Appointing Scott Pruitt director of the Environmental Protection Agency has been a move in the wrong direction for our country. I’m a right-leaning, conservative former organized crime prosecutor—the most unlikely face to oppose the EPA’s direction.
I found out the hard way that our environment’s impact on human health has become a silent epidemic of the Twenty-First Century. After years of prosecuting hardcore criminals, I began to experience bizarre medical symptoms. Doctors suspected I’d been poisoned by the Mafia. The actual culprit was far more insidious. We discovered I wasn’t poisoned by a criminal, but by my office building.
My personal experience led me to discover that more people die from toxic exposure than all those affected by AIDS, war, and crime combined. I was shocked to discover that 75 million Americans become ill each year because of indoor air pollution (NIH) . 7 of every 10 cases of cancer are caused by environmental exposure (NIEHS), and, the health of over 90% of our world’s population is adversely affected by air pollution, creating a global emergency (WHO).
No one is immune to environmentally-linked disease, regardless of religion, income or ethnicity. We breathe the same air, drink the same water, eat the same food and are equally at risk in our own homes, schools, workplaces and neighborhoods.
Most Americans trust our government to protect us from toxic environmental exposures. A mother trusts that the shampoo used on her baby’s head and on the bed she sleeps in are safe. Yet, chemicals are pouring into our environment before they are proven safe. The powerful chemical lobby is fighting against regulation because it adversely affects their profits.
Pruitt’s EPA is already finding ways to speed up the chemical review process. That means more toxic chemicals will be released into your home, school, workplace and neighborhood.
As a prosecutor, I learned to obtain criminal convictions by following the money. Here’s what my investigation revealed: Our new EPA director, Mr. Pruitt, is a self-described leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda. As Oklahoma’s Attorney General from 2011 through 2016, he repeatedly sued the agency and other governmental entities over environmental rules and regulations, at times in direct cooperation with fossil fuel companies. Nearly half of the contributions given to a federal political action committee closely tied to Mr. Pruitt’s Attorney General campaign came from the energy industry, according to Federal Election Commission documents. And, after winning his election, Pruitt dissolved the Environmental Protection Unit in his Attorney General’s office. He’s now the fox in charge of guarding the EPA chicken coop.
Such a man in charge of our country’s policy is especially dangerous because of the way he plans to approve chemicals and push them into the marketplace, prioritizing profits over safety.
Since 1950, over 85,000 chemicals have been introduced into our environment. Few have been tested for their toxic effects on humans. More Americans die from toxic exposure than war, crime and AIDS combined. The NIH reports that 75 million Americans become ill each year because of indoor air pollution. And, 7 of every 10 cases of cancer are caused by environmental exposure. Moreover, according to the World Health Organization, the health of over 90% of our world’s population is adversely affected by air pollution, creating a global emergency.
The backlog of industry requests to the EPA to manufacture new chemicals has doubled from 331 to 658. Thus far, the EPA has allowed only 33 new chemicals to enter commerce since the law was amended. However, under Pruitt’s leadership, the EPA is now considering how to reinterpret the requirements of Toxic Substances Control Act, amended last June. The organization’s objective is to find ways to allow more chemicals into our lives. To date, chemical manufacturers have been required under the original and amended TSCA to submit a premanufacture notice to the EPA before they make, distribute or sell a new chemical in the U.S.
What’s new in the amended law is that the EPA must review that notice and make an affirmative finding before the new chemical can enter the marketplace. An affirmative finding by the EPA could conclude that the new chemical would not pose an unreasonable risk. The EPA also could find, for example, that a possible health or ecological risk was addressed through data the would-be manufacturer provided or the agency could place restrictions on. These TSCA amendments require the EPA to determine whether a new chemical’s conditions of use may present an unreasonable risk to potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations including infants, children, women of childbearing age and workers. Under the law, the EPA’s review must consider both intended and reasonably foreseen uses of new chemicals.
Pruitt’s EPA is trying to find ways to go around that 2016 law and circumvent it’s protective mechanisms in order to increase chemical industry profits. We can’t depend on industry to self police, given their financial incentives to look the other way. We can’t depend on doctors to cure us from environmentally-linked disease because many are incurable.
Yes, we should be concerned about global warming impacting future generations, and saving the whales, birds and trees. However, we also must save ourselves. We can take the power back by contacting our Congressmen to demand new legislation require industry to test chemicals and prove their safety before they’re introduced into the marketplace; by supporting non-toxic products; and by educating ourselves about safe alternatives. Now, more than ever, we must take back our own health.