Stop Making Our Kids Sick; Make Chemicals Safe

baby by paul goyette
Photo by permission of Paul Goyette.

December’s topic for this month’s Green Moms Carnival is prevention. The question asked is, if we could create an agenda for our new President in order to prevent certain environmental, health, or social injustices from occurring, what would it be.  It is a thought provoking theme, which given the diversity of the Green Moms should be very interesting.   In December, this carnival will be hosted by Diane at the Big Green Purse.  (See the carnival post on Big Green Purse.) In addition, she has also set up a Prevention Agenda forum (a Ning group, which is a social networking group) where anyone can list their prevention agendas and interact with each other.  Diane has been a mover and shaker in the environmental field way before I knew what recycling was. She will be submitting these recommendations to the Obama transition team.  So, if you want to be heard, the Prevention Agenda forum is the place to be.

Here is my prevention agenda:

Dear Mr. President-elect:

I view myself as an advocate to help people live a more sustainable, healthier lifestyle. However, it is hard to be informative about a healthy lifestyle when every month there seems to be another chemical that has either leached into our food, appears in our toys, or shows up in our breast milk.

The Environmental Working Group (“EWG”) did a study of 10 cord blood samples in 2004.  They were testing for 413 toxic chemicals.  What they found was that on average each sample contained over 200 toxic chemicals ranging from consumer products, pesticides, to products that were banned thirty years ago.  The babies whose cord blood samples were taken were being exposed while in utero.

“Babies like this in the womb are at their most vulnerable stage in life. Their organs are developing very rapidly. Brains…their hormones, immune systems. Their sexual development is being determined. Everything would tell you that you want to protect them from toxic chemicals.  Everything we know tell us that we don’t,” explains Ken Cook, president of EWG during his explanation of the video, “10 Americans.”

When EWG matched these chemicals up against their toxicity databases, they found that 134 of these chemicals cause cancer, 151 are associated with birth defects, 154 are associated with hormone disruption, 186 are associated with infertility, 130 immune disruptors, and 158 associated with neurotoxins.  Although this amount of associated disruptors adds up beyond the 200 chemicals noted above, many of the chemicals have multiple effects.

If the EWG had more money to test for more chemicals, who knows what they would have found?  Just the testing they did was scary enough to say it is time to wake up. Look what we are doing to our children. We need to prevent these exposures from happening. We don’t know what effects these chemicals have on our unborn children.

What we do know is that in the last twenty years there has been an increase in certain diseases or afflictions such as  breast cancer, acute lymphocytic leukemia, brain cancer and autism, just to name a few. The US has the highest rate of cancer in the world.

I look at my own children who have learning disabilities, asthma, juvenile diabetes, and ADD. I know this isn’t right. I have known children in my own community who have died of cancer. Mothers dying of breast cancer, and a rise in the amount of autistic children in the community.

Mr. President-Elect, we need to stop the exposure of toxic chemicals by updating the 1976 Toxic Substance Chemical Act (TSCA). A law that grandfathered 62,000 chemicals presumed to be safe.   It has been more than thirty years since it was signed into law, and we are still living in the seventies.   It is a re-run not worth watching.

In this country, chemicals and the justice system have a lot in common.  You are innocent until proven guilty.  I can understand this approach with regard to the justice system, but please explain to me why manufacturing companies are not required to provide health and safety studies prior to chemicals coming onto the market? 20,000 new chemicals have come onto the market since TSCA was enacted.

According to a press release issued by Senator Frank Lautenberg, a sponsor of the Bill, the EPA has only required testing of 200 chemicals out of the 80,000 chemicals used in our homes today.  The rest? Rubber stamped no doubt. This law is part of a broken system in which the government is clearly not looking after our best interest.

What about nanotechnology.  It is the wunderkind of this decade.  Look at the marvelous things that nanotechnology can do for us.    Consumer Reports alerted the public to the possibility that our government is approving the use of chemicals that would ordinarily not be harmful until they are reduced to nanoparticles.  How long after the rash of illnesses occur, will we figure out it was the nanoparticles that caused it?  Better yet, who is watching the ship?

We must enact the Kid-Safe Chemical Act which is presently before Congress. This Act  puts the burden of proof on the chemical companies to prove that a chemical is safe before it is allowed on the market. In addition, the Act mandates the following:

  • requires that industrial chemicals be safe for infants, kids and other vulnerable groups;
  • requires that new chemicals be safety tested before they are sold;
  • requires chemical manufacturers to test and prove that the 62,000 chemicals already on the market that have never been tested are safe in order for them to remain in commerce;
  • requires EPA to review “priority” chemicals, those which are found in people, on an expedited schedule;
  • requires regular biomonitoring to determine what chemicals are in people and in what amounts;
  • requires regular updates of health and safety data and provides EPA with clear authority to request additional information and tests;
  • provides incentives for manufacturers to further reduce health hazards;
  • requires EPA to promote safer alternatives and alternatives to animal testing;
  • protects state and local rights; and
  • requires that this information be publicly available.” (EWG’s Kid-Safe Act materials)

Due to the nature of this Act, it can easily get bogged down in committee.  We can’t wait until the end of your term for this law to pass.  We need for a collective effort across party lines to prevent further harm to our children who are so much more susceptible to the effects of chemicals.  They are the next generation and our hope to make this world a better place.  How will that be possible if they are sick?

Mr. President-elect, please make updating TCSA a priority in this administration so that we all can rest a little better.

Sincerely,

A concerned Mom, Sister, Wife, and Daughter

For those readers who want to help push passage of the Kid-Safe Chemical Act, please sign the following petition. Our voices need to be heard.

Sources:

Kid-Safe Chemical Act, Environmental Working Group, May 2008.

Nanotechnology, the Untold Promise, Unknown Risk” Consumer Reports, July 2007.

Press release of Senator Frank R Lautenberg, May 2008


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Comments

  1. 4

    Jennifer Taggart says

    President-Elect Obama – Heed this message. We need to make sure that the chemicals in our products are safe. We need to protect the most vulnerable of our population. TSCA is a failure. The EPA couldn’t even successfully ban asbestos – despite 10 years of preparing the regulatory ban and reams and reams of documentation. Since TSCA’s enactment, only 5 – yes 5 – chemicals have been banned. We grandfathered in virtually all of the chemicals in use, and we have no idea if most of them are safe. We desperately need to overhaul TSCA and approach regulation of chemicals different – we need to be proactive, not reactive.

    Jennifer
    http://www.thesmartmama.com

    Jennifer Taggarts last blog post..Is a Christmas tree really green?

  2. 7

    LisaatEWG says

    Anna, This is great! It is so heartening to see word spread about Kid Safe! Every time one of us writes about it we’re closer to making it happen. If anyone wants to jump into our grassroots campaign to pass it, be in touch! We need all hands on deck. I’m an online parent organizer for EWG: lisa [at] ewg [dot] org. We CAN do this. Together.

  3. 8

    Green Talk says

    Lisa, this act is very dear to may heart. It is one of the reasons I painstakingly built my house with nontoxic products for the stake of my kids. Anna

  4. 10

    Lydia says

    Updating the TSCA is essential. I suggest one more bullet-point to the KSCA, however, to truly ensure the safety of us and our families: we need to include language enforcing the improvements of chemical toxicity testing. Current animal models are flawed, and an improperly tested chemical poses as much threat as one not tested. The KSCA should take into account the National Research Council’s vision for toxicity testing, which includes a report detailing exactly how to improve these tests and thus guarantee that the chemicals being tested are done so accurately and efficiently. We need some language in the KSCA directly referencing these necessary changes in chemical toxicity testing so that we can be certain that our children are properly protected from harmful chemicals.

  5. 11

    Tom says

    I thought I would ad to your great post Anna.

    I respectfully submit the following evidence to promote an EPA investigation against chemical toxins used in ordinary household cleaners.

    Since the end of WW2 there have been 85,000 new chemicals introduced to mainstream America without EPA approval, and minimal regulation at best.

    Of those 85,000 new chemicals, over 70% are found in everyday cleaners.

    Recent studies of families living with asthma, conducted by the American Lung Association and the American Respiratory Association, have found direct links between household cleaners and the onset of asthma attacks.

    Household cleaners have contributed to the onset of new adult asthma as reported by Dr. Jan-Paul Zock of Barcelona Spain in joint studies conducted at the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL), the Municipal Institute of Medical Research (IMIM), Barcelona, Spain, the Respiratory Epidemiology and Public Health Group, the National Heart and Lung Institute, and the Imperial College, London, in the United Kingdom.
    We live in an increasingly chemical society and these chemicals are being brought into our homes unaware: experts don’t know how dangerous these chemicals might be, but they are starting to worry.

    Typically, the chemicals in cleaning products are found in small amounts, diluted with water. This does not necessarily make them safe. Ingestion of common household cleaning products by children accounts for 63% of the phone calls made to the National Poison Control Center.

    Another thing to watch out for are aerosol sprays that contain nerve-damaging ingredients, such as hexane and xylene.

    Also, aerosol sprays produce mist particles that can contain a high amounts of organic solvents, according to the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority. It warns that these solvents can be inhaled into the lungs and enter the bloodstream.

    According to a 1999 study published in the weekly science and technology magazine, New Scientist, in homes where aerosol sprays and air fresheners were used frequently, mothers experienced 25 percent more headaches and were 19 percent more likely to suffer from depression, and infants younger than 6 months old had 30 percent more ear infections and a 22 percent higher incidence of diarrhea.

    Some of the most alarming stories revolve around household cleaners containg chemicals known as ethoxylated nonyl phenols, which have recently been declared toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

    Also known as endocrine disrupters, these chemicals are called “gender benders” by environmentalists because they are believed to cause reproductive problems for some animals. For instance, a group of Columbia River otters, with large doses of ethoxylated nonylphenols in their bodies, can no longer reproduce because their penises are too small.

    More than 56 per cent of all nonylphenols used in Canada are found in cleaning products, notably in toilet cleaners and certain liquid laundry soaps.

    Fomaldehyde is another chemical compound found in some household cleaners, but it is included as a preservative, not as a cleaning agent. Other chemicals commonly found in household cleaners include ammonia; nitrobenzene, which is a toxic organic compound frequently used in furniture polish; and phenol, or carbolic acid. Most ingredients in household cleaners are chemical compounds that are manufactured for other uses as well.

    Recent medical studies have also proven a link between ordinary household cleaners and their direct impact on Asthma and Breast Cancer.

    Findings also show a direct link between aromatic candles and liver disease, along with carcinogens that cause skin cancer and a multitude of other problems related to respiratory ailments directly caused by ordinary household cleaners.

    News stations are reporting organized groups petitioning congress to set regulations on household cleaners and their 85,000 un tested chemicals used in household cleaners.

    Household cleaners have never been regulated and manufacturers have been given a red carpet to use whatever chemicals they deemed worthy, with no regard for human safety.

    And our Healthcare Industry is suffering to the tune of Billions annually.

    If you want to make healthcare afforable, you have to start with prevention.

    With that said, I respectfully request the EPA to consider a ban on all un approved household cleaners used in public schools and nursing homes until they are PROVEN SAFE.

    For more information and News 5 Video, please visit

    http://tinyurl.com/krus86

    see More video on all pages

  6. 12

    Tom says

    I wanted to add to my previous post and show what is happening around our planet and how it is affecting our health. Please sign the EPA petition at the bottom.

    The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a 10,000,000 square mile area in the middle of the Pacific ocean.

    First discovered in 1997 by self trained ocean researcher Charles Moore, he named the stretch of ocean between the UK and China The Great Pacific Garbage Patch because of it’s 30 foot deep and 10,000 square mile mass.

    The area is about twice the size of Texas.

    Since it’s discovery, the area has been under study by environmental groups and Universities for it’s negative impact on aquatic wildlife.

    In an August press release detailing a recent 3 week expedition through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by research scientists from the University of California, led by Miriam Goldstein and fellow researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California- San Diego, Goldstein commented, “It’s pretty shocking – it’s unusual to find exactly what you’re looking for”.

    What they were looking for is the chemical breakdown of plastic, along with the toxic chemicals they contained, and their effect on marine life from the micro organisms and Plankton that are subject to the bio mass, to the predator fish that are higher on the food chain and consume the smaller aquatic life forms.

    The concern is that the chemically contaminated larger fish, end up on our dinner plates.

    In recent studies conducted by Dr Frederick Vom Saal from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and with joint researchers from Japan, studies showed an increase in onset Diabetes, Liver and Kidney disease, and most alarming, Miscarriages they believe to be related to oceanic fish consumption contaminated with residue from plastic containers and the toxic chemicals they contained.

    Thomas Morton, a journalist on Charles Moore research vessel, the El Quido, returned from a one week stay in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and reported on the area as an “Ecological Catastrophe”.

    Researchers on the vessel recorded a 6 to 1 ratio of Plankton VS Plastic and the normally soft saltwater in the area is a “Yellowish soupy mix”.

    Plastic in salt water, unlike on land, does not Bio Degrade, it Photo Degrades, breaking down into miniscule particles small enough for fish to consume. The chemical compounds in the plastic remain and the toxins are transferred in trace amounts to larger game fish.

    When asked if there was a solution to the problem on the horizon, Thomas Morton shrugged his shoulders and stated there was not.

    “What is happening in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a global catastrophe and until all countries adopt a safe plastics dumping regulation, the bio mass in the middle of the ocean will continue to grow, and until the world population stops using plastic containers filled with toxic chemicals found in household cleaners, the problem will only worsen”.

    Only a global co-operation of many countries taking immediate action, can minimize the health damage that will surely come from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

    Authors Note:

    There has been over 85,000 new chemicals introduced to the American population since 1944 with little or no EPA regulations or testing for human exposure. 70% of these toxic chemicals are found in Household Cleaners.

    Organizations such as Green Justice, a Law firm in New York have recently filed class action suits against 4 major cleaning solution manufactureres to disclose the chemicals used in their products. The case went public after the manufacturers were asked to disclose the chemicals used and they replied the chemicals were, “Company Secrets”

    When asked for EPA intervention, the EPA said they have tested and approved only 4 chemicals in 2 years, citing claims the Budget Office of the White House is “Dragging their feet” and slashing the EPA budget for chemical testing, resulting in millions of Americans being put at risk of toxic chemical exposures.

    To help us get EPA funding for future chemical testing, please do your part and sign the EPA Petition to force congress to make funding available to the EPA for chemical testing on products used in public schools.

    Please sign the Petition here:
    http://tinyurl.com/yh9mee3

  7. 13

    Radon says

    Anna, your article has generated a significant response and I also must state, I agree with you. For me I would just like to know the truth and be informed if I am digesting something that may harm my health in any shape or form. Often the chemicals do not affect everyone and equally it may depend on the amount consumed. What I am aware of is that the amount of allergies that have arose in the population for adults is increasing and common. This weakness is then passed to the next generation and\\\”on we go\\\”. The solution is to produce more chemicals to solve the problems, which in turn creates another problems and so \\\”on we go\\\”. I am fortunate to live a community where fast food is limited to stir fry cooked in front of you, chips and chocolates are not a regular item in the supermarkets. In fact supermarkets are few, whereas fresh food markets are everywhere. There is not such thing as organic growing, as there are very little pesticides. There is a significant emphasis on body and mind. So we enjoy massages, yoga, and fresh raw foods are the norm for our diet.

    This is not difficult to achieve in any community should they desire.

  8. 14

    Dr. Randall Davidson says

    I have been conducting workshops about chemical exposures in the performing arts for over forty years. I continue to do this and to write about them. MY three new books contain information about these chemicals and problems. Keep me in the loop for information, please. Dr. Davidson

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