Keynote Address at AIHce Calls for Support of Chemicals Policy Reform

Michael P. Wilson, PhD, MPH

Michael Wilson's keynote address to the 4,200 attendees of the American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exhibition (AIHce) called on members to join in the effort to rewrite the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976.

"TSCA reform is critical to protecting worker health, and it's highly relevant to the science and practice of industrial hygiene," said Wilson, director of the UC Berkeley Labor Occupational Health Program and Associate Director of the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry.

He told members that, "TSCA reform has the potential to motivate companies to 'design out' many of the hazardous properties of chemicals," and that "in doing so, the U.S. can retain a robust industrial chemical industry capable of responding to the growing global demand for safer chemicals and products."

The Toxic Substances Control Act covers 82,000 chemicals in commerce and 74 billion pounds of chemicals produced or imported into the United States each day, according to Wilson. Only about 1,000 of these are regulated by U.S. statutes, leaving businesses, government and the public in the dark about the potential health and environmental effects of the great majority of chemicals in commercial use.1

Wilson told AIHce attendees that weaknesses in the TSCA are the primary reason industrial hygienists lack the hazard and exposure information needed to identify safer alternatives for workers and communities.

As part of his address, Wilson worked with the AIHA Stewardship and Sustainability Committee in drafting a policy statement, calling on the U.S. Congress to implement critical reforms of TSCA. That Statement is now under revision and, if successful, will join those of other key health organizations, including APHA, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.  On the other hand, Wilson warned, if AIHA members decide to steer clear of the reform effort, "we are going to be back here in 10-15 years saying the same things were saying today."

By engaging in changing what Wilson called a "root cause" of worker morbidity and mortality in the United States, "the effort to rewrite TSCA is an historical opportunity for public health as well as for the industrial hygiene profession to experience new energy and growth."

Wilson is a graduate of the Industrial Hygiene Program at Berkeley's School of Public Health.

1 Wilson M and Schwarzman M. 2009. Toward a New U.S. Chemicals Policy: Rebuilding the Foundation to Advance New Science, Green Chemistry, and Environmental Health. Env  Health Persp 177(8) 1202-1209.

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