In California, Gov. Schwarzenegger just vetoed a bill that would have required the state to begin monitoring synthetic chemical pollutants in the bodies of California residents, and to explore the connection (if any) between such chemical "body burdens" and human health.
To me, what seems notable here is the reason the governor gave for the veto:
"While the intent of the measure is worthy…the bill will only provide a partial snapshot of chemicals present in tested participants without proper context of what the presence of (a) specific chemical means or how it interacts with other health factors.
Translation: it’s better to keep flying blind than to start opening our eyes. According to the Oakland Tribune, the governor has pretty much lifted this argument from the chemical industry’s talking points—so I’m sure it won’t be the last time we hear it.
Of course, it’s not quite true that we’re flying blind here. Plenty of people are doing biomonitoring, including the US Centers for Disease Control. But those programs have pretty definite limitations—biomonitoring studies by academics, state labs, and public interest groups tend to be one-off affairs, rather than long-term, coordinated efforts; and the CDC data provides a useful baseline for some contaminants, but doesn’t look at chemical combinations or health effects. Those are gaps the California program could have filled. Too bad it was Terminated.