It's hard to protect kids from all the dangers out there in the world. A few years ago, I remember a radio interview exchange from the mom who wrote the book Free Range Kids about how she was told, in the uproar about her letting her pre-teen take the subway alone, that a parent's most important job was to protect their child. She thought, 'No, my most important job is to raise a caring, competent person and teaching them to face the world and it's dangers is going to be part of that.'
While we can work with kids to teach common-sense strategies for managing public transportation on their own, how do we deal with the toxic chemicals their little bodies come across every single day?
The following blog post came out of a playground exchange the day I took the above photo:
That's pretty much how a recent playground conversation with a neighborhood grandmother went. We struck up a conversation after my toddler daughter began to imitate her granddaughter's cough (good time for a pre-flu season lesson about coughing into your sleeve). We ended up discussing the causes of the marked increase in childhood environmental and food allergies.
It's a common observation among grandparents that their kids didn't have allergies and they don't remember the neighborhood kids having allergies. Sure kids got sick but few seemed to have chronic conditions. Now all the kids seem to have allergies, asthma, or ADHD or other special conditions. There are lots of reasons for the increases, better diagnostics may be one, but a possible culprit that may finally get some attention under the Obama administration is chemical exposure.
U.S. Chemicals Regulation is Not Doing the Job
Of more than 80,000 chemicals on the United States market, only 200 or so have been tested for health effects. The U.S. law that governs chemicals places such a high burden on the government to show that a chemical is harmful that the Environmental Protection Agency has only banned one group of chemicals, PCBs, in the three decades since the law passed.
I blogged a couple of weeks ago on one example of where that leaves us: voluntary action by industry. This summer researchers were shocked to discover that a toxic flame retardant that became controversial in the 1980s and was removed from children's clothing may have been quietly phased back in by industry for use in children's products and furniture, perhaps as other flame retardants came under fire in the early 2000s. This is no way to manage toxic chemicals. Environmental Defense is even reporting that toxic chemicals banned in China are being exported to the United States.
Congress and EPA to Reform Toxic Chemicals Laws
Recently, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson unveiled a strong set of principles for toxic chemical reform and will be working with long-time environmental health advocates in Congress, Senators Barbara Boxer and Frank Lautenberg and Representatives Henry Waxman and Bobby Rush, to introduce bills this fall/winter that incorporate them.
But this will not be an easy fight. One headline for an industry trade publication on Jackson's principles read: "Obama Administration backs radical TSCA reform." The American Chemistry Council has also issued principles for reform that the Environmental Working Group called "broken from the very beginning when it comes to protecting human health and the environment."
What Can You Do to Support Reforming our Broken Chemicals Regulations?
Start by signing this petition asking Congress to reform the broken U.S. toxic chemical laws that are not protecting us from toxic chemicals and then share this story with your family and friends using the social networking links up by the picture.
You can also read my blog on the failure of voluntary industry action on toxic chemicals here.