On a hot and muggy morning in late June, a dynamic assembly of environmentalists, parents, firefighters, worker’s health advocates, and others piled into Hearing Room 222 of the Massachusetts State House. The issue that brought all these folks together: toxic flame retardants in kid’s products and household furniture.
Flame retardant chemicals have been flying under the radar for decades. Parents, medical professionals, health advocates, legislators, and others tried to nip the flame retardants issue in the bud during the 70’s and 80’s, but a deceptive campaign by the chemical and tobacco industries institutionalized the practice of adding flame retardants to many common household items. Thus, despite research connecting them to cancer, learning and developmental delays in children, and other serious health problems, flame retardants continue to be added in gross amounts to couches, kid’s pajamas, nursing pillows, and many other unlikely items, to this day.Read more...
by Sara Moffett, Western Massachusetts Organizer
People often ask me, “What do you like best about working for Clean Water Action,” and my answer is always the same: the people. For me, the most rewarding aspect of my job is connecting with folks on the diverse experiences that drive our efforts for progressive change. We all suffer the impacts of environmental degradation (some more profoundly than others), and we all have unique stories to share. Whether incensing, inspiring, or downright heartbreaking, these personal stories have the power to unite us as we find common ground from which to build solutions. Story sharing allows us to think beyond ourselves and look through the window of someone else’s life, if only for a moment or two.Read more...
It was an unseasonably warm November day when I sat down in my political ecology class at Northeastern University. My professor, Danny Faber, an environmental justice champion in the Boston area, was showing us a film called “Toxic Hot Seat.” The topic seemed mundane: flame-retardants. But after sitting through the compelling and borderline shocking documentary, I was outraged. I had just watched a step-by-step breakdown about how flame-retardants, chemicals that are supposed to protect us from essentially bursting into flames, were nothing more than a tool in an industry ploy buried in a maze of misinformation. I am living in buildings and on furniture that are covered in toxic chemicals, and I didn’t even know about it. In addition, flame-retardants are being found all over the earth and are even accumulating in breast milk. I learned that firefighters are dying at incredibly high rates due to cancer and other diseases. Yet, similar to most situations like this, big industry was winning. They were denying the science, and putting profits over people’s health. The difference in this case was there was an actual tangible opportunity to make a difference.Read more...
"Dear Retail Stores, Listen up!" urges 11-year-old Sophie Alcindor. After learning about the dangers of toxic ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products at her after school program, Sophie decided to take action. In a letter addressed to major retailers, she expressed her desire for change:
"We all get it that you want to make money, but are [sic] this neck to neck competition really worth it. Can customers walk in and feel safe without having to feast valuable hours just to find good and safe products....Stop having dangerous products in your stores. If you would listen to the scientists or chemists telling you they are bad then maybe you would have more customers. Create a safe environment for the customers."Read more...
Laura Henze Russell is a member of the Massachusetts delegation to the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families' Stroller Brigade for Safe Chemicals in Washington DC.
Laura grew up on Long Island, New York. The horror of cancer hit home early for Laura when one of her friends lost her mother to the disease in high school. Unfortunately it didn't stop there. Over time, the the majority of her friends from the neighborhood, and their mothers, have contracted breast cancer.
Cancer hit her family too. Laura's mother got non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in her 60s, her father--who was not a smoker--was diagnosed with lung cancer in his 80s, and Laura herself had breast cancer in her 40s and got fibromyalgia 20 years ago.Read more...
Gail MCCormick is a member of the Massachusetts delegation to the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families' Stroller Brigade for Safe Chemicals in Washington DC.
Gail is a mother of two, a grandmother of three, and a dedicated activist. Though she's lived in 12 different states in her lifetime, she's lived in Massachusetts for 17 years and currently calls Arlington home.
When her children were young, Gail's family went through a harrowing experience of toxic chemical exposure that opened her eyes to the need for change. She says:
"About 30 years ago, when my son, Braydon, was 9 and my daughter, Sabrina, was 7, we were living in Georgia and our house had a problem of powderpost beetles in the stuctural beams. We hired an extermination company who came in and sprayed the beams with chloridane. Chloridane was banned at that time, but the two old guys who worked for the company had been using it for years and didn't see any reason why they should quit, even if it was banned. They sprayed it everywhere. After they left, I wiped down the walls to try to get rid of it. Soon after that my hands went numb and I started to feel sick.Read more...
By Cindy Luppi, New England Director, Clean Water Action
April is here and for many, the top thing on our minds is the early days of spring--whether we can shelve our winter coats, maybe how close we are to Opening Day. For me, April always reminds me of my grandmother, Aubine. She was born in early April, over 100 years ago in a small town in northern Maine. When I think of her, I think of the popcorn balls she would make for the holidays...of the walks we took together...of being on drying duty as she washed the dishes after a family dinner. She taught my sisters and I many things over the years, but the single over-riding lesson was crystal clear: you take on the hard jobs, and you don't shy away from the things that most need doing. That's how she lived her life, from start to finish--including working as a young girl with her family to carve a fishing camp out of the Maine wilderness.
That lesson reinforces my commitment to keep on pressing for the updates to our laws that will protect us all from exposure to toxic chemicals. This campaign has been tough at times.
by Margo Simon Golden, MPH
We have all been touched by cancer. I was in my thirties, married for nine months, and diagnosed with breast cancer. Four years later, now ten years ago, my breast cancer metastasized to my lungs. I am grateful and thankful to all the dedicated men and women, past and present, in all capacities, who helped to develop treatment options and hope that I never run out of options. I also support the common sense approach of preventing cancer before it starts. True prevention of breast cancer is eliminating carcinogens. Prevention is the cure.
Since being diagnosed, not many things shock me anymore. Yet, at a Silent Spring Institute forum and in a recent interview, Margaret Kripke, Ph.D., a co-author of the April 2010 President’s Cancer Panel report, Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now, did just that.
By Katherine Friedrich, Based on an interview with Pat Smith
Pat Smith had over 30 years of experience as a registered nurse. She’d been working in the same office for five years. She was used to her routine at work and at home. Since she believed products had to smell good to be clean, she used perfumed lotions, scented shampoo, dryer sheets and commercial detergent.
When Pat noticed a musty smell in the carpet near her desk at work one day, she thought one of her coworkers had spilled something. But the smell didn’t go away. Over the next few weeks, Pat developed a chronic headache. At first, she was able to keep it at bay by taking Advil. Once she began forgetting everyday tasks, feeling dizzy, having double vision, and walking into office furniture, she realized she had a serious health problem. Her coworkers were also feeling ill - especially after they sat at her desk.
Pat discovered the carpet had been sprayed with a pyrethroid insecticide.
By Linda Thomas - correspondent for the Medfield Press. Reprinted with permission from the Medfield Press.
Cheryl Durr Patry watched as her infant son’s skin turned red.
It was dry, itchy and scaly – how his little nails tried to tear it up as he cried. He was borderline colicky, she said.
She tried over-the-counter creams and salves, and eliminated different foods from his diet.
Then, one day, he sneezed 15 times in succession while sitting on a table she had just dusted with a brand name wood cleaner.
But once she fought back with unscented detergents and 100 percent cotton clothes, she soon saw improvement in her son’s condition.
Fourteen years later, this Medfield wife and mother of four has brought what she learned in her own home to a wider platform as a powerful lobbyist for legislation and co-founder of Medfield Green.
Okay. I confess... I am not a real blond. Ever since those streaks of silver started slipping in, my hair has become my biggest environmental sin. Every 5 weeks I visit the altar of beauty where a talented co-conspirator helps me hide the natural aging process by putting god-knows-what in my hair, down the drain, and inevitably into the environment.
I compost food waste, wear no make up, carry a travel mug, use home-made cleaning products, buy recycled (aka second hand) clothes, take public transportation, and fight for environmental rights every day. Yet, I can't shake the toxic grip of vanity.
By Laura Spark, activist and mother
I'd like to keep my kids safe. But, 8 years ago, I used plastic sippy cups that are now being removed from the market. I bathed my daughters in Johnson and Johnson soaps that I thought were "pure and natural" because the label said they were. After I read about low levels of 1-4 dioxane, a carcinogen, in Johnson and Johnson baby soap, I I tried shifting to "natural" baby products--only to realize, months later, that the "natural" product I was buying had the exact same ingredient as the Johnson and Johnson product I was avoiding.
Why do I worry about things like bisphenol A in sippy cups and carcinogens in baby soap? Because I have read the medical studies and seen photos of how breast tissue changes when exposed to minute levels of BPA. Because my wonderful sister Cynthia died at age 26 of breast cancer. Because, of the close friends who circled around me after my sister's death--four subsequently died young--3 of breast cancer. Because my father died of leukemia. Because one out of three people die of cancer, and many of these people die young.
I can't buy my way to safety. But Massachusetts legislators can make smart choices to protect children and help position Massachusetts as a leader in the green economy.
By Katherine Friedrich
Communications volunteer for The Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow
I’m ending a three-year relationship with my water bottle. We were very close for a while. But it became clear that our relationship was based on appearances, not on honesty. My water bottle’s transparent façade concealed an unnerving secret.
I bought this cute yellow bottle while I was losing weight. I’ve lost 40 pounds in the past three years by making long-term lifestyle changes. Along the way, I developed a habit of exercising around four hours per week. During a difficult exercise class, I can drink more than a full bottle of water in 50 minutes. So my water bottle isn’t an optional accessory.
After relying on my water bottle for years, I thought I could trust it. But when people buy water bottles in the United States, neither federal nor state governments require that companies tell customers what they could really be drinking. There was no chemical safety label on that cute yellow bottle.
You are not alone. Take comfort (and discomfort) in the fact that you share this problem with the vast majority of Americans. We're not talking about your passive aggressive sister-in-law, or the charming so-and-so who swept you off your feet and then left town with your life savings. We are are referring to the fresh-smelling, easy-going, and utterly irresistible toxic products we spend our time with at home, at work, and everywhere we go.
Bobbi Chase Wilding, from New York, struck a nerve with an article that she posted on the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families blog, Caught in a Toxic Trap where she admitted to her inability to let go of her toxic flame retardant-stuffed yet wonderful rocking-reclining love seat. Bobbi makes a great point: Even if it’s your job to know about which toxic chemicals lurk in what products, it can be hard to kick them to the curb. Our marketplace is set up so that products with harmful chemicals in them are almost always the more convenient, affordable, and seductive choice.Read more...
by Elizabeth Saunders, Legislative Director for Clean Water Action
My housemates and I have had some toxic relationships. No, I don’t mean with each other, we get along great. But there have been times when some of the products that we have used have been exposing us to more toxic chemicals than I like to admit.
As an environmental activist whose job is to fight to get toxic chemicals out of our everyday products, I’m more careful than most about what is brought into my home, and my housemates are more than sympathetic. We don’t have Teflon frying pans, polycarbonate water bottles, toxic dish soap, air fresheners, or stain resistant furniture. But to get a toxic free home takes quite a bit of work.Read more...
Earlier this year, we started a new blog series to share some stories of advocates in our toxics and environmental health campaigns. We' feature their bios, including what they do, how they got involved, and why this work so important to them. We hope this will help show a personal side to the many faces representing the coalition. If you're interested in sharing your story, please contact us at email@example.com.
Today's story comes from Mimi Pomerleau, who became involved with the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow almost two years ago.
Here's what Mimi had to say:
Today we're starting a new blog series to share some stories of advocates in our toxics and environmental health campaigns. We're going to feature their bios, including what they do, how they got involved, and why this work so important to them. We hope this will help show a personal side to the many faces representing the coalition. If you're interested in sharing your story, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our first story comes from Steve Gauthier, who has been involved with the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow since its inception.
Here's what Steve had to say: