Written by Katy Farber
Last month, the Senate Environmental and Public Works committee held a hearing about toxic chemicals. Business owners, health advocates and citizens testified about the the lack of regulation of toxic chemicals in consumer products and how they are harming lives. This fall, Congress will decide how to regulate (or not) toxic chemicals for the first time in over 30 years.
Here are 10 reasons we need strong reform of our chemical laws to protect children and families from harmful, toxic exposures that are causing many health and learning problems.
1. It is outdated. The Toxic Substances Control Act, issued in 1976, grandfathered thousands of chemicals into the marketplace without any safety testing. More studies show clear links between industrial chemical exposures to increasing rates of cancer, autism, infertility, reproductive disorders, learning and behavioral disabilities. Of course it is not easy to identify exactly what is causing what, but if we have some data indicating harm, why are we not taking action?
2. Honor the work of the late Senator Frank Lautenberg. He worked for over a decade to bring The Safe Chemicals Act out of committee. He passed away in June 2013, with this life-long goal incomplete. For all of his heroic efforts to protect children from toxic chemicals, let’s make this bill stronger and pass it into law.
3. Chemicals in products in our homes, schools, daycare centers and environment are harming our kids. Increasing rates of behavioral disorders and autism, obesity, reproductive system problems, early puberty, heart disease, asthma and allergies are threatening the very health and welfare of our children.
4. It is time for companies to take responsibility for their products; they are the ones making millions of dollars– not consumers. We need to shift toward the precautionary principle, acting to protect our society if there is a question of safety of certain chemicals. The onus of responsibility will shift from the small consumer groups and the over-burdened government to the manufacturers themselves to prove a chemical’s safety before it goes on the market in a product.
5. Parents are busy enough and face so many daily pressures. Whether or not a child’s shampoo is cancer causing should not be one of them. Our government exists to protect public health and interests. Clearly, this isn’t working. Multi-billion dollar companies use toxic chemicals in their products that have never been tested for safety on our kids.
6. Minority populations are hit hardest by chemical exposures. That is environmental injustice – and we won’t have it. Communities hit hardest by chemical exposures deserve more protection.
7. Developing fetuses and young children are impacted more significantly by chemical exposures. Young bodies in stages of rapid development are more susceptible to harm. Therefore, they need more protection from even low levels of toxic chemicals. Low levels of BPA are just as harmful as higher ones in many cases.
8. Babies are being born pre-polluted. What does that say about our society? Umbilical cord blood contains over 287 chemicals including pesticides, consumer product ingredients and wastes from burning coal, gasoline and garbage.
“Of the 287 chemicals we detected in umbilical cord blood, we know that 180 cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests. The dangers of pre- or post-natal exposure to this complex mixture of carcinogens, developmental toxins and neurotoxins have never been studied.”
For our babies, for our future, we can and should do everything to limit these harmful exposures.
9. Breast milk is being tainted. We know breastfeeding is healthiest for babies and mothers: it offers many health benefits including protection from sudden infant death syndrome, stronger immune systems, lower risks of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer, and many, many other lifetime health benefits. But this most nutritious and wholesome food has been shown to contain persistent organic pollutants. These accumulate in fatty tissue and persist in the body and environment. This is not cause to give up on nursing, but it is time that we demand our right to clean and healthy breast milk, free of industrial pollutants for our children. The NRDC puts it well:
“The presence of chemical industry wastes in “nature’s first food” is a trespass on the most private parts of our lives. Considering all factors, breastfeeding is still recommended, but concerns that chemical pollutants detract from the many benefits of breastfeeding are real. That women are faced with doubts about their breast milk is an outrage that must be corrected by stopping the exposures at their source, not by stopping breastfeeding.”
10. Workers need protections. The lowest paid workers, 4 million of them in fact, such as janitors, cleaners, maids, housekeepers, landscaping and groundskeeping workers, pesticide handlers and other maintenance occupations, are exposed to harmful toxic chemicals each day. These chemicals are used to clean our schools, office buildings, state buildings and businesses. Other workers are exposed to BPA from handling receipts all day, and still others are exposed to a cocktail of chemicals in the beauty industry. No one should suffer dire health consequences from simply doing their job.
Our lack of toxic chemical regulation is giving industry a free pass to use products filled with toxic chemicals in our homes, schools, workplaces and communities – at the expense of public health. It is high time to overhaul the ancient and ineffective Toxic Substances Control Act to better protect the public health.
This post was originally published in MomsRising
Photo credits: Thinkstock