Interfaith Statement for Chemical Policy Reform
(Find a printable pdf version of the statement and faith teachings here)
The Problem: Toxic Chemicals Threaten Life on Earth
Toxic chemicals enter and harm our bodies, plants and animals, and natural systems through air and water pollution, and chemicals in household products including cleaners, personal care products, plastic food and drink containers, textiles, and children’s toys. Yet these chemicals are poorly understood and inadequately regulated. The U.S. Government Accountability Office found that only 200 of the more than 80,000 registered industrial chemicals have been tested . Existing chemical policies fail to protect the web of Creation, including the human community.
While all people are at risk, some are more vulnerable. Communities of color and low-income communities suffer disproportionately from pollution caused by current and past industrial activity, waste disposal , heavily-traveled transportation routes, and consumer products containing toxic chemicals. Researchers also warn that toxic chemicals negatively impact children, expectant mothers, and workers. Chemical workers suffer from chemical exposures because of the lack of public data on chemicals they use, unsafe workplaces, and lax enforcement of regulations.
As religious leaders and people of faith and conscience from diverse traditions, we affirm that reforming current chemical policies is vital to protecting people and life on God’s Earth.
Our Shared Call: Four Religious Values
The world’s faith traditions share values which serve as a foundation for ethical decision-making regarding toxic chemicals. Four core values shared by the world’s great traditions are as follows:
- All life is to be respected.
- People of faith must ensure that air, water, and land – which belong to the Divine - sustain life on Earth.
- Society owes justice and care to its most vulnerable people and communities, and to future generations
- Our faith traditions call us to protect and promote the health of the human body.
This statement contains references to religious teachings that reflect these shared values. Sadly, existing chemical policies fail to respect these values.
The Principles: Strong Toxic Policies to Sustain All Life
Government policy on chemicals can and should protect people and all life on Earth. Chemical legislation should:
Protect People and All Life on Earth
- Remove the most dangerous chemicals, such as chemicals that persist, bioaccumulate, or are acutely toxic (PBTs), from use except when no safe alternative is available.
- Hold companies accountable for demonstrating that chemicals are safe.
Protect Vulnerable Populations
- Reduce the disproportionate burden of chemical exposure placed on workers, low-income people, people of color, indigenous communities, pregnant women, and children, and other vulnerable groups.
- Expand government biomonitoring, particularly in at-risk communities, to measure people’s toxic exposure.
- Invest in research to understand and protect children’s health from chemical harm.
- Provide chemical health and safety information to workers and the public.
Promote a Sustainable, Healthy Economy
- Fund “green” chemistry and engineering research to create safer chemicals and industrial processes.
- Promote a “green” economy that will allow all life to flourish and bring green jobs to low-income communities and communities of color.
For examples see President’s Cancer Panel. Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Know and What We Can Do. Letfall, LD and Kripke, M. May 2010, ;Environmental Working Group. Body Burden: A Benchmark Investigation of Industrial Chemicals, Pollutants, and Pesticides in Human Umbilical Cord Blood., 2004; Christiansen S, M Scholze, M Dalgaard, AM Vinggaard, M. Axelstad, A. Kortenkamp and U. Hass. Synergistic disruption of external male sex organ development by a mixture of four antiandrogens. Environmental Health Perspectives doi:10.1289/ehp.0900689. September 2009; California Environmental Protection Agency Department of Toxic Substances Control. PBDE Levels in Falcon Egg Studies Highest Ever., May 2008.