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OCTOBER 10, 2003
1:29 PM
CONTACT:  Women's Foundation of California
Maya Thornell 415-837-1113 ext. 303
New Women's Foundation Report on Environmental Contamination in California
SAN FRANCISCO - October 10 - New Women's Foundation Report on Environmental Contamination in California Shows Disproportionate Impact on Women's Health.

PRESS CONFERENCE, OCTOBER 14, 2003 - 1:00 - 2:00 PM

Governor's Press Room, State Capital - Room 1190, Sacramento

By influence of female body composition and metabolism women bear the brunt of contamination. The consequences are manifested in their health and the health of their loved ones.

These findings are in a new report by the Women's Foundation of California titled - Confronting Toxic Contamination in Our Communities: Women's Health and California's Future. The Foundation's goal is to increase community awareness of documented health and safety risks to California families from long-term, multiple chemical exposures and make policy and regulatory recommendations using a "First Do No Harm" approach.

Some key findings highlighted in the report:

* Women on average have a two to 10 percent higher proportion of body fat and naturally store more fat-soluble toxic materials, even when exposed to the same amount as men.

* Women of reproductive age transfer a lifetime of accumulated toxins to their fetuses in utero and to their newborns through breast milk. The chemical concentrations passed on to newborns are 10 to 40 times greater than the daily exposures of an adult. During pregnancy, chemicals cross the placenta and may disrupt fetal development; resulting in serious health affects that may not be evident until a child reaches puberty or adulthood.

* Nearly two-thirds of women indicated that they alone were responsible for health care decisions for their family, and 83% had sole or shared responsibility for financial decisions regarding their family's health.

"In this state we are part of a social movement to reclaim our health and the environment," said Patti Chang, President and CEO of the Women's Foundation of California. "The Foundation believes that the right to exist in a non-polluted environment is a basic human right. We want to ensure that the health of all Californians remains a high priority on the policy agenda, especially for those disproportionately impacted - low income women and women of color."

In California, as reported in the 2000 Toxic Release Inventory, 75.6 million pounds of chemicals were released into the environment by 1,442 facilities around the state. An estimated 85,000 synthetic chemicals are registered for use today in the United States, the majority of these chemicals have never been tested for their impact on human health.

The Foundation makes the following five recommendations in the report:

1. Adopt a 'First Do No Harm' approach Manufacturers, corporations, builders and developers should aspire to prevent or minimize harm to humans and the environment. We should no longer wait for harm to appear but take action before irrevocable damage has been done.

2. Improve research and data collection. Encourage government agencies and research organizations to support research that examines the role of gender in environmental exposure; expand efforts to monitor human exposure to toxic chemicals and their long-term impacts; and fund research that traces the health impacts of exposures to multiple chemicals.

3. Promote Safer Alternatives. Prevail on governments and businesses to ensure that less harmful, healthier alternatives are accessible and affordable to low-income women and their communities. Support research into non-toxic or less-toxic alternatives to current harmful chemicals.

4. Support Policy Advocacy and Collaboration Across Sectors. Convene and fund organizations that have historically been focused on single issues to join forces in understanding and acting on environmental health issues and drive toward solutions.

5. Manufacturers and Government Must Assume Leadership to Create Healthier Solutions and Clean Up Existing Contamination. Today, taxpayers are bearing an increased burden of toxic clean-up costs. Taxpayers' resources should be invested in implementing and enforcing existing environmental laws and helping to support healthier choices. Manufacturers and industrial users of chemicals should assume responsibility for -as well as pay the costs of - environmental cleanup and take part in crafting healthy solutions.

Developed by the Women's Foundation of California though the Foundation's Initiatives Forum, the report is a collaborative effort between the Foundation and an 18-member steering committee of researchers, community members and issue experts. The report is the first time a foundation, organization, or policy institute has looked at environmental health issues through a gender lens. On October 15, the Foundation will host a Summit at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco to release a Bay Area supplement to the report, co-sponsored by the San Francisco Foundation.

The Women's Foundation of California is the oldest and largest philanthropic fund for women in the western United States, having made $13 million in grants to more than 1,000 community -based organizations in every region of the state since its founding in 1979. Our mission is to serve as a voice and advocate for the needs of women and girls, to provide funding and technical assistance, and to convene for dialogue and collaboration.


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