Toxic chemicals will sneak into your holiday - find out why

Jennifer McPartland

You try to keep toxic chemicals out of your home year round, and the holidays are no different. Maybe you’re practicing clean shopping this holiday season; buying an organic, free-range turkey; using a cast iron pot to make your stuffing instead of a “non-stick” one. That’s all great, it really is. But it’s not enough. Despite your best efforts, toxic chemicals will sneak in. No mere mortal can keep a Chemical Naughty List (let alone check it twice), because what we really need is a new chemical law.

Let’s face it: Toxic chemicals sneak up on you. You might steer clear of BPA in food cans and water bottles, but then you’re handed a receipt at the store that likely has BPA all over it.  You may try to avoid cosmetics with phthalates, but they’re probably lurking in your car’s dashboard. Even if you don’t cook in pans that contain PFCs, they may be in your post-dinner dental floss!

Though it’s impossible to avoid toxic chemicals, you’re good to try, as the facts are clear: Scientific studies link exposure to certain toxic chemicals to major diseases, ranging from obesity and diabetes to Parkinson’s, developmental disabilities, childhood cancers and infertility.

But there are tens of thousands of chemicals in use today. And they’re not just in plastics and cleaners. Chemicals are used to make 96% of all materials and products. And the regulators charged with protecting us don’t know nearly enough to tell which ones might be problematic and which are safe. When a company takes BPA out of a product, who is to say that the chemical they replace it with is any better?

A big part of the problem is that the law that is supposed to protect us, originally signed in 1976 (almost 40 years ago!), grandfathered in 60,000 existing chemicals – without requiring they be tested or evaluated for safety.  They were simply presumed to be safe. Nor did the law give EPA enough power to properly evaluate the more than 20,000 new chemicals that have come on the market since then.

That’s why we’re working to pass legislation now before the Senate, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act The government should make sure that all chemicals in use today are safe.  And the safety of any new chemical should be evaluated before it comes on the market. 

Isn’t it enough to worry about making sure the turkey gets to 165 degrees? Worrying about whether the chemicals in your oven mitts are toxic should be someone else’s problem.  If Congress gets to work, this time next holiday season, we just might have the gift of a new chemical safety law. You can help by urging your senators to support stronger toxic chemicals controls. 

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