I'm off to get some ful and really rich coffee at Keren on U st with some friends before I head out tomorrow for my next city on this Winter Tour, but I wanted to share this great oped with you from Helena Independent Record first.
Ciao, my loves!
Will the real health advocates please stand up?
By ALEXANDRA GORMAN SCRANTON Posted: Sunday, January 3, 2010 12:00 am
A couple of weeks ago in Helena, a table was set up in the Capitol by a group called the Coalition for Chemical Safety. The coalition said they were troubled with the current federal toxic chemical law, and were recruiting new concerned citizens. All pretty normal, except that just last month this coalition was discovered to be a front group for the chemical industry.
The chemical industry, including the American Chemistry Council, the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates and the Soap and Detergent Association, has been fighting controls of chemicals for years. Even as the industry has created and produced more and more chemicals over the years, with very little safety requirements, they have fought creating tighter standards to protect the health of consumers and families.
As a result, the national law we currently have, the Toxic Substances Control Act, hasn’t been updated since 1976. All chemicals formulated prior to 1976 have been grandfathered into use without proper safety testing. Of the 80,000 chemicals currently used and produced in the U.S., only 200 have been required to be tested.
Currently, newborn babies are born with over 300 toxic chemicals in their bodies. In 2007, a study analyzing the hair samples of 34 Montanans discovered mercury contamination present in all subjects. An analysis of breast milk samples among 40 Northwest mothers found flame retardants (or PBDEs) in all of them, with the highest levels coming from a woman in Montana. We are swimming in chemicals with almost no limits on the products we use every day. As the mother of a 1-year-old daughter I find this particularly alarming.
Why is the chemical industry using their lobbying manpower and big dollars to fight policies that would limit chemicals in schools and children’s products, and simultaneously donning the mask of public health protectors?
The answer is pretty simple. The new EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson, has stated that overhauling our federal chemical policy is a priority. Smart policy would ensure chemicals are safe before they enter the marketplace and eliminate the most dangerous chemicals from commerce. The chemical industry has been benefiting from minimal regulation of chemicals, essentially a “wild West” standard. But, there are new marshals in town, in the form of moms, doctors, nurses, scientists, businesses and public health advocates from Montana and all over the country, working together for reform.
Requiring data that proves a chemical’s safety before it is used in everyday products such as water bottles, food packaging, plywood and personal care products gives Americans protection similar to what we require for drug safety.
Of course Congress has to work with the chemical industry when creating these new standards. Seeing as they’re spending $10 million on a campaign to defend plastics, they probably won’t have trouble getting the attention of our legislators. But industry interests shouldn’t be guiding this discussion — public health and safety should. The chemical industry has called the shots on chemical safety and use in the past, but we’re less healthy and safe as a result. As we learned from Libby, we get into dangerous territory when health concerns are ignored in favor of industry profits.
Congress will be introducing a bill that will overhaul TSCA early next year — Sen. Max Baucus will be key in making sure that law is passed. By updating our law, we have the opportunity to remove chemicals that we know are dangerous from our products and reduce the level of chemical exposure among our most vulnerable populations — young children, pregnant women and workers. And, by requiring a better level of safety, we’ll increase consumer confidence, which we all know we need right now. Most importantly, by phasing out chemicals that are already considered so unsafe that they’re banned in other countries, we should eventually see a decrease in our nation’s disease burden — of asthma, childhood cancers, reproductive and hormonal problems and birth defects.
We’re ready to start building a healthier, safer future for our families — but an industry front group confusing the public by pretending to be something it’s not doesn’t help the cause. For those who are really interested in joining the cause to protect consumers through smarter, common sense overhaul of our nation’s chemical laws, go to www.saferchemicals.org and join the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition.
Alexandra Gorman Scranton is director of science and research, Women’s Voices for the Earth, a Montana-based organization that engages women to advocate for the right to live in a healthy environment.
Posted in Opinion, News on Sunday, January 3, 2010 12:00 am Updated: 10:31 pm.