A Place For Everything

I’ve been feeling more blue than green lately. Shopping for my family has become an onerous task. Between worrying about the perils of plastics, the multitude of preservatives in everything, the effectiveness of sunscreens and the hundreds of untested chemicals in everyday household products, it is a wonder that I can even make it through the supermarket with my head still screwed on. The tidbits of information on toxins in products can be paralyzing, making it impossible to remember which chemical du jour you are supposed to be avoiding.

This eco-warrior mama is a little weary. Is it really too much to ask for our children’s toys, baby bottles, food and drinking water to be safe?

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG),

“The nation’s toxic chemical regulatory law, the Toxic Substances Control Act, is in drastic need of reform. Passed in 1976 and never amended since, TSCA is widely regarded as the weakest of all major environmental laws on the books today.

When passed, the Act declared safe some 62,000 chemicals already on the market, even though there were little or no data to support this policy. Since that time another 20,000 chemicals have been put into commerce in the United States, also with little or no data to support their safety.”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has tested about 200 of the 80,000 chemicals in the marketplace and only five have been restricted or banned. But what about the other 75,000 or so chemicals that I come into contact with regularly?

On an even scarier note, these chemicals are finding their way into our bodies and our children’s bodies. In a small study conducted by the EWG in December 2009, more than 200 chemicals were discovered in the blood of the 10 newborns in the study, including Bisphenol A, “a toxic flame retardant chemical called tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA) that permeates computer circuit boards, synthetic fragrances (Galaxolide and Tonalide) used in common cosmetics and detergents, and perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA, or C4), a member of the notorious Teflon chemical family used to make non-stick and grease-, stain- and water-resistant coatings for cookware, textiles, food packaging and other consumer products.” Some of these chemicals are linked to serious and life-threatening conditions like asthma, allergies, autism, ADHD, obesity and infertility.

So what can we do about this? Clearly buying products that don’t contain the “bad stuff” is a first step. But that only works within limits. These chemicals are literally everywhere, and at some point, you can’t help but come into contact with untested and potentially deadly chemicals. And that is why I say it is time to get political. What are those senators and congresspeople doing to protect us? I for one support the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act. The act would do the following:

• Protect kids by reversing the burden of proof, requiring manufacturers to demonstrate new chemicals are safe for infants, children and other vulnerable populations in order to get on the market.

• Require an expedited EPA review of chemicals found in people, particularly those found in baby cord blood; chemicals known to be potentially harmful would go to the top of the list.

• Require biomonitoring (testing of human blood, urine, breast milk and umbilical cord blood) to determine what chemicals are in people.

• Require manufacturers to provide data on a chemical’s toxicity and give EPA the authority to request all data needed to make a safety finding.

• Require all health and safety data be made available to the public; under current law, manufacturers can claim “confidential business information” for virtually all data, including the chemical’s name.

• Give EPA the clear authority to ban or restrict chemicals and individual chemical uses.

• Protect state and local rights.

• Allow for an exemption if the use of the chemical is in the interest of national security or would result in significant disruption to the economy and there is no feasible alternative available.

If you are as weary as I am, please go to the EWG website and sign the petition in support of the Kid-Safety Chemicals Act. In addition, please write to your senators and congresspeople to let them know how important this issue is to you.

Just think, you might be able to walk down the aisle of the supermarket only worrying about what to cook for dinner.

Get political!

In 2006, Francesca Olivieri co-founded the company sage baby, an online eco-friendly baby store offering everything from organic clothes and skincare to furniture. She also writes a monthly blog for Scenic Hudson as well as contributes articles to Daily Candy Kids, CitiScoop and NRDC’s Simple Steps. She continues to watch her green business grow while seeking to apply her values to her own home and family. Francesca lives in New York City with her husband and three kids, 9, 7 and 4.

Posted in Health and Fitness