Fighting Toxic Exposure in Florida: Education and Action
April 30, 2013
The average family comes into contact with toxic chemicals on a daily basis. More often than not they have no idea that everyday consumer products contain chemicals shown to cause harm. Children across America are playing with toys manufactured with phthalates. Moms are making dinner with non-stick pans coated in perfluorooctanoic acid. Dads are serving fruit and vegetables from cans lined with Bisphenol A (BPA). Families are using personal care products laced with endocrine disruptors. Classrooms are full of oil-based art supplies that give off dangerous fumes. These products are all readily available on store shelves typically without a list of ingredients or a warning label. The time for toxic chemical reform is now.
The toxic chemical problem is twofold: the public is unaware, and the government is failing to act. Clean Water Action is working with Physicians for Social Responsibility and other national partners to support federal regulation of the most dangerous toxic chemicals, and here in Florida to bring much-needed awareness to this complex issue. By educating families about the dangers of toxics in many everyday products, we can empower consumers to make healthier choices when purchasing goods for their homes, schools, and businesses.
One obstacle we face in educating the public about toxic exposure in consumer products is the lack of reliable and accurate resources – particularly ones that are easy to obtain, use and understand. People shouldn’t need an advanced degree in chemistry to know which shampoo or laundry detergent is free of toxic chemicals!
Earlier this year, Clean Water Action worked with our allies in the Florida Legislature to introduce the “Chemicals of High Concern” bill in both the Florida Senate and the House of Representatives. If passed, the legislation would require the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to publish a list of the 50-100 most dangerous toxic chemicals in consumer products for pregnant women and children. The list would be available online as an easy-to-understand resource to anyone seeking to learn more about reducing daily toxic exposure through personal spending decisions.
Unfortunately, the “Chemicals of High Concern” bill was not scheduled for a hearing, which would have provided us an opportunity to educate lawmakers about the merits of the bill. One of the major challenges we face in trying to eliminate the incredible health impacts of toxics in consumer products is that this issue is not easily visible to the public eye. Many other types of toxic exposure are easy to see: we can watch smoke puffs emerge from cigarettes and smog pollution materialize from polluting factories, but when we look at a rubber duck we don’t see the dangerous phthalates laced inside its plastic coating. It’s difficult to rally a community in support of an issue they can’t easily see. That’s why Clean Water Action is already working on educating the public and enlisting support from allies on the need to pass the “Chemicals of High Concern” bill in 2014. Parents have enough on their plate as it is, they shouldn’t have to worry about toxic chemicals in their children’s toys. It’s never too late to keep this issue alive; we don’t have any time to waste.
While we continue to push forward with state-level efforts, Clean Water Action is also working with our national allies and supporters to pass national toxic reform. The Safe Chemicals Act of 2013 was recently introduced to the United States Senate by Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ) and 29 additional co-sponsors, including Florida Senator Bill Nelson.
The Safe Chemicals Act would require chemical manufacturers to test the chemicals they produce and provide accurate health and safety information for their products to remain on the market. It would also give the United States Environmental Protection Agency the authority to identify and regulate the most dangerous toxic chemicals to ensure that America’s families are protected using 21st century science.
The road to a consumer market free of toxic chemicals is a long one. At times the task can seem daunting. There are hundreds of thousands of chemicals used in all types of products – furniture, cookware, clothing, office supplies, soaps, food packaging, toys, costume jewelry, cosmetics – that need to be tested and assessed for health and environmental impacts. But this journey is full of exciting opportunities, as well. Opportunities for chemists, engineers, and inventors to come up with new, safer, cleaner products that will serve our communities without endangering the public.
It will take the hard work of many committed people over many years to ensure that every American is protected from toxic chemical exposure. Clean Water Action will be there every step of the way fighting at the state and national level to protect our communities, our businesses, and of course our nation’s incredible water resources. Please join us – get involved today.