Thursday, September 20

Congress should protect the public, not polluters


Congress should protect the public, not polluters

By Rahul Krishnaswamy

It can lead to hypertension, strokes, various forms of cancer,
disrupted hormone balance, heart disease and even IQ deficits. What
is this nasty culprit? These afflictions can be caused by toxins
found in the tap water we drink, bathe in and cook with every
day.

Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
estimate that nearly one million Americans become sick and 900 die
each year from drinking contaminated tap water. Studies have linked
waterborne toxins to rising rates of breast and prostate cancer,
low sperm counts and weakened immune systems. And those most
vulnerable in our population ­ e.g. infants and children,
pregnant women, the sick, the elderly and the low income ­ are
the most likely to be affected by drinking contaminated water.

Despite these facts, this past May the U.S. Senate voted to
weaken the current health standards of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The Senate’s bill would allow more cancer-causing chemicals in our
drinking water, weaken health protection from lead in water and
reduce citizens’ right to sue to enforce the law.

To top it off, an April survey revealed that 88 percent of
Congress members purchase bottled water for their offices, most at
taxpayer expense!

The good news is that the public seems to understand far better
than the politicians that our tap water must be safe. A June Times
Mirror poll indicated that 76 percent of the public thought that
our laws fighting water pollution had not gone far enough.

Because of grassroots pressure for the last three months, last
week the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a
stronger version of the Safe Drinking Water Act (H.R. 3392). The
bill maintains the standards in current law and makes several
modest improvements, including expanded right-to-know, bottled
water standards and protection for vulnerable populations.

The bills now go to conference committee where members of the
House and Senate will fight over the differences in the next few
weeks. And you can bet they will receive lots of pressure from the
polluters.

In order to ensure the safety of our tap water, we must send a
strong message to our representatives that we expect them to
protect the interest of the public, not the polluters, by
strengthening standards for our drinking water. Buying bottled
water is not the solution. Demanding more responsive representation
is.

Write a letter to your Congress member and Senator, get your
friends to write letters, and join CALPIRG’s Campaign for Safe
Drinking Water (stop by Bruin Walk for more information). We have
the fundamental right to turn on the tap and know our water is
safe, but it’s a right we must fight for.

Rahul Krishnaswamy, a junior microbiology and anthropology
student, is a member of CALPIRG. CALPIRG is a statewide
environmental and consumer group funded and directed by
students.

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