Protecting Our Kids from Toxic Chemicals – CT is on the Brink of a Big Step

By Michelle Noehren, Blog Originally Published on MomsRising.org

I remember very clearly the day I first learned that the vast majority of  chemicals used in consumer products are unregulated by the government. Until  that point I believed (as many people mistakenly do) that if I could buy it in a  store it must have passed safety testing. Boy was I wrong. Out of the nearly  80,000 synthetic chemicals in commerce, less that 5% have ever undergone  testing. Needless to say, that very day I cleared out my shampoo, body lotion  and makeup for safer alternatives I found using the Skin Deep database.

Then I got pregnant with my first child. When I was pregnant I did everything  within my power to not expose my growing baby to environmental toxins. I didn’t  dye my hair, ate a healthy diet and used safer skin care products. Many of the  toxins in our products have the ability to cross the placenta and I was scared  that I might harm my daughter as she grew inside my body. What I discovered  (which was equally as scary) was that even if I was incredibly diligent, I could  never completely ensure that I wasn’t exposing myself and my soon-to-be-born  daughter to toxic chemicals. Why? Because companies aren’t required to list all  the ingredients on the label and because a lot of the packaging that holds our  products (like baby formula and canned foods) contains toxic chemicals too. And  if companies aren’t telling us what chemicals are IN their products, they  certainly aren’t telling us what chemicals are in the packaging AROUND our  products.

Now that my daughter is almost two, my husband and I continue to do our best to keep her exposure to toxic chemicals as low as possible. But you know what?  It’s hard. We have no idea what chemicals were used to create our daughters  favorite stuffed animal. You know, the one she puts in her mouth, can’t sleep  without and is attached to 24 hours a day. Heck we have no idea what chemicals  are used in the vast majority of the toys she plays with and that really  frightens us. She’s the love of our lives and we want to protect her from harm  as much as possible.

Here’s my daughter, with her BFF, Mr. Cow (original, I know)

I am fortunate to live in Connecticut, a state that has already banned  chemicals such as BPA and cadmium from certain children’s products. However, we  really need a more comprehensive approach to this problem. This legislative  session the chairs of the Children’s Committee introduced a bill that would do  just that, H.B. 6526, AAC Toxics Disclosure and Innovation for Healthy  Children.

This bill would require that the Department of Public Health create a list of  chemicals of high concern to children (that includes chemicals that are in  products geared towards pregnant women) and would require manufactures to report  if they are using the identified chemicals. Then, over time, manufactures would  have to create a plan to either phase out these chemicals or move towards a  safer alternative.

I really applaud the committee (and the Coalition for a Safe & Healthy CT) for bringing  this bill forward. It has already had a public hearing where there was a  huge showing of support and now its got to make its way through a few committee  votes, through the House & Senate and then needs to be signed by the  Governor.

Here’s the truth – even if every product was labeled, it shouldn’t be on the  consumer to figure out what’s toxic and what isn’t. The responsibility should be with the companies that manufacture products to not use toxic chemicals in the  first place. Connecticut’s bill is a big step in the right direction towards  ensuring that our children are free to grow up healthy and that moms, like me,  can feel confident buying products for their families.

Michelle Noehren is the Events &  Special Projects Director at the Connecticut  Permanent Commission on the Status of Women and is the founder of CTWorkingMoms.com, an  online community for working moms.