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Irresponsible Chemical Legislation In The 21st Century

Capitol_HillBy Deirdre Imus, 5/4/15
The latest version of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act, endorsed last week by a Senate committee, is nothing short of an irresponsible prescription for disaster. This bill, introduced by Senators Tom Udall and David Vitter, does not come close to fixing anything – except maybe the bank accounts of chemical company executives. The bill pretty much absolves the chemical industry of responsibly for the long-term environmental health effects of its own products and fails to provide an avenue to determine this type of safety for the thousands of chemicals they are producing.
 
Far from protecting anyone, this legislation threatens the health of all Americans, but especially children.  As the saying goes, children are not “little adults.” Their growing and developing bodies may not be capable of detoxifying certain harmful chemicals, and as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notes, pound for pound children breathe more air and consume more food and water than adults. 
 
The Chemical Safety Act, it seems, has almost zero intention of defending anybody, never mind children – who don’t make campaign contributions and don’t vote in elections. It keeps the chemical industry rich while violating our right – but especially our children’s right - to a healthy life. 
 
I’d like every member of Congress to consider just how many truly disease-free, children they know.  Chances are they, like me, know at least one child who has allergies, asthma, ADHD, ADD, celiac disease, autism, cancer, diabetes, Asperger’s syndrome, a learning disability, or some other health problem.  Every single one of these conditions has been linked to chemical exposures. 
 
It’s difficult not to compare this atrocity to one inflicted decades ago by the tobacco companies, as they swore up, down and sideways that cigarettes were not addictive, and that any evidence of their harm (lung cancer, heart disease) was “not conclusive.” As my friends at the Environmental Working Group put it, “even the tobacco industry could learn a few tricks from chemical companies when it comes to lying to the public about their dangerous products.”
 
Had legislators listened then and played offense rather than defense – how many lives could have been saved? How much suffering spared? We are in no less danger now, as we are exposed to countless chemicals on a daily basis, through no fault of our own – including, of course, those in tobacco products. 
 
For how much longer should our children continue to be abused by the legislators who are meant to protect them? Not for another minute! With the absence of effective safe chemicals laws, protecting our families is up to each one of us. Educating ourselves and our communities about safer chemicals – and demanding safety in the products we buy – is more a necessity now than ever. Let’s hope our legislators get the message that when they don’t do more, we will.   
 

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