Healthier Tomorrow, Winter 2020 Newsletter
A year later…Let’s get it done!
Sitting on the couch, putting your infant in a car seat, lying in bed…none of these seem like particularly risky activities, do they?
And they shouldn’t be, but toxic flame retardants added to upholstered furniture, children’s products, and mattresses expose all of us to chemicals that increase our risk of cancer, learning disabilities, endocrine disruption, and reproductive problems.
That’s why states like Maine, California, and Washington have passed laws to keep these chemicals out of household products.
A year ago, Massachusetts almost joined them. The Massachusetts Legislature passed An Act to Protect Children, Families, and Firefighters, a bill that would have banned 11 hazardous flame retardants. But Governor Baker vetoed the bill. That means Massachusetts residents continue to be exposed to toxic flame retardants that other states and the European Union have banned.
Now, a year has gone by. Where are we?
Since the Governor vetoed the bill last year, we had to start over again to re-introduce the bill and get it passed in the House and Senate. Masschusetts has a 2-year legislative cycle. January 2, 2019 was the first day of the current cycle.
The bill sponsors, Representative Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge) and Senator Cynthia Creem (D-Newton) re-introduced An Act to Protect Children Families and Firefighters (H3500/S1230) and, in September 2019, the Massachusetts Senate passed its version of the bill unanimously. Now the House has to make a decision, and then the bill will once again go to the Governor for signing.
We need to make sure that the House passes the Bill again and the Governor signs it. If he does not sign it, we need senators and representatives to override a veto or an attempt to weaken the bill. That will take 2/3 of legislators.
Why does this matter?
Firefighters have cancer at rates higher than the general public—and higher levels of flame retardants in their blood.
Unfortunately, children also have higher rates of flame retardants in their blood—and the levels of flame retardants in breast milk keeps rising.
Two years ago, the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a warning advising pregnant women and parents of young children to stay away from “organohalogen” flame retardants and recommending that manufacturers to stop making them. As of today, there is no way for Massachusetts parents to follow CPSC recommendations, because, with the exception of residential furniture, most products with toxic flame retardants are not labeled. Nine of 11 flame retardants in the Act to Protect Children, Families and Firefighters are organohalogens.
None of us wants to be continually exposed to chemicals that increase our risk of illness, but, because we don’t know which products have flame retardants, we cannot just shop our way to safety.
What can you do?
- Send an email to your representative and the Governor.
- If you are a doctor or scientist, sign on to a Scientist Letter on health impacts of flame retardants. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get a copy of the letter.
Here, there and everywhere…it’s PFAS
PFAS, or polyfluoroalkyl substances, are everywhere—in air, water soil, plants, and animals across the planet PFAS chemicals have been dubbed “forever chemicals”, because they are extremely persistent, lasting thousands of years. Ninety eight percent of Americans that have been tested have PFAS in their blood. That’s a problem, because very small doses of PFAS increase the risk of a wide variety of health problems, including kidney and testicular cancer, birth defects, high cholesterol, liver problems, and immune disruption.
In 2005, due to a major environmental class action lawsuit, industry stopped manufacturing two of the most harmful chemicals: PFOA and PFOS. But, these two chemicals have contaminated water systems across the country, where they continue to cause harm. Industry has replaced PFOA and PFOS with similar, but slightly modified chemicals. Unfortunately, research shows that these replacement chemicals are also toxic.
First synthesized in the 1930’s, PFAS chemicals were introduced into commerce in the 1940’s, when the 3M company applied PFAS chemicals to metal pans creating Teflon non-stick coating.
PFAS chemicals make products grease- proof, water-proof, and stain-resistant. They are added to:
- Food Packaging: pizza boxes, food wrappers, take out containers, microwave popcorn bags, disposable trays, bakery bags. and disposable and compostable bowls, plates and other paper goods;
- Nonstick pans such as Teflon
- Textiles like waterproof coats, and stain proof clothes, and carpets
- Outdoor goods, like tents, waxes for skis, umbrellas
- Cleaners and floor waxes
- Firefighting foam used to extinguish large-scale, fuel driven fires
PFAS are also used in a variety of industrial processes.
The Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow is working to:
- Ban PFAS in food packaging
- Develop legislation to ban all non-essential uses of PFAS
- Encourage legal action against companies responsible for PFAS contamination in Massachusetts
- Coordinate with advocates working to set limits on the amount of PFAS allowed drinking water, groundwater and surface water
Want to help? Call your state representative and state senator and ask them to support the bill to ban PFAS in food packaging (https://malegislature.gov/StateHouse/Contact)
Sign the Make them Pay Petition. (https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/makethempay)
And stay tuned for more in 2020!
MOVIE NIGHT: Dark Waters or The Devil we Know?
Chemical companies knew for decades that the original PFAS chemicals—PFOA and PFOS– were hazardous. But, they kept making and selling them, contaminating their workers, communities, and, eventually, the whole world.
How did the public even find out about PFAS? Wilbur Tenant, a farmer in Parkerburg, West Virginia, rented part of his farm to DuPont for the disposal of non-hazardous waste. Shortly after.Tenant found that his cows were suddenly dying. He approached a lawyer. Rob Bilott, and asked for help.
Dark Waters,a Hollywood movie starring Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway and Tim Robbins, tells the story of what happened next.
Stephanie Stoechtig’s documentary, The Devil We Know, tells the same story—via the voices of West Virginia and North Caroline residents who became sick, watched their co-workers die, and ultimately decided to fight back. Clips of both movies are on our website, www.healthytomorrow.org.
Go tohttps://thedevilweknow.com/ to watch the film– and check out their great suggestions for reducing your chemical exposure. Dark Waters is still in some movie theaters, and AHT is organizing a free screening in March. Details to come closer to the date.
Who are we?
We’re the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow, a coalition of Massachusetts organizations and individuals working to prevent illnesses linked to chemicals in the environment and consumer products. Check out our new improved website, www.healthytomorrow.org for all the latest on the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow’s campaigns and updates on breaking environmental health news.