EPA Under Attack

April 1st, 2011

I’m not a big fan of mass petitions because most agencies will not count multiple signatories using a standard, suggested text. In many cases, identical letters are counted as a single submission but many disabled, ‘armchair activists’ can’t do more than press a few keys to express our wishes. To you, I commend even that effort.

Of course, we know that the level of sales for certain products like pesticides is far too great to be influenced by public opinion. Sales in 2007 reached 12.5 billion dollars in the US market share alone. Mere signatures are highly unlikely to sway such a lucrative business. Researchers, physicians and consumer have long recognized that the science of pesticides is divorced from the technology when it comes to non-agricultural applications. Science is the guiding wisdom for technological breakthroughs. After all, you don’t need an atom bomb to kill an ant, just because you happen to have one handy!

We desperately need an industry devoted to indoor pest control which doesn’t merely transplant farm chemicals to our urban spaces because they already exist. It is up to us to request/pressure industry to diversify in such a direction. The costs of treating illnesses connected with older technologies intended for farming is a heavy and unnecessary burden upon us.

It won’t happen for the asking. Just ask Representative Suzanne Smith of the New Hampshire legislature that has twice been unable to get a bill through their state legislature to reconsider their current policies for pest control in the schools. This mirrors the national barriers which permitted a federal bill to pass in the senate; all fully understood it would not be released for a floor vote in the house. Such bills are intended to both limit the use of the most toxic pesticides in school buildings and permit advance notice to be granted interested parties. The EPA is unable to intervene in such matters unless the pesticide in use is illegal or applied by unlicensed parties. Communities need to plan on how to be better consumers rather than assuming industry regulations can or would be passed by this or any other congress. It isn’t about jobs because the sick don’t work. It’s about quality employment producing products which are used wisely, with full knowledge of our needs and risks.

The EPA expects consumers to intervene on their own behalves, as per their advice to me when I became disabled in 1999. The problem is that I have been unable to do so, a process detailed elsewhere on this blog. One needs a lawyer to take it entirely through the process instead of counting upon a quick settlement. One needs to take the risks attendant upon pointing out defects of industries. I have been advised not to write about these subjects or speak of poisoning, in favor of terms like ‘chemical sensitivity’. This isn’t about regulating agriculture or denying industry their successes. It is about returning capitalism to the ‘trickle-up’ nature of its essence. Buyers are supposed to make the decisions about which products succeed or fail in the market place.

Now the authority of the EPA to regulate pollution may be discarded as part of the price of achieving a budget resolution to avoid a governmental shutdown. We have to ask ourselves if industry actually fails to benefit from reducing pollution over the long haul. Worker productivity is much reduced through increasing rates of illness and disability. Learning abilities are declining with the high numbers of children being identified as having such disabilities and adult onset ADD is being increasingly documented. Of course, such concerns compete with absolute figures and represent an investment in the global community. Industry may or may not be willing to make that investment.

We can refuse to purchase commodities that don’t reflect such intentions. It remains in our hands.

Here is the petition being sent around the internet from the Sierra Club regarding this subject. It notes that EPA powers have nothing to do with the budget resolution issue and therefore should not be a category of governmental efforts which should be held hostage to the need to pass a budget.

My comments were as follows and do include some of the suggested text of that website:

I am extremely grateful to the EPA for investigating a complaint I made in 2000 regarding pesticide use at my school, an event described in my blog called Armchair Activist. However, I have since been disappointed in many of the areas in which they lack the authority (never mind funding) to effect change.

I’m deeply disappointed to hear that you are considering sacrificing EPA pollution safeguards to strike a budget deal with House Republicans. As a former teacher, I know that asthma is the biggest cause of lost school days and the fourth largest cause of lost work days among adults. When pollution-induced cardiac and respiratory disorders leave workers disabled and ill, the costs are underwritten by the public at large.

Universal health care ought to be a shared benefit among all individuals and not the default setting for corporate relief from retaining employees over the long haul. Disability insurance was not meant to be a corporate retirement benefit. People ought to arrive at social security benefits after a long, productive working life.

I urge you to stand up to polluters and just say “no” to Congressional attempts to handcuff the EPA and put our health at risk. Several ways in which their intervention can help us all are listed at my blog in a post directed to Lisa Jackson and another to Senator Lautenberg.

I am counting on you to reject the strong-arm tactics of big polluters and their allies in Congress to dismantle clean air protections.

Barbara Rubin

Categories: Letters

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