(Beyond Pesticides, May 24, 2012) On Tuesday, several hundred mothers and fathers joined nurses and cancer survivors at the U.S. Capitol to demand action on toxic chemicals. The group, deemed the “National Stroller Brigade” rallied in support of U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg’s (D-NJ) Safe Chemicals Act, a bill to overhaul antiquated laws governing toxic chemicals.
“It’s shocking that toxic chemicals end up in everyday consumer products, and in our bodies, without anyone proving that they are safe. The stroller brigade is carrying an important message to Congress that we’re not going to stand by and let our kids continue to be exposed to chemicals that make them sick. Concerned moms are the best weapons we have in this fight. With their help, I will keep advancing the Safe Chemicals Act to reform our broken toxic chemical laws and provide a healthier future for our families,” said U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ).
Public health groups have long urged Congress to strengthen the law by restricting chemicals known to be dangerous and requiring testing of new and existing chemicals to ensure that they are safe. The Safe Chemicals Act, utilizing risk assessment methodology, would, in theory, require chemical companies to prove their products are “safe” for human health and the environment when allowed in commerce. While creating priority reviews for the higher risk categories of chemicals, many analysts are concerned that continued exclusive reliance on risk assessment with its serious uncertainties and lack of attention to least toxic alternatives allows unnecessary toxic chemical use and undermines a precautionary approach. Beyond Pesticides has long called for alternatives assessment in environmental rulemaking that creates a regulatory trigger to adopt alternatives and drive the market to go green. The alternatives assessment approach differs most dramatically from risk assessment in rejecting uses and exposures deemed acceptable under risk assessment calculations, but unnecessary because of the availability of safer alternatives.
The National Stroller Brigade builds on 30 local events in support of the Safe Chemicals Act, in locations as diverse as Little Rock and Omaha. Hundreds of moms — many with children in tow — flew or bused into Washington to deliver 130,000 petition signatures to their Senators. Moms turned out in large numbers in response to an investigative series by the Chicago Tribune, which exposed the chemical industry’s deceptive lobbying tactics to protect toxic chemicals. The moms divided up by state to deliver the thousands of petition signatures asking their Senators to support the Safe Chemicals Act.
Polly Schlaff, a mother of three boys and a widow, told her compelling story about losing her high-school sweetheart to cancer at the age of 35. “My husband’s cancer had no genetic links, a fact both reassuring and troubling to a single mother bent on protecting her children from illness. No genetic flaw predisposes my sons to Ewing’s sarcoma, yet every day they, along with millions of other American children, are exposed to known and suspected carcinogens. This is unacceptable,” she said. Ms. Schlaff is a resident of Western Michigan and planned to visit Senator Stabenow in the afternoon.
“If there is one overwhelming message from years of science, it’s that exposure to toxic chemicals early in our lives is responsible for some of the cancer, infertility, and other health problems that affect millions of Americans,” said Andy Igrejas of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. “However, Congress has been paralyzed. We’re here to break the gridlock and demand common sense limits on toxic chemicals.”
Increasing rates of chronic diseases linked to toxic chemical exposure, including cancer, asthma, and infertility have created an urgency in state capitols to enact policies to get harmful chemicals off the market. The Safe Chemicals Act is currently awaiting a vote in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Participants at the Stroller Brigade hope to add to this urgency and pressure to this pending vote. To learn more about how pesticides are linked to serious health concerns, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Induced Diseases database.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.