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Welcome to PSR's Environmental Health Policy Institute, where we ask questions -- then we ask the experts to answer them. Join us as physicians, health professionals, and environmental health experts share their ideas, inspiration, and analysis about toxic chemicals and environmental health policy.

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Strong Support for Protecting American Families from Toxic Chemicals

By Lindsay Dahl

This essay is in response to: Public Health and the Safe Chemicals Act

It’s in the nature of Washington politics to make things controversial. In fact, this city thrives on controversy these days.

But when it comes to protecting American families from toxic chemicals, the support is widespread. To those in Washington, toxics work has traditionally been led by the environmental community, concerned about toxic waste in our water supply, building up in the environment, and compromising the very land and wildlife many of us enjoy.

More recently however, the support for reforming our nation’s out of date system for managing chemicals has grown in breadth and diversity. The Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition is a testament to the growing movement of Americans tired of toxic pollution from their products, communities, workplaces, and more.

Our coalition has a diverse cross section of health, environmental, parent, business, and environmental justice leaders. So strong is the public health support that our coalition not only represents health professionals like those in Physicians for Social Responsibility and the National Medical Association, we also have support from health affected groups like the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network, the Learning Disabilities Association of America, and Breast Cancer Fund. (For a full list of nearly 300 supporting organizations visit www.saferchemicals.org/aboutus.)

In addition, the work we’ve done in our coalition translates to support for the Safe Chemicals Act, a bill to reform our out of date law governing chemicals. The field program of our coalition shows that not only are public health and community leaders advocating for common sense limits on toxic chemicals, but moms, dads, and individuals like you are rallying across the country.

From Arkansas to Wisconsin, Tennessee to Idaho, support is strong for the Safe Chemicals Act. This summer and fall 29 mom-led “stroller brigades” took place across the country, where moms and children came together to ask Congress to be their heroes and support the Safe Chemicals Act.

Public opinion polling also continues to affirm that this issue plays well with the American public, and is a strong issue for politicians to get out front of. In the last few years, five of the country’s leading pollsters have found that support for reform, specifically regulating chemicals, is wildly popular with the American public.

Mark Mellman, Drew Westen, Lori Wiegel, and Celinda Lake are some of the leading pollsters who have researched this issue. Their results all speak to the potency and wide range of support for this issue. To see some of the results of the Mark Mellman poll, click here.

The country’s leading Republican polling firm, Public Opinion Strategies, conducted a poll in New Hampshire this fall and sums it up well: "The fact that a majority of Tea Party members -- a sub-group which typically rejects government regulation -- is supportive of government action speaks volumes about the desire for updating regulations of toxic chemicals,” said Lori Weigel, a partner at Public Opinion Strategies, who conducted the poll.

So while we hardly need Washington pollsters to tell us that Americans are concerned about the role chemicals play in our health, it only reinforces the message to Congress that the time is now to act.

The question remains, will Congress seize this opportunity to protect Americans from toxic chemicals? We hope so, and in the meantime our coalition will continue to grow.

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