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“Stroller Brigade” Descends On Capitol Hill

Kristy Meyer, October 30, 2013

Healthcare & Child Development Experts Demand Action on Toxic Chemicals

As the U.S. Senate considers its most serious attempt to reform federal laws on toxic chemicals, advocates from Ohio descended on the nation’s capital this week, calling on Congress to protect families from toxic chemicals.

Toxic chemicals – many of which are linked to cancer, birth defects, early puberty, asthma, and other serious illness – have been found in common consumer products ranging from household cleaners to children’s products and building materials.

In addition, the same toxic chemicals are found in air pollution, drinking water, the Great Lakes, and “hot spot” communities, like Clyde, Ohio, where 20 children where diagnosed with cancer over eight years.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently sampled soils from Whirlpool Park to see if there was a link between the disposal of waste and the Clyde, Ohio, cancer cluster. The samples taken included polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and heavy metals, such as cobalt and nickel, which exceeded the U.S. EPA’s standards.

“Nearly forty years after the passage of the Toxic Substance Control Act, “partially banned” chemicals like PCBs are still present in our environment at unsafe levels,” said Joyce Martin, a mother and advocate who has worked to reform federal chemical policy for years.” Nearly 80,000 chemicals are unregulated, which begs the question of the safety of these for public health.”

Clyde, Ohio, is not the first cancer cluster that may be tied to toxic substances in soils. One of Ohio’s most famous cases involved River Valley High School in Marion where 83 students were diagnosed with some of the rarest cancers.

Before its eventual relocation, the school campus had been situated on top of a former sprawling World War II era Army depot and munitions factory that contaminated the area with toxic levels of lead, arsenic, and chemicals suspected of causing cancer. 

The federal law overseeing toxic chemicals, the Toxic Substances Control Act, is widely regarded as out of date.

It has not been updated in 37 years. In recent years, a growing movement of parents from across the country have been pushing Congress to update and reform the ineffective law. In the first six months of 2013 alone, the chemical lobby has spent a staggering $30 million fighting meaningful toxic chemical regulations and deployed hundreds of lobbyists.

In an effort to fight back, a group of concerned mothers, who also are healthcare and children development professionals, from Ohio were among the advocates visiting with Ohio’s Congressional delegation and asking for stronger laws on toxic chemicals. They also participated in a “Stroller Brigade” that featured hundreds of parents from more than 40 states, a toxic “show and tell” of chemicals in consumer products, and a march to the Senate.

“As a mother it’s impossible to find products free of toxic chemicals and those that are can be out of my price range,” said Marnie Urso, Ohio Field Manager, Moms Clean Air Force. “It’s time Washington gets back to business and pass strong laws on toxic chemicals. I’m here to let our Senators Brown and Portman know I want real reform that protects pregnant women and children from toxic chemicals. It’s as simple as that.”

Currently the Senate is considering the Chemical Safety Improvement Act, a bill that the public health community and Ohio moms say is too weak. The moms are urging federal reform that will: protect pregnant women, children, and vulnerable communities, take immediate action on the most toxic chemicals, and allow states the ability to pass their own toxic chemical laws.

Specifically, they are urging for:

  • The protection of vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women and developing children, by defining “vulnerable populations” to explicitly require protection from aggregate exposure to high priority chemicals, and clarification of the standard to ensure it is strictly health-based and protective;
  • The preservation of state authority so that states may address both “high priority” and “low priority” chemicals;
  • Not pitting health and environmental risks of a chemical against economic and social decisions, creating more red-tape for the U.S. EPA and potentially jeopardizing the public’s health;
  • Deadlines and tables for which the U.S. EPA must complete a minimum of assessments and safety determinations; and
  • Prioritizing chemicals’ level of risk to human health, based only upon scientific data.

“These toxic chemicals are brought into my house everyday, exposing my children,” said Kristy Meyer, Managing Director of Agricultural, Health & Clean Water Programs at the Ohio Environmental Council. “We need reform that truly protects families from the chemicals that contribute to the increasing rates of childhood cancer, learning disabilities, infertility, and other health problems. The current proposal before Congress does not meet that standard.”