The story of the Sambhavna Clinic, a non-profit holistic health clinic in Bhopal, India, built to treat those injured by the Union Carbide toxic gas release in 1984. enlarge video
HCWH's co-founder Gary Cohen is a recipient of the prestigious Skoll Award. This video, chronicling the evolution of HCWH's work, premiered at the 2009 Skoll World Forum. enlarge video
State and Federal Policies
- The Need for Government Reform
- European Union's REACH
- Efforts to Reform Policies in the United States
The Need for Government Reform
While the health care sector can do its part to reduce people's exposure to hazardous chemicals, government policies must also be reformed. Due to weak laws, chemical companies do not provide basic health and safety data for the majority of chemicals on the market. Even with clear evidence of harm, it is extremely difficult to stop the use of a chemical.
To protect public health, laws must be changed to require better health data on chemicals, to eliminate the worst chemicals and untested chemicals, to protect communities at highest risk and to provide incentives for the development of new safer chemicals.
Forward-thinking legislators and governments are already moving in this direction.
European Union's REACH
The European Union has adopted a major law that regulates chemicals, called REACH — for Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals. REACH requires manufacturers to provide health and safety data for tens of thousands of chemicals, and will move the market toward safer alternatives.
You can find more information about REACH at the Louisville Charter website and from the World Wildlife Fund.
Efforts to Reform Policies in the United States
Similar reform efforts are under way in the U.S. At the national level, the Kid's Safe Chemicals Act has been introduced by Senator Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey.
Civic organizations in the U.S. have endorsed a roadmap for chemicals policy reform called the Louisville Charter. The Charter outlines consensus principles to change our chemicals management system so that it protects workers, communities and the most vulnerable.
At the state level, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon and Washington have introduced legislation to phase out some of the most dangerous chemicals. For example:
- In Washington State, there is an Executive Order to phase out persistent bioaccumulative toxins (PBTs). Also, there is a state rule that establishes a list of PBTs, criteria for identifying and listing other PBTs, and a process for developing phase-out action plans.
- In Maine the Governor recently signed an Executive Order that establishes a task force to promote safer chemicals in consumer products. It also recommends a comprehensive state-level chemicals policy and increased investments in green chemistry. It improves state purchasing and public education on persistent toxic chemicals and pesticides. (pdf)
For updates on state efforts to reform chemical policies, see the Safer States website.
- Chemical Policy Principles: Letter to Obama Administration
- Common Substances in Hospitals May Cause Asthma: HCWH report (pdf) Read the press release
- EWG Survey links chemical exposures on the job to diseases in nurses
Environmental Working Group website
- Europe's Rules Forcing US Firms to Clean Up
Unwilling to surrender sales, companies struggle to meet the EU's tough stand on toxics (LA Times article)
- Healthy Business Strategies for Transforming the Toxic Chemical Economy (pdf)
- REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals)
Learn about EU's REACH Law
- Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) website
- US state-level reform efforts
The state of Maine seeks to ban bisphenol-A (BPA) as the first "priority chemical" in their Kids-Safe Product Act
- US Kid-Safe Chemicals Act
- What does Chemical Contamination Cost Health Care? download pdf or view web presentation