Toxic Substances in the Environment

57TH General Assembly
November 1983
Houston, Texas

Judaism affirms that the world is God's creation and that whoever helps to preserve it is doing God's work. We who inherit a tradition that is marked by a reverence for life must preserve the earth and all its varied life for our own sake and for generations yet unborn.

The problem of chemical and radioactive toxic wastes is of comparatively recent origin. The generation of long-lasting dangerous chemical and radioactive wastes began about forty years ago. At that time and for many years afterward, the traditional methods of disposal underground, on the land, into the air, into rivers, or into the sea were followed and were considered satisfactory.

In recent years the dangers of toxic waste disposal, both in the United States and Canada, have become more and more visible. Some companies and governmental agencies have tried to dispose of their wastes in ways that would keep them from harming persons or the environment. Others have continued to follow practices that have proved dangerous. There is a serious difficulty in finding safe locations to store toxic wastes and insuring permanent disposal.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Union of American Hebrew Congregations:

  1. Reaffirms our commitment to an environment free from the dangers of chemical and radioactive toxic waste;
  2. Recognizes that as inhabiters of the environment, we all bear responsibility for solving the problem of toxic wastes;
  3. Recognizes that industry faces a very real problem in finding suitable sites for toxic wastes;
  4. Encourages state and provincial legislative bodies to develop "funds," similar to the United States government's "Superfund," that will be adequate to locate and clean up abandoned sites on which hazardous chemicals and radioactive wastes have been dumped;
  5. Promotes legislation by the United States and Canadian governments that will encourage industry through such devices as tax credits and small business loans, to clean up existing disposal sites and to insure the safe disposal of toxic wastes in the future;
  6. Supports the strict enforcement of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the provision of adequate resources to the Environment Protection Agency and state agencies to enforce it so that toxic wastes disposed of in the present and future are disposed of safely and securely;
  7. Supports the efforts by the United States and Canadian governments and their regulatory agencies to pursue vigorously those who misuse waste dumps and to demand compensation for damage that has already been done to persons and property by unsafe disposal;
  8. Encourages industry to examine its waste production processes and the recycling of toxic wastes in order to use them efficiently and to keep chemical and radioactive wastes that must be disposed of to a minimum amount;
  9. Encourages the development and use of nonhazardous substitutes for materials and processes that currently generate hazardous wastes;
  10. Supports efforts for the international consideration and regulation of toxic waste disposal, including the prohibition of toxic waste exportation to other countries;
  11. Supports legislation to eliminate the damage produced by acid rain whatever its cause or point of origin;
  12. Calls for legislation requiring strict testing of pesticides;
  13. Calls for the tightening of regulations to prohibit the introduction of toxic chemicals such as dioxin into the environment; and
  14. Encourages and supports the research and development of safer disposal methods of toxic waste.