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Hazardous Waste Victim Compensation

  • Date: Jan 01 1981
  • Policy Number: Hazardous Waste Victim Compensation

Key Words:

The American Public Health Association,

Recognizing that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that there are thousands of hazardous toxic dumps in the US; and

Recognizing that efforts to prevent exposures to toxic wastes have not been as successful as necessary; and

Recognizing that community residents in the vicinity of such dumps may suffer health problems from exposure to materials released in air, water, or dusts at these sites; and

Recognizing that the clean-up of toxic waste sites often exposes clean-up workers to highly hazardous levels of chemical and physical contaminants; and

Recognizing that under current "Superfund" legislation,1 funds may be used for the costs of epidemiological studies, development of a registry of persons exposed to hazardous substances for long-term health effects studies and diagnostic services not otherwise available to determine whether persons in populations exposed to hazardous substances in connection with a release or suspected release are suffering from long-latency disease; and

Recognizing that the current law provides for the use of funds to finance "a program to protect the health and safety of employees involved in response to hazardous substance release"2 administered jointly by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; and

Further recognizing that the "Superfund" legislation does not provide for the compensation of victims of exposure to chemical wastes for out-of-pocket medical expenses or lost income,3 whether they be community residents, waste dump employees, or hazardous waste clean-up workers and investigators; and

Noting that the US Department of Labor has found4 that State Workers' Compensation Programs provide benefits to only a small percentage of victims of occupational exposure to hazardous substance; that such awards rarely cover the full costs of such diseases; and that due to the inadequacies of State compensation laws, victims are often forced to rely on Social Security and welfare programs; and

Recognizing that such businesses will have diminished incentives to reduce the hazards of such toxic wastes until full compensation costs are paid by chemical waste dumpers; therefore

  1. Urges the Congress to adopt legislation which compensates both waste clean-up workers and community residents in full for medical care costs and lost income due to waste-related disease and to insist on strong implementation of the Toxic Substances Control Act in order to prevent worker and community exposure;
  2. Urges that waste disposers' contributions to "Superfund" be altered to reflect costs of disease compensated;
  3. Urges that all APHA Affiliates push for improvement in toxic-waste-related environmental/occupational disease compensation laws in their own areas; and
  4. Joins in coalitions with professional, labor, environmental, consumer, and other organizations to promote this position.

References

  1. Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 ("Superfund"), Section 111(c)(4). Washington, DC: US Congress.
  2. Ibid, Section 111(c)(6).
  3. Congressional Record, November 24, 1980, page S15002, statement of Senator Harrison Williams.
  4. US Department of Labor: Interim Report to Congress on Occupational Disease, June 1980.

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