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AFT Resolutions

TOXIC SUBSTANCE CONTROL ACT REFORM: AN URGENT NEED

WHEREAS, more than 80,000 chemicals are currently in commercial use in the United States. Every year, 1,500 new chemicals are introduced into manufacturing and commercial processes. Little is known about the short-term and long-term impact of these chemicals alone or in mixtures on human health and well-being; and

WHEREAS, in the United States, 3 percent of children born in the U.S. have a major birth defect; and

WHEREAS, developmental disabilities affect approximately 17 percent of children aged <18 years, resulting in substantial financial and social costs ; and

WHEREAS, in 2003, the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) Part B provided services to 680,142 children ages 3 through 5—a 38.3 percent growth in children served since 1993. In 2003, 6,046,051 students between ages 6 through 21 received special education services. This number represents 9.1 percent of the U.S. general population ages 6 through 21; and

WHEREAS, a growing body of evidence has found a link between prenatal and childhood environmental chemical exposure and cognitive deficits. For example, prenatal high-level methyl mercury exposure is associated with delayed developmental milestones and cognitive, motor, auditory and visual deficit; high-level prenatal exposure to polychlorinated bi-phenyls (PCBs), polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs), and related toxicants are associated with cognitive and motor deficits ; and

WHEREAS, the American Federation of Teachers supports the National Children's Study, which will examine the effects of environmental influences on the health and development of more than 100,000 children, following them from before birth until age 21. The goal of the study is to improve the health and well-being of children; and

WHEREAS, the Centers for Disease Control, National Center for Environmental Health Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals (2009) has identified measurable levels of several chemical environmental contaminants in representative blood and urine samples of U.S. citizens. For example, fire retardants (polybrominated diphenyl esters) were found in nearly all participants as were perfluorinated chemicals (many used to create heat-resistant nonstick cookware coatings). Bisphenol A or BPA, a component of epoxy resins, was found in more than 90 percent of urine samples. BPA may have potential reproductive toxicity; and

WHEREAS, vulnerable groups including children, pregnant women, racial and ethnic minorities and workers lack comprehensive workplace and environmental exposure protection to dangerous and persistent chemicals in everday use; and

WHEREAS, the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) has not been updated since its passage in 1976. TSCA has limited the EPA's authority to ban or significantly restrict chemical production and use in the U.S. Only one chemical (polychlorinated bi-phenyls) has been banned since 1976:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers support genuine reform of the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) with substantial changes to the existing law including:

  • Immediate action to reduce the public's exposure to the chemicals that pose the greatest threat to workers, children and communities; and
  • Requirements that chemical manufacturers publicly disclose information about health and environmental hazards and exposure paths on every chemical they make; and
  • Clear authority to the EPA to obtain any information necessary to evaluate chemical safety and to establish health and safety standards. EPA should assess chemicals using a health-based standard that explicitly requires protection of the most vulnerable among us, including children, workers, pregnant women, ethnic and racial minorities and low-income communities; and
  • Prioritizing the use of green chemistry and engineering that create inherently safer products and processes; the new law should provide public investment in basic and applied research and the production of safer alternatives, as well as training and transition support for workers and communities; and
  • Enforcement that ensures the "right to know" protection of whistleblowers and disclosure of ingredients; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT work in coalition with other key stakeholders including labor unions, the Blue-Green Alliance, environmental organizations and persons with disabilities to advocate for genuine TSCA reform.


(2010)