Stroller Brigade descends on Washington

Parents and children advocating for safer chemicals

A coalition of environmental and public health advocates, including supporters of the Ecology Center, descended on Washington in a Stroller Brigade at the end of October to call for much-needed updates to federal chemical safety laws, which have not changed in almost 40 years.

For the second year in a row, the Stroller Brigade has provided an opportunity for parents and their children to show support for stronger protection from chemical hazards.

Jennifer Canvasser"The Michigan advocates joined with hundreds of others to draw attention to the fact that our nation’s 37-year-old chemicals law, the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA), is woefully out of date and overdue for reform," according to Jennifer Canvasser, environmental health organizer at the Ecology Center (pictured at right). "The Michigan coalition represents a growing movement of nurses, parents, clean water advocates and business leaders who know that TSCA is ineffective at protecting public health and the environment from hazardous chemicals."

Michigan participants in the Stroller Brigade who met with members of the state's congressional delegation included supporters of the Michigan Network for Children's Environmental Health, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Moms Clean Air Force, C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, and the Learning Disabilities Association of Michigan.

“Chemicals linked to asthma, certain cancers, and learning disabilities are found in everything from household cleaners and children’s products, and very few have been tested for safety,” said Wibke Heymach, Michigan field manager for Moms Clean Air Force. “Congress has an opportunity to pass laws that protect Michigan’s families and freshwater, and we are calling on them to do so.”

Since TSCA was enacted in 1976, more than 80,000 chemicals have registered for use in the USA. The EPA has required very few to be tested for their impact on health, and has only succeeded in banning or restricting five chemical substances. Many chemicals on the market have been linked to diseases like cancer, birth defects, infertility, and asthma. These chemicals are ubiquitous in Great Lakes fish and wildlife, and biomonitoring has detected them in Michigan residents.

"In my 16 years as a pediatric intensive care unit nurse, and as a mother of twin boys, I know firsthand the fragility of our health,” said Racheal Brant, one of three nurses who went to Washington with the Michigan coalition. “Every day I see children fighting cancer, battling chronic disabilities and struggling to regain their health. Toxic chemicals threaten the health of my young patients and all of our families. I urge our Senators to enact strong legislation that truly protects our most vulnerable."

The Michigan team met with Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow about the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA), a bill that the public health and environmental communities say is too weak.

“We are calling for 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 continue to pass chemicals laws to protect their own citizens and environment," Canvasser said. "The CSIA, as drafted, doesn’t meet these criteria."

EcoLink — November 2013
An online publication of the Ecology Center

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