Local Group Leads Charge To Limit "Harmful Substances," a/k/a What Houston Is Known For

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If you like the idea of lower health care costs and are not one of the twisted few who are philosophically opposed to breathing cleaner air, there's a good chance you'll be excited to know that there's an effort underway to update the federal policies which govern toxic chemicals.

Earlier today, the Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention announced that it is leading the charge in Texas to help revise the federal Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. The local organization is partnering with a national policy group called Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, which today released an analysis

showing that exposure to chemicals is contributing to the rise of chronic diseases and the subsequent rise of health care costs.

The goal of updating the act is to prevent some toxic chemicals, which are currently used to make household items, from harming people and causing a raft of varying diseases, such as cancer, autism, Parkinson's and asthma, and by doing so lowering health care costs as well.

"Reform of the act is finally going to make sure that all the chemicals we put in consumer products are safe," says Matthew Tejada, executive director of GHASP. "But since so many of those chemicals are produced and stored and shipped around the Houston area, it's going to make it that much safer around here. We'll get a double health benefit. People won't have to worry as much about the air they breathe because we're going to start taking out some of the ingredients in the toxic soup here."

Tejada says that studies show that reforming the act will save Texas $400 million in health care costs, and the will save the country as a whole about $5 billion.

It is expected that U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and U.S. Representative Bobby Rush of Illinois, both Democrats, will introduce bills to Congress early this year to get the ball rolling. In a lengthy process, members will then go through the act line by line looking for places for safety and health reform, relying in part on input from the EPA, which has made this issue a priority.

Tejada sees his organization's role in Texas as educating the public.

"This could easily be misunderstood in Houston as government over-reaching its bounds and too much regulation," he says. "But this is not too much regulation. It's just modernizing and doing a good job at regulation. Most of the laws were put on the books in the '60s and '70s, and we've just left it because no one has had the will or the energy to go back and look at it again. It will make Houston so much safer and cleaner."

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