Must Parents Do More Than Just Say No?
A Mother's Day Wish for a Nontoxic World
Congress introduced legislation to reform and update national chemical policy. The Safe Chemicals Act of 2010 would shift the burden of proof from pollutee to polluter. It's a step toward the deep solution of geonomics. This 2010 article is from RH Reality Check, May 9 and was reposted at TruthOut.
by Elizabeth ArndorferThereís just one thing I want for Motherís Day. But my three fabulous kids canít give it to me, neither can my wonderful husband. The one thing I want, only Congress and the President can give me: peace of mind.
While I might be loath to admit it sometimes, I am just your average suburban mom -- three kids, minivan, and membership to Costco. I pay attention to what my kids eat, look out for good books for them to read, and worry about how to keep them safe on the internet. But letís be honest, I am not perfect.
Four years ago, when I started noticing that my seven year old was developing breasts, I learned everything I could about early puberty. While the causes of early puberty are varied (obesity, premature birth and low birth weight, psychosocial stressors, and formula feeding), one potential contributing factor caught my eye -- exposure to toxic chemicals in our environment and everyday products.
When I looked into toxic chemical exposure more deeply, I was deeply disturbed -- incredulous, in fact -- to learn that most of the 80,000 chemicals on the market today havenít been tested for safety. Of the chemicals that have been studied, several have been linked to reproductive health problems, including early puberty, and also infertility, cancer, and low sperm counts. Perhaps most infuriating, the EPAís hands are tied by a dysfunctional system that prevents them from regulating even the worst chemicals.
When I learned what we were up against, I did what I could to protect my family. I changed our personal care products, our kitchen utensils, our water bottles, and our bedding. I got rid of most of our plastic. I started reading labels, and learning the names of complex chemicals and acronyms such as BPA, phthalates (just try to pronounce that one!), and PBDEs. Anything that I knew was bad, I tried to avoid.
But what about all of the other things I donít know about or the things I canít control like the water pipes to my house, the products my kids use at school, the equipment at the playground?
I know I canít do this alone, and I shouldnít have to. Thatís why I was so excited when a few weeks ago, we got closer to my longed-for peace of mind. Congress introduced legislation to reform and update national chemical policy.
The new legislation (called the Safe Chemicals Act of 2010) would:
require chemical manufacturers to provide basic health and safety information for new and existing chemicals;
promote safer, greener alternatives;
shift the burden of proof for chemical safety from the American people (me and you!) to the chemical manufacturers (where it belongs!); and
protect susceptible populations like communities of color, pregnant women, and children.
Unfortunately, the legislation has some weaknesses  that could threaten the integrity of the whole system including:
a loophole for new chemicals that could be used as an ďeasy on-rampĒ to allow new chemicals onto the market untested; and
no requirement that the EPA use the best and latest science to determine the health and safety of chemicals.
The legislation is not perfect, but itís an important start. And while it wonít be passed in time for Motherís Day brunch on Sunday, I am hopeful that it will lead to meaningful reform on toxic chemicals -- and soon. As a mother, I want my government to keep up on the scientific research and take dangerous chemicals off the market -- rather than leaving it up to me to avoid them. On this Motherís Day, I want Congress to get serious about chemical policy reform. That isnít too much to ask, is it?
JJS: Good people, please get serious yourselves, for your kidsí sakes and everybodyís, about the nature of politics and economics -- there is no political solution as long as there is an economic reward. ďJust Say NoĒ does not work. Nancy Reagan got ridiculed for it. The ridicule applies evenly everywhere. ďJust Say NoĒ and regulations in general simply can never stand up to money, to profit, to the remunerative imperative.
To get producers and consumers to quit poisoning the world, you have to get real and take the profit out of it. You do have to turn back the hands of time, back to when, before the Industrial Revolution, yeoman citizens actually did have, and knew they had, environmental rights. Rights that were not vitiated by limited liability.
If you want a healthy world, you must make polluters pay. You must make them responsible for their choices that impose risk and ruin on others. And you can only do that if you reform liability, de-limit it, so corporate managers will know their own butts are on the line when they consider whether or not to profit by polluting. There are clean ways to make money, and management will choose them, once we forget regulations and instead enforce responsibility -- with jail terms for the guilty when necessary.
Whatís limited liability got to do with geonomics? With sharing Earthís worth in lieu of taxing our efforts? This. Limited liability is like free insurance, so itís an indirect subsidy. Itís a drain on public revenue; government must pay regulators, pay for sick victims, etc. So thereís less surplus revenue for a Citizens Dividend.
Further, letting people pollute lowers land value. Since ground rent would be the revenue source, that also reduces funds for desired social services and the CitDiv. So there are sound public economic reasons for reforming liability, even if none are as compelling as the fact none of us has any excuse for ever exposing a child to cancer. We all have twinned rights to a share of Earth, to a share of a planet in good health. That is not too much to ask. That is what we should be demanding.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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