Coalition Calls on Governor to Protect Consumers
Environmental, Labor and Consumer Advocates Call on Gov. Schwarzenegger to Honor His Pledge to Protect Californians
and Our Environment
**For Immediate Release for Thursday, August 3, 2006**
For more information: Jessica Nusbaum, firstname.lastname@example.org
Concerns Raised as State Agency Releases Flawed Draft Environmental
Report Proposing Expanded Use of Potentially Hazardous Plastics in Homes
Groups assert agency’s actions an example of the building industry’s undue
influence over construction policy
SACRAMENTO ‘ A group of environmental, labor, and consumer advocates
expressed serious concerns today about a state agency’s plans to expand
the use of potentially dangerous plastics in California’s homes,
schools and office buildings and questioned the scientific validity of
the agency’s draft environmental report on one of the products. They
called on Governor Schwarzenegger to uphold his pledge to put
Californians and the environment first and urge the agency to withdraw
its proposals ‘ which could expose millions of Californians to building
materials known to leach toxics into drinking water, rupture
prematurely and spread fires more quickly.
Earlier this week, Housing and Community Development, the state agency
that adopts building code and land use policy, announced its intention
to weaken health and safety requirements in the state’s Building
Standards Code when it comes up for a tri-annual review this fall.
Government documents obtained through a California Public Records Act
request and a newly released environmental impact report (EIR) both
indicate that the agency will try to remove restrictions on the use of
several dangerous plastic pipe building materials.
Environmental, labor, fire safety and consumer advocates oppose these
products because of evidence that they may leach toxics into drinking
water, rupture prematurely, increase the risk of fire in homes, are not
recyclable, and harm workers who manufacture and install these
products. Nonetheless, the building industry has lobbied aggressively
for the policy change for years, in part because these cheaper
materials increase builder profits. The homeowner typically pays the
price for the building industry’s corner cutting later.
"We urge Governor Schwarzenegger to put Californians first," said
Tim Frank of the Sierra Club. "We’re optimistic that once the Governor
understands what’s at stake for the people of California, he’ll do the
Spokespeople from Planning and Conservation League, Consumer Federation of
California, Center for Environmental Health and the California State Pipe Trades Council were on hand for the announcement.
"In terms of fire safety, allowing the use of these plastics would
create a significant new danger for Californians," the California
Professional Firefighters acknowledged in a submitted statement. "These
plastics make fires spread more quickly, giving us less time to save
families from burning homes and buildings."
The groups voiced particular concern about HCD’s environmental impact
report (EIR) on CPVC plastic released earlier this week. Studies
conducted by UC Berkeley laboratories for the State of California have
found that when used in construction pipes, CPVC can leach toxic
chemicals that may cause cancer in humans into drinking water. Studies
also show that during installation CPVC solvent glues emit significant
pollutants that contribute to California’s already terrible air
quality. Despite these dangers, the Schwarzenegger administration tried
to push through statewide approval of CPVC pipes
last summer without conducting the legally-required environmental
impact report. The groups successfully demanded that the administration
fulfill its legal responsibility to conduct an EIR, and the
long-awaited draft was released on Tuesday, August 1.
According to advocates, however, several significant deficiencies and
sources of bias in the EIR call its validity into question. While EIRs
are normally paid for by the product manufacturer, HCD is funding the
study entirely with taxpayer dollars. In developing the EIR, HCD
conducted no original scientific
research or analysis, but rather relied upon informal consultations
with plastics manufacturers.
Additionally, while credible EIRs rely on impartial scientists to
evaluate a project’s potential impacts, a lawyer for the agency with no
experience in plastics hazards wrote the entire EIR based on little
more than industry input.
"This environmental impact report has the scientific integrity of
President Bush’s global warming policy," said Gary Patton, Executive
Director of the Planning and Conservation League.
The coalition also expressed concern that HCD plans to pursue statewide
approval of two other types of hazardous plastics through the Building
Standards Code revision. In direct violation of a court order, HCD is
proposing the approval of PEX without an EIR, and is also proposing
removing a restriction on the use of ABS plastics, which are currently
allowed only in buildings two stories or less because they accelerate
the spread of fire, making them unsafe for use in taller buildings.
"The way this state agency is pushing potentially hazardous plastics
when we all know the harm they can cause is among the clearest and most
troubling indications of the building industry’s undue influence on
HCD," said Zack Kaldveer, communications specialist at the Consumers Federation of
Kaldveer noted that both Lynne Jacobs and Lucetta Dunn, the current and
previous directors of HCD, were industry insiders and leaders of the
Building Industry Association when Schwarzenegger appointed them to
head the agency.
As the Schwarzenegger administration pushes for expanded use of these
toxic home products, recent reports in newspapers such as the San
Francisco Chronicle have documented the failures and ruptures of these
plastic pipes, including ABS. And USA Today reported recently that the
nationwide trend is to
reduce or eliminate toxic, unsustainable building materials and replace
them with recyclable, ‘greener’ and healthier alternatives.
Michael Green of the Center for Environmental Health summed up the
coalition’s concerns: "from leaching toxic chemicals and rupturing
prematurely to spreading fires more quickly, these plastics are
dangerous for Californians and the environment. Plastic pipes only make
sense for builders looking to
maximize profits through cheap and fast construction, not for the
millions of Californians that have to live with the consequences."
"We hope that the Department of Housing and Community Development will
reconsider these proposals," said Ted Reed, Executive Director of the
California State Pipe Trades Council, which represents the plumbers who
would be charged with installing the products. "angerous, unrecylable
plastics should be reduced or eliminated from our homes, schools and
workplaces, particularly where proven, safer alternatives exist."