How Dirty Money Dirties The Environment

by Elisa Batista

Protecting the Clean Air Act as well as the Environmental Protection Agency should be our number one priority as parents. We can disagree on religion, politics and how we run our households. But as individuals we have no control over pollution, which is why our government needs to protect us from it.

But what happens when polluters and chemical companies contribute millions of dollars to the coffers of our leaders? That, mis amigos, is the number one barrier for the EPA and all who support its agenda.

For some years, I have been an environmental activist, not only advocating for clean air and water, but fighting against the use of toxic chemicals in children’s products. A little over two years ago, I testified in Sacramento, California, in favor of a bill that would have removed toxic flame retardants from four baby products that posed no fire hazards: strollers, high chairs, nursing pillows and changing pads. Unfortunately, this would be one of five bills to fail in the state legislature.

Now I know what I and fellow parents were up against. I just read in a California newspaper, the East Bay Express, that the chemical industry has spent at least $23.5 million over the last five years in lobbying efforts against these bills. In addition, at least $593,000 in campaign money was donated over three election cycles to 85 legislators, including 44 Democrats and 41 Republicans.

Here is more insightful information from the newspaper, which pointed out that flame retardants are toxic and building up in our bodies, including our breast milk and in our children’s bodies:

A five-month investigation by Environmental Health News revealed an infusion of chemical industry cash into California that has global implications. During the five years of lobbying, the flame retardants have been building up in people’s bodies, including breast milk, around the world.

Designed to slow the spread of flames, brominated and chlorinated chemicals are added to upholstered household furniture and babies’ products sold throughout North America because California enforces a unique flammability standard. The chemical industry has been fighting to retain that state standard and ward off California proposals to ban the chemicals or mandate alternatives.

As I saw firsthand in Sacramento, the chemical industry claims that flame retardants save lives. As part of their lobbying efforts, they shamelessly brought out burn victims and small children who had lost family members in fires. The point lost on everyone in the room is that these deaths and injuries occurred with flame retardants in the foam of all of our furniture and children’s products!

Another reason the chemical industry’s claims appear to be downright lies is this peer-reviewed study released this past June showing that California’s furniture flammability standard, also known as Technical Bulletin 117 (TB117), does not provide measurable fire safety benefits. TB117 practically mandates the use of toxic flame retardants in the foam of all of our furniture, and even baby products like nursing pillows and changing pads.

Yet one thing that’s for sure is that animal studies have linked flame retardants to cancer, neurological and reproductive disorders. The flame retardants easily leach onto dust, pet hair, and the crumbling foam of old products — surely, I am not the only mom who used second-hand baby products — making them easy for children to ingest.

A silver lining in all of this sludge of dirty air and dirty money is that the public is paying attention. Thanks to the East Bay Express for its expose on the amount of money the chemical industry has put into politics to pump up its dirty goods. I also want to acknowledge the growing and influential movement that is Moms Clean Air Force, an organization that did not exist two years ago when I was one of just a handful of moms up against millions of dollars in lobbying.


Photo credit: Moms Clean Air Force


Tracy S.
Tracy S.5 years ago

The longer we allow special interests to lobby and buy our politicians, the longer we allow ourselves to be hurt.

Kathryn Edwards
Kathryn Edwards5 years ago

And the people who stand up are trashed.

Ernie Miller
william Miller5 years ago

I would not doubt that the flame retardents are a byproduct from some other manufacturing process and if they did not sell them like that they would have to pay to dispose of them in an environmental friendly way. so they cook up a use for it and force it upon the public thru laws.

Grace Adams
Grace Adams5 years ago

Replace non-tariff regulation with excise taxes calculated to pay for all the costs imposed on innocent bystanders over the full life-cycle (extraction of raw materials through manufacture, use and final disposal of the remeains) of all products. Maybe that would at least provide some money to pay for Medicaid for the poor most injured by commercial products.

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons5 years ago

I am concerned about the dirty energy money in our politics.

John M.
John M.5 years ago

I thought the E.P.A. was formed to protect our invironment.NOT big corporate business.

Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson5 years ago


jerry coleman
jerry coleman5 years ago

Good infor. and we as americans should be scared the GOP and some Dem. will sell out the people .

Arthur Joyce
Arthur Joyce5 years ago

The same corporate influence has triumphed over public safety when it comes to cell phones and other wireless devices. It has been demonstrated over and over again in studies that there is enough data to suggest at least a precautionary approach, yet Big Telecom throws its corporate muscle around to hide this fact from the public. Dr. Franz Adlkofer, in a recent lecture to Harvard Law School, explained that after reporting on the potential gene-damaging effects of cell phone radiation in the European Union funded REFLEX study, he was targeted by the industry with a smear campaign to discredit him. "In May 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified high frequency electromagnetic fields including cell phone radiation as merely “possibly carcinogenic” for humans, Adlkofer said, but he pointed out that studies such as REFLEX were not taken into account in reaching that determination. Had they been, he said, the classification likely would have changed from “possibly” carcinogenic to “probably.”

Holly Lawrence
Holly Lawrence5 years ago

Dirty money makes everything it touches dirty ....:(