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House Passes Toxic Right-to-know Amendment
Written by: OMD Watch

WASHINGTON, May 22--Amid contentious debate over its version of the Interior Appropriations Bill, the House of Representatives took an important stand for the environment and the public's right to know about toxic pollution. Last Thursday, the House voted to accept the Pallone-Solis Toxic Right-To-Know amendment that shuts down plans by the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce reporting of toxic pollution under the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program.

By a vote of 231 to 187, the House passed the Pallone-Solis amendment. Forty-eight Republicans voted with 182 Democrats and one Independent in support of the amendment, while 15 Democrats voted with 172 Republicans against it.

"Lawmakers have sent a clear message to the EPA that they and their constituents value the public's right to know about toxic pollution," stated Sean Moulton, director of federal information policy for OMB Watch. "The EPA's attempts to rollback reporting on toxic pollution are unacceptable to so many Americans and their representatives have expressed that with their vote."

OMB Watch, U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) and a multitude of organizations and individuals around the country worked in recent weeks to generate support for the amendment, including public health officials, state agencies, emergency responders, workers, environmentalists, and ordinary citizens.

"By rejecting EPA's proposed rollbacks, the House recognized that our right-to-know about toxic pollution is fundamental and must not be eroded," said U.S. PIRG staff attorney Alex Fidis. "The question now is whether EPA will listen to the House and the 113,000 public comments submitted in opposition to the agency's imprudent rollbacks."

A May 17 letter to members of the House from 196 organizations expressed support for the Pallone-Solis Toxic Right-To-Know Amendment, explaining that "[the EPA's changes would make it more difficult for citizens to track toxic pollution in their neighborhoods and take steps to reduce the impact on their family's health." Among the national organizations signing the letter were the American Nurses Association, AFL-CIO, American Lung Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, American Public Health Association, and Sierra Club.

In 1986, Congress created the TRI in response to the chemical disaster at a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India that killed thousands. For nearly 20 years, the TRI has been an essential tool in alerting communities, workers, first responders, and public health officials to the presence of toxic chemicals and has provided critical assistance in dealing with highly hazardous situations. The TRI, for instance, played a critical role in identifying toxic chemicals in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Last October, the EPA proposed to allow companies to: (1) release ten times more toxic chemicals before detailed reporting is required; (2) withhold information on the disposal of Persistent Bioaccumulative Toxins (PBTs), like lead and mercury; and (3) report every other year, instead of annually. The Pallone-Solis Toxic Right-to-Know Amendment prevents the EPA from making any of these three changes, by barring the agency from spending any more money on the changes.

OMB Watch: http://www.ombwatch.org/article/articleview/3439/1/192?TopicID=5


Hard Rock's cleaning up -- on mold

Mold has caused one store at the Hard Rock to shut down. And a restaurant -- in the midst of renovations -- discovered it had mold problems, too.



A beauty store and a restaurant at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino complex near Hollywood are battling ugly mold problems -- so severe that seven of the boutique's employees have gotten sick.

The beauty store, The Body Shop, shut its doors for renovations July 5.

The restaurant, Tequila Ranch, whose kitchen shares the wall where the Body Shop has its ceiling-to-floor mold problem, closed for renovations on July 17.

Nance D'Agostino, assistant manager of The Body Shop, which sells natural skin and bath products, said that she and six other employees have become sick from the mold the store has had since March 2005.

Neglect and, later, improper cleaning treatments, just made the problem worse, she said.

''We have all suffered from a combination of headaches, skin rashes, sore throats, respiratory infections, body aches, nausea and eye irritation,'' said D'Agostino, who, along with other employees, has been relocated to other Body Shops in Miami-Dade and Broward while work is completed at the store.

D'Agostino said she has suffered three respiratory infections. She and her fellow employees, who work less than 35 hours a week, do not qualify for health benefits. They are seeking workers' compensation through their attorney, Brooke Perez.

D'Agostino and another employee told The Miami Herald that their complaints about a mold problem were ignored by Seminole Paradise general manager Albert Mulet until a mold remediation specialist inspected the store on June 29 and said it was an unhealthy place to work.

Seminole Paradise workers broke into the back wall of the store this spring and unearthed a grisly sight, D'Agostino said.


''The mold takes up the entire back of the store -- from floor to ceiling,'' D'Agostino said. ``It is thick, black, smelly and has drawn tiny insects.''

The mold is also in the store's ventilation system, she said.

Julie Katz, spokeswoman for Seminole Paradise, which oversees the retail stores that are part of the casino complex, confirmed that there is a mold problem and that it is in the process of being corrected.

Mulet refused to comment.

And Larry Carino, spokesman for Tequila Ranch, stressed the restaurant did not close because of a mold problem.

''We had planned to do renovations to expand our restaurant months ago,'' he said. ``It was only last week when we knocked down a wall in our kitchen area that we became aware that we had mold.''


Unlike The Body Shop, there have been no reports of any employee or patron of Tequila Ranch becoming sick because of mold exposure.

Carino expects Tequila Ranch to reopen in mid-August.

The Body Shop might reopen sometime next month, D'Agostino said.

Seth Norman, spokesman for the Walled Lake, Michigan-based National Association of Mold Professionals, said that daily, prolonged inhalation of mold spores can cause health problems.

''All mold spores can cause upper respiratory problems, stuffy noses and lung congestion,'' said Norman, who said the symptoms experienced by The Body Shop employees are typical of mold exposure.

But Norman cautioned that employees who are pregnant, undergoing chemotherapy, or are HIV positive could face a variety of health complications.


The good news? Customers who shopped at the store -- even when mold conditions were at their heaviest -- are likely OK, he said.

The process of renovating an establishment that has a mold problem can take days or weeks, depending on the severity, he said.

''The store has to be completely sealed off, the air has to be contained, exteriors have to be removed, and the interiors have to be treated,'' he said.

Michael Bloom, president of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, said there is no evidence of mold anywhere else in the complex.