A Holiday Gift for Generations to ComeBy Kathryn Alcantar
Crossposted from the Huffington Post.
The Miracle of Life:
When reading my Pregnancy Day-by-Day book this morning, I learned that the baby girl growing inside my womb has developed all of the eggs she will have in her lifetime. At 18 weeks, my daughter already carries within her tiny body the seeds of my grandchildren! While there’s no doubt that growing a human being inside your body is an amazing, powerful physical feat, it can also throw me into a panic. What if the chemicals I have been exposed to are passed on to my daughter and threaten her future reproductive and neurological development?
As a pregnant woman with a background in toxicology, I find myself already worried about the ubiquity of chemicals in our environment — knowing that I, like most Americans, have as many as 700 chemicals, including substances linked to serious health problems floating in my body — it’s hard not to be.
The Tragedies of Life:
I am the granddaughter of a farmworker who was exposed to pesticides most of his life and who battled both prostate cancer and lymphoma. I am also the niece of breast, cervical and prostate cancer survivors. Remember those eggs I mentioned earlier? It is likely that some of the chemicals in my body have the potential for generational impacts. So, it’s not just what I do that matters, but what my parents and grandparents did, or what chemicals they were exposed to.
I had looked forward to my first pregnancy as a sacred time when I could bask in simple joys, focusing on taking care of myself and my baby, and cooing lullabies to my daughter as I feel her kick from within. But that’s been stolen from me. Instead, I spend my time researching what furniture won’t release toxic VOCs into her nursery, what toys she can play with that don’t have lead, bisphenol-A or other hazardous chemicals since they will end up in her mouth. And I’m astonished at what I’m finding. How can I afford a $400 toxic-free crib mattress? More importantly, why should anyone even have to even think about this?
And so when my family asks me about gift ideas this holiday season, I have one simple reply: A toxic-free environment for my daughter. That’s it. That’s all I want.
But no one is going to give that to me. I have to fight for it.
The Opportunity of a Lifetime:
And the time is now. Next week, a key Senate committee will vote on the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 — proposed legislation that will update the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), our main federal law regulating chemical hazards. Despite 35 years of advancements in science, technology and the introduction of thousands of new chemicals, with new and untested risks, TSCA that has not been updated since it was enacted in 1976.
We cannot afford to miss this critical opportunity.
This vote is about fundamentally changing a system that makes us, our children, and grandchildren guinea pigs in industry’s toxic experiments, the results of which may not be known for decades. It’s about taking the burden of proving harm off of the public (yes, that’s us taxpayers), and instead putting the burden on chemical manufacturers that profit from their products to demonstrate their safety. It’s about promoting transparency so we can know what chemicals are in the products (toys, shampoos, cosmetics, sofas, etc.) that we buy and use every day. Moreover, it’s about creating a system that rewards the innovation of safer chemicals and products, stimulating the economy while creating healthier products.
And by the way, this is not a partisan issue. All families, Republican and Democrat alike, care about the health and safety of their children. This vote is about saying YES to the basic human right to protect ourselves and our children.
So, before the vote next week, I am meeting with Senator Dianne Feinstein to ask for her support of this critical legislation. And I am not alone. I will be joining with thousands of other families across the country as they ask their Senators to vote YES, to ensure that not only their babies, children, and families are protected from toxic chemicals, but also future generations to come. Will you join me?Tags: mothers, pregnancy, Safe Chemicals Act of 2011, safer chemicals, TSCA Reform