This blog is by Charlotte Brody, Director of Chemicals, Public Health and Green Chemistry, and Michael Mignano, Research Assistant.
If you’ve ever wondered why the government has such a hard time passing laws that protect people and the environment, read Playing With Fire, the Chicago Tribune’s four part series on chemical and tobacco companies and flame retardants.
In this terrific investigative report, you’ll learn how the cigarette lobbyists organized a front group, innocently called the National Association of Fire Marshalls, to shift the blame from cigarettes that start fires to the furniture the cigarettes ignite.
And you’ll read the story of chemical companies who kept promoting their flame retardant products even when they learned that the chemicals don’t really prevent fires. This promotion continued even when it required the production of a set of bigger and bigger lies including phony consumer watchdog groups, massive distortions of the science and made up victims of furniture-caused fires.
You’ll also get a reminder of what real journalism can do. The series has earned the praise of The Columbia Journalism Review as an "outstanding investigation" of "a decades-long campaign of deception. But even more importantly, the four Tribune articles are helping activists convince legislators in New York and in Congress to do something about toxic chemicals.
BlueGreen Alliance Joins the Capitol Hill Stroller Brigade
With over 84,000 chemicals on the market, it's hard to keep track of what's safe and what's not. In fact, the current Toxic Substances Control Act requires little to no testing to ensure the safety of our products and workplaces, leaving the vast majority of these chemicals untested.
Everyday, workers and consumers are exposed to an unregulated cocktail of toxic chemicals that we're learning have profound effects on human health. Rates of asthma, childhood cancer, and autism are all on the rise, while early signs of puberty are showing up in girls at increasingly young ages. We've also seen chemicals that we were previously told were safe linked to breast cancer, Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, and a series of other chronic illnesses.
That's why the BlueGreen Alliance participated in the Healthy Families, Safer Chemicals Stroller Brigade on Capitol Hill this past Tuesday. BlueGreen Alliance staff and United Steelworkers members from Ohio and Michigan rallied with hundreds of activists from all over the country in support of the Safe Chemicals Act. The Safe Chemicals Act would require chemical manufacturers to prove that chemicals are safe in order to enter or remain on the market, require the Environmental Protection Agency to take immediate action to regulate exposures to the most harmful chemicals, and empower workers and consumers by making health and safety information about chemicals publicly available.
The Safe Chemicals Act would not only benefit the health and safety of workers and consumers, it would help revive the ailing U.S. chemicals industry which has hemorrhaged hundreds of thousands of jobs in the last two decades. As other countries have taken action to protect workers, consumers, and the environment - driving up research and development in the chemicals industry - the U.S. chemicals industry has fallen behind.
To learn more about the Healthy Families, Safer Chemicals Stroller Brigade, watch the following clip. To learn more about how we can renew manufacturing jobs while protecting health and the environment, read our report: The Economic Benefits of a Green Chemical Industry in the United States.
Photo: BlueGreen Alliance field staffer Lee Geisse (second from right) and fellow Ohio residents on Capitol Hill championing safe chemicals reform.