Our campaign saw lots of action last week – all of it bolstering our conviction that Congress will act to reduce toxic chemicals in our lives this year. To begin with, the U.S. Senate held hearings on Thursday February 4 to find out what scientists know about how chemicals are affecting human health. It didn't hurt that the hearings came during a week of particularly alarming science news: New research was published showing that:
- Common flame retardants can lower sperm counts
- Lead contributes to ADHD
- Human placenta cells die after exposure to bisphenol A
In a crowded hearing room, Senators mulled over the law governing toxic chemical production and use, and appeared to agree that current laws are inadequate to protect families and children from health effects linked to toxic chemical exposure. Highlights included this remark from Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ):
Our children should not be used as guinea pigs. It's time to update the law to protect them.
Coalition member Tracey J. Woodruff, PhD, MPH, associate professor and director of the program on Reproductive Health and Environment in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at University of California-San Francisco described some disturbing trends.
- Chemical production has increased since World War II by more than twenty-fold, making chemicals "now ubiquitous" in air, water, food and everyday household items.
- Most people think chemicals in shampoos, lotions, cookware, containers and other everyday items are inert, Dr. Woodruff testified, "but they apparently are not."
- The National Academy of Sciences has concluded that "we should not assume that there is a safe level of exposure to any individual chemical unless proven otherwise."
It was gratifying to see that both Senator Lautenberg and Dr. Woodruff used our report ("The Health Case for Reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act") to back up their arguments. Our goal with the report was to make it easy for members of Congress to have access to all the latest science – looks like we achieved our objective.
New mom Molly Gray — who had flown in from Seattle with her 7-month-old son in order testify — added a fresh and thoroughly compelling perspective to the proceedings. She told Congress how, as a participant in a recent biomonitoring study, she was shocked to find high levels of industrial chemicals in her body. See Molly's blog on her experience here.
...for the last five years I had done everything I could to reduce my exposure to toxic chemicals. I ate organic food, chose low-mercury seafood and used personal care products without phthalates and fragrances.
Despite my efforts, my results were higher than the national average. I had the highest mercury of all the pregnant women tested. I was shocked that my levels were as high as they were. Turns out these chemicals are ubiquitous in the environment. As clean as I tried to be, it was not enough to protect my baby boy
Witnesses from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) called for reform, to provide greater protection to families and children.
On the very same day, the Learning and Developmental Disabilities Initiative (LDDI) published their thought-provoking new report called Mind, Disrupted. The report explores the question: Can toxic chemicals change how we think and who we are? Coalition member Judy Robinson from the Environmental Health Fund wrote an excellent blog about the report, and how her family's own experience inspired her to get involved. No doubt the LDDI report also provided crucial context to the Senators.
And if that weren't enough action for one week, Healthy Child, Healthy World launch their "Wake-Up Story" video – a powerful and entertaining 'story' meant to jostle worried parents into taking action to protect their families from toxic chemicals. Check it out and send it to your friends who are not yet on fire about toxic chemicals—it's an entertaining, easy-to-follow introduction to the issue.
The coming weeks promise to bring even more action (and reaction). As the prospect of a strong bill becomes more possible, we expect the chemical industry to launch a serious offensive campaign. The good news is, no matter how much money they have to spend on advertising, consultants, campaign donations, and lobbyists, there's no way they can match our 7,000 Facebook fans and membership representing more than 4 million highly motivated families, health care providers, environmental health advocates, and health-conscious individuals.