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Nurses Urged to Support Chemical Reform Legislation

Monday, May 23, 2011 General News J E 4
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HCWH Nurses Group Asks Colleagues to Support Bill Updating Chemical Laws

WASHINGTON, May 23, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Health Care Without Harm Nurses Work Group has issued an Action Alert urging its membership and other nurses to contact their Senators to voice support for chemical reform legislation, stating that the measure will help protect public health.  The legislation, the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 (S847), is intended to overhaul the nation's chemical regulatory system, and would require chemical manufacturers to provide basic health and safety information for all chemicals as a condition for them remaining on or entering the market, or to generate such data if they do not currently exist.  It would also require chemical companies to make the information public.  

"Nurses care about chemicals for a lot of reasons," said Karen Bowman, MN, RN, COHN-S, chair of the Health Care Without Harm Nurses Working Group.  "Nurses have the highest rate of occupational asthma in the country.  Often asthma is linked to environmental contaminants, such as chemicals used in cleaning and in procedures in hospitals.  Also, nurses are on the front lines of the health care system.  We see the effects of environmental pollutants on the patients, and have often led the way in advocating for changes that lead to improvements in public health.   Nurses can make a difference by letting their Senators know the health consequences of our nation's use of unregulated chemicals."

There is a wave of real concern in the health community about the link between the widespread exposure to chemicals and the overwhelming epidemic of chronic disease burdening the U.S. health care system.  Last year, the President's Cancer Panel issued a warning about the role chemicals play in the development of some cancers, and called on the president to use the power of his office "to remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water, and air that needlessly increase health care costs, cripple our nation's productivity, and devastate American lives." The Panel characterized the federal law governing chemical safety as the "most egregious example of ineffective regulation of environmental contaminants."

The Toxic Substances Control Act, the nation's current law to regulate chemicals, has not been updated in 34 years.  Because current regulations provide the EPA with little regulatory authority, the EPA has been able to require comprehensive testing on just 200 of the more than 80,000 chemicals produced and used in the U.S., and only five chemical groups have been regulated under this law.  Many chemicals have been linked to serious health problems such as infertility, cancers, learning disabilities, neurobehavioral disorders and other diseases such as asthma. However, the laws currently allow companies to keep the list of chemicals used in products private merely by claiming competitive interests in keeping this data confidential.

"Nursing practice is firmly grounded in environmental health principles," said Bowman. "Florence Nightingale believed that nursing practice 'is an act of utilizing the environment of the patient to assist him in his recovery; that it involves the nurse's initiative to configure environmental settings appropriate for the gradual restoration of the patient's health; and that external factors associated with the patient's surroundings affect life or biologic and physiologic processes, and his development.' How can nurses put patients in the best environment to promote healing when our environment is becoming more contaminated every day?"

During National Asthma Month, Health Care Without Harm is continuing to press for measures that reduce environmental pollutants that contribute to chronic illness, such as asthma, that are epidemic in the US.  

To view the Action Alert and for directions on how to contact your Senator, go to http://www.noharm.org/us_canada/news_hcwh/2011/may/hcwh2011-05-23.php.

For additional information on the "Safe Chemicals Act of 2011", visit http://www.saferchemicals.org/safe-chemicals-act/index.html.

HCWH is an international coalition of more than 430 organizations in 52 countries, working to transform the health care industry worldwide, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it is ecologically sustainable and no longer a source of harm to public health and the environment.  Visit the Nurses Work Group or the chemicals section of the Health Care Without Harm website for more information.

SOURCE Health Care Without Harm

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