Mothers on the march

The nearly twelve thousand professional lobbyists in our nation’s capital are about to face some stiff competition.  This week, moms from across the country are mobilizing to bring the fight against common toxic chemicals directly to the congressional doorstep. They’ll be here up close and in person, asking lawmakers to fix a bad law that leaves our families vulnerable. 

These everyday chemicals have been linked to cancer, learning disabilities and a slew of other health problems that impact our families.  Yet, most of them —from household cleaners to paints and plastics—have never even been tested for safety.  

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Our organization, Moms Clean Air Force, is one of many sending troops to Washington to march, with stroller, as part of the Safer Chemicals Health Families Stroller Brigade.  Parents from more than 35 states will call on Congress to take action to help make all of us and our families safer.

We’re inspired to action by some staggering facts.  Right now it is still perfectly legal for manufacturers to use:

 ·          Flame retardants – linked to reproductive damage – found in couches and crib mattresses;

 ·          Formaldehyde—a known human carcinogen —used  in clothing and homebuilding materials;

 ·          Phthalates — linked to birth defects — used in lunch boxes, backpacks and binders, among many other things;

 ·          PFCs — some also suspected carcinogens — used in cookware, clothing and carpeting.

We consumers might think that just because something is on the shelves of our stores, it must have been shown to be safe. We are mistaken. In fact, 62,000 chemicals on the market in 1976 – still the majority of those in use today – were grandfathered in under Toxic Substances Control Act without any proof of safety. Since then, 23,000 more new chemicals have been allowed to enter the market without rigorous testing. 

For years, hundreds of thousands of parents have been demanding reform—just look at how some companies dropped the hormone disruptor BPA in plastics, for instance, because of consumers’ protests. But the problem is that without regulation, manufacturers can just substitute BPA with another untested chemical that might be even more hazardous--what's known with sad understatement as "a regrettable substitution."  

We need strong chemical laws. And the new Chemical Safety Improvement Act is our first real chance in decades to get to that goal.

It’s true that the new bill has significant flaws—and negotiations are underway to improve it. For instance, it does not adequately address the special vulnerability of infants and children, who have different responses to chemicals than do adults. But the bipartisan support for the bill makes this an important opportunity. The status quo is not an option.

Under current law, the chemicals in our stuff are innocent until proven guilty — effectively, they’re being tested in our bodies, and in our children’s bodies. This isn’t right. Moms are asking our representatives to do something about it--after all, no politician wants to make his mother angry.

Browning is the co-founder and senior director of Moms Clean Air Force. Moms Clean Air Force is a national movement of more than 180,000 moms — and dads too! — who are protecting our children’s right to clean air. The group is a special project of the Environmental Defense Fund.