WORLD FUTURE FUND
SPEECH OF SENATOR MITCHELL, MAJORITY LEADER, UNITED STATES SENATE
INTRODUCING S. 656. A bill to provide for indoor air pollution abatement, including indoor radon abatement, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Environment and Public Works.
MITCHELL (for himself, Mr. Chafee, Mr. Lautenberg, and Mr. Lieberman):
Mr. MITCHELL. Mr. President, today I am reintroducing legislation to address the significant threats to human health posed by exposure to contaminants in the air indoors.
This legislation, titled the Indoor Air Quality Act of 1993, was passed by the Senate in the last two Congresses.
I am very pleased that Senator Chafee, the ranking Republican member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, and Senators Lieberman and Lautenberg, the chairman and former chairman of the subcommittee with jurisdiction over this legislation, have joined me in supporting this bill. With their help and the help of the many other Senators who have worked on and supported this legislation, I am confident that we will be able to enact indoor air legislation in this Congress.
I will also be sponsoring legislation, to be introduced by Senator Lautenberg today, to extend and reauthorize the Indoor Radon Abatement Act. This legislation was passed by the Senate last year and includes important provisions to reduce the health threats posed by exposure to radon gas in homes and schools.
Most Americans spend up to 90 percent of the day indoors. There is growing evidence that exposure to contaminants in the air indoors is a deadly serious problem.
In 1987, I chaired hearings that addressed the health effects of indoor air contaminants. Additional hearings were held in 1989 and 1991.
Witnesses at these hearings and related hearings in the House of Representatives over the past several years confirmed basic information about indoor air pollution.
We know that exposure to air pollutants occurs indoors--in residences, workplaces, schools, public buildings, and transportation vehicles--as well as outdoors.
We know that indoor air pollutants include radon, asbestos, volatile organic compounds for example, formaldehyde, benezene--tobacco smoke, combustion by-products for example, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide--metals and gases--for example, lead, chlorine, ozone--and respirable particles.
We now that pollutants in indoor air pose a threat of lung cancer. The Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] estimates that radon causes as estimated 14,000 lung cancer deaths each year. In addition, EPA estimates that tobacco smoke causes 3,000 lung cancer deaths in nonsmokers each year and a selected group of volatile organic chemicals in indoor air cause several thousand additional cancers each year.
We know that sources of these pollutants include commercial products, building materials, combustion appliances, indoor application of pesticides, and outdoor sources.
The medical community reports other health effects of indoor air contaminants include skin and eye irritation, respiratory function impairment, allergic and infectious diseases, neurotoxicity, immune effects, liver and kidney effects, and developmental effects.
We have clear evidence that the health effects of indoor air pollutants result in substantial costs to society in the form of reduced productivity, sick time, health care costs, and disability costs estimated to be in the tens of billions of dollars.
Much of our information about the indoor air pollution problem is relatively recent. The foundation for our understanding of indoor air pollution problems is a series of EPA research projects that offer compelling documentation of the serious health threats posed by indoor air contaminants.
In September 1989, in response to section 403(e) of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986, EPA published a major assessment of indoor air quality.
The report indicates the seriousness of indoor air pollution, stating:
* * * indoor air pollution represents a major portion of the public's exposure to air pollution and may pose serious acute and chronic health risks. This evidence warrants an expanded effort to characterize and mitigate this exposure.
The report further states:
* * * the information available suggests that exposure to indoor air pollutants poses a significant health threat to the domestic population.
The report also documents the wide range of indoor air contaminant health effects and states:
Health effects from indoor air pollution cover the range of acute and chronic
effects and include eye, nose, and throat irritation, respiratory effects,
neurotoxicity, kidney and
Illnesses caused by indoor air contaminants take a toll in death, suffering, and discomfort. These illnesses, however, also have a cost to society in the form of increased medical expenses, increased sick leave, and declines in worker productivity.
The EPA report includes new assessments of the costs of indoor air contamination. The annual national costs of medical care resulting from indoor air pollution are estimated at over $1 billion. The report also cites the costs associated with employee sick days and reduced productivity due to indoor air illness. Using the same conservative assumptions used to calculated direct medical costs, the report estimates costs of reduced productivity at between $4.4 and $5.4 billion annually.
In summarizing the overall costs of indoor air pollution, the EPA report concludes:
Many costs of indoor air pollution have not been calculated. Nevertheless, because of the large number of people and buildings potentially affected, as well as the wide range of effects for which there is a cost component, it is reasonable to conclude that the aggregate costs of indoor air pollution amount to tens of billion of dollars per year.
Other studies corroborate these findings.
In December 1989, EPA published the results of studies of environmental priority setting in three regions of the country where indoor air pollution was recognized as a serious problem. The Agency concluded:
* * * risk associated with most environmental problems does not differ much across the (geographic) areas studied. For example, indoor air pollution consistently causes greater health risks than hazardous waste sites whether one is concerned with New England, the Middle Atlantic region, or the Pacific Northwest. Such consistent findings should play an important role in setting national environmental priorities.
In September 1988, EPA issued a major report on indoor air quality in public buildings. The summary of the report states:
VOCs (volatile organic chemicals) are ubiquitous indoors * * *. About 500
different chemicals were identified in just four
In 1987, EPA published a comprehensive study of total exposure to air pollutants, both indoor and outdoors. The report states:
The major finding of this study is the observation that personal and indoor exposures to these toxic and carcinogenic chemicals are nearly always greater--often much greater--than outdoor concentrations. We are led to the conclusion that indoor air in the home and at work far outweighs outdoor air as a route of exposure to these chemicals.
Despite all the evidence of the health effects and economic costs of indoor air pollution, the Federal Government still lacks a coordinated and comprehensive response to this problem.
Congress has made progress in addressing indoor air quality problems in the past several years.
The 99th Congress enacted bills to establish a program of research on radon and indoor air pollutants at the EPA and to establish a national program to control asbestos in schools.
The 100th Congress enacted legislation addressing indoor radon and considered legislation to address indoor air generally.
In the 101st and 102d Congress, the Senate passed indoor air quality legislation which is virtually identical to the bill we are considering today.
In drafting this legislation, we had five basic principles in mind.
First, we placed a strong emphasis on expanding and strengthening indoor air research.
Second, we sought to improve understanding of specific indoor air pollutants through development of health advisories on indoor air contaminants.
Third, we wanted to foster more effective use of existing authority for controlling indoor air contaminants rather than creating new regulatory authority. The bill provides that existing Federal authorities are to be focused and directed in a national response plan.
Fourth, we sought to demonstrate the role States can play in addressing indoor air pollution.
Finally, we sought to create an institutional base for indoor air programs at the Environmental Protection Agency and assure coordination of related efforts throughout the Federal Government.
I will provide some additional explanation of the major elements of this legislation.
The bill expands research of indoor air pollution by providing the EPA and other agencies with authority to conduct general research on indoor air contamination and research on specific problem areas.
New authority is provided to demonstrate various technologies which may contribute to the reduction of indoor air contamination. The bill also calls for the issuance of technical and management practice bulletins providing assessments of technologies for controlling and measuring indoor air contaminants.
An important provision of the bill provides for a report to Congress on the subject of chemical sensitivity disorders, including multiple chemical sensitivities. The study is to address the underlying causes of chemical sensitivity disorders, identify the prevalence of these disorders, and make recommendations for actions to prevent and respond to such illnesses.
The bill also provides for the Director of the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, in consultation with the Administrator, to develop an indoor air quality training course for managers of Federal and other buildings. Training courses are to address building management methods for reducing indoor air contamination.
The Administrator is to conduct a program to analyze the adequacy of existing ventilation standards and guidelines to protect public health and report on it to the Congress within 36 months.
The bill provides that the EPA will develop a list of indoor air contaminants and health advisory documents for the contaminants. Health advisory documents are to include descriptions of the characteristics of each contaminant and the health threats posed at various concentrations. The EPA is to issue six advisories within 18 months of the date of enactment and an additional six advisories within the next 18 months.
A key section of the bill directs the EPA to develop a national response plan identifying actions to be taken to reduce contaminants in indoor air. The plan is to identify and schedule needed actions by EPA and other Federal agencies under the authority in existing statutes. The plan also will outline Federal agency activities related to indoor air information, education, and technical assistance.
The Federal Government must play a leadership role in developing effective responses to indoor air pollution problems. The bill provides for a Federal building response plan to address air quality in Federal buildings.
The plan is to identify general management practices for improving indoor air. Buildings with identified indoor air quality problems are to be considered for assessment under the `sick building' section of the act. The plan is to be submitted to Congress 24 months after enactment of the act and biennially thereafter.
Another key objective of the bill is to demonstrate very basic indoor air quality management strategies and assessments at the State level. States have proven to be essential partners in implementing many of our environmental programs, and I hope that this provision of the bill will foster an improved understanding of the role of State governments in responding to indoor air quality problems.
The bill provides grants to States for demonstrating indoor air quality management and assessment strategies. Each State is to identify a lead agency for protecting indoor air quality, describe existing programs at the State and sub-State levels, and assure coordination with programs addressing ambient air quality. State assessment programs are to identify contaminants of concern by geographic areas experiencing problems and provide for periodic assessments of indoor air conditions and trends. States or other air pollution control agencies also may develop response programs to address a particular indoor air contaminant, class of buildings, or buildings in a specific geographic area.
Several provisions of the bill expand the institutional base for attention to indoor air pollution. An Office of Indoor Air Quality is established within the EPA to manage indoor air activities and to work with other Federal agencies.
The bill also addresses the problem of coordination of indoor air quality activities among Federal agencies. The nature of indoor air pollution problems requires that a wide range of Federal agencies participate in assessment and control efforts. The bill establishes a Council on Indoor Air Quality to oversee the indoor air activities of various Federal agencies. Agencies represented on the Council include EPA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Energy, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the General Services Administration.
The bill also addresses the problem of `sick buildings.' The Director of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health [NIOSH] is to carry out a program to demonstrate methods of assessment and mitigation of indoor air contamination in `sick buildings.' This expanded effort will help develop the most effective measures to identify the causes of `sick building syndrome' and the most effective measures to mitigate these problems.
The bill authorizes total funding of $48.5 million for each fiscal year from 1992 to 1996 including: $20 million for research and health advisories; $10 million for EPA operations; $12 million for State management and response grants; $1.5 million for the National Indoor Air Quality Council; and $5 million for the Building Assessment Program.
Mr. President, each year the evidence of the health threats and economic costs of indoor air pollution grows and grows. Much of the research documenting this problem has been developed by the EPA. Unfortunately, the EPA has not stepped forward to address this important problem in a comprehensive and coordinated way. Our legislation is intended to recognize the importance of indoor air pollution and get the Federal Government and the States actively involved in solving the problem.
I urge all my colleagues to join me in supporting this important legislation. With your support, we can assure that Americans have clean, safe air to breathe indoors as well as outdoors.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.
There being no objection, the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows: