In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night, No Toxic Chemical Shall Escape Government Oversight

Thor, Captain America, Green Lantern…With all of these superhero movies coming out over the summer, it’s easy to forget one of the most important superheroes—Mom.  Many moms and parents across the country have been the champions for environmental health, at the forefront of legislative action and advocacy.  On August 10th, the mom signal went up again as a squadron of moms and kids suited up in capes and masks gathered in cities across the country in in support of the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011.

CEH’s East Coast office, as well as Mary Brune from the Making Our Milk Safe (MOMS) project were out in full force in the New York City stroller bridage that marched to New York Senator Gillibrand’s office to thank her for co-sponsoring the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011.The Safe Chemicals Act of 2011, introduced by Senator Lautenberg of New Jersey, is aimed at allowing the EPA to regulate toxic chemicals in consumer products. If passed, The Safe Chemicals Act would overhaul the old, outdated, and generally ineffective Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 Some highlights of the Safe Chemicals Act include:

  • Requiring chemical companies to submit a minimum amount of data for the chemicals that they produce.  The EPA can also determine if more data is needed.
  • Shifting the burden of proof to industry, so that the industry must prove that the substances they use in their products are safe, not the consumer. Consumers shouldn’t have to be guinea pigs and prove that a chemical is toxic after they have already been exposed.  (Its time consuming and costly to prove that a chemical is unsafe– consumers and government agencies have limited resources to prove whether or not a chemical is toxic.  After all, not many of us have our own chemical testing lab!)   This bill would make industry pay for the safety tests of their products, instead of forcing us to pay with our health.
  • Provides incentives for companies to develop and use safer substances including grant programs for researching safer alternatives.

The Safe Chemicals Act is especially important for children and families.  It is a child’s curiosity and instinct that makes them want to stick any new object into their mouth.  But this is one of the biggest fears of a parent.  New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, one of the co-sponsors of the bill, explains it best,

For most parents, a trip to the pharmacy shopping for baby products is a routine experience. And while we make choices on which products to buy for any number of reasons, we would never imagine any one of these products could be unsafe. We have faith that baby products are safe for our kids because our government wouldn’t allow toxic chemicals in children’s shampoos, pillows or toys.

But, the truth is, we are going on faith alone. When I arrived in the Senate I was shocked to learn that regulators have been prevented from testing all of the 70,000 chemicals found in everyday home products. In fact, due to a variety of obstacles, the Environmental Protection Agency has only tested 200 of them. As a mother and a legislator, I find this unacceptable. We must bring our nation’s chemical safety laws into the 21st Century.”

So in support of Senator Gillibrand CEH and our group of moms and kids assembled a stroller brigade and marched to Gillibrand’s office in New York City.  Other environmental health groups, supporters, members of the media, and onlookers gathered around to hear our message:  “Our leaders in congress should be heroes for the health of our kids and families!”

*The New York City Stroller brigade was organized by Clean New York and the Just Green Partnership in conjunction with Safer Chemicals Healthy Families (of which we are a member).

Watch CEH at the Stroller Brigade for Safe Chemicals (CBS News, New York):