Chemical policy reform advocate pens commentary for Detroit Free Press

Joyce Stein, a registered nurse with more than 30 years clinical experience at the University of Michigan Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, has seen the negative consequences of our outdated federal policies regulating toxic chemicals.

"My interest in how chemicals may be impacting human health began in the 1990s with the exposure of premature infants to DEHP, a chemical commonly found in IV tubing and bags, in the newborn intensive care unit," Stein said. "The very products we were using to treat premature infants were unknowingly a source of toxic chemical exposure."

Since that time, Stein has become a devoted advocate for reforming state and federal chemical policies as a board member of the Michigan Nurses Association, a member of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments. She also is a supporter of the Michigan Network for Children's Environmental Health, a coalition of health professionals, health-affected groups, environmental organizations including the Ecology Center and others dedicated to a safe and less toxic world for Michigan's children.

In a guest commentary published by the Detroit Free Press earlier this month, Stein wrote: "As a nurse, I empathize with the strong desire to find a cure for many of today's medical problems: cancer, infertility, immune disorders and learning and developmental disabilities. They all have profound and devastating effects on American individuals and families."

In her commentary, Stein pointed out how much we've learned in recent decades about toxic chemicals and their health consequences, but the federal Toxic Substance Control Act has not been updated since 1976.

"The effects of toxic chemicals found in our homes, the environment and our workplaces can be seen in the increase in neurodevelopmental disorders, cancers and chronic diseases," she wrote. "Childhood cancers have increased 20 percent since 1975, breast cancer rose by 40 percent between 1973 and 1998, and infertility affected 40 percent more women in 2002 than in 1982."

A bill to update federal chemical policy, called the Safe Chemicals Act, has been introduced in the Senate, but progress has ben slow.

"The act would simultaneously reduce our exposure to toxic chemicals in our homes and workplaces while encouraging the production of safer chemicals," Stein wrote. "Even more encouraging, the bill shows that we don't have to make a false choice between protecting our families from harmful chemicals and a vibrant economy. We have the chance to reinvigorate our chemical industry at a time when we need new manufacturing and job opportunities."

Supporters of reforming American chemicals policy should contact their senators to encourage them to become co-sponsors of the bill, and to support it in committee and on the floor.

EcoLink — June 2012 Ecolink
An online publication of the Ecology Center

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