with peace and a knowledge that whatever was happening was for our best good, and to accept whatever came. I came to have an incredible peace in my heart that even if there was no one to assist me, and I lost everything, all would be well and I could find joy, peace and happiness. I came to a peaceful knowledge that God and angels were watching over my children, their spouses and my grandchildren; that each was learning the lessons they came here to learn; that they didn't come to have perfect lives but to learn through their experiences, and that we were all learning the lessons of repentance and forgiveness, what love truly is, and trusting more in the atonement of the Savior.

3. A greater knowledge that I WILL be able to handle whatever comes because the Lord WILL strengthen me. There is often a lot of anxiety and fear over the future. We don't know what may be coming and if we will be able to handle it. I came to know that these difficult things I have gone through and am going through now are teaching me how God strengthens me to meet the challenges I am given. I never thought I could survive my house burning down, going through medical school with six children, dealing with some of the problems I have dealt with in my children, going through an unwanted divorce, surviving on my own, losing my parents, having no money, etc.; but I have. Through each challenge, I have been strengthened to meet it. Often in the middle of the challenge I didn't feel strong, and often felt like giving in and giving up, but looking back on each event, I can see how I was carried through, time and time again.

4. A greater faith in the Atonement of my Savior. I have made many, many mistakes. But through the Love and Mercy extended to me, the Lord has paid for them and helps me through the affect they have had on me and those around me. "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden [through your own mistakes], and I will give you rest." The perfect plan has been created so that I can learn through my own choices and experiences, and can learn by experiencing the results of my own weaknesses and the weaknesses of those around me, and as I lean on Him and have faith in His atoning Love the burdens that come upon me because of those choices and weaknesses are lightened, and I become stronger and more able to make better choices; to choose love, light, wisdom, trust, joy and peace because I have learned what it feels like when I choose the opposite.

"Security is mostly a superstition. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing" -Helen Keller

I trust in the Lord with all my heart. I lean not unto mine own understandings. In all my ways I acknowledge Him, and He directs my paths.

Until we meet again,
Dr. Judi