How Money Degrades Our Environment

Image by Joanne Bamberger. All rights reserved

Protecting the Clean Air Act as well as the Environmental Protection Agency should be our number one priority as parents. We can disagree on religion, politics and how we run our households, but as individuals we have no control over pollution, which is why our government needs to protect us from it.

But what happens when polluters and chemical companies contribute millions of dollars to the coffers of our leaders? That, amigos míos, is the number 1 barrier for the EPA and all who support its agenda.

For some years, I have been an environmental activist, not only advocating for clean air and water, but fighting against the use of toxic chemicals in children’s products. A little over two years ago, I testified in Sacramento, California, in favor of a bill that would have removed toxic flame retardants from four baby products that posed no fire hazards: strollers, high chairs, nursing pillows and changing pads. Unfortunately, this was be one of five bills to fail in the state legislature.

Now I know what I and fellow parents were up against. I just read in a California newspaper, the East Bay Express, that the chemical industry has spent at least $23.5 million over the last five years in lobbying efforts against these bills. In addition, at least $593,000 in campaign money was donated over three election cycles to 85 legislators, including 44 Democrats and 41 Republicans.

Here is more insightful information in the newspaper, which pointed out that flame retardants are toxic and building up in our bodies, including our breast milk and our children’s bodies:

A five-month investigation by Environmental Health News revealed an infusion of chemical industry cash into California that has global implications. During the five years of lobbying, the flame retardants have been building up in people’s bodies, including breast milk, around the world.

Designed to slow the spread of flames, brominated and chlorinated chemicals are added to upholstered household furniture and babies’ products sold throughout North America because California enforces a unique flammability standard. The chemical industry has been fighting to retain that state standard and ward off California proposals to ban the chemicals or mandate alternatives.

As I saw firsthand in Sacramento, the chemical industry claims that flame retardants save lives. As part of their lobbying efforts, they shamelessly brought out burn victims and small children who had lost family members in fires. The point lost on everyone in the room is that these deaths and injuries occurred with flame retardants in the foam of all of our furniture and children’s products.

Another reason the chemical industry’s claims are misleading at best is this peer-reviewed study released this past June showing that California’s furniture flammability standard, also known as Technical Bulletin 117 (TB117), does not provide measurable fire safety benefits. TB117 practically mandates the use of toxic flame retardants in the foam of all of our furniture and even baby products like nursing pillows and changing pads.

However, one thing’s for sure: animal studies have linked flame retardants to cancer, as well as neurological and reproductive disorders. The flame retardants easily leach onto dust, pet hair, and the crumbling foam of old products — surely, I am not the only mom who used second-hand baby products! — making them easy to ingest by children.

A silver lining in all of this sludge of dirty air and dirty money is that the public is paying attention. I want to thank the East Bay Express for its expose on the amount of money the chemical industry has spent to pump up its dirty goods. Also, I want to acknowledge the many smart women who have fought with me to call b.s. on the industry’s claims.

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