As a parent of two grade school kids, I worry about everything, all the time. “I may not be the best parent in America,” I tell myself, “but I’m definitely not the worst and I do the best I can.”
Which is why this issue of toxic chemicals in our everyday household products and furniture is so frustrating. How can I protect my son and daughter from the toxic threats that may lurk in our carpets and food containers – or in our sofa cushions?
Here’s why I feel hopeful that the problem with flame retardants and other dangerous chemicals will finally be addressed, perhaps sooner rather than later. And why I worry less after learning there are steps I can take myself to make things right.
1. Congress may reform chemical toxics law in 2015
After working for more than a decade to make chemicals safer for Americans, Environmental Defense Fund’s Health team is making progress at the federal level.
Awareness about the shortcomings of the 38-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act is much higher in Congress today than just a few years ago, thanks to the fact that more Americans believe that action is urgently needed.
It’s been an uphill battle to update this old law, given the gridlock we see on so many important issues in Washington. But my colleagues tell me they’re optimistic.
Lawmakers from both parties are finally getting serious about legislation to reform this outdated law, an action that would be a victory for public health.
2. Change is already happening
State and corporate actions are already bringing some positive change. California, for example, recently updated an old standard that drove widespread use of toxic chemical flame retardants in furniture – chemicals that have been linked to neurocognitive problems in children.
Earlier this year, the state changed its standard to allow manufacturers to comply without using chemical retardants. That means some manufacturers can choose to line furniture with flame-resistant, non-toxic fabrics such as wool.
In addition, California now requires manufacturers to say on furniture labels whether or not a piece contains flame retardant chemicals. Some companies are already responding to consumer demand by providing more non-toxic options.
3. There are steps I can take to make things right
I also felt more hopeful after I learned there are measures we can take at home to reduce our exposure to bad chemicals:
- keep the house dust-free, using a wet mop
- change HVAC air filters regularly
- wash hands regularly with soap and water
- make sure kids who play on the floor clean their hands, especially before they eat
My children often do homework or hang out on the floor, so I especially appreciated that last point.
But more needs to be done.
Please do your part to help EDF fix America’s broken Toxic Substances Control Act. This is the only way we can make sure that only chemicals shown to be safe can be used in our homes.
It’s a fight we must – and will – win.