Here is a little toxic love. For the past few weeks, as I wrote earlier I’ve been depressing my ecotoxicology students with the state of the, well, toxic state. So I was happy to learn about how individual states are now picking up the slack to protect their citizens. It’s true that states can set more stringent regulations than the federal government, but not less. Plenty of times in the past states have tightened up regulations.
Consider arsenic, the darling of poisoners over the centuries (my favorite is the so-called Wealthy Widows Club led by the enterprising Guilia Tofana). Today it is an all too common, most often naturally occurring contaminant in well water. Particularly here in the northeast in the states where the USGS estimates over 2 million of us are exposed to too much of the poison.
The USEPA has set what they call a Maximum Contaminant Level (what they consider safe enough) at 10 parts per million of arsenic in water. It used to be as high as 50, until 2006. But, they also have a thing called a Maximum Contaminant Level Goal, and that is zero. No arsenic. Meanwhile, New Jersey’s MCL is 5 parts per million. More protective than the EPA.
Arsenic is an even bigger problem in parts of southeast Asia, like Bangladesh – where decades ago, trying to do some good UNICEF drilled millions of wells to provide safe drinking water. A couple of decades later a rise in cancer, skin disease and other afflictions suggested the water was anything but safe. It was highly contaminated with arsenic and by then had poisoned tens of millions of people.
Anyway, if you want to feel like at least some politicians somewhere may actually care an inkling about our health, take a look at Safer States tracker site. At least for those of us living on either coast or a few states in between, it’s a hopeful thing. Especially given the current dismantling of the EPA, although many efforts have been ongoing, well before Darth Vader took over. On the other hand, pollutants don’t respect state lines (which is in part, why we even have federal standards.) But let’s not go there right now.
For more see this article about how 2018 Could be a big year for state-level toxics regulation by Brian Bienkowski.