million baby crawl Erin Brockovich and Seventh Generation

Interview by SafBaby Founders Sandra Blum and Samantha Fox Olson

The federal law that should protect us from health-harming chemicals just doesn’t work. Since 1976, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has required safety testing on only 200 of the more than 80,000 chemicals on the market. We need a stronger chemical law to keep our families safe and healthy.

We have been cautioning our readers for quite some time now of the unregulated terms that many companies use to wrongly influence buyers to purchase their product, thinking it is safe and non-toxic. This “greenwashing” in happens when advertisers use words like “natural”, “safe”, “eco-friendly” etc., listed right on the labels of cleaning products, and even foods.

My Uncle came home one day thinking he had a safe dish soap for me because it was marketed as being “green.”  But, sodium laurel sulfate was one of the major ingredients listed!  Beware readers, we must really know what we are being sold and what we are being lead to falsely believe.

Have you heard about the Million Baby Crawl?  It is an opportunity for ALL PEOPLE to become PROACTIVE and DEMAND CHANGE, reforming the toxic chemical policy that is negatively impacting our children and their future!  Babies everywhere are crawling to Washington and saying “no” to toxic chemicals found in household products. Join the crawl and help Seventh Generation, maker of naturally safe and effective household products, demand change!

We are so excited to have Margie Kelly, Communications Director from Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families answer our questions about Million Baby Craw, and the dangers of all these unregulated chemicals that surround our babies.  She gives us hope for a healthier future, and we are happy to share our interview with her today!

Q.  Of the 80,000 chemicals on the market, in your opinion, which are the most harmful to the well-being and health of our children?

A: The chemicals we are most concerned about are toxic, persistent and chemicals that build up or bioaccumulate in our bodies and threaten our health.  These toxic chemicals should be phased out of commerce.

This includes the chemicals bisphenol A, phthalates, and formaldehyde.

BPA, a chemical commonly used to make everything from baby bottles to credit card receipts, is linked to early puberty and other reproductive harm, increased susceptibility to breast and prostate cancer, and abnormalities in brain development and fat metabolism.

Phthalates, used in plastics, personal care products, and other common consumer products, can interfere with normal male sex hormones, and can cause birth defects and reduced sperm counts.

Formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, is used in many consumer products and building materials. Formaldehyde has been linked to childhood asthma and cancer of the upper airways and leukemia.

Evidence shows that babies are born with close to 300 chemicals in their bodies, including known carcinogens and chemicals that disrupt the hormone system like bisphenol A.  Pregnant women and other adults who have been tested were found to have BPA and other chemicals in their bodies like mercury, phthalates, and “Teflon” chemicals.

Some chemicals found in everyday products have been linked to scores of serious health problems, like the sudden rise in infertility and dramatic increases in chronic diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and asthma.

The Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition believes exposure to other toxic chemicals that we know can cause serious health problems should be reduced. Green chemistry research should be expanded, and safer chemicals favored over those with known health hazards.

Q:  When you state that the bill wishes to “require full information on the health and environmental hazards associated with all chemicals” where would this information be available for parents to study? It seems that most of the time we need to really dig to find answers and truthful information. Would it make it readily available to parents?

A:  The Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition is advocating for right to know provisions that will make all information about chemicals available in a public database.  We believe the secrecy around chemicals should be lifted so that parents, workers, product manufacturers, retailers and others can learn more about the chemicals used in products.

Q:  In regards to this statement….Protect all people and vulnerable groups – including children and pregnant women – using the best science.It seems that there is such a long, long road in store to do this. Putting one foot in front of the other is the work we must do to get there! It is discouraging however when our government requires/recommends that vaccinations with additives such as mercury and other very toxic substances to be injected into our babies is extremely large doses.   Any comment?

A:   There is a lot of uncertainty out there and people are wondering is it the mercury in vaccines, the lead in toys, pesticides, the BPA in bottles that are contributing to the rise we’re seeing in childhood illness and developmental problems? Chemicals are not tested for safety before they are put on the market and that’s the wrong approach.  We believe the public has a right to know about the health effects of ALL chemicals.

Q:   You say “Due to serious limitations of the current law, very little is known about the vast majority of the tens of thousands of chemicals produced and used in the US.Over the past three decades, the EPA has required testing on just 200 existing chemicals and restricted only five.” Is it really possible for EPA to test all chemicals produced and used in the US?

A:  Yes, it’s possible to do it and the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition is advocating for the law to require testing of all chemicals in use.  Perhaps the chemical industry will take some chemicals off the market so there will be fewer to test.  We will also advocate for using data from Europe and other nations that have health and safety testing requirements.

It’s important to note the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families campaign does not support unnecessary, repeated or senseless testing of toxic chemicals on animals. Instead, we favor the adoption of research methods that minimize reliance on animal testing.

Q:  If a law would pass, when would it go into effect?

A: We won’t know the answer to that until we see the bill, which is expected to be introduced in January.  Typically when legislation is enacted, it takes time to go into effect, anywhere from months or years.  We’ll push for the shortest timelines possible especially on requirements regarding disclosure and the public’s right to know requirements.

Q:  Even if the EPA tests these chemicals, how can we truly know if they’re safe? They say BPA & PVC are safe, even though lots of studies show otherwise – so even though this law passes, I still don’t trust that companies won’t produce these toxic chemicals. Why are you so hopeful?

A:  I’m hopeful that Congress will pass meaningful reform of the nation’s toxic chemical law because awareness of the problem across all sectors – government, industry, scientists, physicians and nurses, reproductive health and learning disabilities advocates, and the very strong force of mothers – is at an all time high. I think people are angry that they have to be a PhD to know what products are safe for their families. People understand that there is a connection between the chemicals in everyday products and the rise in some health problems, like cancer, infertility, asthma, heart disease, and learning disabilities.

The law governing toxic chemicals – the Toxic Substances Control Act – was passed in 1976 and hasn’t been updated since that time. That law also approved all chemicals that were in existence prior to 1976 without requiring that they be tested for safety.

[SF1] The regulations are so ineffective they did not allow the government to ban asbestos, a known carcinogen. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has said the EPA does not have the tools to protect Americans from the serious health effects linked to toxic chemical exposure.  Clearly it’s time for a major change.

That said, we can’t underestimate the resources and power the chemical industry has to thwart meaningful reform.  Already they’ve created a front group organization – the Coalition for Chemical Safety – with a website that looks just like ours and are recruiting concerned parents and businesses to work with them.  We think it’s a trick because while they say they support reform, they haven’t posted what principles they support.

Just as the public doesn’t benefit from industry taking the lead on tobacco legislation, the same holds true here with the chemical industry. The industry has called the shots on toxic chemicals for decades and made a royal mess of it. It’s time for the new marshals in town to take over–including moms, doctors, nurses, scientists and public health advocates.

Q: What can parents do NOW?

Three basic things: Stay informed, shop smart, and speak out for real reform.

The health of our families is precious, and parents invest significant amounts of time and money to protect it. As individuals, we can learn how to avoid many of the most toxic products, but not all of them. That’s why we ask parents get involved and speak out – together, we can demand chemical laws that will keep our families safe and healthy.

So how do you speak out?  It’s easy. Parents can become fans of our campaign on Facebook – it’s a lively spot where parents can find great information about health issues and how to make themselves heard in Washington. Another option: Check out our Website, where we will also keep you posted on how to contact your elected officials. It’s also a great way to get up-to-speed on the issue –readers can peruse our many blogs and news stories on toxic chemicals. We also publish people’s first-hand stories in our Tell Your Story section – your readers will see that they are not alone in their frustrations about how to keep their kids safe.