Interfaith Groups Speak Out on National Chemical Regulatory Reform

Texas Impact joins with faith groups across the country in calling for strong protections

AUSTIN—Interfaith advocacy network Texas Impact today joined with colleague organizations across the nation in issuing an “Interfaith Statement for Chemical Policy Reform.” The statement was drafted by the National Council of Churches in collaboration with the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and interfaith state-level advocacy organizations including GreenFaith, Texas Impact, and others. It calls for national chemical legislation that protects human life and vulnerable populations and that promotes a sustainable and healthy economy. The statement’s positions are based on shared religious values that include respect for all life and justice and care for all people, including vulnerable populations and future generations.

Amanda Robinson, Coordinator of Texas Impact’s environmental program Texas Interfaith Power & Light, said, “The world’s great religious traditions agree on our shared responsibility to care for people and care for the environment—and in chemical policy, these areas of care converge.  Toxic chemicals can be harmful to both people and the environment.”

Reverend Tom Heger, pastor of San Antonio’s Beacon Hill Presbyterian Church and a Texas Impact board member, said, “If you saw a child playing with matches, you’d do something.  Our children are – often unknowingly – playing with things far more dangerous than matches because those things are made from toxic chemicals. Our calling as people of faith is to care for God’s fragile creation.  This commitment is central to our urgent work of identifying and eliminating dangerous toxic substances, thus keeping them out of the mouths of babes.”

The Interfaith Statement is being released as Congress prepares to consider legislation to reform the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that was developed to regulate the safety of industrial chemicals. Originally 62,000 chemicals were grandfathered in and another 20,000 have been introduced to the market in the last 30 years. Under TSCA, the EPA has only tested 200 chemicals of the more than 80,000 for safety, and has banned only five classes of chemicals. Texas Congressmen Joe Barton, Michael Burgess, Charles Gonzalez, Gene Green, and Ralph Hall serve on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce that is handling the bill.

There are rising concerns among the scientific community and the public about toxic chemicals in products that Americans use everyday—from baby bottles and children’s toys to canned tomatoes and carpet fibers.

Amanda Quraishi, a member of Austin’s Muslim Community, said, “I think it is an ethical and moral imperative for average consumers to be informed on what we are buying and putting into our bodies. As a parent I feel an even greater responsibility to choose healthy foods and products for my children. I tend to support and buy from companies that identify, classify, and test their products for personal and environmental safety. Ideally, this kind of transparency would be the norm.”

The interfaith statement outlines four core religious values shared by the world’s great religious traditions that serve as a foundation for ethical decision-making regarding toxic chemicals: respect for life, human responsibility, justice for the most vulnerable, and care for the human body. The statement details specific teachings from the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist traditions that relate to the protection of human life, vulnerable populations and ecological balance. Gaelyn Godwin, Roshi, Zen Buddhist priest in Houston said, “We are just beginning to understand how deeply interconnected we all are. Every action we take has a profound effect on the entire web of life. We must recognize the power of every action, every inaction, and join with all of creation to take responsibility for our shared life together.”