15 Aug 2011

Stroller Brigade for Healthy Families

On August 10th, the stroller brigades were out in force in cities across the country–Pittsburgh, PA; Marblehead, Mass; New York, NY; and Missoula, MT to name a few. Their mission: to call on their senators to protect them from toxic chemicals by supporting the Safe Chemicals Act. Children wore superhero capes to ask their senators to be their heroes for health.

"Brigadeers" en route to Senator Gillibrand's NYC office. Photo credit: NRDC Pix

Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, a coalition of 280 public health, parent, environmental and community organizations sponsored the stroller brigades in 17 states including:  Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, and Washington. The organizers hope the events will inspire parents and grandparents to learn more about environmental risks and to approach their legislators about a solution.

In Missoula, Women’s Voices for the Environment organized moms and children in a stroller brigade to deliver hand-written letters to Senator Baucus’ office.

According to WVE organizers, one mom pushing her two-year-old said,”I’m less a radical activist than I am a practical parent.” A local business owner added that for her, “knowing that the products she sells are safe” just makes good business sense.

Senator Baucus responded to the Missoula Moms (and their caped kids), delivering his first public statement on the issue. Read Senator Baucus’ statement on the Safe Chemicals Act.

Caped kids bring message to Senator Baucus in Missoula. Photo credit: womensvoices.org

Pittsburgh parents also rallied for a family-friendly safer chemicals law. “It’s time for a sound policy that really protects public health and the environment,” says Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, who heads the Pittsburgh-based national non-profit, Women for a Healthy Environment, and together with the Learning Disabilities Association, another locally headquartered group, co-sponsored “Steel Town’s” leg of the National Stroller Brigade.

As Naccarati-Chapkis points out, the last major law in this area was the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Since then, according to NRDC, 80,000 chemicals have been introduced. Of the 80,000, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been able to require testing on just 200 and only FIVE have been regulated under the law.

On hand at the Pittsburgh rally was a hand-held XRF (x-ray fluorescence) analyzer gun so that parents and caregivers could test children’s jewelry, toys, electronics and other items for toxins. Naccarati-Chapkis tested some of her kids’ toys and souvenirs for harmful chemicals, and came away pretty disappointed. A holiday mug with a teddy bear–“Perfect for hot chocolate on a snowy day,” she reminisces–tested positive for lead, arsenic and chromium at levels above what the federal government says is safe. A Mardi Gras-style necklace had high levels of the flame retardant bromine and a ball contained too much cadmium.

It’s not just kids’ toys that are of concern. Toxic chemicals can be found in and are released from a myriad of household products, from rugs, sofas and kitchen cabinets to shower curtains, shampoos and pet care products. Or you may inadvertently bring them into your home with the dry cleaning or in the food you buy. Check out NRDCs Chemical Index to learn more.

Consumers shouldn’t need a PhD to be sure the products in their homes and yards are safe for their families. This is why it is so essential that Congress reform TSCA and take appropriate steps to improve the safety of chemicals on the market.

NRDC, including its senior conservation corps, Gray is Green, is in strong support of the legislation introduced by Senator Lautenberg, which would require pre-market testing and removal of the most toxic chemicals. Thanks to all the parents and grandparents who joined the stroller brigades for healthy families last week and took the message to their senators that we need a sane and sensible safer chemicals law.  Join them by sending your senator a note from here.