US lawmakers want information on chemical toxic to salmon

Published on
August 20, 2021
U.S. Rep. Katie Porter, a California Democrat, is asking NOAA to investigate salmon mortalities related to a chemical found in car tires.

More than a dozen members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to the heads of NOAA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife on Thursday, 19 August, asking them to investigate the effect a toxic chemical has on salmon species.

Led by U.S. Reps. Jared Huffman and Katie Porter, both Califiornia Democrats, a total of 14 lawmakers are seeking answers from NOAA Administrator Richard Spinrad and FWS Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams about their agencies’ efforts to examine the deleterious effects of 6PPD-quinone on wild salmon mortality.

“Given the dismal trajectory of West Coast salmon populations, your agencies should be working with great urgency to gain a better understanding of this threat and to take any necessary actions to address it,” the letter stated.

Besides Huffman, who serves as the chair of the Natural Resources Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee, and Porter, who heads the Natural Resources Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, other lawmakers signing the letter were Marilyn Strickland (D-Washington) Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Oregon), Ed Case (D-Hawaii), Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee), Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona), Derek Kilmer (D-Washington), Barbara Lee (D-California), Alan Lowenthal (D-California), Adam Smith (D-Washington), Darren Soto (D-Florida), and Mike Thompson (D-California).

The lawmakers cited a Science Magazine article that found the chemical was toxic to coho salmon. It’s created when 6PPD, a chemical used to prevent wear and cracking in tires, mixes with vehicular pollutants and gets exposed to sunlight. While road runoff has long been associated with die-offs in urban streams, the lawmakers noted the discovery of a specific chemical contributing to the mortality issues offers “profound implications” regarding salmon recovery efforts.

The letter comes a little more than a month after Porter’s subcommittee held a hearing on the issue. In addition, Kilmer, Strickland, and U.S. Rep. Kim Schrier (D-Washington) inserted a USD 1 million project in the appropriations bill the House passed on 29 July to research the impact 6PPD-quinone has on coho salmon in the Pacific northwest and other species.

The U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association has said that 6PPD and 6PPD-quinone are two different chemicals, and while the association has committed to working with scientists to conduct research into 6PPD-quinone, it also claims that 6PPD is a safe and essential chemical to maintain tire integrity and passenger safety.

Photo courtesy of the Office of U.S. Rep. Katie Porter

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