Personal StoriesThe victories we’ve earned with support from people like you have helped countless families live healthier, safer lives. Read their stories here.
Marilyn Furer isn’t a household name. But this Illinois grandmother did what our government seems unable or unwilling to do: she got toxic baby products off store shelves.
After reading an article about CEH’s work to remove lead from children’s lunch boxes, she noticed that her grandson’s baby bibs from Wal-Mart seemed to be made out of the same vinyl material as the lunchboxes. Knowing that even small amounts of lead can cause health and developmental problems and that the bibs spent more time in his mouth than his lunch did, she decided she’d rather be safe than sorry.
Marilyn purchased a simple lead test kit at a local hardware store and found that there was lead on the surface of the bibs—lead that could easily come off and harm her grandson. Her next step was to throw the bibs away, but she didn’t stop there.
Concerned about the thousands of babies nationwide who were using these bibs, Marilyn decided she needed to do more. But she didn’t expect action from the same government agencies that had been concerned about lead in lunchboxes. The Bush-era federal Consumer Product Safety Commission had even manipulated data to distort the lead threat from vinyl lunchboxes.
Marilyn knew that the Center for Environmental Health had a long track record of protecting children’s health, so she turned to us. We pushed Wal-Mart to take those toxic bibs off their shelves nationwide and ultimately we got other stores to do the same.
When Marilyn Furer wanted to protect her family from toxic chemicals, she didn’t turn to the state government or the federal government or even to the media; she turned to the go-to organization for protecting kids from toxics in consumer products – the Center for Environmental Health. And together, we got results that still make babies safer today.
When we announced that we had found high levels of lead in children’s bounce houses, we received phone calls from many worried parents. We also got a call from Lawrence Gutierrez—whose rents bounce houses to families. Lawrence said he was so concerned about renting toxic toys to families that he had cancelled all of his rentals to protect his customers. This posed a major threat to Lawrence’s livelihood.
We helped Lawrence determine which of his bounce houses contained high levels of lead so that he could protect his customers’ kids and keep his business running. Then we won legal agreements with the leading makers of bounce houses to eliminate the lead risks to children so that no parent or small business has to worry about the problem again.
Wheel weights are the small, metal weights attached to the rim of cars’ wheels to smoothen your ride and prevent uneven tire wear. Unfortunately, wheel weights often fall off your car and onto the road where they’re often washed into nearby sources of drinking water. This was a problem because they used to be made of lead and were, in fact, the largest source of new lead in the environment.
When a team of middle school students—not even old enough to drive yet—learned that lead in wheel weights can fall from cars and contaminate drinking water, they took action. The three students from West Branch Middle School in West Branch Iowa formed “Team DeadWeight,” and started working to end the use of leaded wheel weights in their town.
At the same time, the Center of Environmental Health was working to end the use of leaded wheel weights. We shared our work with the Team, and they shared their progress with us. CEH challenged the leading makers of wheel weights and Chrysler, one of the last car makers still using the leaded weights, to change to safer metals. We created the nation’s first legally binding agreements to stop the sale of leaded wheel weights.
Team DeadWeight’s research and advocacy were successful far beyond their town. Ultimately their efforts resulted in a bill introduced in the Iowa state assembly, the team presented its findings at the United Nations, and they contributed to the Environmental Protection Agency’s actions to reduce reliance on leaded wheel weights.
And when our legislation to ban lead from wheel weights finally made it to the governor of California’s desk for his signature, we presented him with a packet of materials, featuring information from Team DeadWeight. The Center for Environmental Health and Team DeadWeight – another partnership that made families safer nationwide.