Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Saturday vetoed SB 600, aimed at establishing a statewide program to track trace amounts of synthetic chemical pollutants in our bodies and study the relationship between exposure and health. It was among the last of the 961 bills from the 2005 legislative session the governor tackled.
"While the intent of the measure is worthy," Schwarzenegger said in his veto message, "the bill willonly provide a partial snapshot of chemicals present in tested participants without proper context of what the presence of (a) specific chemical means or how it interacts with other health factors."
The argument is boilerplate testimony from the chemical industry, which has steadfastly opposed the measure and successfully killed three previous attempts by Sen. Deborah Ortiz, D-Sacramento, to get the bill through the Legislature.
There likely will not be a fifth, advocates said Monday. But the push for more widespread biomonitoring the relatively new science of tracking what's in people, rather than the more traditional approach of what's in the air, soil, food and other items surrounding people will not soon disappear.
The federal government runs the nation's only program, tracking 148 contaminants such as plastic, PCBs, pesticides and other poisons in thousands of adults across the country.
Scientists here and abroad continue to find trace amounts of chemicals everywhere they look. A year-long investigation by this paper found flame retardants, plastics, even the chemical precursors of Teflon and Gore-Tex in all four members of an organic-eating Berkeley family, with the two pre-school-age children registering concentrations far higher than either parent for many compounds.
"Biomonitoring is not going away. It's going to become much more commonplace in the very near future," said Davis Baltz, program director for Bolinas-based Commonweal, which helped sponsor SB 600. "The governor has made ... an incredible blunder. But he's also beholden to some special interests, whom he has taken care of in this case."
On Friday and despite SB 600's veto the governor signed a measure tracking toxic chemicals in cosmetics. The California Safe Cosmetics Act, or Senate Bill 484, by Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, requires cosmetics manufacturers to notify the state of any product ingredients thought to cause cancer, reproductive harm or developmental defects.
Manufacturers opposed the measure, saying their products contain only trace amounts of such chemicals, particularly a class of compounds known as phthalates, and that such levels have so far shown no evidence of harm. Advocates said consumers had a right to know what is in their makeup and other personal care products.
This newspaper's special investigation on chemical pollutants, "A body's burden: Our chemical legacy," is available online at http://www.insidebayarea.com/bodyburden.
Contact Douglas Fischer at firstname.lastname@example.org.