As the US government considers overhauling a 35-year-old policy on toxic chemicals, 34 religious groups have released interfaith and Christian principles to guide chemical policy reform.
"Our current national chemical policy has not sufficiently protected human bodies, God's creation, or 'the least of these,'" said Cassandra Carmichael, the director of the National Council of Churches' (NCCUSA) Washington DC office.
"In fact, only 200 of the 84,000 chemicals in commerce have been fully tested for safety," she said in a statement released by the NCCUSA.
If passed, the Safe Chemicals Act, introduced in April 2010 by Senator Frank Lautenberg (Democrat-New Jersey), would require safety testing of all industrial chemicals and puts the burden on industry to prove that chemicals are safe in order to stay on the market.
Among the groups joining in the call for reform are the National Council of Churches, the Reformed Action Center and GreenFaith. Both the interfaith statement, which carries 900 signatures, and the Christian statement, with 1,800 signatures, express concern that toxic chemicals jeopardise vulnerable populations such as people of colour, children and pregnant women.
"While everyone is exposed to some risk from toxic chemicals, communities of colour and poor communities have far more toxic dump sites and toxic consumer products," said the Rev Fletcher Harper, GreenFaith's executive director and an Episcopal priest. "The world's religions affirm our duty to protect the most vulnerable. We need a chemical policy that offers this kind of protection."
Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, said, "It is our duty to protect all of God's people, especially the poorest among us who are most affected by the release of these toxic chemicals."
The National Council of the Churches' 37 member communions represent 45 million people in a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches.
The Religious Action Center is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism. For 50 years, it has been the hub of Jewish social justice and legislative activity in the US capital, educating and mobilising the Reform Jewish community on legislative and social concerns.
GreenFaith is an interfaith environmental coalition whose mission is to educate, inspire, equip and empower diverse religious communities for environmental leadership. It helps people of diverse faiths put their beliefs into action for the earth.
[With acknowledgements to ENInews. ENInews, formerly Ecumenical News International, is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]