In August 2006, I returned from a trip to the grocery store to find my husband, Doug, sitting on the couch, staring at the carpeting.
“I don’t feel good,” he managed.
Doug was a college athlete and a runner, not one to whimper over discomfort. Alarmed, I abandoned the grocery bags at the door, and neared the couch. As Doug lifted his face, I felt the flesh melt from my body. His skin was the color of cement.
After a long night in the E.R. followed by surgery to repair a mysterious hole in his stomach, we learned the bitter truth. Doug had cancer, to be specific, Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare disease with no known genetic link. The next two and a half years were a period of extreme suffering and upheaval for my husband and our young family. In the end, Doug died at the age of 35.
Last week, Cal Dooley, president of the chemical industry’s trade association, criticized the Safe Chemicals Act, a bill that would increase the safety of chemicals in our consumer products, homes and environment as, “extreme.”
Extreme? I call it common sense.
The Safe Chemicals Act would increase chemical safety and protect the American public from routine exposure to toxic chemicals. This act is long overdue. Since the passage of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in 1976, some 80,000 chemicals have been manufactured and produced in the U.S., the EPA has required testing on 200 for their effects on human health, and only a mere five have been restricted.
The President’s Cancer Panel, a leading panel of cancer researchers appointed by George W. Bush, criticized our current law, concluding that “the chemical industry operates virtually unfettered by regulation or accountability for harm caused by its products.” In the same report, the panel concluded that environmental cancers had been grossly underestimated.
In 2004, I took my son Drew to a urologist to discuss surgery for a birth defect. After explaining the procedure, the surgeon said, “You know, I hate to tell mothers this, but something you were exposed to during your pregnancy caused this.” Drew is an identical twin, but his brother, being slightly heavier, received a smaller dose of the unknown toxin and remained unscathed.
Later I would learn that more than 200 chemicals circulate through human blood at any given time including before birth. These same chemicals are passed to children through their mother’s breast milk. Among these are environmental estrogens, a group of chemicals that interfere with the body’s hormonal system causing infertility, cancer, the early onset of puberty, and urological birth defects like Drew’s.
Memorial Day 2009, six months after Doug’s death, my sister’s 33 year old husband became dizzy and confused while crossing the street. A colleague insisted he go to the hospital. There, he was diagnosed with stage 3 brain cancer.
As I watched my sister, pregnant with her second child, struggle through the challenges of motherhood and a major medical crisis, I learned how woefully unprepared we are to protect our families from known and suspected carcinogens.
Due to proprietary laws, chemical companies are not required to disclose the untested ingredients in their products. No reliable safety information exists for consumers.
Last month, a group of citizens from more than 30 states gathered in Washington D.C. for a National Stroller Brigade to deliver more than 130,000 petition signatures in support of the Safe Chemicals Act. I was there with Doug’s mother and my three sons. The group consisted of nurses, pediatricians, teachers, steel workers and parents with young children - all united in the common cause of protecting the health of Americans.
Are moms, nurses, teachers and pediatricians extreme?
Later, Dooley complained that the act we supported would be expensive and difficult to implement for the chemical industry. He predicted the bill would “stifle chemical innovation,” yet legislation similar to the Safe Chemicals Act has been in place in Europe since 2007. In fact, many American companies make two versions of their products, the traditional version for the U.S. and a safer version for Europe.
Moreover, while lobbyists for the chemical industry spend millions to block regulation, the Safe Chemicals Act enjoys positive public opinion among voters on both sides of the aisle.
Americans should not have to wait for the protections enjoyed by the citizens of other countries. We must demand that the products that permeate our communities, our homes and inevitably our bodies are safe. In light of our health and the wellness of our loved ones, the stakes are high.
In fact, they are extreme.
Please join Polly and Take Action today to tell Congress we’re not extreme, we’re maintstream.
Follow us on Twitter @SaferChemicals and @Lindsay_SCHF
It is very worthy post regarding the attention of using chemicals day by day increasing. Nowadays toxic chemicals were very harmful for human as well as the children's also we have to immediate stopped these type of chemical usage as it had affected our planet also. I think the Government for every country should passed strict law against those usage of chemical products which is very harmful and dangerous for our health.Posted by: Angela Brown | Jul 10, 2012 12:13:34 AM
What a great Blog, I too wrote congress about a month ago.. So great to see others sharing the concern.. I have stopped buying this chemical filled products and now purchase from a company who manufactures toxin and chemical free cleaners and detergents! Every day our decision is affirmed by the different articles and stories that are published/televised. I hope many more will write to congress and tell them it is NOT ok for these big corporations to continue to poison america a little at a time and that it needs to stopPosted by: Josh Brumley | Jul 5, 2012 10:44:33 AM
Toxic chemicals are polluting our planet.The evidence is accessible, yet we, and worst of all, those that can effect the destiny of our earth turn a blind eye. There are Scandinavian countries that have turned their nations food sources to organic only. There cancer rate has plummeted. Illness has become big business in our fine Nation, at the cost of human suffering. We must change our thinking and be responsible to the effects of POISONS added to our global water and food sources.I too have a form of cancer, multiple myeloma, it is directly related to herbicides, pesticides and petroleum production. One in three people will get cancer. Extreme? Absolutely.Posted by: j.H. | Jul 1, 2012 1:30:47 PM
Humanity is responsable for the growth of humanity, My family is no stranger to cancer, We have lost many friends and family members,We are witnessing the effectes of "Chemical saturation" on all fronts. From Pestocides on our food to preservitaves in our food, We know of chemical companies that dump in the water and bury it in the ground and of course excreat it into the air as well. The great challenging We all face is CHANGE,change in our thinking about how we consume products and why. We must start now and be diligent in the message. Teaching our Children how to curb there consuming habbits and avoid those things that we know are harmful. "It is time to change." Thank you Polly for pioniering this road, it has come at a great cost to you.Posted by: Marjory Erdman | Jun 29, 2012 5:55:44 PM
Polly, I am so sorry for the loss of your husband. I am 100% convinced that chemicals are responsible for cancer. It is disgusting to me that anyone can poison you for profit and get away with it. I am afraid that cancer is so profitable for so many that we will never get the Safe Chemicals act passed. It kills me to hear how certain individuals whom are unfortunately in charge of our well being, see common sense precautions as extreme. My sister, a 41 year old mother of 5 year old twin girls, is currently battling Glioblastoma Multiforme...the most aggressive brain cancer there is. No family history of cancer...how does an otherwise healthy person get such a thing???!! I will tell everyone I know to support this cause. Thank you for your work to make us safer. Your husband would be proud.Posted by: Cynthia Norris | Jun 29, 2012 8:47:42 AM
Exactly if they can make the safer products for the EU Government they can do it for us. It seems much more expensive to spend millions on lobbyist than to just get on with it and eliminate the chemicals of concern.
Just because they had their trade secrets did not give them the right to put anything they wanted in our products. They should have to compensate the many suffering some for decades who can't work or live normal lives because of these chemicals which I call extreme.
I think that they chemical companies have been doing this for so long that things got out of hand and they don't know where to begin. Well they have had long enough, and if they can do it for other countries they will have to eliminate the dangerous chemicals for our country. I am sure they know what chemicals are not safe. LindaPosted by: Linda Delp | Jun 29, 2012 8:46:48 AM