The Time Has Come for Chemical Safety Reform
Reprinted from VT Digger
December 20th, 2013
Melinda Moulton of Burlington is the CEO of Main Street Landing and a VPIRG Member
I am the proud grandmother of a 9-year-old boy with autism. RoRo is non-verbal and working to communicate using facilitated language. Over the years our family has tried to understand how and why RoRo developed autism. Since my daughter had a second child who is very typical, we can now see that RoRo was autistic from birth.
Why have the cases of autism gone from one in 10,000 in the 1980s to one in 88 today? I truly believe our children are being poisoned because of all the hidden toxic chemicals — from household cleaners, toys, clothing, mattresses, plastics, and the more than 80,000 synthetic chemicals used in commerce in the United States. American corporations create their products differently here than they do overseas because most European countries have outlawed many of the toxins allowed in the United States.
There have been many studies that have linked autism to toxic exposure in pregnant mothers. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a hormone-disrupting chemical in hard plastics. Vermont banned BPA two years ago from children’s products — but it can still be found in plastic food containers, linings of cans, and even cash receipts. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey indicates that 92.6 percent of Americans over the age of 6 have detectable levels of BPA in their urine.
Scientists are learning that hormone-disrupting chemicals like BPA and flame retardants are dangerous to our children’s developing brains. Researcher Claudia S. Miller has written that “toxic chemicals may be impacting the neurodevelopment of our children while in the womb — where genes load the gun and environment pulls the trigger.”
The late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Democrat from New Jersey, and a leader in toxic legislation reform, introduced federal legislation every year since 2005 to encourage the government to protect its citizens from toxins. Despite this however, the federal government has yet to act on this issue and does not seem poised to do so anytime soon. He has stated “Children and families could be in danger from everyday consumer products, and the U.S. Government is virtually powerless to do anything to make sure that the chemicals used in products are safe. For too long, the chemical industry has deceived the public and the government about the safety of their products. They have ripped a page out of the tobacco industry’s playbook. Today we are saying ‘game over’ – it’s time to protect the public health.”
Why does the United States lag behind other countries to protect their citizens from dangerous poisons and toxins? Our government needs to hear from parents and grandparents, medical professionals and teachers, and anyone who truly cares about the future of our children. We cannot wait and see what the outcome will be in years to come.
In Vermont we have an opportunity to do something – to change the dynamic – to outlaw dangerous chemicals and toxins. Vermont can set the example for the rest of the nation. We can become a safe haven for our children. But we cannot just keep passing laws to ban one toxin at a time. We need to have the Vermont Department of Health define a comprehensive list of chemicals of high concern that need to be banned – those that cause cancer, genetic damage and/or reproductive harm, disrupt endocrine systems, damage the nervous system, immune system, organs, or other systems of the human body.
Over the next year you are going to hear a lot about this issue. Chemical safety reform will help to insure the health of all Vermont citizens. I hope you will join me and all the other folks working hard to encourage our Legislature to pass comprehensive chemical safety reform – it is time, don’t you think?