NY Advocates Win PCBs Right-to-Know Battle

Penelope Jagessar-Chaffer (center) with daughter Oceana

By Mary Brune, crossposted from the Making Our Milk Safe (MOMS) blog

A few weeks back I wrote about MOMS member Penelope Jagessar-Chaffer joining dozens of other concerned citizens at a press conference on the steps of NY City Hall to urge the NY City Council to pass legislation that would force disclosure of PCBs leaking from antiquated lighting fixtures throughout the NYC Public school system.

A week later, the Council unanimously voted to amend the city’s charter to require disclosure to parents upon the detection of PCB leakage, the results of which— many advocates hope— will be increased pressure from parents to accelerate the Department of Education’s 10-year plan to remove the hazardous fixtures from schools.

This is a huge victory for NYC schoolchildren, teachers, and school staff. NYC parents and advocates have won this battle. But to quote a fellow New Jersey native, Bruce Springsteen (I’ve always wanted to do that) “there’s a war outside still raging.”  Tackling the issue of PCBs in schools is just one of the many ways parents can, and must, step in to voice concerns and encourage reforms that would help protect children’s health.

Since it’s for a good cause, I’ll out my age by referencing another one of my favorite anthems from childhood, Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield.”  I can still picture my tween-age self, hairbrush in hand, belting out the chorus “Heartache to heartache we stand. No promises, no demands. Love is a battlefield.” Come on, it’s a catchy tune.

As a parent these days, it’s hard not to feel like we’re fighting a losing battle trying to keep our kids safe from toxic chemicals. With alphabetic landmines like PCBs, BPA, and PBDEs lurking under the surface of our everyday lives— it’s enough to make parents develop PTSD: Pervasive Toxin Sensitivity Disorder. But in the face of such threats, it’s important to know that we can— and are— making progress.

But to paraphrase Pat, I promise, we’ll win no battles if we make no demands.

Victories like the one on PCBs keep us advancing. This is a war we can win. Stand with us. MOMS and its coalition partners are committed to passing comprehensive chemical policy reform this year. Join the MOMS e-list to stay informed of upcoming activities.